Knowing the instruments similar to the trombone will provide you with a strong foundation in low brass instrumentation and expand your knowledge of the orchestra. The trombone has gone through several developments in its long history. The name developed from the Italian word "tromba," which literally means "big trumpet." Literally, when this instrument first came to be, there was no slide, and it was a big trumpet. Accordingly, the trombone shares characteristics with several important orchestra instruments.
Few people know there is a version of the trumpet that uses a slide, known as a slide trumpet. Slide trumpets function in the same way the trombone functions, by using a slide to expand and contract the size of the instrument, thereby changing its pitch. The trombone and trumpet are very similar, with the exception that the trumpet starts an octave higher than the trombone. Both instruments have the same relative range.
The French horn is capable of playing in the same range as the trombone and most of the range of the trumpet. French horns use rotary valves to redirect air into shorter and longer valves, instead of using a slide to extend the distance that air travels. However, these two instruments are very similar. They both use a mouthpiece to create vibrations sent through the instrument and are constructed from brass alloys. Both instruments are also capable of playing in the bass clef.
The tuba plays the equivalent range of the trombone. Similar to the relationship between trombone and trumpet, the tuba plays an octave lower than the trombone. Both instruments are part of the low brass family of instruments and play in the bass clef. The trombone and tuba usually play chorales and double harmony parts in an orchestration. It is common to find that the tuba part is simply the trombone part written an octave lower.
Perhaps the instrument that is most similar to the trombone is the euphonium, sometimes incorrectly referred to as the baritone horn. Both instruments have the same range, play in bass clef and often play solos and melody lines in the orchestra. The euphonium has a different timbre and is softer than the trombone, but both instruments are brass instruments and belong to the same family. When a euphonium is included in the orchestra, it usually sits directly in front of the trombone players.
- "The Study of Orchestration"; Samuel Adler; 2002
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