I saw that there is an instrument known as the 'Superbone'. With the slide of a trombone and additional valves like a trumpet, you'd think you would have the best of both worlds. So why is this instrument not used very much?

3 Answers 3


Let me offer some alternate perspective besides the tuning issue referred to in the other answer.

  • They're awkward to hold. The situation when operating the valves with your left hand is worse than a bass trombone: there's about the same (or more) mass in the valve section, and there are fewer points of contact for you to support the instrument.
  • They're expensive and uncommon, which makes it difficult for folks to start playing them. Only a couple serious instrument companies (Holton and Conn) made them, neither in quantity, and no such companies produce them today as far as I'm aware. Used models from Holton and Conn still sell for fairly high prices today - $3,600 for this example or $4,000 for this one, for instance. Even copies by less-trusted manufacturers are already somewhat expensive: $1000 for this example, which I wouldn't recommend buying unless you have a thousand dollars to throw away.

Most trombonists would have started on a slide trombone. With which, like the violin family and voices, can play in any temperament, not only 12tet. This won't happen with a valve trombone, using the valves.

I've played with several valve trombonists, and the main reason they used them was physical problems - bad shoulders, elbows, wrists - probably from playing slide trombones for years. Decent quality valve trombones don't come cheap.

  • 4
    The most natural temperament for valved brass instruments isn't exactly 12-tone equal temperament. Each valve can be tuned, but the problem of combining the valves can't really be overcome, and the overtones are always going to be acoustical overtones.
    – phoog
    Apr 20, 2021 at 15:45
  • @phoog - so, as I say, using the slide, notes can be 'slid' into tune, but using valves will be a compromise. Which seasoned slide trombone players would probably prefer not to do.
    – Tim
    Apr 20, 2021 at 17:45
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    @Tim: Do valve trombones not have a tuning slide which skilled players can be used to set the pitch of each individual note?
    – supercat
    Apr 20, 2021 at 20:05
  • @supercat: Glancing at various models, it appears that some do have a third-valve slide that's designed to be adjusted while playing (like a trumpet does) and some don't; and none seem to have a first-valve slide. Note also that the required range of motion might be a problem; the amount you need to adjust is proportional to the size of the instrument itself. So some lip-bending might still be necessary. Apr 20, 2021 at 21:12

The superbone can easily be played in tune in any position except for 1st position. You don’t need any valve slides. You have a trombone slide that takes care of all of those tiny tuning alterations. The big problem with my Holton Superbone is that the main tuning slide doesn’t go in far enough to tune it in the first place. The main tuning note is always out of tune. This is a design/manufacturing flaw.

I talked to a guy in LA that everyone trusts with their horns. He said he can fix the tuning slide for $300.

The other problem with the Superbone is tone quality. Compared to my King 2B “Jiggs Whigham” custom Tenor Trombone, the Superbone sounds like a cheap marching band mellophone. Very thin, weak sound in comparison.

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