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The range of a trombone is from the E note below the bass clef to the B flat above middle C. More experienced players can increase the range of the tenor trombone to the F above the B flat. Some tenor trombones feature a trigger mechanism that increases the range of the instrument down to the C note below the bass clef. The bass trombone sometimes has an additional trigger which lowers the range down to the second F below the bass clef. Alto trombones, being higher pitched, can play up to the G note that even experienced tenor trombonists often can’t reach.
The most common trombone is the tenor trombone, of which an orchestra has two. The range of a trombone therefore usually refers to the range of a tenor trombone. This range stretches from the E note below the bass clef, or E2 on a standard 88 key piano, to the B flat above middle C, or Bb5. The E note below the bass clef is one ledger line below the staff, and is in the second octave of an 88-key piano. Experienced trombone players can produce a note as high as F5, above the B flat at the top of an ordinary player’s range.
Some trombones have additional tubing built in which can be activated using a trigger. This additional tubing has an effect on the range of a trombone, making it lower than a standard tenor trombone. The attachment is often referred to as an F-trigger, which stretches the range of a trombone down to C2, or the C below the previous low E. This is on the second ledger line below the staff of the bass clef, or the second octave on an 88-key piano.
Different types of trombone, such as the bass trombone, have different ranges. The range of a trombone can be as low as F1 if the instrument is a bass trombone with two triggers. This second trigger engages yet more tubing which allows the instrument to produce even lower notes. The F1 note is below the C2 note played with an F-trigger on a tenor trombone, and is found in the first octave on a piano.
Alto trombones, while not typically used in modern music, have a slightly higher range. The range of an alto trombone reaches G5, one step higher than an experienced player can produce on a tenor trombone. Higher pitch is the only difference between alto trombones and tenor trombones. Experienced players using an alto trombone could theoretically produce even higher notes.
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