Who Invented The Trombone?

Who invented the trombone

Most of us have been taught about the different types of musical genres and instruments since we were little kids, but we often do not consider how long humans have been using such instruments throughout history, or where they came from.

If you are a musician or a music enthusiast, then you will know about all different types of instruments, from percussion to woodwind, strings to brass. However, you may not know much about every specific musical instrument, or you may struggle to tell some apart from the others. 

Some people simply cannot tell the difference between horns, trumpets, french horns and trombones to save their lives, so if you are unsure then we are here to help you! Let’s start with the trombone.

Have you ever wondered where it came from or who invented it? Then you are in the right place, but first, let’s consider what exactly a trombone is!

What is a trombone?

A trombone is a form of trumpet that is blown into to produce sound. The traditional trombone is a brass musical instrument that produces sound from the process of the player’s lips vibrating through the instrument.

Like other brass instruments, a trombone is played by blowing air through the mouthpiece with the musician’s embouchure, however altering the notes and the pitch of the instrument is not done with valves.

The difference with the trombone is that it has a large sliding telescopic mechanism that you can use to vary the length of the instrument in order to alter and change the pitch of the sound it creates. 

The trombone is one of the oldest instruments we have come to know, dating all the way back to the mid 15th century.

Up until the 18th century, we called the trombone a sackbut, however, it was always actually called a trombone in Italian. This can lead you to wonder who invented the trombone, and when did we first use it?

Who invented the trombone?

It is currently unclear when and by whom the trombone was invented. The trombone is reportedly said to have been invented sometime in the middle of the 15th century.

What is clear is that the trombone evolved from an earlier form of trumpet, with a single telescopic slide that was able to play the notes of around four harmonic series.

These types of early trombones did not differ greatly in design from the modern trombones we see today. It may actually surprise you that such a technologically advanced type of instrument was invented some time throughout the 15th century, and has barely been adapted since!

As previously mentioned, the original name was the sackbut or the saqueboute in French, which comes from the French word sacquer which means to draw out a sword.

This could be a direct reference to the process of pulling and drawing out the sliding section of the trombone, resembling the action of removing a sword. 

After the 18th century, we renamed it the trombone, a term which comes from the phrase large trumpet, as it is part of the trumpet and brass family. As trombones have been around since the 15th century, its exact creator and inventor is relatively unknown, and debatable. 

Historical records state that the trombone was invented as an advancement of the original Renaissance slide trumpet, and would most likely have been first produced by Flemish makers who would have presented them to the court of Burgundy.

The first recorded evidence of a trombone is shown in an Italian church painting dating back to 1490, with other documents stating that the trombone like instruments was used at the wedding of the Duke of Burgundy and Margaret of York in Bruges in 1468. 

Later on in its history, it is clear that trombones became commonplace, and some of the most popular brass instruments, varying in size, pitch and key.

Throughout the 16th century, records show that the trombone became a regular instrument used in both court and town bands, but also used to support musical voices within churches.

Trombones would then go on to be utilized in musical compositions and arrangements! However, the trombone would not become part of the full orchestra until later on in the 18th century.

The trombone had then become a symbol of the supernatural, spiritual and ecclesiastical. Mozart himself would only utilize the sound of the trombone in his most sacred works.

The trombone would later become used in more works and arrangements, often changing and altering the instrument for the accompaniment.

Trombones then went on to become integrated into most cultures in Europe, whilst trombone players were praised for their expertise in the difficult to master musical instrument.

Even now, trombones are considered one of the hardest musical instruments to play accurately, with musicians spending years learning the art of the instrument.

If this tells us anything, it’s that the trombone has been around for centuries, and has stood the test of time!

Although it is unclear where and when the first ever trombone was invented, many scholars attribute the invention to the German horn player Heinrich Stolzel, who developed and created the first valves used for brass instruments, which would then be applied to valve trombones in the 1800s. 

The Modern Trombone

Nowadays, the most common form of trombone is the tenor trombone, which plays in the  key of Bb.

However, the trombone plays in a much lower octave than the typical trumpet and is therefore usually noted in the concert pitch- which means a C on a trombone will sound the exact same as a C on a piano, unlike other instruments such as the saxophone.

The trombone is still one of the most popular and iconic brass instruments that we use today!