trombone [Ital., = large trumpet], brass wind musical instrument of cylindrical bore, twice bent on itself, having a sliding section that lengthens or shortens it and thus regulates the pitch. The descendant of the sackbut, it was developed in the 15th cent. by adding a slide to the trumpet. Early representations of the instrument show it nearly in its present form. Despite its continuous possession of a complete chromatic scale, which was lacking in early trumpets and the French horn, the trombone was far behind them in acceptance into the orchestra. In the 16th cent. it became popular for court and church music. In the 18th cent. it entered the opera orchestra, and Beethoven introduced it into symphonic music. In the enlarged orchestra of the 19th cent., the trombone became increasingly important, being valued for its wide range in pitch and dynamics. It is more often used as an ensemble than as a solo instrument in the orchestra, and it has little solo literature. Three trombones are standard in the orchestra, formerly alto, tenor, and bass. The tenor is most often used today, often with extra tubing that can be cut in by a valve to give it the lower notes of the old bass trombone. The trombone is also widely used in jazz and dance bands. A valved trombone, first produced in Vienna in the 1820s, is frequently used in Latin countries, and by some jazz musicians, but is inferior in tone quality to the slide trombone.
See R. Gregory, The Trombone (1973).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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