This week, we will explore the Trombone, the only instrument that uses a slide instead of keys for producing different pitches.
The Trombone has been around for a long time, since the 15th century, where it was used in outdoor events, churches and concerts. It was originally referred to as the “Sackbut,” but Italian influence changed the name to Trombone. (In German music, it was called the “Posaune.”)
The most common types of trombones young students will see are Tenor Trombones. They are in Concert pitch, so unlike the Trumpet and French Horn, Trombonists don’t have to transpose. More professional model Trombones have thumb triggers. This makes it easier to play the farthest positions (6th and 7th) in closer positions (1st and 2nd). There are some instrument brands that do have triggers for their students models (Jupiter being one of them).
After some experience with the instrument, some students go on to the Bass Trombone. This instrument is slightly larger, lower in sound and has a thumb trigger to make easier access to lower notes and the farthest positions.
The cool thing about the Trombone is the sound effects that can be made with moving the slide while buzzing. You will see some of this effect in the videos below.
Some great classical performers are Joseph Alessi (NY Philharmonic), Jay Freidman (Chicago Symphony), Douglas Yeo (Bass Trombone-Boston Symphony), and soloist Christian Lindberg.
Some great jazz performers are J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Steve Turre, Wycliffe Gordon, Tommy Dorsey and Trombone Shorty.
Advantages to Playing the Trombone:
- Not many students take the Trombone because it is not a melody instrument like the trumpet. So there will be more opportunities to perform and stand out.
- There is a good amount of Classical repertoire for the Trombone because it has been in existence for quite a while.
- Trombones are in Concert Bands, Marching Bands, Jazz Bands, as well as Ska, Reggae and part of Horn Sections in some Rock Bands, which means plenty of opportunities to play.
Points to Consider:
- Like the French Horn and Oboe, the student needs to match pitch very well in order to play this instrument successfully. The pitch needs to be heard first before playing. This is especially important because the exact slide position will be determined by how well the student hears the pitch in tune.
- At first, it may feel like only tall students with long arms can play the instrument. That’s not true; some of my smaller students have had success on the instrument because they have great ears. There are some brands that have beginner instruments with triggers, and even so, within a year, 6th position will not be that difficult to reach.
- The instrument is long, but not heavy. Keep that in mind if your child needs to take the school bus. It should not be a problem.
- The weight of the instrument is on the left hand, particularly between the left thumb and pointer fingers. Only the thumb, pointer and middle fingers of the right hand move the slide.
- The Trombone will play bass lines in Beginning Band music. As the student progresses, middle school music will place the Trombone in the tenor range, so the music will consist of more inner harmonies.
- Watch the above videos. What do you like about the sound of the Trombone? Write them in the Comments below.
- If you want to learn more about the Trombone, there’s a great organization called the International Trombone Association (ITA): http://trombone.net
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One of the most famous examples of Trombones: The Music Man- 76 Trombones
Christian Lindberg plays Romeo & Juliet and Magic Flute
JJ Johnson and Kai Winding- It’s Alright With Me
Trombone Shorty at age 13 w/LCJO playing Second Line (solos at 1:26)