The Trombone


The Trombone Essay, Research Paper

The Trombone In the Brass instrument family, the Trombone is one of the more unique members. No other instrument has a telescoping slide and no valves. No other brass instruments can imitate the trombone smoothness because they all have valves. Since the trombone has the capability to make all its pitches in tune, it is sometimes called the perfect instrument . According to history, the trombone was originally called a Sackbut. Historians believe that this name springs from the Spanish Sacabuche, which means draw-pipe. Curt Sachs, another historian, believes that the name comes from the Old French words saquier , to pull, and boter , to push, giving the name Saqueboute. When the instrument first appeared in this country, in the 15th century, foreign players were employed. By 1501, however, one of King Henry VII s shakbusshes rejoiced in the good plain English name of John Browne, and from this time on an English school of Sackbut players grew up which was later the envy of Continental princes. Trombone, as used today in English-, French-, and Italian-speaking countries is easily explained, it being simply Tromba plus the common Italian augmentative suffix one, i.e. big trumpet . The trombone has also been called the Posuane, which is the Middle High German equivalent of Buisine. The Buisine is a long straight trumpet. The trombone s many names makes one wonder where the trombone actually originated. The Trombone s origin is somewhat of a mystery. Many scholars believe the Sackbut originated in Europe around the 14th century. There are some historians that have found records of the trombone in ancient Rome. In an excavation done in Pompeii in 1738, excavators found large bronze instruments that resembled the Cornu or large trumpet. The Cornu is a large crooked horn with no valves. There are also reports from the late Middle Ages about the first maker of the Posuane, Hans Neuschel. He used to make silver trombones for the Pope Leo X. Jorg Neuschel and Hans the Younger succeeded Hans; who made the second oldest Posuane in history. In the early 17th century, there were many writers of musicology. Some of the more famous names in Musicology are Praetorius, Mersenne, and Speer. Praetorius would write about Trombone makers who could four different sizes of Posuane:Alto: Alt or discant Posuan in F or EbTenor: Germeine Rechte Posuan in BbBass: Quart or Quint Posuan in F or EbContraBass: Octav Posuan in BBb.The ContraBass wasn t used much in most concert settings. A French musicologist named Mersenne wrote about the four sizes of Trombone and the seven slide positions. Mersenne also talked about how the harmonic series overlapped producing the same tone in diifferent positions. Speer goes into more detail about the chromatic nature of the trombone and the harmonic series. Since that time, the Trombone has not changed much if at all. Neither has the playing of the instrument. The tenor version of the Trombone is the most widely used version of the four types. The Trombone still comes in a gold lacquer or silver- plated models. The Trombone is still in three main pieces, the slide, the bell section and the mouthpiece. In brass instruments, the length of tubing determines the pitch. That is not completely what determines pitch. Lip vibrations of the player or what is called a buzz cause pitch. A buzz is achieved being blowing air from the lungs at the lips. Pressure builds up behind the lips and at the point of maximum pressure, the lips will part. The size of the opening depends on how much air is being pushed through. The tension of the mouth muscles around the opening also aids in sustaining a buzz. When the lips reach a point where the opening will not get any larger, they close. When this process, called lip aperture, is repeated several times it produces a buzz. The pitches come from the number of times lip aperture occurs. For example, the tuning note on most instruments is A; an A is 440 lip apertures. It is hard to play a song with just your lips; this is where the trombone comes into the equation. The trombone acts an amplifier for the pitches created by the players lips. The air in the trombone produces a pitch that is much more audible than those created by the lip apertures by the players lips. Pushing out the slide of the trombone can lower the pitch. For example, a Bb will sound in first position; the slide is all the way in. By moving the slide out about three and a half inches away, second position, the trombone will sound a first space A. In third position, about 7 inches, the player will play an Ab. The rest of the positions play down chromatically to an E one line below the staff. To play notes other than those seven, the player will have to slightly open or close the opening through which he or she is buzzing. This is called changing embouchure. By changing the embouchure, the will change partial. A partial is just one of the notes on the harmonic series. From one of the harmonic series notes, there are seven pitches going down chromatically. For instance, on the F partial, the trombone will play an F in first position, an E in second etc One of the features of the trombone is the overlapping partial. The trombone can play different partials in the same seven positions. For example, the Bb, F and D partials can be played in first position. This allows for alternative positions for the same note. The F of the Bb partial is played in fourth position, but by changing embouchure that same F can be played in first position because it is the first note of the F partial. The only problem with the same note on different partials is the fact that some partials are slightly sharp or flat. The F partial is a little sharp consequently to play F partial in tune, the player will have to play those seven notes slightly lower than there actual positions. This gives the player the ability to play every note perfectly in tune all the time. This just adds to the trombones nickname of the perfect instrument.

Personally, the trombone has one of the easier instruments to learn. This is probably attributed to the fact that I am already a brass player. Though it was not hard to learn, the trombone takes tremendous skill to master. The trombone makes the player use their ear to find pitches more than any other instrument. Since playing the trombone, I have realized that playing valved or keyed instruments are easy.

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