In Defiance of Titles

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How to teach trombone

with 2 comments

My substitute teaching work has been pretty lucky so far; the majority of it has been music-related, which means at the very least that I know the subject (if not the kids). On Friday I was teaching trombone sectionals for sixth graders…they had literally been playing for eight months, if that. When one of them asked how long I had been playing, we discovered together that my trombone experience extended his entire life.

I know I’m only twenty-two, but man, did that make me feel old. I realized on further reflection just how much the world has changed since I was a kid: I grew up in the days before the widespread public internet. Since I am now pursuing work in web development, that means that if I had been asked, at five years old, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I couldn’t have even dreamt up the right answer…web design and development jobs didn’t exist back then! Ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the trombone. I don’t think I’ve ever really worked with “rank beginners” before, and so I really have no expectations as to what they’re supposed to be able to do at that age. One of them, while we were playing one of their band pieces, stayed on the same note the entire time, even though his slide was moving. It was an A-Flat, and his slide was only rarely in the position that A-Flat is supposed to be in. I wish I knew what to tell him, but I think a long, complicated explanation of the harmonic series would just make a sixth grader angry 🙂 I made him breathe a little, and then we just moved on.

The others played more correctly, and all of them responded pretty well to the suggestions I gave, but I have no idea whether or not I was on the right track. I suppose that’s where pedagogy classes come in handy, but as I never expected to be a teacher, I didn’t take any. Does anyone reading this know what first-year trombone players are generally expected to learn? I’m curious, because tomorrow afternoon I’m going right back into the same classes. I already told them most of what I know, so I suppose I’ll do it again…? 🙂

Written by jazzslider

April 9, 2006 at 1:10 pm

2 Responses

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  1. It has been some time since I had the opportunity to teach a Sixth grader about the trombone, but I do remember clearly the pain of listening to pitches that were often a quarter tone out of tune (that is, if they were anywhere close to the planned note). All one can do is smile through clenched teeth and try to give some advice as to how to accomplish the task at hand. Keep up the good work.


    April 9, 2006 at 11:48 pm

  2. Sometimes doing the exact same thing the next day is exactly what your students need. They need to get the first point before the second. Don’t worry about repeating yourself.


    April 12, 2006 at 2:49 am

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