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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPedagogy(Moderators: JP, Doug Elliott) Teaching trombone to small children
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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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« 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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« 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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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2007, 12:25AM »

Well, it's late so I'm not going to read all posts so if this has come up before, sorry. Has anyone thought about starting the kids on soprano trombone? The slide positions corrospond(except the notes ar eone octave higher and slightly further in), and it uses a trumpet mouthpiece. ONe thing I see when switching from a valve instrument to  the slide its the sloppyness, but if you're going to put the kid one trumpet, why not put the kid on the soprano/slide trumpet. I have a Jean Baptiste soprano and it only cost me $160 at the TMEA convention in San Antonio from a booth, all I had to do was align the slide. Jupiter also makes a relatively cheap one that you can find on musiciansfriend.com and thein makes a professional expensive version on their website.

Also, I rea a little about this further up, but contrabass bones and base bones use a handle extension which could be used for a small horn too.
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« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2007, 07:42AM »

Hi Screamin, and welcome to the Forum.

If you had read far enough in this thread, you'd find the following:

1.  There is a Swedish studio that starts young children on alto trombones and graduates them to tenor when their arms are long enough.

2.  DEG makes a handle you can attach to a tenor trombone to help short arms reach long positions.  There is also a set of directions to make you own in a copy of "The Instrumentalist" from about the 1940's.  It is part of the Brass Compendium if you have a copy.

Big problem I see in moving kids from slide trumpet to slide trombone is acclimation to the mouthpiece.  Probably no worse a problem than the sloppy slide positions (which should improve as their ears start working).
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« Reply #22 on: May 30, 2007, 08:42AM »

I have no idea why but half my post got caught off. The whole thing with the soprano trombone is the kids still get to learn proper slide technique. If you're going to teach them on trumpet with the same mouthpiece why not let them learn the slide. I have a friend that just switched from trumpet and I realised what I hadn't before, that the biggest challenge is correct slide technique. I remember now that I didn't really start using the proper technique until end of my eighth grade year, and I can only imagine what it would've been like playing only valves before. And big difference between alto tbone and soprano tbone is the alto tbone is only a lttle smallet than the tenor, but the soprano is like 1/4 the size, and solves theproblem with even the 12c mouthpiece being too big.

Even though we have alternatives to these problems, I feel sorry for a director trying to teach a ten year old a big tuba with a mouthpiece that could consume their heads!
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« Reply #23 on: Jun 01, 2007, 12:38PM »

I'm going to have to disagree about the slide trumpet.  The slide positions are really, really close together.  I think it needlessly complicates the learning process, and doesn't really translate well to tenor trombone.

Anyway, a trumpet (valved or slide) sort of defeats the purpose.  One of the reasons I advocate for cornet or baritone (besides size) is that it's much easier to achieve a good sound on them, especially for the beginner.  I agree that slide technique is a hang-up when switching kids to trombone. . . but if the other fundamentals are already developed, it's not such a hindrance.

And to clarify, I'd advocate the cornet for the very young player-- not necessarily the 10 year old beginner, where there's not as much reason not to start them on trombone outright.
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« Reply #24 on: Jul 02, 2007, 02:14PM »

my school starts them at 9 or 10 with a 12c, they kind of avoid seventh position for a year or two, which is fairly easy to do since B naturals arent that common in that early music.  the only thing I recommend is not to teach the kids that 6th position is as far as they can reach.  it causes confusion when they learn seventh and even before that just puts them all in different positions, if some cant reach it, show them where it is and tell them to do there best.
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« Reply #25 on: Jul 02, 2007, 03:21PM »

You should start playing an instrument when you are prepared to commit to it. If you start too early chances are that it is the decision of your parents and not you. Thats why, IMHO, heaps of people are giving up instruments at high school - the novelty wore off and they finally realised that they never wanted to learn it in the first place...
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« Reply #26 on: Jul 02, 2007, 03:31PM »

You should start playing an instrument when you are prepared to commit to it.

That's a good point, well worth its own topic.  I think there may even be a topic about it; I'll check.

What would you suggest if they are prepared to commit to the trombone, but are small?
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« Reply #27 on: Jul 02, 2007, 04:12PM »

Related topic started: Music lessons for kids: to urge, or not to urge
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« Reply #28 on: Jul 03, 2007, 12:37AM »

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You should start playing an instrument when you are prepared to commit to it.

I have to disagree with that, at least to a certain extent,  if no one started until they were completely committed, very few people would ever pick up an instrument.  i know that i wasnt committed until at least middle school, and wasn't totally serious until high school, if i hadnt started out of curiosity then i never would have discovered music.
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« Reply #29 on: Jul 09, 2007, 09:20AM »

Further to the comments in the other posts, I am currently teaching trombone to a 5-year old girl because she was very keen to learn and didn't want to play anything else (this despite the fact her father is a music teacher of saxophone, piano and others).

She can't reach 6th and 7th position, but is playing on a full size tenor trombone, with a 12c mouthpiece and copes with it very well.  She has picked up the first 5 slide positions very quickly and is thoroughly enjoying her playing.  She works hard at her playing and practices on her own two or three times a week.

I would suggest that if you have a child who is traditionally considered too young to play the trombone, let them try.  You may find they can manage quite well!

It won't work for everyone, but it will for some!
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« Reply #30 on: Jul 24, 2007, 06:18PM »

What about learning the inner positions. Arthur Pryor for example could only get 4 positions on his first horn (cause of slide problems).
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« Reply #31 on: Jul 26, 2007, 09:14AM »

In my opinion, children shouldn't be playing an instrument they can't lift.  I love the Suzuki method for teaching very young students.  If nothing else, it gets children excited about music while developing their ear at a very young age.

As far as ironing out technical problems once the student does have the horn, I think that face time with the instrument is the best education a beginner can get.  With proper instruction (no need to be intensive if a child is only 9 or 10), a student will figure out how to find 6th position on his own. 

When I was around that age, I played euphonium.  I had a very short friend who played trombone.  He compensated by throwing his slide out and catching it with his foot to play low C.  Was it terrible for him to do that, and was he developing frightening techniques?  Of course he was, but his muscles were developing, and by the time he was in middle school, he was a fine trombone player with long enough arms to hit all the positions.
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« Reply #32 on: Jul 26, 2007, 09:24AM »

In my opinion, children shouldn't be playing an instrument they can't lift. 

I guess that rules out piano lessons, then. :D
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« Reply #33 on: Jul 26, 2007, 01:52PM »

Bulls-eye for Brisko  :)  ...got me to chuckle anyway.

I wouldn't have anything else when I started at 8-9 years old. Missing 6th and 7th position doesn't cost nearly as many notes as most kids that age miss on other instruments anyway.

It's not the meat, it's the motion (I haven't heard that song in quite a while, but the title comes up at times like this).  Someone wants to play, they will work with what is available, and probably love it.  I wouldn't recommend a bass bone nor a tuba, but if'n some small person wanted those, I sure wouldn't discourage them.
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« Reply #34 on: Jul 27, 2007, 09:11AM »

I guess that rules out piano lessons, then. :D

Save the piano playing for the marching band field.

Yes, 8 or 9 I think is a good age for a trombonist.  But are we talking about starting a child at that age or even younger?
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« Reply #35 on: Aug 05, 2007, 12:31AM »

LOL.Piano

Anyways, I don't know if you were referring to this in one of your posts Bguttman, but here it goes.

I know learning the soprano bone might not be the best thing for a little kid, but what about the Quadro Slide? It's a type of trombone where the slide is "folded", like a contrabass, but it's half as long. Tennessee State university used them a couple years ago in their marching band, not sure anymore, but it's a though. Don't know much about them, and obviously the positions are different, but you use the same mpc, same pitch and all. Haven't found alot of info on them but I see a thread here on them, so I'm gonna check it out.
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« Reply #36 on: Aug 17, 2007, 07:14AM »

Hey there everyone

My son is three years old and I bought him an alto trombone for Christmas.  After a little instruction  he is able to hold the horn properly, put it together and return it to the case.  I haven't spent a lot of time on sound production (he is only three!) but man can that boy blow, and blow he does. 

Whenever I am practicing he is right there with me honking away (Eb and G).  Most of the time he does this the throughout the entire session.  He gets so excited to pull the horn out that it has inspired me to practice more, I love it.  I have to admit, though, that practicing soft gentle sections with honk honk honk in the back ground can be annoying. But seeing his enthusiasm is amazing.

Just thought I would pass this on for those of you with small children.  It has been so much fun playing trombone with my boy, and I hope that this can continue for along time.

Matt
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« Reply #37 on: Aug 17, 2007, 07:20AM »

In Switzerland little children are learning the trombone with this trombone: http://www.yamaha.co.jp/english/product/winds/product/spec/brass/trombone/index.htm

Otherwise, many children beginn playing the cornet (in brass bands) and change instruments when they are old enough.
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« Reply #38 on: Aug 18, 2007, 10:22PM »

My taecher taught me, when i couldn't reach 6th, to move your slide OUT and to the  RIGHT. You get more out of your arm that way.
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« Reply #39 on: Aug 18, 2007, 10:38PM »

(Inspired by discussion elsewhere.)
One problem that has been mentioned is short arms.
Can kids just learn on on one of those trombones that has a rotary valve?
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« Reply #40 on: Aug 19, 2007, 10:48AM »

Quote from: BFW
One problem that has been mentioned is short arms.
Can kids just learn on on one of those trombones that has a rotary valve?

That's discussed in this topic as well:

Quote from: BFW
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.
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« Reply #41 on: Aug 19, 2007, 10:53AM »

My taecher taught me, when i couldn't reach 6th, to move your slide OUT and to the  RIGHT. You get more out of your arm that way.

It's also quite, er, straightforward to play in that direction all the time, and turn your body:

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.

That helps avoid clanging the slide against the music stand when you use those outer positions.

An instructor of mine encouraged "pushing with the shoulder" for the other positions, sort of like turning your body to the left rather than putting the slide out to the right.
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« Reply #42 on: Aug 19, 2007, 11:02AM »

Perhaps some of you have noticed that the repertoire for young band players (including trombonists) does include many  naturals? I was flipping through my beginning books for the start of school and didn't see any for the tunes they play together.
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« Reply #43 on: Jan 01, 2008, 07:55PM »

I started playing trombone at age 10 and I was quite small.  I could barely reach sixth position.  The problem I had, as has been brought up here, was the sheer weight of the horn.  I was still a scrawny kid in high school, although lanky enough to reach to seventh, and when I got my F-attach Yamaha, I had some trouble with the added weight.

I was recently diagnosed with a repetitive stress injury in my shoulder, which was probably caused or aggravated by playing trombone so much when I was younger.  (I'm actually planning on writing a post in the Healthy Trombone section, but I'll keep it more to the point here).  I recently acquired an Ergobone http://www.ergobone.com/mainpage.html, which I use about half the time I play. I find it is helping me a lot while I work on strengthening my back and shoulders to compensate for the RSI.  The Ergobone system isn't cheap and not an ideal solution for everyone, but I really wish I had one when I was learning to play -- maybe I wouldn't have these issues now.

Not all children will have back or shoulder problems related to trombone playing, but the weight of the trombone is definitely a concern.  I would advise any teachers to tell their students that playing with back and shoulder pain is not normal, and to bring it up if they experience anything like that.  Until this past year, I thought everyone felt that sort of pain when playing and just ignored it since no one told me otherwise.

Anyhow, I'm living proof that this is a very important topic to keep in mind, and while I wouldn't advocate going out and buying every small kid a support device of some kind, I think teachers should be aware that some kids might have problems with a heavy instrument.  If you have a student who is experiencing back or arm pain, you might want to look into a support device.  One place in particular to look out for is pain between the shoulder blades while playing.  This sort of pain can cause the student to compensate by sitting improperly or putting too much strain on the back and arms.  Alleviating some of the weight and tension is important for a student's health, and it can also make playing more enjoyable.  If a student doesn't have to struggle to hold the horn up, they can focus more on proper sound and playing the horn correctly.

Maybe more than 2-cents, but I feel strongly about the importance of not compromising one's health for music.  It's so much more fun when it doesn't hurt!!   :)
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« Reply #44 on: Jan 12, 2008, 09:36AM »

This is a fascinating thread and a subject in which I am deeply embroiled.

My son is 6.  He wants to play trombone (like dad).

I decided he could potentially start as early as 7 IF I started him on a trombone that would work for small children.  Then, knowing my education research fairly well, I decided he should wait until he's 9.

But I ran into a colleague a few days later (a pro in the PHX area who is the son of my former private teacher).  I asked him how his dad (my teacher) started him on trombone.

He said his dad (then bass trombonist with the Phoenix symphony) took an old trombone and had it cut down to an alto.  He started on a custom/chopshop/frankenstein alto trombone at the age of 6 or 7.  The odd thing was, I knew that horn and played it myself in college when his dad had me playing alto trombone in my senior recital.

Anyway, he said he doesn't play alto now and can't.

So, I decided, I might start my son on an alto trombone and then slowly grow into a full size trombone.  But a variety of issues came to mind.  Most notably, slide positions on the alto are different that the tenor.  Eb is in first position, not 3rd. etc. etc.  So, I wondered if I should teach him on an alto trombone but reading bass clef as if he were playing a tenor.  In the long run, I decided it would be no big deal.  I was able to make the switch and my son should be able to as well.

Then I ran across a Quadro trombone.  So far, it's working perfectly.  He plays it every day for about 2 minutes at the most -- which is fine.  Any more than that at that age could cause physical damage to the face muscles.  He's 6 years old.  As he gets older, we'll set a practice schedule that will increase over time.  When he hits 4th grade (he's in 1st now), I'll take him to my teacher.

Now, as a music teacher and band director.  I start students on trombone usually in the 4th grade.  Most of them are 9 years old.  I give them a normal tenor trombone.  If a student can't reach 6th position, I tell them to straighten out their arm and that's 6th position.  If it's out of tune (which it usually is) I don't sweat it.  Eventually, it will get there.  I don't teach out of any band method that gives 1st-year players 7th position.  In fact, I don't think I've ever seen one that does.

Some of the band literature for extremely young players does go down to 7th position, so I don't generally program it.  At that age, almost every instrument is going to have trouble in that range.

So, there are a variety of options.  Alto trombone.  Quadro (if you can find one).  I've heard some people try to get slide trumpets and start their trombone players along with their trumpet players -- I don't know about that.

Great thread.

Roger E. A.
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« Reply #45 on: Jan 13, 2008, 06:14PM »

Perhaps music could just be rearranged so that it doesn't include C or anything else that involves a far away position, and alternate positions could be used till the student can reach 6th?
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« Reply #46 on: Mar 01, 2008, 05:55AM »

I've enjoyed reading this discussion.  I have nothing to offer from the pedagogical perspective; I come from the other side of things.  My daughter is a little trombone player.  Her school begins band in fourth grade, which seems fairly typical.  She was born late in the year, and is a bit small for her age.  The net is she is a smallish fourth grader.  She is often the smallest child in her class, but not by more than an inch. 

The weight of the instrument has never been a problem.  Trombones are well balanced, and straight tenor horns are not very heavy.  (Full disclosure:  I use weight as a reason not to let her play my Olds.) 

Mouthpiece size is not a problem.  I let her try a 12-C and a 6-1/2 AL.  She is quite happy with the 12-C.  I remember when I started playing decades ago, some aspiring brass players made better sounds on trumpet or cornet, some made better sounds on trombone or baritone horn, and some made better sounds on tuba.  Yeah I suppose an aspiring musician will develop the embouchure to play their chosen instrument, but it seems we have a head start with some instruments.  It is not necessarily the case that little players are better off with little instruments.

Seventh position is not there for my daughter.  As has been pointed out by others, B natural is a very avoidable note in elementary band music, and their ranges aren't at the low E yet.  Sixth position is a stretch.  This is an important skill for her to learn.  At some point in the future, she'll be expected to play notes in seventh position.  She'll certainly be bigger by then, but I expect it to be some time before seventh position is as comfortable for her as it is for her knuckle dragging father.  I practiced with a DEG slide extender to see if I thought it would be a useful tool for her.  I found it too annoying most of the time to think the help it would give her for sixth and seventh position would be worth it.

Eliminating C from elementary band music would be too big a sacrifice, and getting to sixth position is an important skill to acquire.  B natural is expendable, because elementary band spends so much time in Bflat give or take one flat.  BariTrom, when did you start playing?  You probably remember being a little trombone player better than we grizzled sorts.

Believe me, there were times this fall when I silently questioned the wisdom of letting my daughter play trombone.  Not only was there the sixth position issue, there was idiosyncratic intonation.  The intonation is of course improving.  The first time I heard her make quick slide adjustments, I knew she was learning to listen.

Elementary school trombone players:

a) choose the instrument because their naturally good ears lead them to an instrument with perfect continuous tuning.
b) develop good ears to help correct their slide positioning when necessary.
c) are sheer hell for band teachers.
d) all of the above.

When we took the train south to see the Hudson Highlands Trombone Ensemble, if you saw my daughter sitting in the front row, goggle eyed, clapping wildly after works, and talking to the musicians after the concert, there is little question she is playing the right instrument.  When she plays with smears at the end of practice sessions, when she plays notes deliberately out of tune to hear how it sounds, it is clear this is her instrument.  Would she love Baritone Horn nearly as much?  I don't know.  It's hard to construct a double blind experiment for a sample of one. 

I guess I used a great many words to say a normally small fourth grader is capable of playing trombone with only minor adjustments.  For an abnormally small fourth grader, or a younger child, there are adjustments that would need to be made.

When their concert rolls around this June, I'll get to see if the trombone section is the weak link in an otherwise flawless performance. 
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« Reply #47 on: Jun 09, 2008, 11:41AM »

ITA had an article in 1996 about teaching very young students trombone.  It was geared to 4-6 year old kids and required parents to learn along with their kids.

Th name of the article is "Babes in Slideland"  These kids did start on Alto.

btw Volume 24 issue 4
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« Reply #48 on: Jun 09, 2008, 11:58AM »

Steven expressed my sentiments well.  I was a small, late-growing boy, but had to play the trombone.  Had someone "adapted" for me by foisting a valve instrument on me, I would have quit music right away.  Skipping the rare 7th position note and learning to stretch for 6th is fine.  I suspect I had trouble with 6th in my first year or several, but LOVED the trombone and did what I had to do to enjoy making tolerable music with it.
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« Reply #49 on: Feb 03, 2009, 01:46PM »

The biggest issue I have with my studio is finding music that is at the right level, challenging, but still fun.  I have only been teaching for a few months (with a substantial enough group of students to finally get a feel for an average response and feeling), so probably, or hopefully, after putting in some time on the internet and sibelius I can get a good collection going, this problem will go away.

Also, finding the best way to explain to students the importance of doing the basic warm-ups every day/session.  A lot of elementary (4th-6th) don't want to play the "easy long tones and boring lip slurs". 
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« Reply #50 on: Feb 03, 2009, 02:34PM »

Since Euphony has resurrected this thread:

I did a demonstration on trombone for some 3-6 year olds (with learning disabilities).

I brought in an extra mouthpiece and let everybody take a stab at blowing.

About half the students (and half the teachers - there were 4) tried to swallow the mouthpiece or treat it like it was a clarinet or saxophone.  The other half got one (and in one case 2) different notes.

I wouldn't expect to teach these kids; they have another 5 or more years to go before they start.  But maybe I planted a seed in one of them...
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« Reply #51 on: Feb 04, 2009, 12:54PM »

Also, finding the best way to explain to students the importance of doing the basic warm-ups every day/session.  A lot of elementary (4th-6th) don't want to play the "easy long tones and boring lip slurs". 

If you manage to get this figured out, I'd love to hear it.  I guess my question is, at what age can a student be expected to understand the importance of such a daily regimen, or even the importance of daily practice.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the reggae backing for the Remington long tones that Walt posted to the Beginners board.  It's fun. 

The biggest issue I have with my studio is finding music that is at the right level, challenging, but still fun.  I have only been teaching for a few months (with a substantial enough group of students to finally get a feel for an average response and feeling), so probably, or hopefully, after putting in some time on the internet and sibelius I can get a good collection going, this problem will go away.

I try to do the same for my daughter.  When she's bored with her assignments, I like having songs available to her.  If you have "The Real Book" or something similar, there are plenty of songs that can be used as are, and others that need transposing or other minor changes to make them good for young players (and of course plenty that are too tricky).  We'll also pick out and score melodies from songs she likes.  Having real songs to play, easy, pretty songs to play, really helps her play more musically. 

There are probably several songs in wikifonia you could use, and bonezone has a section on "Simple Songs".
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« Reply #52 on: Jun 21, 2009, 06:16PM »

It seems to me baby teeth could very well be a factor in playing on brass for young children. I would wait untill their adult teeth com in so articulation will not be a problem. My nine year old sister has problems articulating because of her teeth, Although I am sure there are excepts to this.
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« Reply #53 on: Sep 30, 2009, 09:51AM »

To the problem of having beginner level material that still has musical meaning there is a piece by Norman Bolter free for download through OTJ meant just for this purpose:

http://www.trombone.org/jfb/joyinbeingable.asp

I know he has also written some other beginner pieces, but I'm not sure when/where they may be published.
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« Reply #54 on: Sep 30, 2009, 10:17AM »

Thanks for the link! Norman Bolter must have some very good beginners? It did look some difficult in my eyes? I will try to play it myself. Maybe its a very nice solo piece.

Leif
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« Reply #55 on: Jun 16, 2010, 06:00PM »

My advice is to start small students on a strait trombone and have them use a DEG slide extender. This device is not a great one, but it will give short students the ability to reach 6th and 7th positions. If a student has already started out on trombone without the use of the extender, the switch to the extender is difficult but possible. Starting a small student out on an F attatchment is not wise. Small students have small hands, and they can develop injuries. Another option would be to try the Yamaha 350c. It is a small bore trombone that has only six positions and a Whole step ascending valve. If money is of no factor then this horn would we a wise choice.
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« Reply #56 on: Oct 14, 2010, 06:11AM »

One thing I do pretty early on is teach simple rhythm studies and show them aurally and visually how four sixteenth notes and two eighth notes must fit into the same "time-in-space" as a quarter note.

Once the students see and hear this concept, you can then teach them about staccato, regular and legato quarter notes.

Seeing the visual piece of this makes a quick impact primarily as the societal norms have our "kids" watching/seeing a "whole bunch" a la YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Video Games and so on.

They also "get" the rhythm thing much faster than memorizing the notes/positions and it allows them to see and hear  some fairly immediate progress.
 
I have written some simple but progressive rhythm studies over the years (anybody can do this, by the way  :D ) using only the note "F" within the staff.

I've even used them when subsitute teaching elementary and junior high lessons/bands.

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« Reply #57 on: Mar 06, 2012, 12:59PM »

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 #58 on: Jun 21, 2012, 12:39AM »

I know this is an old thread but it's still very interesting. I don't think it's a problem at all to start playing the trombone at an early age. My mother (Astrid Nøkleby) has found a great way of doing this. It is kind of a trombone version of the suzuki violin. The kids are starting on alto trombones, but reads and plays like it is a tenor. That means that when the kids play what they call a Bb it sounds like a Eb. You learn to play this way and at ca. 11 years age the kids change to tenor trombones. Then they can read bass clef and all the posisions are the same. The only thing that is different is what the notes sounds like(a Bb is really a Bb now). This method is called "Rett på musikken" (straight on to music) and it works very well. The kids have individual lessons and group lessons each week. Personally I started playing on an alto when I was 4 years old and the change to tenor wasn't a problem at all. Now I am 15 and because I started playing that early I have never had serious trouble with my playing. This is how far I have come now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R36eVGHHNE&feature=plcp
I also noticed earlier in this thread someone who mentioned this system in Sweden, but originally it comes from my mother here in Norway, but some swedes have done the same later. My mother has also tried teaching the kids in reading treble clef so they could play parts in the marching bands, but she found out that it was very confusing when they started learning bass clef. Now she has got around 40 trombone pupils and most of us have started on the alto trombone.
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« Reply #59 on: Jan 27, 2013, 12:50PM »

***
"Also, finding the best way to explain to students the importance of doing the basic warm-ups every day/session.  A lot of elementary (4th-6th) don't want to play the "easy long tones and boring lip slurs". 
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If you manage to get this figured out, I'd love to hear it.  I guess my question is, at what age can a student be expected to understand the importance of such a daily regimen, or even the importance of daily practice.
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These questions also relate to how frustration affects the student's motivaiton, and prospect for sticking with the trombone over time.

My son started trombone when he was seven. He's fifteen now and doing very well on it. I started playing when I was forty-eight due to early retirement. So now I use on myself the motivational techniques which I used with him when he was younger.

Music is for fun. If you have fun, you will keep playing. From a behavoirism standpoint, a student can make music with one note and time (rhythm). For tenor trombone the first notes are probably F and Bb. Forget about the slide. If a student is challenged to make up their own 'song' with one or two notes, they will. They don't even have to know the names of those notes. Let the musicality do the teaching.

You can say to a student, 'Play me any little tune you can just make up, and I'll show how we can write it down.'

The student maintains their motivation because they are getting to create rather than being told to do something that is painful and difficult. A student who works the bone in first position across two partials will eventually get bored enough to want to try a higher partial or move the slide to another position. That is natural. Let boredom be the motivator.

To maintain motivation to do warm-ups, use the same principle. Just do a random set of notes/partials/articulation in first position. Do it twice in first position. Then do the same in second position twice. And so on. By necessity (out of boredom) the student stretches his/her range and flexibility.
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« Reply #60 on: Jan 30, 2013, 04:20PM »

I get lot of ideas just by reading what all write here. Children want to learn, keep in mind they are easy to let down.

I have a few rules for my self. They are not for all teachers around.

For me as a teacher:

1. Be my self. Always....
2. Tell the truth, but with very understandable words.
3. Don't tell to much, keep it simple and clear.
4. Have a goal to make the child have a good time...
5. Make my self updated, in good shape, and learn as much as possible about my trombone/music

How to know the child:

1. Be there 100% with all my consentration or try to do
2. Break the ice, talk about other things than trombone. Its not waist of time...
3. Talk a lot with the parents, about everything.
4. When they come in the door, be polite and careful. We never know what day they had.

How I teach:

1. Know what I can teach and what I cant teach.
2. Don't be afraid to ask other teachers.
3. Be consequent, don't suddenly change.
4. Don't fall in the trap to do all the lesson like a routine, give my self a goal to teach the children something new everyday.


OK this is just some few thoughts. After teaching children for many years I know one thing. Be involved, be interested, listen and understand every child as good we can. But its impossible to be perfect. Same as playing trombone. Where is the fun? The fun is trying everyday...that's the fun!


Leif
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JP
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« Reply #61 on: Jan 30, 2013, 04:49PM »

Excellent post Leif  Good!

The only things I would add is be organized:

Have your handouts (warm-up sheets, books to use, etc.) ready. Do not waste time looking through your stacks of music for the thing you want for that student...have it ready.

Teach the student how to practice: playing slow, repeating passages correctly, how to structure a practice session. It is often not what to learn, but how to learn.

I really like what you posted, my friend.
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« Reply #62 on: Jan 30, 2013, 05:18PM »

Very sound guidelines, Leif.
At the moment my son is working through Ravel, Mozart, and Wagner for an audition coming up in a few days. His teachers have been as you describe, and its is only motivation that gets a student through this difficult material. Learning how to learn is the biggest part. But I think the kids do not understand that until much later because it is so abstract. Kindness and encouragement go so far with kids. My son is very fortunate to have had skillful teachers.
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« Reply #63 on: Apr 06, 2014, 06:41AM »

Wow, what a resource this thread has been to me... Thank you to all the great players/teachers who have contributed.

I have a specific issue that might have been posted about already, I apologize if it is repetitive...

I currently have a 7 yr old student on a pbone. He is doing well, and can support the instrument very easily so that is not an issue. He actually has a decent range, being able to play his chromatic scale from 1-6"ish" low Bb to F, F to C, and Bb to F.

The issue is his teeth, clamping down while playing/buzzing. I have encountered this with beginner players before (6th grade or so), but have had good success getting them to open up. The 7yr old not so much though.

We work with a breathing tube (piece of water line, PVC) to try and instill the idea of open breathing, and we actively work on oral shape. Imitating "OH" and "HO" and going straight to the MP/horn. We have had very brief periods of success but it has not stuck with him out of the lesson room...

Any suggestions?
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« Reply #64 on: Jun 22, 2014, 05:25AM »

I like using metaphors with my younger students. Have you tried asking him to play as if there is a hot potato inside his mouth (like one of those mini ones)? Or an egg, especially if the egg is tall rather than wide? If this does work, you could trying switching the syllable to "AW" I find this helps to keep the tongue out of the way more so than 'OH". Is he listening to recordings of professional trombonists? Having a clear concept of a beautiful sound is extremely important, otherwise, you're trying to hit a bullseye with your eyes closed. Good luck!!
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« Reply #65 on: Jun 22, 2014, 10:57AM »

I like using metaphors with my younger students. Have you tried asking him to play as if there is a hot potato inside his mouth (like one of those mini ones)? Or an egg, especially if the egg is tall rather than wide? If this does work, you could trying switching the syllable to "AW" I find this helps to keep the tongue out of the way more so than 'OH". Is he listening to recordings of professional trombonists? Having a clear concept of a beautiful sound is extremely important, otherwise, you're trying to hit a bullseye with your eyes closed. Good luck!!
I spent about a month doing an hour-long routine every day playing with my teeth closed (touching) so I could get used to playing up and down the horn better without having to drop my jaw so much.  I believe that brass players should play with their jaws as closed as possible while still achieving a good sound.  And I think most players can eventually achieve a GREAT sound with jaws much more closed than they would think.  I see the methodology of "dropping the jaw" as responsible for a lot of brass failures, no chops, frustration, quitting.  How can a player get really great compression in an embouchure when the mechanics of an open jaw dictate that the lips are further apart than they might otherwise be?  And...if there's a big gap between the tips of the teeth, what will support the lips (especially trumpet)?

Just food for thought. 
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« Reply #66 on: Feb 28, 2015, 07:05AM »

I'm surprised no one mentioned the importance of a good air supply with small children. Very important for beginners and advanced players alike: take a good breath before each phrase. It should be instilled as a  natural habit. I am not saying to overfill with air either. This is most important for small children because they have smaller lungs than adults. Just refill your air before you are too close to running out. The child will attempt to squeeze the last bit of air just to complete a phrase. Well that is extremely bad. To develop a good sound and to develop the embouchure one needs air to the lips. Before one has the feeling they are squeezing out the air, just stop, skip some notes if playing in a group, take a breath, and resume. This is what Crisafulli taught me in my first few lessons as a beginner at age 12.
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