I get bored really easily. So, I am always looking for a new instrument to try that is at least somewhat similar to instruments I’ve already played. I do the same thing with every other part of my life, looking for lectures and classes that are similar to ones I’ve already taken, like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, Buddhism, the history of China, Tai Chi, and so on.
It’s also why I work so well as a writer because I can easily focus on one topic and then switch to something tangential but still exciting and feel like I have a whole new job.
So, with that in mind, I was very excited when I learned about the slide trumpet because it’s a great instrument to keep in your back pocket, as it were (although I wouldn’t recommend putting it back there literally) so that you can jump around to different brass instruments if you get bored as well.
Knowing how to find the best slide trumpet means appreciating the similarities between the slide trumpet and other instruments and why it’s also known as a soprano trombone. The slide trumpet doesn’t have to be something you turn to just because you are bored with your other instruments.
It is perfect if you prefer playing higher notes and you still want to be involved in the brass family. I recommend Thein for their German manufacturing. However, the John Packer slide trumpet is an equally popular contender. It has great materials and excellent sound.
What is the Slide Trumpet?
A slide trumpet is a brass instrument that doesn’t have valves but literally uses the slide to change notes. It is sometimes called the same as a soprano trombone but is more similar to a trumpet.
So, the slide trumpet is perfect for people who play the trombone or the trumpet because it’s an easy adjustment.
- It has seven different positions.
- The mouthpiece is the same as a trumpet.
- The length is the same as the trumpet.
How you change notes is more like a trombone which is why it’s also sometimes called the soprano trombone. You move the slide back and forth, holding it with your thumb and pointer finger. You won’t see the notes, so you have to learn to listen for them by ear, and you will absolutely hear them as you step up or down.
- As you lengthen the slide, the notes get lower, and the notes get higher as you shorten the slide.
- The lowest note is the same as the lowest C on the trumpet.
- You can lengthen it by half steps.
- It works the same as a trumpet with overtones.
- If you go down half steps, you still get the overtones.
Trumpet and Trombone Family
As mentioned, the slide trumpet is also called a soprano trombone. So let’s look at the different families.
The trumpet family has a lot of different instruments and keys. The most common is the Bb or B flat trumpet. That is the same key you find with a slide trumpet.
There are also trumpets in the key of C or Eb (E flat). Other members of the trumpet family include:
Instruments like the flugelhorn or cornets are bigger and often used for brass ensembles or solo pieces. The piccolo trumpet is one of the smallest and is commonly used in Baroque solo repertoire.
The trombone also has a big family. The tenor trombone is the most popular, and that’s what people think of. But you might also find other family members like:
- Contrabass trombone
- Bass trombone
- Alto trombone
- Soprano trombone
- Sopranino trombone
- Piccolo trombone
As you can see, the smallest member of the trombone family is the piccolo trombone. Likewise, the smallest member of the trumpet family is the piccolo trumpet. Nearby on the list is the soprano trombone, which is the same as the slide trumpet.
So, they are both a small member of the brass family that hits higher notes but plays the same Bb key that is most popular in concert Halls all the way down to jazz clubs.
The Slide Trumpet in Modern Culture
Here you can listen to a slide trumpet play a funky piece of music:
Note: The person playing has recorded himself playing a lot of brass instruments and laid them over one another, so only one of the instruments is the slide trumpet.
You can also hear the slide trumpet in this video about 3 minutes in:
How to Find the Best Slide Trumpet: The Instrument
Finding the best slide trumpet comes down to 3 key factors:
- The material
- The bell shape
- The bore size
Material is the most important thing. It is a brass instrument, so most of the time, it’s made of brass with a little bit of copper and zinc alloy in there to help prevent corrosion. Brass is what gives it that shine, but there are different ratios for the brass to copper and zinc used in the tubing.
- Yellow brass is often made of 70% copper and 30% zinc, giving you a brighter sound.
- Gold brass combines 85% copper and 75% zinc, giving you a wider tone.
The material used for the surface finish can also impact the sound a little bit. The tubing on your slide trumpet is made of metal, and then it gets sanded. After that, they usually put a varnish or a coat of lacquer on top. This protects your instrument from rust and dirt but also changes the sound.
- Gold lacquer provides a bright, more powerful sound.
- Clear lacquer provides you with a more somber, solid sound.
You don’t have much control over the slide trumpet’s lacquer because there aren’t as many manufacturers. Many manufacturers do a clear lacquer, which isn’t the worst thing because it gives you a better definition when you get louder, which can work to your advantage because it is a smaller instrument.
The Bell Shape
Next is the bell shape. As this is technically a trumpet but also a trombone, you have to look at whether you get a one-piece bell shape or a two-piece bell shape. One piece gives you better reverberation, but two pieces are easier to play.
The Bore Size
Finally, consider the bore size. This refers to the diameter of the tubing, and the diameter directly controls how much air flows through the metal tubes when you play.
The smaller the bore, the less air is required, so this is actually better for beginners. The sliding trumpet is a smaller design, so it has a smaller bore which makes it simpler for beginners and children.
How to Find the Best Slide Trumpet: Other Considerations
Your personal budget will play a big role. I always vacillate between the best quality, meaning the best bang for my buck, and trying to never spend more than I have to. We grew up recycling everything we could, passing down clothing amongst siblings and cousins like it was our swap meet, and never wasting a single dollar.
If you are in a similar position and are looking for the best slide trumpet for a child or yourself, and you are on a tight budget, there are a couple of great manufacturers that provide slide trumpets for just a few hundred dollars.
The downside here is that the lack of popularity associated with the slide trumpet means you don’t get a lot of mass-produced options from companies like Cecilio. Cecilio and Mendini are often the go-to for people on a tight budget, not just because the instruments are cheaper but because they come with all the necessary accessories.
You will not find a slide trumpet with many accessories, so you have to provide them yourself.
However, because it is a slide trumpet, there’s not nearly as much you have to do to care for it, not as many pieces, it doesn’t weigh as much, so you don’t have high shipping costs, and if you’re careful, you can get away with not having a storage case for the first few months. This will help keep your costs down initially.
Renting or Buying
Usually, people consider renting instruments if the cost of purchasing is too high. If you can find a music school or shop that provides slide trumpet rentals, it might be worth it, especially if you only want to play it for the school year or a few months. The rental fees often include carrying cases, so it can be much cheaper to get started.
However, as mentioned, the slide trumpet or soprano trombone is not as popular an instrument, so you may not find a place that has one to rent.
Knowing how to find the best slide trumpet can mean the difference between a good and bad musical experience. I evaluated all of my selections based on the manufacturer, the sound quality, and the quality of the materials.
How to Find the Best Slide Trumpet
As mentioned, the slide trumpet is the same as the soprano trombone, so if you are having trouble finding a slide trumpet using the words “slide trumpet,” you can always search for a soprano trombone and play that as well.
Bear in mind that they are both smaller, less popular instruments, so you don’t have nearly as many options from which to choose. You won’t find slide trumpets on Amazon, but you can find them directly from the manufacturers.
Thein is my absolute favorite for the slide trumpet. Their website categorizes it as a soprano trombone, but it plays exactly the same. It uses a Renaissance design, so it’s one of the more aesthetically appealing designs.
I am partial to German manufacturing, especially brass instruments, because they have higher manufacturing standards in Germany, so the engineering behind any instrument you purchase is going to be much higher quality compared to something mass-produced in China.
However, as someone who is notoriously frugal, I always struggle with the fact that improved engineering comes with a higher price tag. So, this is one of the more expensive options, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a legitimate musician looking to add this to your repertoire for performances.
- It is better suited for Baroque music.
- It provides high-quality intonation.
- There are no options beyond the 11.5 mm bore or 140mm bell.
- You can only order a lacquered finish.
- It is quite pricey.
Levante Slide Trumpet
The Levante Slide Trumpet is an ideal student model. It is just over $300, but if you order from places like Walmart, there are payment plans available. This makes it perfect for families who are on a budget but can’t find a music school that provides rentals.
This particular slide trumpet is one of the most popular for beginners and students. You can find it in a few different places online, and shipping is relatively inexpensive. It’s a lightweight, small design that might look like a novelty instrument but is anything but.
- It is an inexpensive student model that doesn’t sacrifice quality.
- You get a lacquer finish.
- It has a chrome plated slide, and lacquered body with a 120mm bell and 11.5 mm bore.
- It comes with a soft case.
- You don’t get a choice for the finish, and it is more of a student grade model.
John Packer Slide Trumpet
The John Packer Slide Trumpet is a great fit for beginners and intermediates. This slide trumpet is lightweight and very versatile. It can be held by children because of its size, and it doesn’t impede their ability to play.
I love the sound quality you get with this particular slide trumpet. It has beautiful high notes and is, as I mentioned, versatile enough to serve as a great introductory instrument, but you can play it if you are a professional and performing.
The slide is swift, it doesn’t make any noise, and it’s easy to play. You can use a larger mouthpiece if you want; it will fit the instrument just fine.
- It is lightweight.
- It has a 120.65mm bell.
- It comes highly recommended by teachers, beginners, and professionals alike.
- It is made of yellow brass.
- It has a lacquer finish.
- It doesn’t come with any accessories, but you can purchase a matching case separately.
- There aren’t any options for different finishes.
Answer: No. The slide trumpet is a lot of fun for people who already play the trumpet because it’s easier and smaller but otherwise very similar.
If you play the trombone, the slide trumpet or soprano trombone is going to be even easier for you. The hardest adjustment you’ll face is dealing with a trumpet mouthpiece instead of a trombone mouthpiece.
If you don’t play any brass instruments, I strongly recommend the slide trumpet because it’s one of the easiest to play.
Whether you look for a slide trumpet or soprano trombone, you won’t have to deal with complicated finger charts, you won’t need to invest in a lot of sheet music when you get started, and there aren’t nearly as many pieces to maintain. It’s perfect for someone who just wants to dabble lightly.
Answer: A slide trumpet or soprano trombone is very small, and there aren’t nearly as many parts, so it’s actually a very affordable instrument. They cost between $200 and $300 for good beginner models.
Like all brass instruments, you can still easily spend thousands of dollars on a more professional model, but if you are like me and you just want something you can switch to from time to time to keep things interesting, a beginner model works great.
Answer: To play the slide trumpet, you simply grab the slide with your pointer finger and thumb and move it down at half note increments and back up at half note increments. There are trombone position charts online that you can use to make this instrument a lot easier, but mostly you will play it by ear.
The slide trumpet is a great instrument to add to your repertoire if you play the trumpet or trombone. It is small and simple to learn. I recommend John Packer for beginners and Thein for more advanced players. In either case, you get quality manufacturing, yellow brass, and a solid sound.
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