The trombone first surfaced around 1400 as an improvement on the trumpet. The early trombone was very similar to the one we use today, with the exception of its thicker metal and narrower bell, which yielded a softer, mellower tone.
Once used widely in chamber orchestras and churches, the early trombone, or “sackbut,” experienced a decline as the 18th century dawned. The instrument made a comeback in the military bands of the late 1700’s, where it developed the widely-flared bell characteristic of the modern trombone.
The trombone played a vital role in the Swing era of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, as famed bandleaders Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller literally brought the trombone to the forefront of big band music with their play.