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The soprano trombone is an excellent instrument for beginners or people who have experience with other trombones and want to diversify the instruments they play. Do you prefer playing high notes rather than low notes and working with a smaller instrument? If so, you should learn how to find the best soprano trombone.
Knowing how to find the best soprano trombone means appreciating which genres include the higher registers and finding a trombone with the appropriate diameter and bell size.
Bottomline Up Front
I recommend Thein soprano trombones. I personally prefer German manufacturing because of the high-quality control they have. This soprano trombone has excellent quality materials, construction, and sound.
I evaluated manufacturers who produced the appropriate size for the best soprano trombones included in this guide. The manufacturers were evaluated based on the quality of materials used, the high-end construction, and the size of their instruments. Many manufacturers only make “mini” trombones, not technically soprano trombones.
What is a Soprano Trombone?
Knowing how to find the best soprano trombone starts with understanding what the soprano trombone actually is.
When people think of a trombone, the image they conjure is usually of a tenor trombone, the most common trombone people play. If you ever watch brass quintet on Orchestra, you have probably seen a tenor trombone here or there. But, there are seven different types of trombones.
From largest to smallest you have:
- Contrabass trombone
- Bass trombone
- Tenor trombone
- Alto trombone
- Soprano trombone
- Sopranino trombone
- Piccolo trombone
Coming in at number five is the soprano trombone, which is shorter than other trombones and only has six positions instead of seven positions.
In this video, you can hear the difference between a piccolo (the smallest) and the soprano trombone:
Soprano Trombone in Modern Culture
Most people don’t think of the soprano trombone as a standard brass instrument, let alone a historical or popular addition to classical music. However, the soprano trombone has been quite popular throughout modern jazz music, used by the renowned composer Wycliffe Gordon since 1989.
So, what songs throughout modern culture have featured the soprano trombone?
- Swing That Music: This classic 1936 masterpiece from Louis Armstrong was recreated with a soprano trombone in 2015 by Wycliffe Gordon and served as a testament to the instrument. There are many other brass instruments to enjoy, but his soprano trombone handles the solo work.
You can watch the video here.
(Tip: His soprano trombone solo starts about 3 minutes into the video)
- Hey Jude: This classic Beatles’ melody was played with a soprano trombone in 2012 by the Caracas Trombone Quartet.
- Pink Panther: Created for the film with the same name, this 1963 classic has been played throughout the last few decades on an alto, tenor, and soprano trombone.
How to Find the Best Soprano Trombone: The Instrument
When I learned how to find the best soprano trombone, I did so by evaluating three key concepts that I recommend you do as well:
- The material
- The bell shape
- The bore size
First is the material. A soprano trombone is a wind instrument which means you play it by blowing air through the tubing. So, the tubing’s shape and length and the material used for the tubing will influence the sound you make.
Brass is commonly used for the body, with a copper and zinc alloy combination to help it withstand corrosion. Brass is also great because it gives it the quintessential shine. It’s called a brass group for a reason. However, the ratio of copper to zinc used in your soprano trombone tubing will impact the timbre.
- For a bright, forceful timbre, you want yellow brass. Yellow brass is 70% copper and 30% zinc.
- For a wide, whole tone, you want gold brass. Gold brass is 85% copper and 75% zinc.
You also have to consider the surface finish. Usually, when the metal tubes are sanded, they are given a surface finish of gold lacquer or clear lacquer. This is sometimes called a varnish, but no matter what it’s called, it serves the purpose of protecting your metal tube from rust and dirt.
- Gold lacquer gives it a bright, gold color and a sharper, more powerful sound.
- Clear lacquer means transparent tubing, so the yellow or gold brass underneath is visible. This gives you a more somber, solid sound with better definition when playing loudly.
The Bell Shape
The second is bell shape. With most trombones, you choose between a one-piece bell or a two-piece bell. As their respective names imply, they are made with a single sheet of metal or two sheets of metal with a spine joining them together.
- A one-piece bell shape emphasizes vibrations to give better reverberation.
- A two-piece bell shape is easier to play with and gives you brighter reverberation.
One is not better than the other. It’s up to you to decide whether you want better or brighter reverberation and whether you are a beginner who needs a two-piece that’s easier to play or an intermediate player with brass experience who can get by with the one piece.
The more traditional bell shape is a single piece shaped to grow thinner as it reaches the end of the bell. A two-piece bell has a wider mouth, so you get better thickness to the overall bell shape.
The Bore Size
The third is the bore size. The soprano trombone has a lot of tubes and valves that are interconnected, and having long tubes that swirl around your trumpet will give you a better sound. The diameter of the tubing, or bore size, is critical because it dictates how much air is needed to fill the tube.
If you have a smaller bore size, you don’t need as much air, so it’s easier to learn how to play and maintain a good air stream while developing your technique. That is why children and beginners tend to pick a smaller size bore.
How to Find the Best Soprano Trombone: Other Factors
I also recommend you include considerations beyond just the material and the design. For example, the budget will play a significant role in determining what type of soprano trombone is best for you.
There are not as many manufacturers of soprano trombones as there are for other models, which means you do not have as much leeway where the price is concerned. You can expect to pay at least $300 for a soprano trombone.
Moreover, because there are not as many cheaper manufacturers of the soprano trombone, you don’t find as many beginner instruments that come with accessories like a storage case. So you have to factor extra accessories into your budget.
That said, if this seems outside of your established budget, there are options for you to learn how to find the best soprano trombone without having to buy one that’s brand new. Many music schools and music shops offer rentals so you can rent the trombone while you learn to play.
The rental fees often include things like a carrying case, and it can be substantially cheaper for you to rent the instrument for the duration of a school year or one year if you are an adult taking private lessons. You can reach out to a local music shop in your area.
Based on the cost of a rental in your area, you will have to decide if it equates to the same price as a brand new instrument and which one is feasible at this time.
I have been that parent who understood that the rental fees over a school year added up to more than it would cost to buy the instrument, but I couldn’t pay that money upfront. Some of my other children were luckier, but this is a personal decision you have to make.
If you can’t find a rental and can’t afford to purchase a new model, you can always invest in a used soprano trombone. Again, finding soprano trombones is more challenging because they are less common, so you might have to travel a few hours away from home to meet up with someone offering a used soprano trombone, but it might be well worth it.
Always make sure that it’s in good condition before buying used instruments. And with the trombone, I strongly recommend you buy a replacement mouthpiece so that you don’t have to use the mouthpiece someone else used.
For this best soprano trombone guide, I evaluated my selections based on the manufacturer, the quality of the materials used, the size of the instrument, and the sound.
The Best Soprano Trombones
Soprano trombones are harder to find because they are so much smaller and not as popular. Common sites like Amazon feature Alto and Tenor saxophones almost exclusively or miniature saxophones that are not quite as soprano models. However, there are two reputable manufacturers from home you can order soprano trombones.
Thein is my absolute favorite for the soprano trombone. They use a Renaissance design, so it has a historical aesthetic when you look at it. I am, however, partial to any German-made products because of their reputation for strict quality control.
On the flip side, many German-made products (including Thein’s soprano trombone) are more expensive because so much more care goes into them. Rest assured, though, the German engineering backing this instrument makes it worth the investment.
- Design for Renaissance or Baroque style music
- It uses the mouthpiece as a trumpet, so if you already play the trumpet, you can use the mouthpiece you already have
- Excellent intonation
- You do not have options beyond the 11.5 mm bore or 140mm bell
- You can only order a soprano trombone with a lacquered finish
Wessex provides elegant soprano trombones that produce a beautiful sound perfect for popular Baroque music or trombone choir music. This company is well worth the price even for beginners because they give you lightweight foam cases to protect your instrument and store it while traveling.
- It uses a trumpet mouthpiece
- It gets shipped with a foam body hard case that holds your soprano trombone in suspension
- It has a smaller bell at 120mm but the same bore as the Thein products
- The Wessex models are smaller than Thein, so if you are buying for an adult, it might be too small
Answer: Soprano trombones cost less than their larger tenor counterparts because they are a smaller design and use fewer materials. The difference in cost comes from the design.
Beginner models cost around $300, and advanced models can cost a few thousand dollars. Student models cost less than professional models, and the brass material or finish used on the trombone will heavily influence the price.
Answer: This depends on your level of experience. You can easily apply your skills to the soprano trombone if you already play another trombone, like the tenor trombone.
If you play the trumpet, some of your skills will transfer. If you play a different instrument like a violin or piano, your music reading skills and background can still help you.
Even if you have no experience whatsoever, the soprano trombone is a much easier trombone to learn how to play because it is smaller, so you don’t need as much breath control to project your sound.
Answer: A soprano trombone usually has the same bell size as a trumpet. The bore size is between 0.45 inches and 0.47 inches.
Answer: A soprano trombone has six positions, not seven positions but otherwise is very similar.
Answer: The soprano trombone uses the treble clef, just like other soprano parts or the trumpet. Again, if you play the piano or are a singer, reading music and treble clef might become more accessible to you.
Still, if you have previously only played an instrument in bass clef, there will be a slight learning curve as you adjust the notes accordingly.
Answer: The soprano trombone is highly recommended for jazz music. Because of the higher registers, it can be a great addition to a jazz band or an orchestra.
However, you can always play the jazz trombone in your home or perform solo for your friends and family, or find creative ways to integrate it into other styles of music. Just because an instrument is not standard in a particular music genre doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate it.
I recommend Thein soprano trombones. I prefer the quality control and the manufacturing that goes into this design. Of course, each of the manufacturers in this guide is highly regarded for producing less common brass instruments like the soprano trombone.
If you invest in a used or a rented trombone, you may not have as much leeway. However you obtain your soprano trombone, make sure it’s in good condition.
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