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What Is a C Trombone?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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A C trombone is a type of trombone which produces a C note when the slide is in the “closed” position. These instruments feature a trigger attachment which activates extra tubing that turns the instrument into an ordinary B flat trombone. Trombones are members of the brass family, which are usually pitched in B flat and use valves to change the note produced. The slang name for a C trombone is the “preacher model,” because it enables players to read from a standard music score and therefore play along with the preacher in churches. The instrument looks roughly the same as most trombones, with a small amount of extra tubing in the bell section.

In terms of appearance, the C trombone looks very similar to an ordinary trombone. This is because it features a large bell towards the top of the instrument, which flares outwards to project sound. It also has a slide, like most trombones, which is extended to change the note produced by the instrument. The slide is composed of two sections of tubing, joined by a curved section of tubing at the end opposite the mouthpiece. The bell section of the C trombone has a tiny bit of extra tubing which differentiates it from most trombones.

The extra tubing on the C trombone is activated with a trigger to turn it into a standard B flat trombone. This works in the same way as the F-attachment on many ordinary trombones: by diverting the note through extra tubing, the pitch is lowered. Without this attachment activated, the instrument plays a C note when the slide is in the closed position. The player presses the trigger with his or her thumb to alter this closed note to a B flat.

A nickname for the C trombone is the “preacher model” because it makes it easier to play along with ordinary written music. Pianos and most other instruments can play any music without transposing it into a different key. This is because when they play a C, it will sound as a concert C. Most trombones will produce a B flat when they play a C, meaning that music has to be transposed for trombonists. C trombones do produce a C in the first position, and can therefore play from any sheet music.

All trombones, including the C trombone, are members of the brass family of instruments. Brass instruments are all made from brass, and require the player to exhale and buzz his or her lips into the mouthpiece to produce a note. Most brass instruments are pitched in the key of B flat, which means ordinary pieces of sheet music have to be transposed to be playable on them. Different combinations of valves are pressed down on most brass instruments to change the note. Trombones are unusual in this sense because they feature a slide.

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