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The trombone is essentially a big slide trumpet – in fact, the name trombone means in Italian “big trumpet”.
While there are unverified stories dating the trombone back to the Spartans in 685 B.C., the first authenticated trombone arrived in the 14th century with the first use of the tuning slide (the trombone slide is simply an elongated, easily operated tuning slide).
This instrument was given the name Sackbut, which was derived from the Spanish and means “a pump”. By the 18th century, its popularity considerably increased, and it was given the more dignified name of trombone.
Later on in the 18th century, with the advent of valves for musical instruments, valve trombones were first made. The valves, however, had inherent idiosyncrasies in pitch so could not compete with the infinitely variable pitch of the slide which could be played in perfect tune, Thus, the early valve trombone was not popular until more acoustical knowledge was developed to place valve instruments more nearly in pitch with themselves.
Until the 1900’s the trombone had advanced little in mechanical perfection. Trombones were still much like the “Sackbut” era and their unwieldy slides greatly inhibited the free flow of the music there were capable of producing.
The addition of the F tubing with rotary valve to fill the five semi-tone gap between the E below the staff to pedal Bb was first done by Adolph Sax. While this is considered a feature of the bass trombone, its use in the tenor instruments is not new, having been so used in Sax’s day.
Because the slide length of the modern trombone has been shortened for easy access to its 7th position, the F valve still doesn’t complete the chromatic pedal scale. The customary procedure to secure this note has been to make the tuning slide of the F section long enough to lower it to E. This method is not altogether satisfactory, and has been overcome with a second valve and trigger lowering the instrument to D, making the missing note instantly available.
Kanstul has been a leader in modern trombone development. The CR Valve (full bore, lightweight) and open wrap design are just two modern refinements.
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