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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningBeginners and Returning Trombonists(Moderators: bhcordova, WaltTrombone) Theoretically is the trombone an easy instrument to learn?
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Revwrona

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« on: Nov 22, 2011, 11:20AM »

I have had this conversation/discussion a couple of times.  Normally against my bother who is a sax player.   He often states how the trombone is a difficult instrument but I always reply that in theory it is rather simple.  Move the slide up for higher notes, lower for lower notes Etc...you guys know how it works.

 What do you guys think?  I might be biased because I play the trombone.

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« Reply #1 on: Nov 22, 2011, 12:07PM »

If you have a good musical ear, the trombone is the easiest thing in the world. No valves or keys to memorise! Just wave the slide around until it is in approximately the correct position and the notes sound right! I look at a saxophone and am amazed that anyone can play the thing.

If you don't have a good musical ear, I suspect playing the trombone would be impossible. IMO.
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 22, 2011, 12:12PM »

Yup! Any fool can play it-look at all of us here. :D Yeah, RIGHT. :D Yeah, RIGHT.  Embarrassed!


However, like any other instrument, it is not easy to play it well and you have to put many hours of work in to acheive good results and it will always be like that until someone invents trombone playing pills.

But be thankful, it is not impossible to play well like such instruments as the bagpipes, the didgeridoo and the vuvuzela!

Cheers :D :D

Stewbones
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John Beers Jr.

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« Reply #3 on: Nov 22, 2011, 12:47PM »

The trombone has the problem of articulations, especially when playing quickly, which other instruments can get away without (look at every saxophone player who waggles his fingers and plays up and down the scale with minimal effort).

Now- it does have its benefits, in being able to play perfectly in tune, and having a somewhat "limited" range compared to other brass instruments (French Horns and trumpets have to play up an additional fifth or so past where we do), but I'd still consider it to be one of the more "nuanced" instruments, at least as you get closer and closer to the asymptote of "perfect playing".

Also, as you mention, it's a lot easier to explain "1.5 steps down is 3 positions down" for the sake of music theory to a trombonist, or to understand "OK, now play the same line a half step up, that's up one position" than in might be for a trumpet player.
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 22, 2011, 01:12PM »

I've thought on this before.  After having watched others learn other instruments alongside me and others who took up trombone, it seems that the learning curve is different.  We all have difficulty making a noise at first.  Once that is accomplished, others have to learn what valves or keys to press to achieve pitches.  We have to learn approximately where our slide is to go to make each pitch.  As skill levels increase, they have to learn which pitches to "lip up" or down, as the case may be.  We, however, have to learn new "in-between" positions for different pitches, as well as pitch adjustment at the mouth, and also how to closely listen.  It seems to me that other instruments are easier to get to a level where they sound impressive to the general public.  Our learning curve moves up more slowly, IMO.
Of course, once mastered, the trombone is the most beautiful sound on earth.  :D
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Stretch Longarm
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 22, 2011, 03:33PM »

I've heard that the guitar is the easiest instrument to learn, but I can't get my head around it. As RHM says, the saxaphone has an awful lot of keys, rods, gizmos and such - but some would say that it's easy to learn compared to the guitar. Or the trombone/flute/zither. I think everyone has different coordinative abilities - some have really good eye-brain-hand coordination & dexterity, and can play sax fluidly like Charlie Parker...others have the percussive and chordal abilities to play stride piano. Sometimes the trombone is suitable because it involves less finger dexterity (or such). Musicians come in all modes of abilities. Some may be a whiz at reading, but take their sheet music away, and they're lost. Others may be grand improvisors, but suck at sight reading. Practice can remediate some issues, but not everyone is capable of learning the same things (or even the same way) as others.

So to answer the original question, "it depends".
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 22, 2011, 05:36PM »

If you don't have a good musical ear, I suspect playing the trombone would be impossible. IMO.

We have to learn approximately where our slide is to go to make each pitch.  As skill levels increase, they have to learn which pitches to "lip up" or down, as the case may be.  We, however, have to learn new "in-between" positions for different pitches, as well as pitch adjustment at the mouth, and also how to closely listen.

I've been wondering lately whether players with a good ear (particularly the ability to sense whether the note you are playing is in tune with (a) what's happening around you and (b) the last note you played) struggle with valve instruments because many notes are inherently out of tune. The frequent "lipping" notes up or down might get in the way of developing a sound embouchure for blowing a straight note.  With the trombone you can blow a straight note every time and let the slide sort out the pitch.  Good!


However, referring to the original question, I think a valve instrument (baritone, alto horn etc.) would be better for learners to start on, at least until they can play a scale competently and sing it in their head.
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David Gross
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 23, 2011, 06:36AM »

I had a saxophone-playing friend who liked to say that the sax is a wonderful instrument - every note out of tune! I also heard that J. S. Bach got tired of people asking him if the organ was a difficult instrument. He would answer that it was easy - just press the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.

I work on the theory that every instrument has its own challenges and it is equally difficult to get to the top level for each. That said, when you examine the notes that composers write, the trombone gets the slowest assignment - must be because it is the most difficult to play fast.
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Revwrona

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« Reply #8 on: Nov 23, 2011, 11:20AM »

That said, when you examine the notes that composers write, the trombone gets the slowest assignment - must be because it is the most difficult to play fast.

David, that is a very good point.  I agree in that the trombone is a difficult instrument to play fast.

I don't remember who said it but I think the trombone has a very easy learning curve. With any instrument once you get the right sound out of it but as soon as you learn the alternative positioning everything comes together quicker.

In regards to the guitar, I think it is one of the easiest instruments to get a quick return for your investments.   Especially if you just play root notes.  To get technical and advance with the guitar, I think it is a very difficult instrument.
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 23, 2011, 12:36PM »

I think that to master any instrument represents about the same level of difficulty. 

But the practical way to measure difficulty is return on investment.  Compare an hour a day on trombone to an hour a day on piano, guitar, drums, sax;  I would bet that in almost all cases the other instruments will have made far greater progress, because they are not as limited by the inherent mechanical problems we are.  They will be able to play more fluently and more expressively given the same time spent on it. 

This may not be as true for other brass. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 24, 2011, 12:14PM »

I think that to master any instrument represents about the same level of difficulty. 

But the practical way to measure difficulty is return on investment.  Compare an hour a day on trombone to an hour a day on piano, guitar, drums, sax;  I would bet that in almost all cases the other instruments will have made far greater progress, because they are not as limited by the inherent mechanical problems we are.  They will be able to play more fluently and more expressively given the same time spent on it. 

This may not be as true for other brass. 

Exactly.  Two talented kids, one plays sax, the other trombone.  After three or for years, the trombonist is playing pretty decent slow eighths and trying to make his Fs and Gs sing, and the kid on sax is working up Stan Getz solos. 

In my opinion, no kid should ever play trombone.  The frustration level is just too high.  But I realize, then, that the instrument would die.  Reality bites sometimes. 
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« Reply #11 on: Nov 29, 2011, 12:08PM »

In my opinion the trombone is relatively easy to learn to play at the basic #1 level. However, it is EXTREMELY difficult to play like Dorsey or Teagarden, or Russ Morgan, or Erbie, or------- any master. Most other instruments put you through a funk for a few years and suddenly you are "good". Not so with the trombone.
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 09, 2012, 03:44AM »

I did a Music Tech degree between 2007 and 2010 and at one point the lecturer brought in a whole raft of instruments to demonstrate sound production. Brass instrumentalists are the only musicians who have to produce a sound unaided. Other instrumentalists can all produce a note of some description with help from reeds and strings or stretched skins.
Producing a decent sound is a time consuming issue for brass instrumentalists which is not as great a requirement for others. All brass players have, I suspect dried at some point and nothing comes out of the bell. This doesn't happen on a piano and C0 is as easy to play as a C7.
The beginning trombone player doesn't know when he starts out as to whether he or she has the natural ability to produce notes at the extreme range of the instrument.
Every instrument has its technical difficulties of course but making the thing speak in the first place is one reserved for brass players only. Failure on other instruments is down to lack of care and maintenance of the instrument.
Brass instruments are an extension of the player and are very involving. That's the reason for learning trombone. What did Kennedy say the reason for going to the moon was?
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 09, 2012, 08:43AM »

My "Woodwinds Methods" teacher in college said parents would frequently ask him if the saxophone was the easiest instrument to play.

He'd reply "It's the easiest instrument to play badly."



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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #14 on: Jan 09, 2012, 09:31AM »

It depends on where you are starting. If a student has no musical background whatsoever, it might be a little more difficult, but not very much. Before I learned to play trombone I was taught music, both singing and playing, at school. We played recorders back then, and it was simple stuff, but enough to get a start. Singing, on the other hand, put music right on your lips and perhaps more in the brain as one sings words, not just notes.
Later on I learned some piano, but nothing that I can remember. It was interesting, though, in that the keyboard allowed me to play both clefs simultaneously and see the interaction between the two. But this can (and often does) make it a difficult instrument to learn, especially if one is not musically inclined. I still prefer the trombone.
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 09, 2012, 04:33PM »

In my opinion the trombone is relatively easy to learn to play at the basic #1 level. However, it is EXTREMELY difficult to play like Dorsey or Teagarden, or Russ Morgan, or Erbie, or------- any master. Most other instruments put you through a funk for a few years and suddenly you are "good". Not so with the trombone.

Well - let's see.  I am a comebacker on the trumpet for the last 3 years.  I have never played the trombone --- I think if you put the trumpet through a funk for a few years ---- then you are NOT good, but you can play basic music -- and all the scales.  I picked up a trombone this week, because there is much talk on the "trumpetmaster" forums that a trombone will actually strengthen the whole of playing trumpet.  consequently all those players who double on the trumpet and trombone indicate that ---they both take a time commitment to be a good player on.  prime examples of "doublers" --- James Morrison, and the late Maynard Ferguson. NOT that everybody can reach that level -- but it is conclusive evidence that you could play both instruments proficiently -- given enough time of practicing them    ----hey, after 3 days, I can play a C scale on the trombone -- slowly -- yes, it is so easy!!!!!NOT
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 09, 2012, 04:39PM »

The trombone is a very difficult instrument to learn play well, but here's why I keep trying:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eBmyAVEojk&feature=related

Even Boots Randolph never got never get that kind of emotion out of a saxaphone.
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« Reply #17 on: Jan 15, 2012, 09:31PM »

I learned trombone as a teenager, dropped it after college and came back much later - not difficult to play
in a city band today.
I learned the bagpipes during my middle age and play with a competitive band - much more difficult to learn, especially
when playing with a band.
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 17, 2012, 08:39PM »

If you have a good musical ear, the trombone is the easiest thing in the world. No valves or keys to memorise! Just wave the slide around until it is in approximately the correct position and the notes sound right! I look at a saxophone and am amazed that anyone can play the thing.

If you don't have a good musical ear, I suspect playing the trombone would be impossible. IMO.

Exactly what I was going to say. I am learning upright bass currently for jazz and it's coming pretty quickly because my ear has developed so well from playing trombone for however many years.
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« Reply #19 on: Jan 17, 2012, 11:13PM »

Theoretically, everything can seems easy, Practically, its another story.

Anyway, before I started to play trombone, it did look very very difficult.  Amazed Then I had a period where I thought it was rather easy to play.  :D Today I feel its more difficult again.  Evil So now I hope for a period where it really is easy again, also practically  Good! Good!

If you like the trombone, its easier to learn it.

Leif
(Wonder what trombone we get when we go to heaven? Conn Elkhart? The teacher should be good. Lets hope we don't go the another way....)
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