Hey, Kids, It's a Trombone | History, Fun Facts, and More

from the Meet the Orchestra Index

Hey, Kids, It's a Trombone

Learn trombone history, how it's made, how it's played, about the trombone family, and fun facts.

The Trombone is a member of the brass family. It plays notes that are lower than the french horn, though not as low as the tuba. The tone of the trombone is rich and brilliant. If you were to unwind the trombone, the total length of the tubing would be about nine feet.


Trombones have been around for more than 500 years. In fact they were around when Columbus was busy sailing the ocean blue in 1492. Trombones, originally called sackbuts, are very much like the modern instrument. The word sackbut may come from the French word 'sacquer', which means 'to draw out.'

The Trombone Family

The modern symphony orchestra is made up of two or three tenor trombones and one bass trombone. The alto trombone, which plays the highest sounds, completes the trombone family.

How It's Played

While most brass instruments use valves to play different pitches, the trombone uses a slide. The slide may make it look different, though the way it works is the same as valved brass instruments. When the trombonist plays, he/she moves the slide back and forth to select one of seven different lengths of tubing. This is how they change the pitch. The rest of the brass family instruments select a different length of tubing by pressing down a different set of valves.

Fun Facts

Beethoven was the first composer to write a trombone part for a symphony. He included one in his Fifth Symphony.

Trombones are made of brass, a metal made of copper and zinc. Both of these metals are found in vitamins. This means that during your life you may eat an entire trombone - and it would be good for you.

Watch a Video

Watch a How It's Made - Trombone video that will offer your kids a virtual field trip to a musical instrument factory.

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