Plastic trumpets and trombones.

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Choosing an instrument can be a bit of a minefield, as you will begin to understand if you have already read my articles about buying new, and second hand instruments. I have deliberately not touched on the subject of plastic instruments in those posts because they deserve a feature all by themselves.

The popularity of plastic instruments has exploded in recent years with the introduction of the pBone (trombone) and later pTrumpet, as well as copies of varying quality by other brands, varieties including plastic cornets and flugelhorns, and the instrument of very dubious worth, the Pbuzz!

Shop for plastic trumpets here.

As a trumpet specialist, my first introduction to plastic instruments was actually the pBone - I wanted to buy a trombone, but couldn't justify buying a decent one, and didn't fancy taking my chances with the secondhand market. I decided that for about the same money as a used one, I would buy a plastic one. I had worked alongside the designer at a big band gig, and bought one of the very first ones to market (pre - VAT!). Green - trombone shaped and supplied in a canvas bag of the most appaling quality. I do tend to break zips very easily, but these bags are really not fit for purpose, and the ones supplied with newer models suffer the same issue.

Despite this, as a non-trombone player, I was really happy with it. I ditched the supplied plastic mouthpiece, and replaced it with a 'proper' one (I couldn't get much depth or volume out of the plastic one) and found the sound to be convincing enough, and the playing of it to be perfectly realistic. The slide is sluggish and noisy, and despite pBone assuring that it improves with time, that is not my experience after about 8 years!

The key thing here though, is that I am not a trombone player, and I am sure that 'proper' bone players may well turn their nose up at the plastic option. That said, I encouraged a few students to buy them - they are afterall cheap, lightweight, practically unbreakable, and very cool! Unusually for them, the exam boards quickly established that they were suitable for candidates to use when presenting for exams.

Now - the trombone is one thing: I am not a trombonist, and it is a simple enough design that it can be made out of plastic with very few compromises . Trumpets however, are a different matter. From what I have seen of the plastic trumpets, they are clumpy and constructed to a shape that is approximate at best. The valves are heavy, the weight is very tricky to get used to and the way you have to hold it is weird compared to a proper one. But ... and here is the important thing - they play! They play just fine. Sure, the sound is lacking the brightness, versatility of attack and depth of expression of a brass tumpet, the blow is a little pinched ... but to all intents and purposes they do the job. 

I mentioned the pBuzz above: This appears to be a play on an old kids toy.... and extendable tube, neither a trombone nor a recorder, but some pointless hybrid that you blow like a brass instrument. Really? Just get a brass instrument surely?!?

My passion for the art of playing brass instruments, the history of their development and the amazing skill and craftmanship that goes into making instruments - these things are what reign in my enthusiasm for these weak new additions to the instrument world. They have their place (kind of), in many instances they are better than buying a rubbish new traditional instrument, and that's probably the kindest thing I can bring myself to say about them.