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Trombone FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

Trombones tend to appeal to outgoing, mischievous types who do not take life too seriously. But the instrument actually offers something for everyone: it is incredibly versatile, used in all styles of music and is one of the most fun and rewarding instruments to learn. On the surface, it is a simple instrument, whereby you lengthen the tube to play lower and shorten it to play higher. But all is not exactly as it seems. Read on to discover more…

Trombone Faq'S

Technical FAQs

How do you produce a sound on a trombone?

All brass instruments work in the same way and require a vibration. That vibration – or buzz – is formed between the lips as air is blown across them. When done into the instrument the vibration is amplified into a rich, trombone sound.

Can I play the trombone if I am left handed?

Of course. But note that all trombones are played the same way – over the right shoulder, holding the slide in your right hand.

Can I play the trombone if I have short arms?

Many young players take up the trombone regardless of their short arms. A trombone with an F-attachment compensates for the need to use the furthest (seventh) position; an extension can also be attached to the slide. Another option is to buy a trombone designed specifically for children

Do you need big lungs to play the instrument?

Playing a brass instrument will naturally encourage you to engage with your breathing. The famous English composer Gustav Holst took up the trombone with the hope that it would help his asthma.

How do you play high on a brass instrument?

Playing high is a difficult skill to master and takes a lot of time and practice. You have to increase the frequency of the vibration, put a fast stream of air through the instrument, and raise your tongue towards the roof of your mouth to make an ‘eeeee’ sound. Most importantly, you shouldn’t increase the pressure between your instrument and your lips. 

Where does the spit go?

It is actually condensation, built up from blowing air through the instrument. It collects in the bottom of the slide where there is a water key allowing it to be emptied onto the floor or towel.

Instrument FAQs

Are trombones expensive?

For a professional model you will pay four figures, but student models are far cheaper. A new entry level model can be found for under $250 (£200). 

Are trombones heavy?

Bass trombones are around 2.5Kg and a basic tenor trombone weighs only 1.5 Kg. You can actually buy plastic trombones which are incredibly light and a great starter instrument for kids.

What other names are there for the trombone?

In the fifteenth and sixteenth century the trombone was known as the ‘Sackbut’, meaning ‘push-pull’. In German, it translates as ‘Posaune’ and in French ‘trombone’, which, for obvious reasons, is the same word for paperclip. 

Myth Busting FAQs

Trombones must have frets on the slide like a guitar.

Knowing exactly where to put the slide is purely down to muscle memory. With practice you can hit the same position every time, much like playing darts.

Trombones always play really loud.

There is a certain enjoyment which comes from being able to play loud, but the top players only do so when the music absolutely calls for it. The sound of three trombones playing quietly, however, is absolutely magical. 

Trombones are only played by men.

Absolutely not. There are more female students turning professional than ever before. Some of the best orchestral players in the UK are female and there is a very successful all female trombone quartet called Bones Apart.

Mutes make Trombones softer.

There is some truth in this. Mutes, however, do so much more. When a mute is inserted the sound immediately changes, and as there are many different types of mute, there are many different colours available. 

About the Author

General Trombone FAQs

Do trombone players have the most fun?

Almost certainly. This is largely because we often have large breaks between our entries. For example, in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 we do not play a note for thirty minutes!

What type of ensembles use trombones?

It is actually quite hard to find ensembles which don’t use trombones. The instrument blends really well with itself, so is at its best when playing in a trombone section; orchestras, big bands, brass bands and even brass chamber ensembles are some of many which utilise trombone sections.

Trombone Faq'S
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