Trombone Chapter Sample

From Chapter 8C. Trombone Tone:

  1. Concept

A strong tone concept is a powerful tool in the development of tone quality for any musician. You can help your trombonists develop a concept of how they want to sound by using the following strategies:

1. Play recordings of great trombonists for your students (see Chapter 8G Trombone History and Selected Discography for suggested recordings).

2. Suggest tracks for them to download from iTunes.

3. Invite professional trombonists to your band to deliver masterclasses for your students.

4. Teach your trombonists what a great tone sounds like on your primary instrument. Discuss with them how you achieve that tone so they might apply some of the same principles to their trombone playing.

  1. The Oral Space and the Tongue

The oral space (where the tongue is, inside the mouth) is a resonating cavity for a trombone player. To produce a rich, beautiful tone, keep the tongue low in the mouth to create an open oral cavity. Teach your trombonists to think of the syllable “oh” to create the right conditions in the oral space for a good tone quality.

Throat closure is a common problem among trombonists occurring as the result of lifting the tongue in the mouth while playing. When the tongue lifts in the mouth, the oral space closes, the throat begins to close and the tone suffers. If a student is having this problem, have them breathe through a breathing tube – a ¾” diameter PVC pipe cut into a 3″ or 4″ length. The tube will help them understand how the tongue and throat should feel when playing. To view a video of a breathing tube in action, see Chapter 2E Tone Quality.

  1. Equipment

There are several important equipment variables which affect the tone quality, but only if the player is capable of producing a consistent, well supported sound in all registers. Take care that your students are not simply searching for the latest equipment innovation to the exclusion of developing their own fundamental skills, and advise them against any new purchases until they are truly ready.

Once the student has graduated from a student model instrument to a professional quality trombone, many options become available, including:

Bell Material

Trombone bells can be made of different alloys which create different tone qualities. Here are the most common choices, listed from brightest tone quality to darkest:

Yellow Brass, Gold Brass, Red Brass, Nickel Silver

One should not assume that a darker tone is necessarily better; the bell choice depends upon the individual’s preference and playing style.

Mouthpiece Size

Generally speaking, the larger the mouthpiece the more resonant the tone quality.  Like the bell alloy, the mouthpiece size depends upon the individual’s preference, playing style and musical genre. When playing in concert band or orchestra, a trombonist will want a bigger mouthpiece to create a fuller, more resonant sound. For jazz band, a smaller mouthpiece (and instrument bore size) is appropriate.

Here are some mouthpiece choices for the advanced player capable of creating a good tone throughout the range of the instrument wishing to refine the tone further:

Tenor Trombone

Bach 5G Megatone

Denis Wick 5AL and 5AL Heavy Top

Doug Elliott – These mouthpieces come in interchangeable components. Players can change the rim, cup and shank to varying sizes to find a suitable combination of components.

Greg Black 4-5G Medium

Bass Trombone

Denis Wick 1AL Heavy Top

Douglas Yeo Signature Model