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Trombone and Baritone: Which to choose?

trombone and bariton
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A popular question among beginning musicians is which one to learn between trombone and baritone. This is a common question among high school students interested in joining their school’s marching band. It is also applicable to symphonic band members.

If the main purpose is to play in concert bands, either of the trombone and baritone can be mastered because they are both in high demand. It is preferable to learn the baritone for marching band. While trombones were once a staple of marching bands, many today exclusively utilize baritones.

Other factors must be considered before making a final selection. These include the variations in structure and sound between the trombone and baritone, transitioning between trombone and baritone, and whether the baritone will eventually replace trombones in concert bands.

Trombone and Baritone: which to choose?
Source: Google

The differences between trombone and baritone

TromboneBaritone
Bore and tubeCylindrical, and only conical near the bellConical for a larger part of the tube
Changing tube length/pitchSlide mechanismThree valves
Air resistance in the tubeLess air resistanceMore air resistance, higher notes easier to play
SoundVery similar to baritone but “brighter”Very similar to trombone but “darker”
OtherAble to play perfect glissandosCannot play glissandos

The trombone and baritone are both brass instruments, however they are not the same. The most noticeable distinction is that the baritone player utilises three valves to stretch the tube for pitch changes, whereas the trombone player uses the slide mechanism.

When compared to the trombone’s more cylindrical tube, a bigger section of the baritone’s tube is conical. As a result, the baritone’s tone is darker than that of the trombone.

The trombone’s sliding tube allows it to perform impressive glissandos. This is something the baritone player cannot do. This is a significant difference in terms of sound. This technique is frequently used by orchestral and band composers.

The baritone gives higher air resistance because to its shape, which is not visible to the listener but very crucial to the performers. Pushing against this increased resistance allows the baritone to play higher notes more easily than the trombone.

What the two instruments do have in common is that they have a similar range of notes. This is due to the fact that the length of tubing in both is nearly the same.

Which is preferable for marching between trombone and baritone?

Trombone and Baritone: which to choose?
Source: Google

While trombones are commonly found in symphony orchestras and brass concert bands, they are less commonly found in marching bands.

The trombone’s sliding mechanism makes marching in close ranks problematic, especially if there is a big number of trombones. The sliding action of a trombone player can potentially damage other band members.

A baritone is heavier to carry than a trombone, yet it fits in better with a marching band. While marching, it is more agile than a trombone. Many high school marching bands have switched from trombones to baritones.

Children who play the trombone in a concert band are increasingly learning to play the baritone. This allows students to perform in concerts and march with the school band.

Although it is widely agreed that the baritone is superior for marching, certain marching band enthusiasts will always feel that something is lacking when trombones are not present. Trombones, in their opinion, have been a part of marching band tradition for many years.

As a result, several marching band directors continue to use trombones in their bands in trombone and baritone. The trombone section is kept short so that the required three-step spacing between marching rows does not interfere with the band’s formations.

Changing between trombone and baritone

Trombone and Baritone: which to choose?
Source: Google

If a concert band trombone player wants to play in a marching band that does not use trombones, he or she must also study the baritone. Switching from trombone and baritone is usually a simple process for players.

While trombone and baritone are two distinct instruments, their range, embouchure, and air intake are very similar. A skilled trombone player should have little trouble producing a decent sound on the baritone.

If the player maters the baritone, there should be no intonation issues. Because accurate intonation is more difficult with the sliding tube, it is considered easier for a trombone player to learn the baritone than for a baritone player to learn the trombone.

The trombone player must initially practise extensively on the baritone in order to get their fingers “valve-ready.” The baritone necessitates rapidly pressing the valves in various combinations.

It takes considerable practice to hold the baritone, which is heavier than the trombone.

Is a trombone and baritone replaceable in an orchestra band?

Because the trombone and baritone have a similar range, the baritone can theoretically play the trombone part.

Trombone and baritone players frequently utilize the same clefs. This allows the baritone musician to easily read and play the trombone part.

Certain trombone skills, like as a long glissando, cannot be imitated by the baritone.

The baritone’s conical bore for a considerable portion of the tube affects tone quality as well. As previously stated, the trombone has a louder tone than the baritone.

The timbre of the music changes as the baritone plays the trombone portion. Countermelodies and solos are frequently assigned to the baritone, while on-beats and off-beats are assigned to the trombone.

If baritones play two instruments, the music will sound different to the trained ear. It is generally agreed that the baritone should only play the trombone part in “emergencies” when no trombone player is available. As a permanent arrangement, the baritone should not replace the trombone in the symphony band.

Is there a difference between a baritone and a euphonium?

Trombone and Baritone: which to choose?
Source: Google

In the United States, the phrases baritone and euphonium have historically been used interchangeably. However, the current trend in concert bands and symphony orchestras is to embrace the British-European standards and treat each instrument as unique.

The euphonium is made differently from the baritone. It has a more conical bore than the baritone, giving it a larger and heavier instrument. In addition, it has a deeper cut mouthpiece than the baritone. As a result, the euphonium has a fuller and more mellow sound than the baritone.

The sound contrasts between the euphonium, baritone, and trombone can be described in layman’s terms as rich and mellow for the euphonium, lighter and brighter for the baritone, and even brighter with a raspy edge for the trombone. The baritone is the euphonium’s “little cousin.”

Because of its weight and deep mouthpiece, new players frequently discover that, while they can blow enough air to make the Euphonium sound nice standing still, making outstanding sound on the march is easier with the baritone.

The euphonium and baritone are frequently used interchangeably in marching bands, while concert band and symphony orchestra composers are increasingly writing separate sections for the two instruments.

The euphonium part is similar to the cello part in the string section, and the trombone part is similar to the second violins. In his Sixth Symphony in 1903, Mahler, for example, employed a euphonium score.

Final words

As a newbie, deciding between the trombone and baritone is a very personal decision. Only in concert bands does it matter which instrument sounds better to you. Trombones and baritones are both in high demand in concert ensembles.

Because trombones are commonly prohibited from marching bands these days, starting with the baritone may be a better option if you want to play in both marching and concert bands. Later on, you’ll be able to pick up the trombone very effortlessly.

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