student trombones

Student Trombones: A Guide to Your First Purchase

Buying a first student trombone (or any instrument) can be a daunting task. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the various student trombone models to help you make an informed choice.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t a good article out there on this topic. There are a few junk sites that want to sell you stuff. Let’s start with my thoughts on this.

A Word on Who to Trust

There are a bunch of “content mill” sites out there. Sites like HearTheMusicPlay, CMuse, MusicAdvisor, and WindPlays (and more) are “affiliate sites” that make lists to get you to click over to Amazon so that they make money.

These writers pretend to be experts, but they’ve actually never played a brass instrument in their life (I’ve freelanced for similar sites and seen their tactics first hand).

What they’re doing is generating a list of all the instruments that can be found on Amazon and calling one of them “the best.”

They fill out the post with details and fancy graphics comparison charts that they’ve rewritten from the Amazon product descriptions, customer reviews, and Wikipedia.

It’s just a fact that none of the “best trombones for all levels” can be found on Amazon (though beginner ones are). Such a list is total nonsense. Every level of play and every style of play and every person will be different.

You can tell you’ve found one of these sites when their “best of” list is a list of links to Amazon.

These sites are a scam and should not be trusted. No one who has any idea what they’re talking about would recommend a $4,000 Bach 42 professional-grade large bore trombone with F-attachment to a beginner.

The best instrument is the one that works for you, and only you can decide that. Talk to teachers and employees at music stores for help.

In fact, any trusted name brand student instrument will work fine for a student. We’ll get into some of the finer details, but there isn’t a huge difference with the trusted names (cheaper off-brands are a different story).

Who Should Get a Student Trombone?

Student trombones are geared toward the very early student.

If you’re considering getting a new instrument, and you’ve been playing for a few years or more, you should consider making a longer-term investment in an intermediate or even professional instrument depending on your long-term goals.

I always recommend trying instruments at a music store to get a feel for them. This is a bit more challenging for true beginning students because beginners won’t really know what to look for in terms of feel, comfort, tone, etc.

This guide will give you some general ideas. Everyone will be different. As I said already, you should expect to outgrow a student instrument in a few years if you take practice seriously. At that time, you’ll be able to make a more informed choice.

The Price

Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. I’m only going to review the trusted name brand student trombones, because the ultra cheap ones you can find are…well, cheap.

Not only will they break easily, but it’s also possible you won’t find a repair shop that can do repairs on it. This means you’ll end up spending way more than if you just got the trusted brand from the start.

Anything new under $500 is pushing it. It should be possible to find used versions of these instrument for cheaper, though. I, again, urge you to go with a physical music store for a used instrument.

You can rent-to-own for cheaper as another option.

You’re rolling the dice with a random person on eBay. Music stores will usually refurbish their used instruments to be like new, and then also offer warranties and guaranteed return policies.

The music store basically cannot scam you, since you’ll be there examining it. They want to keep you as a customer. They do have a markup, but they have no incentive to deceive you.

A beginner is a potential customer for the next 30 years, and they’ll be making a huge mistake if they lose you trying to hide damage on a used instrument or overcharge you too much.

All this is to reiterate that a little bit more upfront cost can save you much more in the long run.

Bach Trombone

I’ll start with what I’m partial to. I’ve played a Bach trombone my whole professional life (the Stradivarius 42G, if you’re wondering).

They are fantastic, and you can’t really go wrong with them. The 300 series is their student trombones. The TB300 is the cheapest of them, and you should be able to find them for well under $1,000.

But you could also go with the TB301 (this is also basically the same as a King 606 if you see that one).

Bach instruments are durable and easy to maintain. All of these student trombones will have a small bore. This gives the right amount of resistance for a beginner.

I’ve heard other people say the slide action is a bit more sluggish than other name brands, but I’ve never experienced any problems.

Yamaha YSL-354

Yamaha is one of the most well-respective instrument manufacturers in the world. I’ve used a Yamaha euphonium my whole professional life. It’s pretty much impossible to go wrong with them.

The YSL-354 is the highest end student model I’d recommend. It can be played well into the intermediate stages, but it’s a bit more expensive ($1,000+ depending on the place).

If all of this is overwhelming, I’d ask at a music store to try whatever Yamaha student models they have in order to find one in your price range.

Unless you find a major difficulty for some reason, any Yamaha they show you will do a great job for a beginner.

The thing that makes the YSL-354 nice for beginners is the unique weight-distribution that makes it easier to hold. I’m not sure I’d prioritize this, though, because you’ll adjust to any weight distribution within a few weeks.

Prelude Student Trombone

Prelude instruments are made by Conn-Selmer, the largest manufacturer of instruments in the U.S.

As such, they can be trusted. The Prelude TB711 is a fine student trombone, and it is the cheapest on this list. These will probably need to be upgraded sooner than the above two suggestions, but you’ll definitely get several years out of it.

I’ve seen many students do just well with no problems on this instrument.

Other Brands

I won’t specifically name other brands to avoid being sued. I’ll just reiterate that any instrument from a company you’ve never heard of that is selling for significantly less than $500 is probably not worth it in the long run.

These will save you money up front, but you should expect them to be cheaply made. The materials are cheaper, and they will dent and scratch easier.

This may not sound too bad, but a dent in the wrong spot completely destroys a trombone (unlike many other brass instruments).

If the fitting of the slide is imprecise to skimp on manufacturing costs, there could be air leakage, leading to difficulty playing.

Repair shops can even have trouble repairing these cheap off brands since they don’t have familiarity with the instrument specifications.

Concluding Remarks

Find whatever is comfortable for you. This will be different for everyone. The important thing is that the new student is happy with the choice.

Nothing causes dropout in these early stages more than fighting with the instrument.

If it’s unresponsive or breaks frequently or has a sticky slide or major intonation problems, the student is likely to quit out of frustration (though other reasons might be given).

Many of the differences between the name brand student trombones probably aren’t detectable by a beginner. They mostly come down to some subtle differences about materials and lacquer finishes or exactly how the seams are laser sealed.

Stick to these name brands. Don’t make a hasty decision. Don’t get scammed by an unreliable used seller. Make sure everything is comfortable, and get your money back if it’s not.

I’ll throw in that learning to play an instrument can be a generally awkward and uncomfortable thing. Sometimes it’s not the instrument. It has to do with learning a complicated skill from nothing.

Give it some time before blaming the instrument.

I’ll throw the links to Amazon down here if you’re truly in a rush and can’t shop around/try them out first. Prices vary, so you’ll have to check for the latest ones: