Chapter 6: Proposal for a Set of Reproduction Romantic Trombones


As I have mentioned elsewhere in this study, the practice of performing art music in Historically Informed Performance Practice, upon “original” instruments began in Europe in the 1950’s with pioneers such as Gustav Leonhardt, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. I have documented the situation for choosing suitable instruments for brass players in detail elsewhere in this study. Trombonists wishing to perform in “authentic” situations now have a wide choice of “reproduction” trombones from many different instrument builders. Renaissance, baroque and classical trombones (which as I hope to have shown are very similar to each other in construction and bore) are now readily available to the musician wishing to make his or her way into the fascinating “Early Music” scene. While a small number of instrument builders attempt very accurate copies of museum instruments, there has also been a rise in the practice of building “baroque” trombones or sackbuts without reference to specific old instruments. Copies of copies, as it were, loosely based on general concepts of small bore sized slides and cone shaped bells. Many of these instruments are very acceptable in many ways, easily playable for the modern trombonist; often include modern features such as chromed slide tubes, tuning slides, and utilise modern tubing (unseamed) and brass alloys much purer than in former times.

What is lacking in present times, in my opinion, are representative instruments for performing the mid nineteenth century repertoire that has also begun to be regularly performed by the H.I.P. movement over the last decades. I refer to orchestras such as Anima Eterna, Les Siecles, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, who are performing composers such as the later works of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Berlioz and Brahms, on to Wagner and Liszt, later Russian and French composers, . Indeed as I write these words I am also rehearsing and performing Rimsky Korsakov on my 1870’s Penzel trombone. It is true that there is not a shortage of later 19th and early 20th century instruments of German or French origin available, however the instruments of the period covered by this study are very rare and not often in good enough state for present day performance. That is true of the three instruments that I have chosen as basis for this proposal. Not only do they differ significantly from later instruments in terms of materials and build techniques, but they also contain within them a certain sound ideal which cannot really be found in more modern instruments.

I would therefore like to propose that a set of three trombones be built that would represent the state of the orchestral trombone in Leipzig in the 1840’s and could be used in historically informed performances of orchestral music by Schumann, Mendelssohn and their contemporaries; early Wagner, and even later composers such as Liszt and Brahms. The set would consist of an alto trombone, tenor trombone and tenor-bass trombone with F valve, and would be based upon existing Penzel and Sattler trombones that I have tested.

General design parameters

Based on my investigations as documented in this paper, all three trombones should be built using as much of the building techniques and design of the period 1810-1850 as possible. These should include.

  • Use of a brass alloy similar to that available to Sattler[1].
  • Thickness of brass. Slide tubing .4mm. Bell .35
  • Use of seamed tubing formed on a mandrel for bell and slide bows. Thickness of brass typically .5mm
  • Wide bell garlands (Kranz) made of brass
  • Shell decoration on the garland
  • Oak leaf decoration on garland
  • Brass guards (Stoßbortel) on the bell and slide bow copied from Sattler
  • Ribbed ferrules in brass (after Sattler)
  • No tuning slide in the bell section, three main tubes connected by ferrules. Neck pipe cylindrical.
  • Slide bow without water key. (Most modern players however, expect a water key)
  • Cylindrical slide bore (most later German trombones are furnished with dual bore slides but the Penzel instruments and the Markneukirchen Sattler  exhibit cylindrical slides)
  • Pitch a=442 or 443 Hz (It is important that instruments without tuning slide are not pitched too low in the closed positions)

Conical or cylindrical slide design?

One decision had to be made in choosing the slide design of this set. It was very interesting to note that although the three Sattler trombones in the Grassi set utilise a dual bore slide, all four Penzel trombones that I have measured and the Sattler trombone in Markneukirchen exhibit slides built in cylindrical fashion.  In this case I have chosen to copy the design of the two best playing instruments (the Penzel alto and the Markneukirchen tenor) and use a single bore for all three instruments.


I have based these designs on my own observations and measurements. However I am most definitely not a qualified instrument builder so the final design would have to be concluded in consultation with the instrument builder, who would be able to calculate the measurements needed achieve proper intonation and response. I might also add that my measuring callipers are of good but not state-of-the-art quality. I have also relied on measurements of the Sattler trombones by Heyde.[2]

                                                          The alto trombone

The instrument that I would choose to base the design of the alto trombone was built by J.C. Penzel in Leipzig and is presently in the collection of Günter Hett in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, and is further described in appendix 3. In my opinion this is an instrument of excellent quality. Herr Hett has provided me with measurements for this instrument which is in completely original condition, without any later additions or repairs. The seamed tubing in the slide has developed a tear rendering the slide unusable. Herr Hett has built a replacement slide from brass based on the dimensions of the original, but it should be the original slide that should be copied of course.

The slide section

  • Inner slide both tubes outer measurement 12.4 mm
  • Outer slide outer measurement 13.4mm
  • Inner slide bore (based on brass thickness of .4mm) 11.6mm both sides (cylindrical)
  • Slide bow with decorated brass guard (see photo)
  • Tubing made of seamed and rolled brass
  • Brass alloy based on analysis of Sattler trombones. 0.40mm wall thickness
  • Mouthpiece receiver for modern standard small shank mouthpieces.

The bell section

  • Diameter 150mm tapered to ca. 14.5 mm at bell bow ferrule (lower side)
  • Wide garland in brass to 50mm height. Decorated with shells and oak leaves
  • Brass thickness. 0.35 (hammered thinner under garland)
  • Conical ferrules between bell and bow. Taper of bell bow 12.8mm (gooseneck side) to 13.6mm (ferrule upper side) in consultation
  • Neck pipe cylindrical bore to be determined in consultation with builder
  • Brass guard with decorated comb on bow


The tenor trombone

The instrument that should serve as a model tenor trombone is the Sattler instrument in the Markneukirchen Museum of Musical Instruments. This trombone is very well in tune and has a fine and very beautiful tone colour. The measurements of the bell that I took are very close to those of the bell owned by Sebastian Krause which is in better condition. The tenor trombone in the 1841 Grassi set is not well in tune and must unfortunately be ruled out for reproduction.

The slide

  • Inner slide both tubes outer measurement 13.7mm
  • Outer slide outer measurement 14.7 mm
  • Inner slide bore  12.9mm
  • Slide bow with decorated brass guard
  • Tubing in seamed and rolled brass
  • Brass alloy based on analysis of Sattler trombones. 0.40mm wall thickness
  • Mouthpiece receiver for modern standard large shank mouthpieces.

The bell

  • Diameter 225mm tapered to 21.3mm at bottom of bell bow ferrule
  • Wide garland in brass to 95mm height. Decorated with shells and oak leaves
  • Brass thickness. 0.35 (hammered thinner under garland)
  • Conical ferrules between bell and bow. Taper of bell bow 15.9mm outer (neck pipe side) to 20.6mm outer (ferrule upper side)
  • Neck pipe 15.2mm outer
  • Brass guard with decorated comb on bow

The Tenor-bass trombone

The choice of instrument to serve as a model for the bass instrument in our 1840’s section was much less clear cut. There are a large number of examples of this sort of large tenor trombone with valve from after the 1860’s, and most of these are built in the Sattler/ Penzel dimensions, as can be seen from the 1841 valveless Sattler in the Grassi Museum. As we know, Sattler’s application of the single F extension occurred only two years previously. We also do not know exactly which sort of valve Sattler used in 1839. Most pundits presume the use of the rotary valve (Reidl 1835) that became standard later in the century, but we have seen that valve was still its infancy and invented in Vienna. Sattler’s own double tube pump valves (of which no know examples exist to my knowledge) way not have been applicable in terms of ergonomics. In any case we also do not have (to my knowledge[3]) any Penzel instruments with valve extant. Some instruments have surfaced in the USA built by German immigrants with the “Berlin” piston valve. Modern trombonists of course would expect a rotary valve to be applied. In the absence of any instruments to serve as models we must use later models of Penzel influenced builders to reconstruct the wrap of the F tubing in the bell. Luckily almost all later trombone builders in Saxony used a similar wrap style for the tubing, and all used then standard rotary valve... The earliest example I have been able to find is pictured in Heyde’s Das Ventilblasinstrument, and dates from the early 1860’s on a Johann Adam Heckel trombone. Other later examples seen (and play tested) have been from the builders Schopper, Kruspe, Piering and Pollter. On the basis of these designs we can produce a speculative design for the application of a valve to Sattler’s 1841 large tenor-bass trombone. I propose that the model for the tenor bass bell form should indeed be the Sattler 1841 trombone which is identical in fact to the standard Penzel bell form, but furnished with F tubing wrapped in the manner of the Heckel trombone kept in the same museum, which is also to be found on later instruments by Schopper, Piering and Pollter. It is also worth noting that Sattler’s trombone is the only one of the three templates that I have not been able to play test. Heyde notes that the instrument suffers response, intonation and sound issues, which are connected to certain miscalculations in the bore and it’s relation to the bell flare[4]. My experiences with the instrument builder Voigt would convince me that he would be able to design the correct bore in relation to the bell, to ensure correct intonation

The slide

  • Inner slide both tubes outer measurement 15.7mm
  • Outer slide outer measurement 14.7 mm
  • Inner slide bore (based on brass thickness of .4mm) 13.9 mm both tubes (cylindrical slide)
  • Slide bow with decorated brass guard
  • Tubing made of seamed and rolled brass
  • Brass alloy based on analysis of Sattler trombones. 0.40mm wall thickness
  • Mouthpiece receiver for modern standard large shank mouthpieces

The bell section

  • Diameter 230mm tapered to 23mm at bottom of bell bow ferrule
  • Wide garland in brass to 95mm height. Decorated with shells and oak leaves
  • Brass thickness. 0.35 (hammered thinner under garland)
  • Conical ferrules between bell and bow. Taper of bell bow 16.5 mm (gooseneck side) to 21.3mm (ferrule upper side) - to be checked with the builder.
  • Neck pipe outer 15.9mm (provisional)
  • Brass guard with decorated comb on bow
  • All ferrules in brass with ribbing
  • Brass thickness  .35mm

The F tuning section

  • Tubing wrap copied from Heckel 1860.
  • Rotary valve with spring loaded operation via cord and leather thong
  • Tubing measurement in consultation with the builder.

Who is to build these trombones?

In chapter five of this study I recorded my discussions with three instrument builders, Rainer Egger in Basel, Markus Leuchter in Herzogenrath, and Stefan Voigt in Markneukirchen. It should be clear that of these three builders Stefan Voigt seemed to be the logical choice to realise the project. He is situated close to one of the original instruments, and has access to mandrels and materials that closely match those of the nineteenth century instruments. His own models of trombone are also very traditional and enjoy an excellent reputation in Saxony; his instruments are used in the Dresden Staatskapelle, and he has considerable experience with historical techniques including production of seamed brass tubing. His own bell mandrels for his models T30 and T40 match the Penzel/ Sattler form for the tenor and tenor-bass trombones almost exactly. He also has access to sheet brass in historical alloys and above all a curiosity and enthusiasm for my ideas for the project. It is our intention to start the project with the renovation of an 1870’s Penzel trombone in my collection.











[1] A typical analysis for brass available to Sattler and Penzel, taken from the Sattler bell of Sebastian Krause. 72.3 % Copper, 26.3% Zinc, 1% Lead, .3% Nickel, traces of Tin, Iron and Arsenic.

[2] Heyde, Herbert. Trompeten, Posaunen, Tuben Katalog der Musikinstrumenten Karl Marx Universität, Leipzig. Wiesbaden 1985 pp. 178-80

[3] Both Sebastian Krause and Mario Weller were not aware of any Penzel instrument extant with an f  valve, although many later builders (incl., Kruspe, Piering) produced “Penzel” models with spring loaded rotary valves.

[4] Heyde, Katalog p 178a

H.Moennig trombone with Berlin Pump valve

J.A.Heckel Valve wrap ca. 1860

Otto Pollter, Leipzig ca. 1900

Bell form Voigt

Penzel Alto (Günter Hett)

Impression of Sattler tenor trombone in Markneukirchen

Sattler bell (impression), S.Krause Leipzig

Slide and Bell bows from Sattler 1841

Sattler and Penzel bell forms compared

J.C.Penzel bell with "Leipzig" valve wrap