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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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« 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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Roger Anderson
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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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Steven Cangemi
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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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Steven Cangemi
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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". 
***
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.
***

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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