- Resources

by Douglas Yeo and Howard Weiner

I am frequently asked to assist people with papers they are writing on the history of the trombone. Since it is not for me to write a paper for someone else, I try to steer people to source material which can assist them. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of material on the history of the trombone which is simply of poor quality and which is not very useful. The Internet is especially guilty in this regard where assertions are often made with no supporting evidence. Those wanting a "quick fix" often rely on easy to find but spurious information found on the world wide web. Separating the good from the bad is not an easy exercise, so with the help of my friend (and trombonist and musicologist) Howard Weiner, I have put together the following list of resource material on the history of the trombone. The comments which appear below are those of Howard Weiner and myself based on our own first hand experience with the sources listed. These are our personal opinions; others may have different ideas. But it is my hope that this list will give people a sound footing and a starting place when looking for source material which can assist them in researching the history of the trombone.

Most items listed here appear because they are recommended. However, several resources are listed because they should NOT be used for one reason or another or they have outdated material that needs to be looked at carefully. Those resources which have the indication !!!! should be used with caution. Caveat emptor!


  • Trevor Herbert
    • The Trombone. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-300-10095-7 (hardcover)
      • At last there is finally a superb single volume devoted to the trombone, its construction, history and techniques. Trevor Herbert (Professor at the Open University in Wales and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments) has organized what is arguably the finest book on the trombone, benefitting from up-to-date scholarship, fine research and excellent writing. A trombonist himself, he understands the instrument and its idioms; his expertise as a musicologist is evident on every page. Several excellent appendices add to the text and chapters like "Didacticism and the idea of virtuosity", "Decline, survival and rehabilitation: the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" and "The Moravians and other popular religions" give the book a focus that is lacking in all other books on the trombone. Highly recommended.
  • Stewart Carter
    • The Trombone in the Renaissance: A History in Pictures and Documents. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-57647-206-4 (hardcover)
      • For his book, Stewart Carter (Professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and editor of the Historic Brass Society Journal) adopted a different approach. Rather than attempting to write yet another historical overview of the trombone - which after the recently published books by Trevor Herbert and David Guion would have been the third such work within just six years (2006-2012) - Carter chose to examine in depth the iconographical, archival, and printed sources of the Renaissance, that is to say, of the seminal period of the trombone's development between the late fourteenth and the end of the sixteen century. To this purpose, he selected and, where necessary, translated (or had translated) nearly 400 documents, many not previously available in English. The texts of the documents are additionally reproduced in the original languages in an appendix. The approximately 150 illustrations (including approximately 25 in color) include artistic representations of the trombone, photos of almost all surviving sixteenth-century trombones, and facsimiles of original documents. All items are put into their historical context by means of insightful and well-written commentaries. Highly recommended.
  • Anthony Baines
    • Brass Instruments: Their History and Development. London: Faber, 1976. Now available in a revised edition published by Dover, 1993. ISBN 0-486-27574-4 (paperback)
      • This is probably the best single volume on the history of brass instruments. Baines spends considerable time discussing the trombone and its predecessor, the sackbut. Many musical examples and historical engravings and drawings. The book has an extensive and very useful bibliography which will point readers to other valuable sources. While somewhat outdated (the primary writing was done before 1974 but the Dover edition incorporates several changes by Baines through 1993), it remains an excellent, respected and mostly accurate one volume summary of brass instrument history.
  • Edited by Trevor Herbert and John Wallace
    • The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-521-56343-7 (hardcover), 0-521-56522-7 (paperback)
      • An excellent volume with contributions from many authors. Herbert and Wallace are highly respected scholars who have assembled an excellent group of authors to contribute chapters on wide ranging aspects of brass instrument history. Trevor Herbert contributed the chapter, "'Sackbut': The Early Trombone." Chapters on design and manufacture (Arnold Meyers) as well as contemporary techniques (Simon Wills) give this book a wide ranging appeal. Clifford Bevan's chapter on "The Low Brass" is an excellent summary of the instruments which gave us the tuba including a brief discussion of the "cimbasso" (more on this below).
  • David Guion
    • The Trombone: Its History and Music, 1697-1811. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1988. ISBN 2-88124-211-1 (hardcover)
      • This book is especially valuable for its second chapter, "Writings about the trombone in eighteenth-century treatises, encyclopedias, and dictionaries" which contains the texts (both in the original languages and in English translations) of twenty-five historical sources.
  • Clyde Robert Wigness
    • The Soloistic Use of the Trombone in Eighteenth-Century Vienna. Nashville: The Brass Press, 1970. ISBN 0-914282-02-6 (paperback)
      • This brief booklet (49 pages) is based on Wigness' 1970 doctoral dissertation. As such, it is very outdated and its research needs to be considered in light of more recent work. He focuses on the soloistic use of the trombone in both instrumental works (by Bertali, Fux, Tuma, Wagenseil, Albrechtsberger, and Michael Haydn) and choral works (Ziani, Joseph I, Fux, Reutter, Eberlin and Mozart). There is a two-page appendix with very brief biographical information on selected 18th century Vienniese Imperial Court Trombonists. Long out of print, a copy may be found in your local or school library; the booklet was Number 2 in the Brass Research Series edited by Stephen L. Glover and published by The Brass Press.
  • Tom L. Naylor
    • The Trumpet & Trombone in Graphic Arts. Nashville: The Brass Press, 1979. ISBN 0-914282-20-4 (hardcover)
      • An interesting volume dedicated to the reproduction of several hundred woodcuts and illustrations of the trumpet and trombone between 1500-1800. The reproductions are of good quality and Naylor has given the original title and artist for most reproductions. Unfortunately, information on the location of the original illustration is not always given. A valuable book which gives a contemporary look at the trumpet and trombone as seen through the eyes of artists over several centuries.
  • Henry George Fischer
    • The Renaissance Sackbut and its Use Today. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984. ISBN 0-87099-412-3 (paperback)
      • This fine booklet (61 pages) was an early attempt to discuss the playing and manufacturing characteristics of the Renaissance sackbut. Necessarily limited in its scope, it has many fine photographs and engravings of sackbuts with a sensible, if outdated, discussion. While out of print, it has been made available as a free PDF download from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
  • Roger Challoner Green
    • In Pursuit of a Dream: Proclamation. Trowbridge: White Horse Books, 1996. ISBN 0-9529574-0X (paperback)
      • Roger Green tells the story of his producing the first full recording of a bass trombone soloist accompanied by a British brass band, "Proclamation" with Douglas Yeo, soloist. Written in a breezy style, chapter 3, "Bass Trombone: In Praise of a Neglected Instrument" contains correspondence between the author and two of the leading developers of the modern bass trombone, Edward Kleinhammer and Kauko Kahila. Photos of the early Reynolds double valve bass trombone as well as correspondence and photos of Edwin Anderson (with his "C valve" attachment are also included. Not scholarly in any way, it provides first person accounts of modern bass trombone development. This book was a limited edition and is now out of print.
  • Edited by Trevor Herbert
    • The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-816698-2 (hardcover)
      • This excellent book on the history of the British brass band movement contains chapters by a variety of authors including Herbert's own contribution, "God's Perfect Minstrels: The Bands of the Salvation Army" which discusses the role the Salvation Army had in brass instrument manufacturing from 1889-1972. Arnold Meyers' chapter, "Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands" includes discussion of the British bass trombone in G and the evolution of other trombones in the brass band movement.
  • Hugh Macdonald
    • Berlioz's Orchestration Treatise: A Translation and Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-23953-2 (hardcover)
      • Hector Berlioz's 1843/44 Grande traitè d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes stands as a towering achievement. At publication, it was the most comprehensive book of its kind, devoted to a practical discussion of most western orchestral instruments. Even today, Berlioz's work has much to tell us although Berlioz's conclusions are at times suspect and instruments have certainly evolved in the last 160 years. Hugh Macdonald's excellent book is the one to have; his translation and commentary give more life to Berlioz's words. Berlioz's discussion of the trombone and Macdonald's commentary make for interesting reading, particularly as the trombone related to 19th century French musical life. Berlioz has given trombonists their most elegant quotation, "I regard the trombone as the true leader of the race of wind instruments which I have described as 'epic.' It possesses nobility and grandeur to a high degree and it has all the solemnity of high musical poetry, ranging from a calm, imposing, devotional aura to the wild clamors of an orgy. It is up to the composer to make it chant like a chorus of priests, or utter threats, then muffled groans, then a subdued funeral knell, then a resounding hymn of glory, then a piercing shriek, then a mighty fanfare for the waking of the dead or the death of the living."
  • Clifford Bevan
    • The Tuba Family. Winchester: Piccolo Press, 2000. ISBN 1-872203-30-2 (paperback)
      • Bevan's book is an extraordinary achievement with over 600 pages devoted to the tuba and his historical development. Would that the trombone had a similar volume dedicated to its history. While not devoted to the trombone, "The Tuba Family" is valuable for its many references to forms of trombones including cimbasso, the "trombone basso Verdi" and other variants. The book puts the bottom of the brass section into proper historical context and clears up many misconceptions about the role of the bass trombone and various ancestors of the tuba. More information may be found at the Piccolo Press Website.
  • Philip Bate
    • The Trumpet and Trombone. London: Ernest Benn, 1966
      • !!!!! At the time it was published it was considered a good account of the trombone's history but it is very outdated and should not be used as a single source for historical information on the trombone.
  • Robin Gregory
    • The Trombone. London: Faber & Faber, 1973 . ISBN 0-571-08816-3 (hardcover)
      • !!!!! Largely derived from secondary sources, most scholars consider the historical conclusions in this book to be rather unreliable. There is not much historical information in the book; its strongest set is the printing of examples from scores which show the trombone in a variety of contexts and uses. Gregory quotes Kunitz and other discredited sources and many of his sources are between 50 and 100 years old. Half of the book is devoted to a list of trombone literature which is woefully outdated since it is 30 years old. For lists of trombone solo and ensemble repertoire, it would be more useful to consult the online catalogs of Hickeys Music Center and Robert King Music Sales. Keep in mind, though, that even these retailers don't have anywhere near the complete repertoire for trombone solo and ensemble. The explosion of desktop publishers in recent years means there is truly no "one stop" resource that can identify all available literature.
  • George B. (G.B.) Lane
    • The Trombone in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-253-36091-9 (hardcover)
      • !!!!! This book borrowed heavily from unpublished doctoral dissertations and other secondary sources, with some of the borrowings lacking sufficient bibliographic documentation (see the review by Mary Rasmussen in MLA Notes, September 1984, pp. 67-9). It was withdrawn by the publisher and the remaining copies destroyed. You may still run across a copy in your local or college library but exercise caution when reading it and check all facts with other sources.


  • Historic Brass Society Journal. 1989 -
    • The HBS Journal is one of the best sources of current research on brass instruments in general and the trombone in particular. All articles submitted to the HBS Journal are peer-reviewed, which generally insures a high standard of scholarship. One of the most useful research tools is David Lasocki's "Bibliography of Writings about Historic Brass Instruments" which appears in each issue, covering new material which has been published in the previous year. Recent issues have featured many articles about the trombone, including:
      • Matthew A. Hafar: "The Shout Band Tradition in the Southeastern United States" (2003)
      • David Guion: "What Handel Taught the Viennese About the Trombone" (2003)
      • Rodolfo Baroncini: "Zorzi Trombetta and the Band of Piffari and Trombones of the Serenissima: New Documentary Evidence" (2002)
      • Howard Weiner: "Beethoven's Equale (WoO 30): A New Perspective" (2002)
      • Arnold Meyers: Brasswind Innovation and the Output of Boosey & Co. in the Blainkley Era" (2002)
      • Howard Weiner: "The Soprano Trombone Hoax" (2001)
      • Sabine K. Klaus: "Outstanding Trumpets, Trombones, and Horns in the Musical Instrument Collection of the Historical Museum, Basel" (2000)
      • Charlotte A. Leonard: "The Role of the Trombone and its Affekt in the Lutheran Church Music of Seventeenth Century Saxony and Thuringia: The Mid- and Late Seventeenth Century" (2000)
      • Keith Polk: "Epilogue: Trombones, Trumpets and Cornetti in Florence c 1500" (2000)
    • The Historic Brass Society also publishes a yearly newsletter with news from the field, reviews and articles, and it sponsors a variety of workshops, conferences and concerts. For more information about the Historic Brass Society, a table of contents of all Journals and Newsletters and information on joining the society, visit the Historic Brass Society Website.
  • Galpin Society Journal. 1948 -
    • The Galpin Society was formed in October 1946 for the publication of original research into the history, construction, development and use of musical instruments. Its name honors Canon Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945) who was a pioneer in the study of old instruments. The Galpin Society Journal is a high quality publication similar to the Historic Brass Society Journal. Since the Galpin Society Journal is not limited to the study of the trombone or even of brasses, articles about the trombone are not as frequent as in the Historic Brass Society Journal. Nevertheless, important articles do appear such as Renato Meucci's "The Cimbasso and Related Instruments in 19th-century Italy" (Number XLIX, March 1996). For information on the Galpin Society including an index of all articles to have appeared in the Galpin Society Journal, visit the Galpin Society Website.
  • LARIGOT. Bulletin de l'Association des Collectionneurs d'Instruments à Vent. 1988 -
    • Published in French, LARIGOT appears several times a year and contains a wide variety of articles of interest to collectors of historical wind instruments. Of particular interest are the many photos of instruments as well as reproduction of advertisements by manufactures which cover a wide range of countries and periods. While not intended to be a scholarly journal, it is nevertheless a valuable resource with a great deal of useful information. Past issues have included catalogs of the collections of various collectors as well as listings of all known French makers of wind instruments (drawn from the Langwill/Waterhouse Indices and other sources). An Index of Larigot articles, authors and subjects is available as a free download (PDF file, approximately 196k) by clicking this sentence. For subscription information, contact LARIGOT by email.
  • Brass Quarterly. 1957-1964; Brass and Woodwind Quarterly. 1966-1969.
    • Singlehandedly edited and published by Mary Rasmusssen in the late 1950's and 1960's. The standard of scholarship is generally quite high but given that it was published so long ago, many articles need to be viewed with caution as they are quite outdated (such as Wilhelm Ehmann's "New Brass Instruments based on Old Models," translated by Mary Rasmussen, Vol. 1, 1957/58, pp 217-224).
  • International Trombone Association Journal. 1971-
    • Some good articles but many of doubtful quality. The ITA Journal publishes articles as they are received from authors, without peer review or serious evaluation and editing. Caution must be exercised when using ITA Journal articles in research; it is always best to check facts with other sources or contact authors directly for clarification. For more information about the International Trombone Association Journal and the activities of the ITA (which include an annual festival, competitions and publications) visit the International Trombone Association Website. A searchable index of all articles published in the ITA Journal may be found by visiting the ITA Journal/Newsletter Indexes Website.
  • Brass Bulletin. 1971-2003
    • The Brass Bulletin was published quarterly in three languages (English, French and German). Some good articles (particularly interviews) but many of doubtful quality. Articles were not peer reviewed and translations were often not especially accurate. Check facts with other sources and authors. The huge amount of advertising in the Brass Bulletin often seemed to dictate the content.


  • New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition. London: Macmillan, 2001.
    • The Grove Dictionary is the standard English-language music encyclopedia. The "trombone" article was originally written by Anthony Baines and revised for this second edition by Arnold Myers and Trevor Herbert. It provides a good overview of the trombone's history. The Grove Dictionary can be found in most college and music school libraries. It is also available online for a subscription fee. Many colleges have an arrangement with the Grove Dictionary whereby students can have free access to the Grove Dictionary online. Check with your college librarian to see if your school has such an arrangement. If so, access to the entire Grove Dictionary can be gained by entering your college ID card number to the Grove Music Online Subscriber Login Page. Information about purchasing the print edition of the Grove Dictionary or a subscription to the online version can be found at the Grove Music Online Homepage.

  • Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1949-1979
  • Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Kassel: Bärenreiter; Stuttgart: Metzler, 1994-
    • !!!! The German-language music encyclopedia MGG has been a standard reference work for over fifty years. Unfortunately, the articles on the trombone "(Posaune") in both the old MGG and the new MGG2 were written in each case by a musicologist with little or no first-hand knowledge of the instrument and its repertoire. Errors abound. The "Posaune" article in the old MGG does, however, have a very good bibliography, compiled by Mary Rasmussen.

  • William Waterhouse
    • The New Langwill Index: A Dictionary of Musical Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors. Bath: Tony Bingham, 1993. ISBN 0-946113-04-1 (hardcover)
      • Lyndesay Graham Langwill published six editions of his "Index of Musical Wind-Instrument Makers" between 1960 and 1980. William Waterhouse has continued Langwill's work in a greatly expanded edition. The book attempts to list all known makers of wind instruments along with addresses, dates they manufactured instruments, instrument markings and more. It is an invaluable resource in researching historical makers and establishing dates and other reference points for instruments. Also, seek out Langwill's now out-of-print (published by the author) earlier editions as they contain information not found in Waterhouse's updated edition.


    !!!! A word about websites. The Internet is a wonderful resource but as it is utterly unregulated, it is often difficult if not impossible to verify the accuracy of claims made on websites. Trombone history is no different than anything else on the web; if you go to the Google search engine and type in a search for "trombone history" you will come up with approximately 150,000 websites that answer the call. A quick look at many of them show a plethora of school reports as well as truckloads of inaccurate and sketchy information. Many resources include postings by individuals to Internet fora which may contain useful information from knowledgeable people but also a great deal of fluff and nonsense from people who simply want to see their name in print on the Internet. The world wide web has a way of equalizing the genius and the fool, often cloaked in anonimity. While the sites below are recommended because they contain a good deal of high quality information about the trombone, EXERCISE GREAT CAUTION before accepting any information found on the Internet as being completely accurate and truthful. The kernels of good information available are worth the considerable time required to sift through the chaff in order to get to to the ripened wheat - but it does take time.

  • The OnLine Trombone Journal
    • Richard Human, Owner and Webmaster
      • The OTJ is an excellent resource for trombonists. While short on information on the history of the trombone (apart from David Guion's breezy and necessarily brief "A Short History of the Trombone"), it has many helpful articles, reviews and resources for both younger and more experienced players. Articles in the OTJ are not peer-reviewed so historical information and claims need to be further investigated. The OTJ Forum is a resource where trombonists can share ideas, ask questions and get information. However the forum is not moderated for accuracy of claims (it is moderated to keep discourse and content civil) so treat any claims as starting points, not as statements of verified fact.

  • The Trombonist Online: The Online Magazine of the British Trombone Society
    • Edward Solomon, Webmaster
      • The BTS website has many excellent resources for trombonists including articles, reviews, a chat room and a forum. While it maintains a distinctly British flavor, the articles cover a wide variety of topics. BTS articles are not peer-reviewed and the BTS has been victim of a hoax on the work of Franz Beck (to the BTS's credit, it was thoroughly vetted and discredited). Nevertheless, the series of articles titled "Friends and Relations," Edward Solomon's article on Haydn's "The Creation" and Trevor Herbert's article "Cyfartha Reborn" are representatives of good pieces which will lead to further discussion and exploration.


    Below are several links to sites with photos of historical trombones. An increasing number of museums are adding virtual tours of their collection to their websites. The links below are just a small sample of such tours. A quick Internet search by name of various museums will bring up other useful links.

  • The Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments
    • This link is to the "Cylindrical Bore Brasswind" page of the EUCHMI collection. A link within this featured page will bring the viewer back to other pages with photos of more instruments in the collection. Of particular interest on this page are several early trombones and an E flat contrabass trombone (c. 1930) with dual in-line valves which was made for the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

  • Nicholas Eastop's F Bass Trombone Page
    • Nicholas Eastop is bass trombonist of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and a curator of musical instruments at the Musikmuseet in Stockholm, Sweden. His web page is undergoing construction but he has a link to photos of him with the 1639 Oller BB flat contrabass trombone, one of the largest trombones ever made.

  • "The Conn Loyalist" Trombone Page
    • C. G. Conn has been making trombones since 1901, many of which have been highly prized for their sound and workmanship. This website contains extensive information about Conn trombones including photos of as many known models of trombones as could be found. Links to Conn trombone serial numbers (useful for dating an instrument), construction of Conn instruments and many more things of interest to those who prize Conn trombones can be found here.

  • A Trombone and Related Instruments Photo Gallery
    • I have a small collection of trombones, some of which date back to 1904. This site provides photos and some commentary on the instruments I own including a rare Conn BB flat contrabass trombone.

  • The Richard Wagner House and Museum (Lucerne, Switzerland)
    • In 2001 I visited the Richard Wagner House and Museum (Tribschen) in Lucerne, Switzerland. The second floor of Wagner's home is devoted to a musical instrument museum. My focus while there was on the unusual serpent in the collection but there are also several photos of historical trombones on this page.

    Unless otherwise noted, all text and graphics on this website [] are ©1996-2013 by Douglas Yeo.
    All rights reserved.