The trombone is a unique brass instrument and has become commonplace in a variety of musical genres, including jazz, funk, classical, marching band and pop. There are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play the trombone and practicing/playing regularly.
Whether you're an absolute beginner looking to learn the trombone from scratch or a trained professional, I hope to inspire you to continue your musical journey with the trombone as you read this article. There is so much to gain from learning a musical instrument like the trombone, and I've selected what I believe to be the top 11 best reasons.
The Top 11 Benefits Of Learning And Playing Trombone Are:
- Strengthens Breathing
- Improves Memory
- Improves Posture
- Improves Coordination/Dexterity
- Building Relationships
- Improves Discipline & Concentration
- Builds Confidence
- Provides A Creative Outlet
- Enhances The Understanding Of Music
- Yields Translatable Skills For Other Brass Instruments
- Therapeutic Benefits
- Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
- Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above to understand better how learning and playing the trombone can improve our lives.
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Learning & Playing Trombone Strengthens Breathing
Let's begin with a super-important benefit: improved breathing. Of course, proper breathing is essential with any instrument (and living, more generally).
However, controlled breathing is directly attributed to the sound of brass instruments like the trombone. Sure, breathing will help with our performance when playing string and percussion instruments (often by relaxation and/or physical exertion), but the trombone relies on the strength of our breath to produce its sound.
An important part of learning and playing the trombone is learning the breathing requirements necessary to blow air, vibrate the lips and ultimately produce the intended sound. Like when singing, if the trombonist runs out of air to blow, the trombone stops producing sound.
Becoming skilled with and conscious of our breathing is a huge benefit of learning and playing the trombone, which we carry with us into other areas of our lives.
The diaphragmatic (belly) breathing required for brass instruments helps us improve our overall breathing. Breath control is necessary, ranging from sharp, explosive exhalations to relaxed and open inhalations.
Playing the trombone properly exercises our lungs, diaphragm and abdominals, thereby strengthening our respiratory system. Furthermore, it may help improve our posture by strengthening our core muscles, which we'll get to momentarily.
To get a bit more scientific, music therapy, including the learning of brass instruments like the trombone, has promising effects on improving the overall respiratory health of those living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (source). It will also help healthy individuals with their breathing.
A healthier respiratory system and better breathing control will positively impact our overall health. The benefits span beyond music to exercise, meditation, and more.
Learning & Playing Trombone Improves Memory
Studies, including this one, have been conducted to investigate and understand if and how the study of a musical instrument can improve memory. The findings show how both listening to and learning music will improve memory.
Our memory can be improved by putting our brains to work (source). The auditory and tactile stimulation and the visual aspect of reading music make learning to play the trombone a definite brain workout. In particular, learning a musical instrument like the trombone will stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in emotions and memories (source).
Consider all the factors of learning and playing trombone that involve memory:
- Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
- The notes of the trombone (slide position and embouchure)
- Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)
Stimulate the hippocampus by playing the trombone activates neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. Neurogenesis is linked to improved learning and memory (source).
Learning & Playing Trombone Improves Posture
Playing the trombone entails holding it properly, which means holding the instrument to our lips with our left hand, gripping the brace in front of our left hand with our right hand, and sliding the slide back and forth. It also means holding the trombone outward. To maintain proper technique, trombonists must develop good posture.
Playing the trombone helps to strengthen our core muscles as we maintain posture. Holding proper posture helps develop core strength, and developing core strength helps maintain proper posture.
As mentioned before, we must also breathe freely and deeply. This, combined with proper posture, helps us develop our core muscle strength while learning and playing a fun instrument!
Benefits of improved posture, core strength and breathing include better circulation, digestion, fewer headaches, and less back pain.
Learning & Playing Trombone Improves Coordination/Dexterity
While breath and posture control are essential components of playing trombone, learning the instrument will also develop our coordination.
To master the trombone, we must be able to synchronize our breathing, embouchure and slide positions to produce the correct notes, all at proper volumes and rhythms. Practicing trombone will inevitably develop coordination between the breath, embouchure and sliding hand.
The development of such dexterity will allow us to perform the notes we want, when we want them, with the timbre and emotionality we want to express.
This dexterity and coordination are further improved as we sight-read sheet music, which helps tremendously in developing hand-eye coordination.
Learning & Playing Trombone Helps Build Relationships
Music brings people together from the jam spot to the classroom, the stage to the car audio system, and everywhere in between.
Perhaps the first relationship you'll build when learning to play the trombone is with a teacher (if you choose to go down that learning route). This is true of in-person lessons and one-on-one online lessons.
After internalizing your skills and knowledge with the trombone, you can become a teacher and build relationships with your own students.
Beyond the formality of student-teacher relationships, you'll be able to play with other musicians in bands and ensembles if you so choose. By playing the trombone, you will get to meet and collaborate with other musicians, either professionally or just for fun.
Whether you start a band, join a marching band or orchestra, or simply jam for fun, becoming a skilled trombonist will get you noticed by other musicians.
Finally, if you've developed the skill and confidence to play live, you'll certainly meet venue owners, music fans and other musicians. Music excels as a social art, and it makes it much easier to meet new people and develop deeper connections.
Learning & Playing Trombone Improves Discipline & Concentration
Becoming a highly skilled trombonist takes time, dedication, and a willingness to improve our skills continually. Developing a strict practice and playing routine requires the same. In other words, learning and playing trombone takes discipline and concentration.
These skills (discipline and concentration) can be learned and nurtured with intentional practice. From the mechanics to the in-depth theory, the trombone offers a fun way to learn music and the instrument while also strengthening discipline and concentration for other areas of our lives.
Mastering the trombone demands unwavering resolve to the craft. If we can harness such discipline with a musical instrument, we can surely do anything else we put our mind to.
Learning & Playing Trombone Builds Confidence
Playing the trombone gives us immediate auditory feedback, so we can immediately hear our improvements (even if the improvements are slow). As we continuously improve our technical and creative prowess with the instrument, we become more assured and confident.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines self-confidence as the ” confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities”.
In addition to building confidence with the instrument itself, learning how to play the trombone can give us the confidence to learn other skills as well. Knowing deep down that you can learn what you put your mind to (musical instruments or otherwise) will surely boost self-esteem.
Additionally, there comes a point in our trombone learning journey where we are able to keep up with and play with and/or for other musicians and audiences. In doing so, playing the trombone can help us overcome shyness and stage fright.
Developing the confidence to perform in front of friends, family, strangers and even virtually/online will pay dividends in many other areas of our lives. Confidence is contagious and will spill over to other aspects of life as we get better at playing the trombone.
Learning & Playing Trombone Provides A Creative Outlet
Whether we think of ourselves as “creative” or not, all humans have the propensity to create. While there are plenty of ways to be creative, music and the arts are obviously creative (source). Whether we're naturally musically inclined or not, learning the trombone can give us an outlet for our inherent creativity.
Studies show that learning musical instruments creates connections between the brain's two hemispheres. Learning the trombone and playing/practicing it regularly can actually grow the corpora callosa in the brain, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). With new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to create innovative and unique musical ideas.
The trombone is an excellent instrument for sharing our musical creativity with the world, whether we're playing written songs or writing and/or improvising our own!
Learning & Playing Trombone Enhances The Understanding Of Music
Trombones are staples in jazz, big band, marching band, classical, and many other genres of music. The versatility and deep repertoire of the trombone allow players to explore how the instrument works stylistically within a variety of pieces/songs/repertoire/standards and, in doing so, explore these other musical styles as well.
Once we learn the trombone fundamentals, we can access the many different styles available to expand our musical learning. In doing so, we deepen our understanding of the beautiful art form of music.
It's worth noting, too, that trombones are monophonic instruments (producing one note at a time). This means that trombones can't play simultaneous notes in chords, unlike polyphonic instruments such as the guitar and piano. Rather, they must arpeggiate chords, playing each chord tone in succession. This “limitation” allows trombonists to think of melody and harmony differently.
Additionally, since trombones rely on the breath, their phrases can be considered more “human-like”. While the guitarists, pianists, drummers, etc., can continually play notes, the trombonist is naturally restricted to more “vocal-like” lines. These limitations help trombonists develop a certain viewpoint of melody, harmony and phrasing.
Furthermore, we can learn the trombone by ear, further developing our understanding of melody, harmony and rhythm. Alternatively, trombone pieces are written in concert pitch in sheet music, so we'll learn how to sight-read while learning the trombone, too, if we so choose.
Beyond the trombone itself, the song arrangement, harmonic movement, rhythm, lead/melodic lines, and the general feel of the music are all part of the language in their own right.
Learning & Playing Trombone Yields Translatable Skills For Other Brass Instruments
The trombone is a unique member of the brass instrument family. The brass family also includes the trumpet, French horn, tuba, euphonium and more.
Though the trombone is a sliding instrument and the other brass instruments utilize valves, the general working principle remains largely the same. The mouthpieces, embouchure, breath requirements and form factor differ slightly between the brass instruments, but learning how to blow one will translate to the others.
As we learn how to blow and vibrate our lips to produce sound with a trombone, we'll also be developing skills translatable to the other brass instruments. While every instrument has its own particular embouchure, you can learn the other brass instruments more easily if you already know how to play the trombone. Switching between them becomes an exercise in recalling the particular embouchure and breath control.
The breath control will also come in handy with woodwind instruments, even though they are in a different family of musical instruments.
Learning & Playing Trombone Has Therapeutic Benefits
Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)
Music is being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). These health benefits are readily available with regular practice on the trombone. The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:
- Promote Wellness
- Manage Stress
- Alleviate Pain
- Express Feelings
- Enhance Memory
- Improve Communication
- Promote Physical Rehabilitation
Learning & Playing Trombone Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
The first “bonus benefit” is about money.
Once you've become a capable trombonist, there are many different avenues to monetize your skills. Here are just a few to consider:
- Performing original music live (at clubs, dinner parties, churches, coffee shops, and even busking)
- Performing covers live
- Record streaming royalties from original music
- Teaching trombone lessons
- Recording as a session trombonist
There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize trombone-playing skills. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the trombone.
Learning & Playing Trombone Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
Learning and playing trombone isn't only about the technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the instruments themselves. Leaning the trombone gives us a great opportunity to learn about the physics of sound and brass instruments more generally.
Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of the trombone teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:
- How to disassemble and reassemble trombones
- How air vibrates our lips and tubes of air to produce sound
- The effects of humidity on metal
- How to clean trombones for optimal health and performance
- How to properly oil/grease the slides