Occasionally, I will see people arguing about whether an instrument should be called a "soprano trombone" or a "slide trumpet" yet I have never seen any instrument designated as one as being any different from an instrument designated as the other.

Is there any reason these terms are not interchangeable, or that one or the other is not appropriate to refer to this instrument?

Thein soprano trombone

5 Answers 5


The first answer above by NReilingh covers the physical appearance of the instruments but there is also an acoustic difference.

A Slide trumpet has a large bore of .460-.470" and is played using a trumpet mouthpiece. It also has a long tapered lead-pipe inside the upper tube just like any other trumpet.

A Soprano trombone has a more trombone like smaller bore of around .420-.430" and the better ones use a smaller shank mouthpiece like a modern cornet. That mouthpiece should have a deeper cup and larger throat than a trumpet mouthpiece. It will have either no tapered lead-pipe or a short one with little taper as it is with trombones.

That said, if the modern trumpet did not change and evolve to it's present large bore version but stayed smaller bore with little to no lead-pipe, like they were in the 19th century, then there would be no real difference between the two in acoustics.

The sound of the two instruments is not the same. The trumpet is brighter and blasts louder and harsher then the trombone.

I play both instruments but usually prefer the Soprano trombone over the Slide trumpet both for ease of playing and sound.

It's a shame that many trumpet makers market their Slide trumpets as mini trombones or something like that. They are in fact clouding the issue. Most of the time they are quite ignorant that there is a difference.

By the way, the Eb sopranino trombones do not play any higher than the Bb soprano, so they do not contribute other than the novelty of them. There is also a very cute Bb Piccolo trombone.


The best definitions in my opinion (and after some considerable research) are:

  • A trumpet has a mouthpiece and bell that are located at opposite ends of the instrument.
  • A trombone is defined by a bell section that is located to the rear of the instrument, with a mouthpiece located near the center of gravity and grip location.

Thus, the trumpet will be held in front of the body, while the trombone will be supported closer to the player's center of gravity.

The instrument pictured (as well as any other instruments with a similar shape) is therefore a type of trombone. It happens to play in the same range as a Bb trumpet, but an instrument's name is not defined by its playing range.

The soprano trombone in particular has been historically referred to as a slide trumpet in certain cases, (it was a novelty of Louis Armstrong's) however, the name slide trumpet more accurately refers to certain natural trumpets in the Medieval through Baroque periods that had slide elements to their construction. In this context, the slide trumpet was a variation on a natural trumpet that used a small hand slide or sliding lead pipe to adjust which harmonic series the instrument was playing in, therefore increasing possibilities of chromaticism in trumpet playing.

Many people will incorrectly refer to a soprano trombone as a slide trumpet because:

  • It is most often played by trumpeters.
  • It has a tone almost identical to a standard Bb valve trumpet.
  • The baroque slide trumpet is all but extinct.

Those who wish to pick nits are thus technically correct in doing so, but it's largely a pedantic distinction.

  • Got any images describing what you mean in your first two points?
    – naught101
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 12:22
  • @naught101 Just Google image search 'trumpet' and 'trombone' -- should be pretty self-explanatory given my descriptions.
    – NReilingh
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 17:46
  • Well, a google image search returns images that are almost all soprano trombones, by your definition, apart from a couple of slide valved trumpets, and some really old slide trumpets. Obviously some instrument makers are selling their soprano trombones as slide trumpets...
    – naught101
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 0:18
  • @naught101 That's my point--you should decide if an instrument truly is a trumpet or a trombone based on its construction. The reference images I suggested you google for would be vanilla trumpet or trombone. The images and YouTube links already included in the question and answer can supply less obvious examples.
    – NReilingh
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 6:26

I believe a lot of the kerfuffel is related to the fact that there are strong opinions and some sore toes around. No trumpet player wish to play the trombone and vice versa. The fact of the matter is that the sopranino trombone is fairly rare and there isn't a lot of material for it. This means that there is also few sources to refer to when "trying to settle" this aged old debate.

In my own opinion, the sopranino trombone is perhaps where the slide trumpets and the "more regular" trombones meet in terms of size, pitch, etc. However, the mechanics of the instrument is still squarely in the trombone camp in the same way that keyed trombones are often regarded as in the bass trumpet camp...

  • Soprano ≠ Sopranino: A sopranino trombone would be in the range of a piccolo trumpet.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 12:08
  • Wikipedia (untrustworthy as always) lists "The range of the E♭ sopranino trombone is A3 to E♭6; that of the B♭ piccolo trombone is E4 to F7." which is actually more or less the same as a trumpet (E3-*6)
    – andy
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 10:06

As a trombone player I believe that it I a soprano trombone and a valve trombone. A bass trumpet is actually more like a baritone intact a baritones true name is baritone trumpet so with the shape of the other two they must both be considered trombones

  • 3
    I wasn't asking about the valve trombone and bass trumpet. Those two instruments are very well defined. I disagree that a baritone horn is the same as a baritone trumpet--logically, that instrument would be smaller than a bass trumpet, and furthermore, there are NO reliable results on Google for an instrument with that name.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 16:29

It is much less the mechanics and shape of the instrument. It should be based off of its origins as a variation of the trumpet by Flemish musical inventors. This gives the origin to the trombone. As it evolved it became lower pitched. But this instrument as it is should be referred to as a slide trumpet.

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