Finding the best trombone for a beginner can be a challenge. With hundreds (or more) instruments only a click or two away, it’s hard for a non-musician parent to know what’s good or what’s junk.
Many trombones you’ll find online are ISOs – instrument shaped objects. ISOs look like “real” instruments but play poorly, don’t last a full school year, and are difficult (or impossible) repair.
In this article, we’re going to help you find out what the best student trombone models are, what features you do (or don’t) need, and give you a rough idea of what you can expect to spend on your child’s first trombone.
First, let’s start with some of our highest-rated and most-recommended models!
- Here’s the top 9 best student trombones 2020:
- Best Trombone Brands
- Types of Trombones
- Trombone Cost
- Final Thoughts
Here’s the top 9 best student trombones 2020:
The Yamaha YSL-354 is a quintessential student trombone. It has a relatively small bore, a detachable counterweight, and it’s a well-made instrument that can take a beginner student far.
It’s not our least-expensive recommendation, but it may be the most well rounded as far as your budget and the instrument quality.
- Yamaha quality is some of the best in the business.
- The chrome-plated slide is quick and responsive.
- Detachable balance weight suits a wide range of students, depending on their age and size.
- Rugged construction can stand up to beginners “enthusiastic” treatment.
- Includes mouthpiece and a case.
- Not the cheapest model you’ll find on our list.
- No F-Attachment.
If you don’t have time to read our whole article, stop now and buy this trombone. You will have a great instrument that can last for decades if well-maintained, and you’ll make both your budding trombonist and his band director very happy!
Selmer Prelude TB711
Another great trombone option for a beginner student is the Selmer Prelude TB711. Most of the specifications for the TB711 match those of the Yamaha YSL-354. However, there are two primary differences:
- The Selmer will often be a little bit less expensive than the Yamaha YSL-354.
- The quality control of Selmer can vary a bit more than Yamaha’s.
So, while this is a great first instrument for the money, you should have a teacher or repair person check out the instrument while it’s in the return window. Most instrument stores give you 7-30 days to try out a horn, and if there are any major mechanical problems, you can get a full refund (or a new instrument).
- The Conn-Selmer company has a long history of making some of the best instruments in the business.
- Detachable balance weight suits a wide range of students.
- Rugged construction holds up to younger students.
- Includes mouthpiece, case, and a small jar of slide cream.
- Quality control can sometimes be an issue.
A close tie for the top spot with the Yamaha YSL-354. The Yamaha edges out by its slightly better quality, but the Selmer TB711 offers almost the same features at a lower price point.
Talk to any trumpet or trombone player over the age of 40 about Bach brass instruments, and you’ll hear stories of some legendary (and sought-after) horns.
The Bach TB301 is one of the few student trombones on this list that is American-made, and with that comes a level of fit and finish that’s rare for a student trombone.
Because it’s made in the USA, it’s a bit more expensive than the Selmer TB711, even though it’s made by the same company (more on that later). However, America manufacturing does mean it compares very favorably in consistency and quality to the Yamaha YSL-354.
- Bach is a legendary brass brand, and the quality of this trombone carries that pedigree.
- Chrome-plated nickel silver inner slide tube for smooth action.
- Includes case and mouthpiece.
- A bit pricy compared to the similar Selmer TB711, but with superior quality control.
- The balance weight is not removable and may make the instrument too heavy for young students.
An excellent instrument for a beginning trombone player. If you want a good instrument at a fair price, and want something made in the USA, this is your top choice.
Selmer King 606
Like Selmer and Bach, King used to be a powerhouse of brass instrument making.
The King 2B and 3B used to be found in jazz clubs around the world, and the 4B was a mainstay in a large orchestra. While there was a dip in quality, over the past 15 or 20 years, King quality has improved leaps and bounds, and their professional range of trombones is on the rise (again).
While not made to the exacting standards of their professional line, their student trombones have also improved as the general level of quality has risen.
The King 606 shares many of the same basic specifications as the Selmer, Bach, and Yamaha trombones mentioned above, along with the legendary King name.
- Like Bach, the King brand (and quality control) are on the rise.
- Nickel silver slide and slide tubes for a smooth action.
- It is sturdily made to stand up to the younger student.
- Includes case and mouthpiece.
- While quality control is improving, you still want to try out the horn before you buy it.
- Not the most expensive trombone on the list, but this one is on the pricey side.
Although it does look like a toy, the pBone has quite a few fans in the professional trombone world.
It’s lightweight, very durable, and inexpensive. This means that parents that may be tempted to buy a $200 brass trombone ISO (Instrument Shaped Object) can get a quality plastic instrument, and save money towards the purchase of one of the quality brass instruments we mention here.
One caveat, though. If you’re buying a pBone for a beginning band student, talk to the band director first. pBones obviously stand out in a group of brass instruments, and the band director may want a certain color or provide a school instrument instead.
- A surprisingly good instrument at a very low price.
- Very lightweight makes them suitable for any student.
- Plastic construction is rugged and holds up well if banged around.
- Includes plastic mouthpiece and lightweight carrying bag.
- Some band directors will not allow plastic instruments in the ensemble (it still makes a great home practice instrument, though).
- The plastic mouthpiece isn’t great – you should upgrade to a metal one (purchased separately).
- Requires a bit more slide care to keep it moving freely.
It’s not for everyone or every ensemble, but the pBone brings a good instrument to a lot more people.
If your band director doesn’t allow plastic instruments, the pBone makes a great home practice instrument, and the student can use a school trombone in rehearsals and concerts.
The pBone certainly outshines the new brass instruments in its price range ($300 or under), and while it’s not perfect, it should be considered if a metal instrument is too pricey.
This model is a bit unique. The YSL-350C is ‘compact trombone’, which means it’s just a bit smaller than a regular trombone.
Its size allows younger students, or students with shorter arms a chance to play the trombone, without missing certain notes. The valve allows players only to use the first five slide positions. So the 6th and 7th positions – which can be very difficult to impossible for some students – aren’t needed.
However, this trombone is not an instrument that is designed to carry a student into high school or college. But if you have a very young (or small) player, this can be a great way for them to start learning trombone without constantly dropping a slide or missing notes!
- This horn is great for those of smaller stature.
- Typical quality Yamaha build quality and consistency.
- Includes case and mouthpiece.
- While great for young students, this is not appropriate for most intermediate students.
The YSL-350C is a unique instrument, really only suited to very young or small players. However, if you need an instrument that meets these requirements, this is by far the best one out there.
The next few options are suitable for older beginners, or players returning to the trombone after a break.
These models all have F-attachments (explained below) that make them more versatile, heavier, and more expensive. If you’re playing moderately difficult high school or college repertoire, though, the F-attachment is almost a requirement.
In addition to the F-attachment, the Yamaha YSL-448G intermediate level trombone also has a slightly larger bore and bigger bell than the YSL-354. It also still carries Yamaha’s reputation for both quality and consistency.
- F-attachment makes more repertoire accessible.
- The larger bell and bore promote better sound and are suitable for large bands or orchestras.
- Good weight distribution makes this horn easier to hold than some other trombones with F-attachments.
- Includes mouthpiece and case.
- Although more versatile, the F-attachment may make the horn unwieldy for especially young or small beginners.
- Since this is an intermediate-level instrument, it is more expensive than any of the beginner trombones. However, it will also easily carry a student into high school or even college.
If you’re a bit older or looking to get back into trombone after a few years away, go ahead and get a horn with an F-attachment. It will make things easier in the long run, and you won’t feel a need to upgrade to another instrument after 6-12 months, and the YSL-448G is an excellent step-up instrument. It easily outclasses some instruments costing hundreds more!
The TB200B is Bach’s version of the Yamaha YSL-448G – a step-up trombone with an F-attachment.
There are some subtle differences between these two instruments, though. The Bach TB200B has a slightly smaller bell and bore size than the Yamaha. This makes the Bach a little bit easier to play for younger students, at the expense of not being able to achieve the extreme volume of the YSL-448G. However, the Bach is certainly loud enough for all but the biggest bands and orchestras!
Like the Yamaha, the Bach also features a ‘traditional’ F-attachment wrap, which keeps the trombone nicely balanced and makes it easier for smaller students to hold comfortably.
- The F-attachment makes this instrument more versatile and can keep up with an advancing student.
- The medium bell and bore require a bit less air to make a quality sound.
- The traditional F-attachment wrap provides good balance and compensates well for the extra weight.
- Includes case and mouthpiece.
- Even though it’s well balanced, it may still be too heavy for some.
- Like the YSL-448G, this is a more expensive instrument, but it’s well priced, and the quality is outstanding.
Very similar to the Yamaha YSL-448G. The Bach TB200B is a great step-up instrument for a progressing player or a wonderful first instrument for an older (or taller) beginner.
Some students sound better on this trombone than on the Yamaha because of the smaller bore and bell, but both of these instruments are great horns and can last a student for years!
Jean Paul TB-400
If you’re desperate for a trombone at a low cost, and the pBone is not an option, this is probably your best bet.
It falls dangerously close to the afore-mentioned ISO (instrument shaped objects) talked about earlier, but the Jean Paul brand is a bit above some of the other cheap brands you’ll find on Amazon and eBay.
It will not have the same quality you will find on a Yamaha, Selmer, or Bach instrument. It also probably won’t have the longevity of those instruments – so you can expect to need to buy another trombone in 1 to 3 years. But if the pBone won’t do, and the other instruments (even used) are out of reach, this is your best bet.
- A brass instrument that works for less than $400 new is a good price.
- Trombones are relatively simple, so there aren’t valve issues to worry about. Trombones only have a couple of moving parts.
- Even the good ones (generally) won’t last as long as some of the other brands we’ve discussed. It may save money upfront, but in the long run, these can be very expensive.
- Although there is a 1-year warranty, the amount of support you can get from this company varies from person to person.
While this trombone seems like a good value, if you watch eBay or look for used instruments online or nearby, you can find a great used horn for about this much money.
If you do need a new trombone, have a very limited budget, and need it yesterday, though, this is probably your best option.
Best Trombone Brands
Like all musical instruments, there is no best brand or model. However, there are lots of good to great brands, and it helps to know which ones to look for (and which ones to stay away from).
Here are the best trombone brands for students:
Yamaha’s instruments are well-designed, come in a large range of price points, and have a consistency from instrument to instrument that is unmatched by most other major instrument makers.
In addition to fine student and intermediate models, Yamaha also makes a wide range of professional instruments. If you’re in the market for a more advanced instrument, the YSL-881, YSL-882, YSL-610, and YSL-620 are all fantastic for the advanced college student or professional player.
While these used to be four different companies, modern-day mergers and acquisitions, along with the difficulties of the band instrument market, have put these once-competitors under the same umbrella company.
And while all four of these brands used to be heavy-hitters in the world of brass instruments, today they produce some incredible – and incredibly bad – horns.
That is to say that while some of their instruments are outstanding, others suffer from quality-control and manufacturing issues. This is why it’s so important to try out the specific trombone you want to buy. If possible, two or three different examples of that same model horn, and you may find some are great, and some are a bit lacking.
While the new ones can be a little hit-or-miss, the older examples from all of these companies are universally praised among brass players. If you can find one, snatch it up!
Established in 2013, the pBone company makes a variety of plastic instruments. In addition to the original pBone, there is a pBone mini, pitched higher than the original pBone, a pTrumpet, pCornet, and the pBuzz beginning instrument.
While the pBone was originally a bit of a joke, improvements in quality and engineering have transformed it into a legitimate instrument for beginning students and pep bands.
While it doesn’t sound exactly like a brass instrument, the quality and consistency at this price are far higher than you’ll find with other new brass instruments in this price range.
Jean Paul USA
Jean Paul USA is one of the dozens of companies that take mass-produced Chinese instruments, stencil their company name on them, and then sell them.
While Jean Paul is probably one of the better companies that do this, these instruments are no comparison to the other brands mentioned.
Since Jean Paul USA likely doesn’t have much control over the specific instrument design, the quality can be unpredictable. And since it’s very difficult to get original parts from China, most repair shops will not work on these horns, making them almost disposable.
Types of Trombones
While there are lots of different types of trombones for professionals, there are only two types of instruments to look at when buying an instrument for a beginner: straight vs. F-attachment.
Straight vs. F-attachment Trombones
It’s easy to tell the difference between a straight and F-attachment trombone. Trombones with an F-attachment have tubing in the bell bow (where the trombone rests on the shoulder), and a trigger to engage that extra tubing. Straight trombones have no additional tubing, and often instead have a counterweight to help balance the instrument.
The most common trombone used by most professional trombonists are trombones with an F-attachment. This additional tubing helps trombonists reach lower notes than otherwise possible, and can also make some difficult passages much easier. However, the F-attachment does make the instrument heavier, a bit more awkward to use, and more expensive to buy and maintain.
Since they are more difficult to use and more expensive to buy, it’s generally recommended to start beginners off on a straight trombone. These are cheaper and lighter and are generally fine for most beginner to intermediate literature.
After 2-4 years, if the student is making good progress and wanting to continue to improve, an intermediate trombone (like the YSL-448G or the Bach TB-200B) is a good option.
While professionals can easily spend $8,000+ on a trombone, most of the trombones on this list average between $1,000 and $2,500 new. The trombones with an F-attachment are intermediate level instruments and hover around the $2,500 level, while the straight beginner trombones are between $1,000-$1,500.
The two exceptions are the pBone (which is usually under $200) and the Jean Paul (which is usually just under $400). However, these two instruments are probably not the best options for most students.
While finding a beginning trombone can seem overwhelming, due to the (relative) simplicity of the instrument, it’s quite possible to find a quality instrument for relatively little.
Additionally, thanks to the same simple design, you can find some lower-cost models that don’t suffer the same drastic problems as similar more complex instruments (trumpet, clarinet, etc.).