Choosing Leadpipes for Your Trombone - Houghton Horns

Choosing Leadpipes for Your Trombone

Why do leadpipes make a difference for trombone players?

The leadpipe is the first point of contact with the trombone, so it's very important to discover which leadpipe works best for you. Today we are very lucky to have all kinds of modular trombones that allow us to interchange various parts on the instrument to suit our playing needs and help us bring the sound inside our head to life. In this regard, dethachable leadpipes have a big role to play. 

There are three main feaurues that determine which leadpipe a player needs for their instrument: the venturi, the length, and the material of the leadpipe. 


The venturi is where the leadpipe narrows to its thinnest point directly below the mouthpiece receiver. On Shires trombones, the venturi is indicated by the number you see on the top of the leadpipe.

The smaller sizes will give you a compact blow through the leadpipe, allowing you to feel a bit more compression, whereas larger diameter leadpipes can help you open up your sound. If a venturi is too small for a player they may feel that their sound is too tight. If a venturi is too large, the player will have a diffuse, unfocused sound. This is one area where it would be very helpful to schedule a fitting to discover which venturi works best for you.


Leadpipe length is critical for proper depth and fit in the slide. On the top of Shires leadpipes you might see S for short or L for long. Unmarked leadpipes indicate standard length.

The longer your leadpipe is, the easier it will be to slot notes, whereas shorter leadpipes will give you a bit more room to shape musical lines.


There are several types of material that are used to make leadpipes. The most common alloys are yellow brass (which is the standard leadpipe material), gold brass, rose brass, sterling silver, or nickel silver. The various materials affect how the instrument resonates.

For example, a darker brass material such as rose or gold brass will resonate more easily at soft dynamics but may project less in a large hall. The opposite is true for harder material such as nickel silver or sterling silver. These make it easier to project and will help a player with clarity of articulation.


The bore of the trombone is the diameter of the tubing in the inner handslide. You most commonly see small bore (.480″-.508″), medium bore (.525"), or large bore (.547") trombones. Be sure to buy a leadpipe of the bore size that matches your handslide.


Threaded leadpipes have screw threads to screw into the handslide, and pressed leadpipes can just be pushed directly in. They are not interchangeable, so be careful to buy threaded or pressed leadpipes as appropriate to ensure the leadpipe fits tightly into your instrument.

If you're interested in purchasing a leadpipe or trying them out, don't hesitate to schedule a consultation with Houghton Horns!

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