Portrait of John Mathis playing with The New Legacy Jazz Band at the Princeton Jazz Festival, September 2002.
The trombone (German: Posaune, Spanish: trombón) is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. Nearly all trombones have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch. Instead of a slide, the valve trombone has three valves like those on a trumpet.
The word trombone derives from Italian tromba (trumpet) and -one (a suffix meaning “large”), so the name means “large trumpet”. The trombone has a predominantly cylindrical bore like its valved counterpart the baritone horn and in contrast to its conical valved counterparts, the euphonium and the orchestral horn. The most frequently encountered trombones are the tenor trombone and bass trombone, while the E♭ alto trombone became less common as tenor technique extended the upper range of that instrument, but is now enjoying a resurgence as the importance of its lighter sonority in many classical and early romantic works is appreciated. The most common variant, the tenor, is pitched in B♭, an octave below the B♭ trumpet and an octave above the B♭ tuba. Trombone music, along with music for euphonium and tuba, is typically written in concert pitch, although exceptions do occur, notably in almost all brass band music where tenor trombone is presented as a B♭ transposing instrument.
A person who plays the trombone is called a trombonist or trombone player.