Slide into it on trombone

From the classics of Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey to the sounds of Jonathan Frakes and Nelly Furtado, trombone music has become an irrevocable part of Western culture. With a little patience and a lot of practice, this instrument will provide you with years of musical enjoyment.

Choosing a Trombone

Beginners usually choose the tenor trombone or bass trombone; these are the instruments most commonly played in high school and college bands. Regardless of the trombone type, there are several important considerations to make when purchasing a used or new trombone:

  • Brand

  • Bore size

  • Condition and slide action

Paying a little more for a well-known brand can be well worth the extra investment; some lesser-known brands, when they break down, are unserviceable because compatible replacement parts cannot be found or are too expensive. The King trombone and the Bach trombone are frequently recommended by band directors, as are models from manufacturers like Conn and Yamaha. Some of the most popular instruments include the Yamaha YSL-354, the Bach 42 and the Conn 88H.

The bore size of a trombone determines the amount of air the player must blow in to produce music, and it also affects the tone of the music that comes out. The larger the bore, the more air the player must blow in; large-bored trombones are thus considered more difficult to play, though many people think they produce a richer, warmer sound. Small-bore trombones, on the other hand, are considered easier to play and are capable of producing high-pitched sounds that are well-suited to lead parts in bands.

When considering any used musical instrument, from the trombone to the violin, make it's in good shape; its overall appearance should not be too rough or worn, and if you have access to an experienced trombone player, bring that person along with you. Check the slide action very carefully, too; it should be very smooth, and any friction you encounter is an indicator of trouble. If you purchase a used trombone, make sure to get your own mouthpiece as well.

Learning to Play the Trombone

Finding a teacher is the most efficient way to learn any musical instrument, but if you want to teach yourself how to play, you'll find plenty of resources. Method books, such as the Essential Elements and Ultimate beginner series, provide trombone sheet music geared towards the novice as well as easy-to-follow positioning and playing basics. All good method books will help you understand the slide positions that determine the pitch of the music you play and can help with trombone-specific problems such as balance, hand positions and embouchure. If you play a specialized variant, such as the valve trombone, make sure any instructional manuals you buy are written with your particular trombone type in mind.

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