A Cimbasso for you

The cimbasso is an Italian instrument designed in the 19th Century and popularized by Verdi as a variation of the trombone 1,2.

Also named

You may hear about it with other names like cimbasso tuba or cimbasso trombone. Pronounced Chim-bah-so, from the Italian meaning contra-basso and called cimbasso or “cuerno bajo” in Spanish and just cimbasso in both French and Portuguese. A person that plays it’s called a trombonist or just a cimbasso player. 

What’s the difference?

The problem with a cimbasso tuba is that the correct category for the instrument is from the trombone family, cimbasso trombone is technically correct, but people most commonly refer to it as just cimbasso.

So you can say it’s just a lower, bigger, trombone that looks a little bit like a tuba or an euphonium.

Category

The Brass family meaning it makes sound from a vibration on the metal when you blow air. 

Variants

The types are determined by pitch:

  • F: Common.
  • Eb & C: Rare.
  • Bb: Rarest.

Another way to classify them is by the instruments that used to occupy the same space in the orchestras3:

  • Serpentone / Bass horn: The first instrument used for the lower trombone range.
  • Basson: More advanced than serpentine and made of brass.
  • Ophicleide: With valves and keys
  • Bombardon: Similar to ophicleide, the use of one and the other were based on popularity and preference.
  • Modern cimbasso: Harmonic with the rest of trombones.

The best for you

For a beginner, we suggest a modern cimbasso in F since it is the most common variant and the only one that you may be able to find these days.

For kids, a cimbasso may be too much because of the size and cost, so we recommend going to a trombone first and if that’s also too much a bugle will do. Also for them, a plastic trombone is a good option because it costs less, weighs less, and is resistant to falls.

Famous composers like Giuseppe Verde and Giacomo Puccini had used everything from the serpentine to the modern cimbasso so if you’re going professional, you don’t have any excuse with any, but the modern will have the biggest range so we still recommend that overall.

Don’t worry about brands and don’t worry too much about models and series. What matters is the store you buy them from, just make sure to avoid broken cimbassos that you don’t know how to repair and be wary of models that don’t have a defined pitch.

Now that you know, you can check on Ebay here.

Getting it another way

So far we have talked only about the physical instruments, but there are more options than that.

You can get an app for android called professional trombone or ios called trombone pro lite, both let you play a virtual version using the screen of your phone for free with ads, the ios app even lets you practice scores, but of course, the sound is not perfect.

You can also replicate it using a synthesizer/keyboard/midi /production software

And if you just want to mess with the idea of having a trombone, you can make your own, you can even try to make a cimbasso.

Prices

VariantLowest priceHighest price
F$2,750 USD$6,000 USD
Eb & C$1,800 USD$2,500 USD

For example, the cheapest is from Alibaba, produced in China, so the shipping may cost you a lot depending on where you are. The most expensive was a European manufactured with a layer of silver on top of the brass.

Sizes

VariantsSmallestBiggest
F40 x 13 x 14 In (101 x 33 x 35 Cm)41 x 14 x 15 In (104 x 35 x 38 Cm)
Eb & C41 x 14 x 16 In (104 x 35 x 40 Cm)42 x 18 x 14 In (106 x 45 x 35 Cm)

Weights

VariantsLightestHeaviest
F9 Lbs (4.2 Kg)40 Lbs (18 Kg)
Eb & C19 Lbs (8.5Kg)22 Lbs (10Kg)

Materials

Brass (copper with zinc) and it might have a lacquer (layer) of gold, silver, or steel with some additional painted color on top of it. Material has no effect on sound but it does in price and durability.

How to play – first lesson

The cimbasso is easy and fast to learn. Once you get a grip on how the instrument plays, you can learn the notes and start playing it like any other brass instrument, the hard part is getting one in the first place, but once you have that, it’s quite simple.

To learn to play each note you need a finger chart (or position chart).

We recommend learning to read sheet music or any of the different notations, (options for learning). Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups.

The first time I heard Jack Teagarden on the trombone, I had goose pimples all over. 

Louis Armstrong

References

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Wessex-tubas
  3. Vienna Symphonic Library

4 Replies to “A Cimbasso for you”

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