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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPedagogy(Moderators: JP, Doug Elliott) Teaching trombone to small children
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BFW
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« on: Jan 23, 2007, 02:14PM »

(Inspired by discussion elsewhere.)

What are the problems of teaching trombone to small children?  What are the solutions in use by experienced teachers?

One problem that has been mentioned is short arms.  How do you deal with that?  Avoid the outer positions?  Use a valve?  Teach on an alto?  Teach the student baritone horn until the student's arms are longer?

Another possible problem is the weight of the instrument.  This argues against using a valve, which increases the weight.  Perhaps the weight of a valve section isn't as significant compared to the weight increase for a large bore trombone.  Or perhaps the student could use a support device.

Yet another possible problem is the size of the mouthpiece compared to a small face.  Is this much of an issue?  Are the smaller trombone mouthpieces small enough for young students?

Teachers: what issues have you found?  How do you deal with them?
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Brian

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« Reply #1 on: Jan 23, 2007, 02:44PM »

Great question, Brian. 

I know for a fact that around here, in years past, very young brass players were started on baritone horn or even cornet-- light, easy to hold, and easy to get a good sound.  Obviously, when the time comes to consider switching, the trombone is one of the least similar brasses-- but, many successful trombone players started on cornet or baritone horn.  The question, I think, is whether it's more benificial to have a student start on their target horn, i.e. trombone, as early as possible, or whether it's better to simply give them a good musical foundation, along with a fundamental understanding of brass playing.  Personally, I favor the latter.

The issues you raise are all important: arm length, weight of instrument, and mouthpiece size.  I'd add ease of tone production to that list (and that issue, while partially addressed by the design of student trombones, is still a problem).   I also think that even a 12c is pretty big for a lot of youngsters-- if the rim is hitting their nose, it can impede development of proper placement.

My solution, alluded to above, would be to recommend starting on a different instrument if circumstances warrant.  I'm intrigued by the alto idea, and see no reason why it couldn't work, especially given that the student would be dealing with the vagaries of the slide right off the bat.  With cheap altos becoming more and more available, I'd certainly consider trying that given the chance.
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« Reply #2 on: Jan 23, 2007, 03:07PM »

I'm interested in this as well.  Starting with an alto trombone sounds like a good idea but every alto I ever tried was not easy to play.  Problems with intination, eveness of partials, stuffiness, shrill sound etc..

Personally I started on baritone horn.  My sophmore year in high school I played valve trombone in jazz ensemble then I switched to slide my Junior year.

My 4 year old daughter is obviously too small to play trombone (even alto I think) but she can make a note on my trombone when I hold it for her.  She is in Suzuki violin and that is our main priority for now but I might try her on a short coronet or pocket trumpet.
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« Reply #3 on: Jan 23, 2007, 03:39PM »

A few years ago, a parent called and asked me to give lessons to a 3rd grade (8 years old) student  Amazed I said, probably too young and small, the parent talked me into the lesson. Yes, small, could not reach 5th, but a great tone and determination. We continued lessons for awhile and the miniature human did quite well. Lost interest in 6th grade because the band at his school stunk, he was already to play high school music, they were still trying to figure out Frere Jacques. Sigh.

It really depends on the individual.

I have some 6th grade students right now on trombone, baritone and tuba. The trombonist has a great sound, smart, reads well, (female, likes to chat a lot, which is fine. Good rest for the chops). She is smallish but gets 6th quite well, and has figured out the finger tip control for 7th (if you don't know what I mean, ask). The baritone students (all of them double on trombone for "pep" band) rock! Likewise the tuba kid. But, all of that is luck of the draw. I have some horror stories of young players that had no talent, no clue, but still wanted lessons  :cry: Meanie that I am, I eventually, uh, convinced them that they were wasting their time.

So, by all of that history, I hope to convey that private instruction is motivated, dedicated, and influenced by the individual. There is no absolute. I have had fantastic young students (one that started at 10 is now in the Cleveland Institute of Music as a composer/player), and terrible college students (I gave an incomplete or F grade to one college player that the Department Chairman called me to beg a passing grade. He stopped when I asked him to go to the player's alleged recital, and tell me I was wrong. He accepted the INC, now this incompetent musician is a high school band director, sigh)
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 23, 2007, 07:39PM »

I like the starting on euphonium idea. Playing euphonium I think has helped my ability to function as a musician tremendously. The most useful think it has taught me is the ability to transpose at sight. Playing both Baritone B.C. and T.C. parts trained me very early on to be able to transpose (B-flat parts) effortlessly. That skill (which none of my middle school friends could master) gave me what to brag about, and inspired me to study seriously - first euphonium, but pretty soon, trombone.

Think of euph as a gateway instrument.
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 24, 2007, 07:04AM »

Back in the 1950's teachers were confronting the problem of younger players not being able to reach all the slide positions.

There is an article in "The Instrumentalist" showing how to build a simple extension handle to allow a young player who can only reach 6th position to get 7th.

Other teachers advocated starting on Baritone Horn.

Getzen was playing around with a "folded" slide, ancestor of the Quadrobone.

Davis Schuman built a trombone with a slide that came out at an angle so you didn't have to reach as far.

I know that my school (New York City Public Schools) started kids on "real" musical instruments in 5th grade (most kids were 10; some of the younger ones turned 10 between September and January).  Prior to that they taught Recorder, Tonette, and Flutophone (all pretty similar except for the "screech factor").

My best friend started private trumpet lessons 2 years earlier (at age 8).  He stayed with it through all the time we were in school together (we went to different colleges).

I like the idea of a "child-sized" trombone, whether a Bb with a folded slide, or a true alto.  Then again, maybe we can just make trombone music that can be played on a tenor with only 4 or 5 positions (no C's or B naturals) for the younger set.
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 24, 2007, 07:21AM »

 I also think that even a 12c is pretty big for a lot of youngsters-- if the rim is hitting their nose, it can impede development of proper placement.

At least with trombone mpces., the outer blank is the same, whether it's a Bach 15E, or a 1G, so choosing a size becomes more a matter of "How wide an aperture can they support?" I agree that mpce. placement should not be compromised, and I realize that you suggested an alternate instrument, like trumpet/cornet, which would take care of placement issues due to nasal interference.


I'm not convinced that having a valve would help the majority of young students I run across. Most of them have enough trouble dealing with positions on the straight horn. It's a hard sell to parents, too, because of the cost. A new student Yamaha goes for around $900, and one of the 400 Series horns with an F att. goes for about $1400. Parents are just not gonna spring for $500 more for a beginner, for any valve, whether it's in F, G, C, or Q. Get the price of a valve done to about $150-200 extra, and you can start to have this part of the discussion. Until then, having a valve is for intermediate and pro level horns, or for rich parents. (BTW, my 10 year old plays on a Bundy I got for her on eBay for $67, plus shipping! I can't afford to get her a horn with a valve, even with my Artist discount, nor do I think she's ready for one.)
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 24, 2007, 07:28AM »

Davis Schuman built a trombone with a slide that came out at an angle so you didn't have to reach as far.

A trick I learned from a post on the forum, indirectly from Doug Yeo: sit at a 45 degree angle to the left, turn your head toward the front, and play forward (that is, at a 45 degree angle to the right of where your body is facing).  That gets a good extra bit of distance.  It's roughly the equivalent of a slide out to the side, except you put the whole trombone out to the side and turn yourself to make the trombone face forward.
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Brian

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« Reply #8 on: Jan 24, 2007, 02:38PM »

I have a 6 year old daughter. She wanted guitar lessons and piano lessons so I got her in Suzuki classes for both. She also has been coming out to my gigs and and singing with me since she was 3. She likes the trombone so I took her to see Bones Apart and the they were so sweet to her. I bought a B&S alto for her with a very small tenor mouthpiece and she toots on it a little from time to time. She understands how to make a tone and go high and low etc. I think the major problem is their teeth. I think it's OK to blow a few notes now and then but I would wait until their permanent teeth come in before playing very much. In the meantime, piano and theory are great for learning to read notes and rhythms and have a foundation. In our case we won't be spending much time on the horn just yet and the time she does spend will be just for fun. So at this point she perceives trombone as a special fun few moments to play and I think by limiting her time on the instrument it is building her desire to play the horn, which is also as important as chops at this point.
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 24, 2007, 04:24PM »

For the "minature adults" don't forget the C-trigger trombones by Yamaha.  And I saw a very old Conn version on the counter a few weeks ago at The Chic. Music Store in Tucson; no one there seemed to know what it was. 
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 24, 2007, 04:45PM »

A new student Yamaha goes for around $900, and one of the 400 Series horns with an F att. goes for about $1400. Parents are just not gonna spring for $500 more for a beginner, for any valve, whether it's in F, G, C, or Q. Get the price of a valve done to about $150-200 extra, and you can start to have this part of the discussion.

The Yamaha C/Bb is advertised for around US $1000 at these websites:

http://www.windjammermusic.co.uk/Brass/Trombones.htm
£599.00, presumably including VAT

http://www.singingchicken.co.uk/cat79_1.htm
£483.08, excluding VAT (about $960)

I wonder if they're legit sites.
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 25, 2007, 06:51AM »

You must mean children who are literally small, becuase I teach 9~10 year-olds and they have no trouble with the slide other than it's difficult for them to move from Bb to C with any type of speed. The mouthpiece I started on (when I was 10) was a 6.5al, so...
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 25, 2007, 07:21AM »

Sam Ash stores sell the YSL-350C:
http://www.samash.com/catalog/showitem.asp?ItemID=35193

You must mean children who are literally small, because I teach 9~10 year-olds and they have no trouble with the slide other than it's difficult for them to move from Bb to C with any type of speed. The mouthpiece I started on (when I was 10) was a 6.5al, so...

Yes, literally small, and possibly under 9 years old.  They must have good water in Minnesota!  :D
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 25, 2007, 07:35AM »

Yes, literally small, and possibly under 9 years old.  They must have good water in Minnesota!  :D

Especially in Stillwater, where I live! Still-H20!
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 26, 2007, 01:27PM »

I don't think kids are "ready" before age 10, attention span, cognitive development, etc.  Yes there are exceptions.

Mouthpiece size isn't an issue, when my son was 2 he could make a tuba sound (but couldn't reach the valves).

Horn size is important.  Typically an F attachment horn is .525 or .547 bore.  No problem.  8 1/2" bell...problem, especially since "student" model horns have bells designed for deflecting AP rounds.  A .500" bore 7 1/2 bell with a valve would balance and allow a valve to assist with 6th and 7th (or 4th- 7th with a G).

Apsiring PHds...project for you :D.  How about a large scale study tracking the success rate of students A) Started at a given age.   B) Per instrument success rate (do trombonists play longer than clarinetists?)  C) % of students persuing music past college (not professionally, just staying with it).  D) Success rate small bore vs big bore.
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« Reply #15 on: Feb 26, 2007, 05:14PM »

  u brough up a pretty good point (how many will play after college)
I started playing trombone in 6th grade...their were 10 of us back then.....i was always in last chair....but i stuck with it....but nobody else did :cry:..i'm the only person in my grade that plays tbone......some kids just dont like playing instruments  Don't know i wish their was a way to keep students playing in bands longer
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« Reply #16 on: Feb 26, 2007, 05:24PM »

Just thinking out loud, but why couldn't a young learner who couldn't even reach past 4th position just start playing the horn without those 6 notes? They don't write beginning band tunes with 7th position or 16th notes. Even with a few more limitations, there are plenty of notes within reach to learn making some sound, moving the slide, reading music, articulating. And there are plenty of tunes too. Like "Mary Had A Little Lamb" in F. Or Eb. Or D.

I also support learning guitar or piano or another instrument and building up to trombone or double bass or bassoon. Just sayin' it's possible to start on bone if the desire is there and the materials and expectations are flexible enough.
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« Reply #17 on: Mar 23, 2007, 12:03PM »

What are the problems of teaching trombone to small children?

Most little kids think trombones are cool and wanna try blowing them and moving the slide at least once.

If we could afford to buy kids altos with b-flat attachments, and little bullet braces to make them easy to hold, their little arms could do a lot from 1st to 5th position on the altos, then we could teach them the music theory required to understand what will be different when they switch to tenor trombones...
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« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2007, 12:29PM »

Here is my two cents

1) I have found that starting the beginners on the foundation of f and/or Bb sets the pace for the next step.  If we start at F - we move down to Eb and D.  If we start on Bb, we move to 4th for D, then to Eb and finally F.  This year I stated the beginners on D  . This seems to be a good note for them to produce.  We were able to center the class pitch a lot faster.  In addition, I noticed that once the kids got use the the balance, the weight of the instrument was not a problem.  They were able to establish good slide technique.  Hand position was also a good due to the fact them had to balance the horn and hold it steady in order to produce the note.

2) As for the mouthpiece, we use Schilke 51D for 6th - 8th Grade.  This produces a good sound. In the past I have used 6 1/2AL and 12C for transfer students (trumpet/Horn).  I agree with Brisko.  You have the pay attention to the aperture and the embouchure placement. 

3) We are looking into have students get the Yamaha 448G with F attachments.  Not because or the 6th/7th Position dilemma but because of price. For the value, the parents can get a F Attachment for a few more dollars.  This helps us in the long run.  I still teach primary position then alternate/trigger positions.

Remember, bad notes are good in the beginning. As long as they get good fundamental.  We can fix them later once they grow into the instrument.

By the way, I have a four year old.  She plays on my Bach 16M with a Bach & mouthpiece.  She gets a great sound.  She does have problems with holding the horn.  Her hands are to small for the horn.  We will see what happens.....LATER
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« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2007, 12:23PM »

I'll throw in a couple thoughts.  The first is about actual lessons (and one of the biggest problem I've encountered) and the second is about mouthpieces.

In the summers I teach trombone at a theater camp near the Catskills in New York.  Last year was my first time teaching there, and one of the problems I encountered in my lessons was with frustration.  One of my students would try and try to get a lick, and would either keep screwing it up, or never be satisfied with the progress he would make.  My approach to dealing with his frustration was (if he couldn't get it) to slow it down and vamp it.  I like the rhythm I get into when I play licks in the Arbans book over and over, and thought that might work for students, too.  It seemed to help.

(has there been a thread about helping students deal with frustration?  I think that would be a popular topic.)

And about mouthpieces, I believe that when students start thinking that equipment and accessories matter more to the music than their own chops, things go downhill fast.  Heck, I played on a 12C all through high school, and I think my ignorance about mouthpieces and horns allowed me to concentrate more becoming a better musician.
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