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Bass Trombone: Interview and demonstration with Denson Paul Pollard

Video transcript

("Symphony No 5" by Dmitryi Shostakovich) - This is the bass trombone. It's the instrument that plays low in the trombone instrument family. You'll observe here the bass trombone has lots of tubing. It has lots of extra tubing and that allows the instrument to play lower and to be flexible in that register. You'll also notice that the bass trombone mouthpeice is quite large, that helps playing low and the bell is larger than the alto or the tenor trombone which allows it to play lower easier. The bass trombone and the tuba basically can play in the same range, their timbres are just slightly different. The tuba timbre is quite large and quite wide. The bass trombone timbre is a little more pointed but we play in the same range. ("Symphony No 5" by Dmitryi Shostakovich) This instrument has two valves and basically it allows you to use the inner positions with a valve mashed down rather than going all the way out, so its a way of adding tubing to the instrument without moving the slide. For instance, a low F is in sixth position (plays low F note) Or I can mash down this first valve and play it in first position. (plays low F note) So it just gives me more options for playing notes in the low register. The lowest note on this instrument is a pedal B natural, which is quite low and for that note I have to mash down both of my valves and put the slide out as far as it will go. (plays pedal B natural) When you play low notes on the bass trombone and the slide is all the way out you're getting close to the end of the slide and its very easy for the slide to come off the end, I have to be kinda careful about that. ("The Firebird Suite" by Igor Stravinsky) Most trombone players begin playing the trombone on a tenor trombone and I would dare to say that probably 99.9% of the professional trombone players out there start in band, usually around the age of 10, 5th grade in America. And we start on the tenor trombone, and that's how I began. I showed up in 5th grade one day and they had sign-ups for band and so I thought "Hmm that sounds kind of fun" so I signed up, and we went into this big room and our band director demonstrated each one of the instruments. And I was immediately taken with the one thing that separates the trombone from all of the other instruments which is the slide. The minute the band director went (plays note that slides down then up) he had me and that's why I chose the trombone. ("Symphony No 5" by Ludwig van Beethoven) I started playing when I was 10 and in the beginning the sounds weren't great and I wanted to sound great so I practiced a lot. And I wasn't really forced to practice. I loved the sound of this instrument and I really enjoyed doing it and as a result of that I did it a lot. You know, often times when my friends were out playing football and baseball I would be in playing scales, playing my major scales, practicing my scales and eventually, you know, after a year or two of steady daily practice my sound improved, I started being able to play in tune a little better and my facility on the instrument, my slide technique got better and better and it actually started getting fun after lots of daily consistent practice. ("Blast" by David Stock) When I was 13 years old and entering as a freshman into high school we started having to kind of think about what we were going to major in in college and I started thinking about "What am I going to do? "What am I going to study in college?" and music was really the only thing I really wanted to do. And so I, all through high school I was preparing myself to be a music education major and pursue the trombone. You know the trombone is a fun instrument. It's a social instrument. It's not like piano where you sit in a room by yourself and practice. You know, the trombone is an instrument, a lot of the time when you're playing the trombone it's with other kids and it's fun from the very beginning. You're in-- it's like sports for non-sports people in a way. You're in a group, you're playing together you have to cooperate, you have to listen and... so it's fun from the very beginning. And depending on how much a young person practices if you begin at the age of 10 it doesn't take very long before you're producing a pretty good sound if you're practicing daily and you have good technique. ("Symphony No 9" by Antonin Dvorak)