For the examples in this article, pitches are defined as middle C = C4.)
Trombones Big and Small
Trombones come in many sizes. The B-flat tenor trombone comes with or without a trigger (F attachment). Bass trombones use triggers and paddles (an additional lever or trigger) or both. The contrabass trombone is larger and plays lower still.
The smaller trombones include the alto trombone and treble or soprano trombone, sometimes called a slide trumpet. The piccolo trombone and sopranino trombone are even smaller.
The most common trombone is perhaps the B-flat tenor trombone. You'll see these in almost every band and orchestra, playing every kind of music from Dixieland, Swing, Jazz, and marches, to trombone quartet music to classical brass quintet music to symphonic orchestral music.
The B-Flat Tenor Trombone Range
The B-flat tenor trombone is a tenor instrumentâ€”in the same general range as the human tenor voice, and thus given the name "tenor." The tenor trombone, however, has a bit more extended range than the human counterpart. While the vocal tenor range is commonly defined as C below middle C, up to G above middle C, the tenor trombone's range is from E (two E's below middle C) up to B-flat above middle C (and higher for advanced players.)
Tenor Vocal Range C3 to G4 Tenor Trombone Range E2 to B-flat 4 and upward
Additional notes available for the tenor trombone (with or without a trigger) are called "pedal tones." They require advanced playing technique and are not uncommon in trombone literature, especially in the jazz fields, and even more common for bass trombones.
The pedal tones are as follows: B-flat 1â€”A1â€”Ab1â€”G1â€”Gb1â€”F1â€”E1
Extra Notes on the Trigger Trombone The trombone with a trigger (or F attachment) has a few extra notes that the normal tenor trombone does not have.
The missing notes are from the E-flat below low E to the low C. These notes are possible when using the F attachment by depressing the trigger. Eb2â€”D2â€”Db2â€”C2
The High Range
The extended high range of the tenor trombone is limited only by the skill of the player. The usual upper range is commonly defined somewhere around high B-flat or C or D. B-flat 4â€”C5â€”D5
The extended range goes higher. Warningâ€”don't write notes above a C or D unless it's for an advanced ensemble, or you personally know the player that can comfortably negotiate this stratosphere. Lots of great players play really high and do it well, but lots of good players are limited to the "normal" high ranges, as well as the players in college, high school and below.
Here are suggested ranges depending on experience, the "beginner" player through the "advanced": the ranges represent the notes comfortably played. The high notes will sound full-bodied and strong, not just "squeaked out." The lowest notes will be strong, full and solid.
Beginner B-flat 2 to B-flat 3
Novice G2 to F4
Good G1â€”G#1â€”A1â€” B-flat, E2 to B-flat 4
Advanced E1â€”F1â€”F#1â€”G1â€”G#1â€”A1â€” B-flat 1, E2 to F3 and upward
Virtuoso E1â€”F1â€”F#1â€”G1â€”G#1â€”A1â€” B-flat 1, E2 to B-flat 3 and upward
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