How can you tell that a kid on a playground is a trombonist’s kid?
He can’t swing and he complains about the slide.

Don’t worry, a trombone sounds even more obnoxious than what it looks.

Yes, that is an albeit cheesy joke about the instrument which I have the “pleasure” of playing, the trombone. For over 8 years now I have been afforded the luxury of the world’s most obnoxious instrument (except for the oboe). The following is a basic guide of how to play it.

The first thing that needs to be done is the assembly the instrument. How? Well, the trombone comes in two different parts (technically 3 including the mouthpiece). One is the bell and the tuning slide, while the other is the playing slide. On the bell portion, there is a screw that is at the end of the brass segment parallel to the bell. Simply twist this screw-end onto the taller bore of the playing slide. Then, insert the mouthpiece into the smaller bore and gently twist it. If you twist it with a large amount of force, you’re going to have a bad time removing it from the instrument and will likely need assistance. So yeah, don’t do that because I sure as hell won’t be any help to you.

Now that the instrument is properly assembled, the next step involves properly holding the damn thing. There are many variations of how you may hold it, so I will tell you the basics. Hold the trombone with the left hand near the bell attachment’s end-screw and place your pointer finger on top of the mouthpiece. Allow your thumb to grip the bell attachment at an angle perpendicular to the pointer finger. The remaining fingers must dangle along the playing slide in a natural position. Meanwhile, the right hand rests below the brass bar which runs horizontal across the playing slide. I personally find it comfortable to grip the slide with my thumb, pointer and middle finger, although other variations are acceptable. However, if as you play you notice your fingers tapping the trombone’s bell, take this as a sign that your slide hand must be lower on the instrument. Furthermore, all the weight of the trombone must be held with the left hand. If not, your right hand will gradually bend the slide the more you play it. The first few weeks of holding the instrument in its proper manner will cause painful cramps in the left hand, but they will go away over time.

Don’t let this picture fool you, as a rule trombone players must be even more obnoxious than their instrument.

Next, bring the instrument to your face. Be sure to allow the instrument to come up to your head and not vice versa in the slightest, otherwise, your breathing/playing will be affected tremendously. The mouthpiece should be resting comfortably over your mouth, while the remaining instrument is pointed at an approximately ten degree angle.

After that, the next step is to actually get a sound out of the trombone. To accomplish this, one must buzz air through the mouthpiece by making “too” or “doo” sounds. Make sure that your tongue rests behind your teeth to not affect the air surging throughout the instrument.

Now, to play higher pitches, it is best to make your lips tighter (but still firm) and to begin blowing air at a faster rate. If you were to remove the trombone at this time, you should be making a buzz sound with your lips. Now, if you wish to play lower pitches, simply relax and drop your jaw.

Lastly, there are 7 different slide positions on the bone. First position is the slide all the way in. Second, is  about 3/4 of a wrist flick out and should still be relatively close to all the way in. Third position is a little more than double the distance between first and second. Fourth should be approximately just under the bell (remember though, first is close to second while third is close to fourth. The gap between second and third should be the largest interval between positions at this point). Fifth is about halfway between fourth and sixth, while sixth is essentially a full arm extension out. Meanwhile, seventh position should be an uncomfortably long/above and beyond full arm extension to the very edge of the slide.

So in conclusion, that is basically how to play trombone. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it as I have ironically found piano to be much more fun despite all of my hard work with the trombone, but eh, c’est la vie (life fact: using French words makes you sound smart and gets all the ladies).

Also, you should probably practice your instrument. I personally practiced until a point where I was really good and didn’t need to practice anymore (for class, ahem). However, not practicing will prevent you from fulfilling your true playing potential and is not recommended (honestly, you’re probably aware of this fact, but I was told to write instructions for someone with less sense than Helen Keller).

Ok, ok, that may have been a little harsh. But, did you know that Hellen Keller actual owned a trombone in her back yard? Neither did she!

I wish you luck with the trombone, especially if you’re trying to follow my putrid advice.

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