What Is a Trombone Trio?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss
Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

A trombone trio is a performance group made up of three trombones. This type of group plays music from a number of musical genres, but it appears most frequently in Western art music, particularly in music written in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Trombone trios usually have two tenor trombones and one bass trombone, but they can have other arrangements. The most common alternate trombone trio is one with another tenor trombone in place of the bass trombone.

Groups consisting of three trombones are fairly common in a chamber music setting. Trombone trio sheet music arrangements are available for a number of popular and classical songs. Brass performance groups that play this type of music are most often seen at events like weddings, conventions, and charity gatherings.

Essentially, a trombone trio has nothing but trombones. A trombone is unique from other instruments because it has long tubes that slide to move notes up and down. The tenor trombone is the type of trombone with which most people are familiar. Some tenor trombones have triggers that open an F attachment section on the instrument.

The bass trombone is larger than the tenor trombone. Generally, a bass trombone has two triggers that open two different sections to allow the trombonist to play a wider range of notes on the low end of the instrument. The trigger is a development on newer bass trombones, and bass trombones without a trigger have faded from use. Older bass trombones in early trombone trio arrangements were basically similar to tenor trombones, but they were much longer. Newer bass trombones also have wider tubing than the old models that had no triggers.

A bass trombone can play many notes in the tuba range, which is especially useful for trombone trio songs with unusually low notes on the bass end. Generally, bass trombones have a warmer tone than tenor trombones, and they are useful in a trombone trio because they provide fuller, richer low-end sound than tenor trombones. Bass trombones are more difficult to play during fast-paced passages, and playing in the higher trombone ranges requires more effort.

Other types of trombones that can be used in a trio of trombones that are not part of the standard trombone trio are alto and soprano trombones. Both these trombones are smaller than the standard tenor trombone, and their pitch range is higher. The alto trombone is only a little smaller and less than an octave higher than the tenor trombone. A soprano trombone has a high pitch and is only slightly larger than a cornet. It is so small that it is often called a mini-trombone.

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