Why aren’t the beginner slide position charts better?
One frustration I have had as a teacher of beginner students is the slide position charts available. Whether it’s the one in the back of their method book, or the ones I found while searching online, none seemed to present the information they needed the way I wanted it to.
Well, I knew just what to do. I would fix this problem in the fashion I have become accustomed; if I couldn’t buy what I wanted, I would just make it myself!
Just the right information.
Many of my beginners are new to reading bass clef and even to reading music at all. As a result, they don’t understand the chromatic charts that are popular. They really just need to see the notes of the B flat Major scale at the top of the page. That is the most important information for them to be able to learn to play songs and have fun making music.
After that, I wanted to empower my students with an understanding of how the trombone works. Understanding the half step relationship between the slide positions lets them figure out where to play every new pitch they will encounter.
A clear trombone slide position chart.
On my chart the notes are organized left to right to show the harmonic series of each position. I organize the notes on the same partial top to bottom in each of the seven slide positions. I tried to line it up as well as possible to make sure that students can easily see the notes to play in one position, and the neighbor tones of each partial across the whole instrument.
For example, when I introduce E natural students will understand that E natural is one slide position higher (shorter) than E flat, so it is in second position. Same thing for D flat being one half step and slide position lower (longer) than D natural, so fifth position.
When we learn F sharp on the fourth line, I teach students that some notes can be played in more than one position. Even though we mostly play F on the fourth line in first position, it is also in sixth position. Walking down the half steps from B flat in first out to sixth and seventh position demonstrates this and the resultant bugging eyes of understanding are well worth the time of the exercise.
Making confident, capable, and independent students.
Children love to understand how things work. They love independence the most! I see it every day with my own small children who are now 2 and 4. They don’t want to be told the answer as much as they want to be told how to get the answer. Is this the case 100% of the time with 100% of the kids? No, of course not. But I do believe that I am helping 100% of my students feel capable and confident because I believe they are all able to figure answers out for themselves if I am willing to give them the right tools to do so.