What makes a Step-Up Instrument?
This month we will be talking about the differences and specifics of our two most common step-up instruments in the brass family: trumpet and trombone. The biggest differences you will notice at a glance when looking for a step-up brass instrument will be changes in the metal content and potential new mechanisms.
Trumpet step-ups will more often than not be made of silver plated brass, either a yellow or gold base. Silver is commonly used in brass instruments to provide a brighter sound in addition to the sound profile that the metal itself provides, nickel being a darker tone versus the brighter tone of brass. Many trumpet players prefer this style of tone since it carries itself over other voices, aiding in exposing melodies within most standard band literature. Mechanism wise, most trumpets remain the same regardless of level. One important thing to note is that most trumpets pitched outside of the standard B-flat are within the step-up category of instruments, as not many companies produce a student model of C, D, E-flat trumpets.
Trombone step-ups happen to fall into two categories, similar to saxophones as we discussed last article. The first is the addition of an F-attachment, commonly known as a trigger. In certain areas, some students will actually skip playing on a non-F attach trombone, referred to as a straight trombone. The addition of this mechanism allows the player to not extend out into some of the farther positions for certain notes, allowing for faster passages to be played with ease. Beyond the addition of this mechanism, further changes such as the wrap of the tubing and style of trigger (Thayer, Hagmann, etc) make more options available per each model of step-up trombone.