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What Are the Different Trombone Methods?

Peter Hann
Peter Hann

The study of the various trombone methods aims to make the best use of the versatile features of the instrument and to obtain maximum enjoyment for the musician and his listeners. Music for the trombone is written so as to bring out the best features of the instrument and produce quality music. Good trombone methods, therefore, make full use of the capacity of the instrument to produce pleasant effects. These methods include legato playing, the use of glissando effects, trills and tremolos. Trombone players also may change the character of the sound when appropriate by using different sizes and shapes of mute.

One of the most noticeable features of the trombone is that changes in pitch are created by a slide that changes the length of the tube producing the note. This means basic legato playing is rather more difficult on the trombone than on a valved instrument such as the trumpet. Legato playing is, however, a part of trombone technique and a dedicated trombonist masters the skill. The use of the slide also enables the player to produce a glissando effect by continuously introducing air into the tube while moving the slide, and this technique can be used for atmospheric or humorous effect. The player also may produce the so-called cuivre or brassy sound, which is rather louder than the normal sound of the instrument.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Some trombone methods are very simple, such as the command to point the bell of the trombone in a particular direction. Others are more difficult for a player to produce. The vibrato sound, caused by undulations in pitch, may be produced either by skillful manipulation of the slide or by movement of the player’s lips. Also caused by movement of the lips are trills, rapid movements between two alternate, usually high-pitched notes. When the tone alternates between notes that are more than one tone apart in pitch, this effect is known as a tremolo.

Trombone methods also include the use of various types of mute. The trombonist may use a straight mute made of metal or wood, or the mute may be shaped like a cup. Mutes may be held in place with the hand, or they may fit over the bell of the instrument. Bucket mutes are attached to the bell and produce a rather muffled tone that is softer than the sound produced without a mute. The player also may employ a hand-held mute so as to cover a greater or smaller area of the bell, producing a sound that has been described as a "wah-wah" effect.

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      Man playing a guitar