Every year I like to try something different with Key Stage 3 and this year I decided to add in a trombone unit. I managed to get some funding for 15 P-Bone trombones:
If you haven’t seen them before then picture a trombone, made out of plastic and really colourful. Anyway.
I think they are fantastic and I have been really pleased with how well they have gone down in lessons. I loosely play the trombone already but to be honest it is an instrument that a music teacher can pick up the basics of fairly quickly – let’s not worry too much about that now. All I would say is that pedagogy and approach is important and so maybe chat to music hub or a trombone teacher about some basics before you steam in and tell the students the wrong thing.
So here are a few reasons why I think they are a great tool for lessons and a few thoughts on how best to use them.
1. They are loud, colourful and loads of fun.
Picture the scene. Students walk in to the room and see lots of fun looking instruments. You are on to a winner already, they are engaged and intrigued and that is a key component for a good lesson.
2. They are accessible
It won’t take long for students to work out how to correctly hold them and stand with them. Within minutes they will look and feel like a trombone player. Even the technique of holding them and standing correctly is key.
3. You can teach them all about the physics of sound
This kind of cross curricular thing with sound waves, vibrations and the Physics of music is great. Students are intrigued and can instantly see it in action.
4. They are fairly indestructible
I mean I haven’t majorly put this to the test, but they are pretty sturdy things so you should be fine.
5. They are not keyboards or singing or ukuleles
An obvious point, but the thing is we see a lot of the above in music education and so something new is good
6. They are a way of introducing the concepts of intervals
You can easily slip in some fairly hefty theory about intervals and arpeggios and the like. I have got students to focus on playing 1 & 5 on closed position.
7. Sing it then play it
I get students to sing intervals and then try playing them. This is fun and works well. Just singing 1-5 and then trying to play it is a fun and good quality task.
8. They leave feeling like more of a musician
I know this sounds maybe a little far fetched but I really believe that students left the room feeling like they had accessed something new and learnt something new. They feel like they have gone through that process everyone goes through when they first hold an instrument. It is different to keyboards that are just there in the room.
9. They are not too expensive
I am not entirely sure of cost but they aren’t a lot and you could buy them across a few schools and share across a year.
10. They are easy to store
I am fairly sure they all come with a bag etc and so they are easy to store and don’t take up loads of room.
A few additional thoughts:
- Have enough mouthpieces for one each even if they are sharing a trombone and also baby wipes to clean them.
- Beware that the whole spit-valve thing can cause issues as students may or may not like to see spit on the floor!!
- Make sure you can play what you are asking them to play.
- Use YouTube if you are not a player so that they can see what is possible on the trombone.
- Speak to music Hub about getting a specialist in.
- Don’t cut corners. Make sure they stand correctly and hold the instrument correctly.
- Talk about breathing and lip technique.
- Start with warmups that focus on lip rolls and breathing.
- Don’t test the indestructible thing too much!
- Be prepared for the volume but enjoy how much they will enjoy making a noise.
- Show they in notation what they are playing. Great way to use bass clef.
- Read up on whole class music teaching technique. Again seek advice from music hub.
I am still at the beginning with this but I know that I will use trombones again and again. I love teaching with them and I think they open a number of doors. Next year I am going to try out flutes too!