Learning to play the trombone requires the mastery of a number of skills not common to other wind instruments. In fact, the concepts necessary for performing on trombone in a characteristic manner can rarely be achieved without having heard and watched trombone performers in a live situation. Sitting next to and playing along with a good trombonist is absolutely essential to playing the instrument really well. For these and other reasons, try to study privately with a trombone teacher. Try to find someone who can demonstrate trombone concepts in your lesson. For many who live a great distance from a trombone teacher, an arrangement for once-a-month or every-six-weeks lesson may be possible. If this arrangement still is not possible, study with a teacher who emphasizes fundamentals and take private lessons at one or more music camps during the summer.
Keep your trombone in immaculate condition. Ask someone to demonstrate the correct method for cleaning and lubricating the slide. Avoid using oil. Instead use Slide-O-Mix. Then use a spray bottle to create beads of water on the inner slide each time you play. Clean the slide frequently and guard it with your life. Most accidents are caused at the conclusion of a rehearsal when someone else bumps your instrument. Always take your time when assembling and disassembling the instrument. If there are bumps in the slide, see the repairman today. Most tuning problems and legato style problems are caused by slides that cannot be manipulated easily.
Should players who have braces continue to play everyday? Most orthodontists agree that playing does not effect the structure of the teeth significantly unless there is prolonged pressure placed against the lips and teeth by the mouthpiece. In many cases, although there may be a temporary disruption in the quality of the sound, the actual wearing of braces causes players to build a stronger facial and surrounding lip muscles because the mouthpiece pressure cannot be used to control the sound. A trick that works well for most students with braces is to make a simple pad of clear plastic wrap. Cue a piece of plastic about three inches by two and one-half inches. Then, fold length-wise the plastic an approximate width that matches the length of your teeth. Place the folded pad over the braces. You can add or take plastic off to suit your own needs. When trying to solve mouthpiece pressure problems, examine first the left hand position. Most pressure problems are caused by tension in the left and right arms, imbalance of the trombone, and a “death-grip” by the left hand. All cause restriction of the vibrating lips. Work for natural curves of the left arm similar to those seen in dancers in ballet. Also check to see that the angle of the trombone is slightly down, in most cases, or slightly up for those you have a severe underbite. In every instance, the head should not duck down too far.
Be a musical troubleshooter. When some aspect of your playing is not going well, try to isolate the problem. Then, think back to your lessons to some of the statements your teacher made and try to use some of the suggestions s/he may have given to you. Watch yourself in front of the mirror to see if there might be some physical problem. Record your playing with a quality hand-held recorder such as a Zoom H2n or your smartphone. Remember that it is unlikely that your phone can give you the quality of tone that you really produce. Most suggestions made in lessons have been made before.
Learn to read tenor clef. Using Reginald Fink Introduction to Tenor Clef (Accura Music) is the fastest and simplest way to learn. Read the tenor clef as a new clef. Transposing takes more time to read and can result in reading errors. As well as playing the notes, practice naming them. Tap your knee in a steady tempo and name the next note every time you tap your knee. Reading the tenor clef expands the quality of literature you ca perform.