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A variation of the tenor trombone, the bass trombone is considered the lower member of the trombone family, with a design and application specifically suited for the lower end of the written range for the trombone.
As compared to a tenor trombone, the bass trombone will generally have a larger bell size of 9”, 9-1/2” or even 10” compared to the 8” or 8-1/2” of a tenor trombone. The larger bell size will produce a broader tone, well suited to producing lower notes. Additionally the bell material will be a material that has more copper in the metal such as gold-brass or red-brass (rose-brass). This additional copper content helps provide a depth and complexity of tone (sometimes called a dark tone) not found in other materials.
The larger bore size of .562” will require the player to utilize more air, and in combination with the larger bell diameter, makes the bass trombone a perfect bridge between the deep tuba sound and brighter tenor trombone voice.
An additional point of differentiation is the style and type of f-attachment, and the common use today of the ‘double-trigger’ setup. By focusing mainly on the lower range of the instrument, players developed the need for even more flexibility than the traditional single-rotor f-attachment provided. A second attachment usually pitched in D or Eb gives the player some additional options in the lower range of the instrument for versatility and flexibility. This second rotor can be utilized in a number of different ways. The bass trombonist can use the first rotor (normally the f-attachment) or the 2nd rotor (normally pitched to G) or both rotors combined (normally pitched to D). This type of setup would be referred to as an independent rotor system where both rotors can be used independently (first or second or both). The other type of bass trombone rotor system will be called a dependent setup – whereby the player can use either the first rotor or both rotors in combination. The 2nd rotor is unable to be used on its own because the tubing design is dependent (hence the term) on the air flowing thru the first rotor. Today many bass trombone players prefer rotors that have an axial design rotating perpendicular to the tubing which creates less resistance compared to the traditional rotor which rotates in the same direction of the tubing and creates more resistance for some players.
Bass trombone players are able to become highly specialized for the specific needs of that instrument even majoring only on the bass trombone in college music programs.