15 Interesting Facts About The Trombone
We all recognise this beautiful musical object, given its unique form and technical playing style. Of all the instruments covered by Ted’s List, the trombone is one of the most unchanged and consistent pieces throughout its life. There’s something childlike and enjoyable about the player’s movements, drawing in for high notes and out for deep and low. Let’s look at some more interesting facts.
1. Thine Entrails
The trombone is the only brass instrument that uses a moveable slide to alter its pitch. ‘Sackbut’ is another French word that describes this movement, describing a similar, extinct instrument, prior to trombone. Another interesting description of the early trombone is made by Sir Thomas Elyot in his book called The Castel of Helth (1534). Here he describes the trombone as having a positive, strengthening effect on the entrails of its players!
2. Slide It In
The name trombone comes from various European languages and ultimately means ‘big trumpet’. Of course, we already know the great differences between these two members of the brass family, given their different playing methods.
3. Mr And Mrs Trombone
In 1488, the Trombone received its first public appearance at the wedding of The Duke of Burgundy.
4. How Much Trombone For A Tenor?
As you can imagine, the trombone is available in many sizes depending on the tonal range required. The most common type, particularly amongst beginners is the tenor trombone. This normally comes in the key of Bb and is trombone in its simplest form.
5. Good Gluck
German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck gave classical music its first introduction to the trombone, in the 1767 opera Alceste. In 1727 at the age of 13 or 14, Gluck reportedly disappeared on a quest to Prague to begin his musical career. This is not historically certain, but much of his income was achieved through busking.
6. Can You See That Trombone Sticking Out?
The nature of the trombone seems to encourage its use in dark themes, for example, dramatic descriptions of thunder and lightning, hell and human beheading. Take Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique which uses the instrument to describe a group of bystanders waiting to watch an execution. Yum!
7. So Hot Its Melting
Homer Simpson randomly plays the trombone in one episode, performing Greensleeves. Additionally, in the episode ‘Lisa Gets the Blues’ the family travel to New Orleans and have a conversation with a group of jazz players standing under a sign entitled “Celebrate”. When asked for the meaning of the sign, the trombone player states that he was celebrating humidity of 98%, at which point his trombone melts. We also imagine that every musical instrument fact on this website could be linked in some way to The Simpsons.
With trombone, it’s possible to ‘slide’ through the range of notes giving its unique ‘glissando’ effect. The trombone can also be used to create a sound similar to the wah-wah pedal in electric guitar. This is achieved with the combination of the slide and the use of objects that muffle the sound. Not exactly Hendrix on trombone but very distinctive.
When stretched out into a straight line, the trombone’s brass tubing can be as long as 2.7 metres.
The trombone plays a huge part in jazz. Instruments for this genre tend to be very different from those found in classical music. They are easier to slide, small and light, giving the musician the ability to fly around the notes. Listen to At Sundown by Miff Mole; he was one of the early progenitors of jazz trombone, recording and performing in the 1920s.
11. Alt Und Neu
In 1551 Grasmus Schnitzer created what is now the world’s oldest trombone, on display in Nuremberg in Germany. Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum with the modern and super fun plastic trombone. These come in a variety of colours and are super light, providing a cheaper way to play the trumpet.
12. Stop Trying To Be Funny
There are lots of commonly heard cultural sounds linked with the trombone. Take the descending wa-wa-wa-wah notes that describe an unfortunate and funny ending. Perhaps this section should finish; wa-wa-wa-wah.
13. Tube Network
For a fun and modern take on brass, check out Lucky Chops @ Herald Sq. This amazing busking group shows the power and bigger of the trombone in an intimate, live performance.
14. Too Hot To Handle
Another example of the humorous nature of this instrument comes from trombonist Valentin Guérin and others. In many cases, the trombone becomes a flame thrower or fireworks distributor during a live performance. Amongst his nine-man brass band, Guérin uses his trombone in this fiery way to raise money for charity.
15. Can You Lend Me A Tenor? (Same Pun)
We’ve already mentioned the plastic trombone as a good entry point, selling for around eighty pounds. In 2020 the Mendini Tenor Slide Trombone ranks highly for beginners wanting a regular instrument. For those of you with loads of money wanting to impress, check out Edwards T-396A, which goes for about five to six thousand pounds.
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