Facts about the Trombone

My son has started learning to play the trombone this year. He got to try out several instruments at school for the first half term before Christmas and was then given an instrument, the trombone for him, to learn at school. He loves it, is excited that he might be able to play music from Star Wars on it one day, and it seems to suit him down to the ground. So this month I am going to look in a bit more detail at the trombone, and use this as an opportunity to learn more about this instrument that is becoming very important to my son.

What is a trombone?

  • The Trombone is a brass instrument, meaning that it is made out of brass.
  • It is played by blowing into a mouthpiece and sliding a rounded tube in and out of the instrument to change the pitch of the note that comes out of the trombone’s bell. This makes the trombone different from other brass instruments as the others use valves to change the pitch of the notes they produce.

Click here to see what a trombone looks like, and what all the parts of the trombone are: Trombone diagram

  • New players will often start to learn on a p-bone, or plastic, trombone.
  • The trombone is not very easy for left handed people to play. It is possible, but the way the trombone is made means that trombonists are generally very reliant on their right hand with the left largely supporting the weight of the instrument.
  • The trombone is not used as a solo instrument very often in classical music. It comes into its own more in jazz and more contemporary music.

History of the trombone

  • The trombone developed from an instrument called the sackbut, from the French words saquer and bouter meaning push and pull. This was an instrument commonly played in Court or the Church in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
  • The name trombone comes from the Italian word tromba which means trumpet.
  • The first trombone dated from around the 15th Century.
  • The modern day trombone has not changed very much from its older counterparts.
  • The first ever documented use of a trombone was at the Duke of Burgundy’s wedding in 1468.
  • The trombone only started to make an appearance in the orchestra in the late 18th Century.
  • Many composers have written a lot of music for funerals which features the trombone, it is an instrument that has often been thought of as being associated with death and the afterlife. In fact there were four trombonists leading the procession for Beethoven’s funeral.

Fun facts

  • Using a plunger mute in the bell of the trombone a trombonist can mimic the sound of someone speaking in the distance. The best example of this is probably the sound of the teacher’s voice in the Peanuts cartoon.
  • Homer Simpson from the Simpsons plays the trombone
  • Donald Duck has had a go as well in the cartoon Trombone Trouble.
  • In fact there are a lot of cartoons featuring trombonists. Recently, there is a trombone player in the film Soul

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