Valved trombone

Valved trombone
Le Brun, Belgium
Gifted in 2011
Musical Instrument Collection: MIMEd 6079

The most distinctive feature of the trombone is its slide, a mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch. However, trombones do not always have slides. Valved trombones were very important in the later 19th- and early 20th-centuries. They were much easier to play in cramped theatre orchestra pits and on horseback in mounted bands.

This is a ‘cavalry’ instrument with tubing positioned both over the shoulder and in front of the player. Gifted by Frank Tomes, it is equipped with seven valves, matching the seven slide positions of the slide trombone. This makes it easier for a trombonist to switch between instruments and also makes tuning more reliable.

Frank Tomes (1936-2011) built up his collection of instruments, 36 of which are now held at the University thanks to his widow Susan, partly due to his activity as a professional sousaphonist and instrument maker. But Frank did not set out on this course. He served his apprenticeship as a nautical model maker before studying at Wimbledon School of Art in the late 1950s. He worked in sculptural casting at the famous Morris Singer Foundry, which included contributing to the work of world-renowned sculptor Henry Moore. Frank then went on to work as a teacher and technician until he focussed more on his musical interests. He studied brass instrument repair at Merton College and, in the mid-1980s, took over the construction of sackbuts and serpent crooks for Christopher Monk, adding both natural and slide trumpets later on. Frank was extremely generous in welcoming fellow enthusiasts to visit his collection and lent instruments to numerous exhibitions.

Story by Dr Jenny Nex, Curator, Musical Instrument Collection