Reaching the age where you can start playing a musical instrument or join the school band can be a very exciting time for students! Most frequently in schools, students indicate which instrument they would like to play, can try several out to see what they like, or see what their teacher or other professional thinks is a good fit. The trombone is an excellent choice for students to start playing on, and is unique in that it uses a slide to change notes instead of valves, keys, or buttons. In this article, we are going to discuss the best trombones for beginners so that you can be sure your student is getting the best trombone.
The recommended age for students to start playing trombone is about ten or older – around when they would be in fourth or fifth grade. Starting older than ten is fine, but starting any younger can be challenging. The reason is the same that makes the trombone unique – because the trombone has a slide that must be moved in and out rather than pressing down valves or covering holes in other instruments. The average ten year old can reach as far as they will need to when just starting out. Conveniently, most schools with a band program get students started in fourth or fifth grade.
Read on to see our recommended trombones and trombone brands for beginners.
Best Trombones for Beginners
The following list is not exhaustive; there are plenty of other brands online on sites like Amazon, and in music stores. One important thing to note is to stay away from instruments that are not associated with a brand, or Chinese mass-produced instruments. The lower price tags of these trombones may look enticing, but they are often in poor working order, are very fragile, or come with cosmetic or even functional flaws because they have not been assembled with care. All of these flaws will make the overall experience much harder than it needs to be, and the last thing we want is for a beginning trombone player who was very excited about playing at first to give up because of faulty equipment.
Be cautious of any new instrument with a price tag under $200. Every so often there is a “diamond in the rough” among these trombones where it is not terrible, but don’t expect to find it just by chance when ordering one at random online.
The following list includes the best trombone brands and models for beginners, as suggested by professional trombonists and band directors.
How to Buy a Beginner Trombone
When a student has decided to start playing trombone, there are a number of ways to acquire an instrument to play, each with a set of pros and cons.
For families on a strict budget, some schools will have a few instruments that the student can borrow. These instruments will usually cost nothing to use, however they tend to be very beat up and in poor working order. These instruments are also community instruments; it is to be expected that your student will be sharing the instrument with other people. This does not mean that they will have to trade off and spend time sitting out in band class, but rather a fifth grader and an eighth grader might be using the same instrument each day during their respective music classes.
The second option is a rent-to-own program from a music store. This is a great option, and probably the most popular of the three, as ten year olds are often unpredictable in regards to what they like – they may be very excited about the trombone or any instrument at the start, but six months in they no longer care about it. Also, people often don’t know what trombone to buy for a beginner, and can rely on the music store to simply provide their recommended instrument to the student. Renting to own will almost always result in a higher cost than the list price if the student sticks with it in the end, but is a safe option if they are not sure – and your student will have an instrument all their own, unlike when borrowing from the school. A downside is a plethora of potential hidden fees if the instrument is returned damaged. A musical instrument is like a car in the respect that once it’s used even once, the resale value has already gone down.
The third option is buying a trombone for your student. It is the highest upfront payment on this list, but is less expensive than renting to own. The obvious advantage of renting to own holds true with purchasing an instrument – the student will have a trombone all their own that they do not have to share with others. While in many ways it can be a better option than renting to own, this is a less popular choice, because of a combination of the unpredictability of younger students to stick with it, and the lack of general knowledge of what trombone is best to buy for a beginner. This article will provide a list of some of the most tried-and-true beginner trombones so that this knowledge is made available to a more general population. These trombones can be purchased on Amazon, and there are links provided for your convenience. Music stores also carry beginner instruments for purchase rather than renting to own – some of which may be on this list.
1. Conn-Selmer TB711 Prelude
Speaking of tried-and-true instrument brands, Conn was once the choice of nearly every professional trombonist, and their company still makes high-quality professional and beginner instruments. Since their glory days in the mid 20th century, Conn has joined with the Selmer brand (in fact, the Conn-Selmer manufacturing company also now owns and oversees the Bach and King brands as well). This beginner trombone is an excellent choice for players just starting out.
2. Yamaha YSL-354
This trombone has all of the great qualities that the King 606 has, but is just a bit more expensive than the King 606. One of the great things about selecting the Yamaha YSL-354 as the trombone for your beginner is that Yamaha has an extensive selection of trombones ranging from beginner to professional. Transitioning from Yamaha to Yamaha may not be any easier or more difficult than going from Yamaha to a different brand. Some argue that it is easier to step up to a trombone made by the same company, whichever one that may be, but there is currently no concrete proof of this being true in every scenario. If your beginner decides they want to get more serious about music and want to step up to an intermediate or professional model, there are Yamaha trombones to suit every one of those needs, whether playing classical, jazz, popular music, or a combination!
3. Conn-Selmer King 606
The King 606 is a sturdy, well-put-together instrument that is able to take the wear and tear that comes with being used by a young beginner without the instrument breaking. It functions well, and is not a trombone that the student will outgrow quickly. Unless the beginner decides that they would like to go professional, this is a trombone that could last them their whole life! Even if they step up to a professional symphonic horn, the King 606 is an excellent horn to keep around if the player ever ends up playing jazz, playing in a marching band, and in several other situations.
4. Bach TB701
The Bach brand is known for their professional model trombones, their 42b being one of the tried-and-true professional trombones often heard in major symphony orchestras to this day. Bach also has come out with a line of beginner trombones like the TB701 at an affordable price for the beginning player. Like Yamaha, Bach also offers intermediate and professional trombones that fit a variety of styles. To show how versatile the line of Bach trombones are, the legendary Chicago Symphony Orchestra trombone section currently all play on Bach trombones, and the famous jazz bandleader and trombonist Glenn Miller played on a Bach trombone!
5. Blessing BTB-1280
The next trombone on this list is the Blessing BTB-1280. Blessing trombones are an excellent choice for beginners! Their durability, ease of playing, and quality of production earns them a spot on this list. Of the trombones on this list, it is also the most inexpensive – and overall is about as inexpensive as quality beginner trombones will be.
6. pBone PBONE1B
If you recall, earlier in the article it was mentioned to be wary of any trombone coming in at under $200. The pBone trombone is the exception to this recommendation, but it comes with a catch. The first thing anyone will notice is that the pBone trombone comes in a variety of colors that are not seen on other trombones – green, blue, red, purple, and more! Additionally, this trombone is made out of plastic.
This makes the pBone trombone very inexpensive compared to its counterparts, lighter in weight, and a lot more durable. The interesting thing about the pBone is that the pros of the instrument are also its cons. The fun, bright colors will be very enticing to a younger beginner (before age ten), and the superior durability of the material makes it so that it’s much more safe for a student to use it before age ten. At the same time, those colors make this a very gimmicky product. While it can be a fun novelty for the older, more experience players, its charm wears off quickly like any novelty. Also, brass trombones (the standard – every other trombone on this list) will always have a superior sound and be easier to play than trombones made out of plastic and carbon fiber. This instrument, because of its price, durability, weight, and unique fun colors earns it the honorable mention spot on this list as an alternative to a brass instrument for players under the age of ten. This instrument, however, is not recommended for a fourth or fifth grader who is starting to play in the school band.
Once again it is worth stating that this is not an exhaustive list of every trombone that would be a good pick for beginning players, this is just a selection of some of our favorites based on what teachers commonly recommend. If your student is in school, their band teacher may have suggestions of their own that you can either look up online or find in a music store – in many cases local music stores will partner with schools to offer their choice of beginner trombones to anyone starting out. Once again, we caution you before buying any very inexpensive unmarked trombones, as they are very cheaply made and often come defective or in poor condition – even if they are brand new! Stick with one of the best beginner trombone brands from this list, talk to your student’s band director for guidance, or visit a local music store to find the best match for you.