Preservation Hall Lessons – New Orleans Trombone Introduction

Trombone Introduction

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Trombone
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be able to describe the role of the Trombone in New Orleans music. They will explore notable Trombonists, the origins of the instrument, and identify and maintain the parts of the instrument.



  • Identify the origins of the Trombone. 
  • Identify notable Trombonists from New Orleans.
  • Describe the role of the Trombone within New Orleans music.
  • Locate and describe the parts of the instrument.
  • Assemble the Trombone.
  • Provide proper maintenance for the Trombone.



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Introduce the Trombone to students by showing them the instrument. Tell students that the Trombone has been a vital instrument in New Orleans music for a long time. The Trombone originated in the mid-15th century. In the 18th-century the Trombone was known as the Sackbut. The Tenor or Bass Trombone is the most commonly played today. The Trombone is a non-transposing or Concert Pitch instrument. When the Trombone was introduced into New Orleans Jazz during the Storyville era, it was nicknamed the “Tailgate” Trombone. Since the Trombone is a “slide” instrument, Trumbonists would sit on the tailgate of a horsedrawn wagon or truck to avoid hitting a fellow musician. During the late 1800s, Jazz bands were hired at events called ballyhooing. Ballyhooing was for promoting oneself at an event about a certain topic, and very prominently used by politicians campaigning for office.


  1. Display slides 3 and 4 of the presentation, Trombone Introduction, to discuss the Greats of New Orleans Trombone. Tell students that New Orleans Jazz Trombone pioneers like Kid Ory, Benny Powell, Jack Teagarden, Louis Nelson, Lester Caliste, Lucien Barbarin, Freddie Lonzo, and Troy Andrews (AKA Trombone Shorty). Kid Ory was once a sideman and played with many great musicians like Louis Armstrong, then later led and composed for his own band, The Creole Jazz Band. Then later lead and composed for his own band, The Creole Jazz Band. 


  1. Share the history of the Trombone with students. Tell students the Trombone in New Orleans plays a supporting role in the horn section. The Trombone plays the bass tones of the chord, glissandos, and growling. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Trombone Introduction, to listen to notable tunes like “Muskrat Ramble,” “Ory’s Creole Trombone,” Tailgate Ramble Ensemble, “Aunt Hager’s Blues,” “1219 Rag,” and “Bill Bailey.” 



  1. Show the students a Trombone. Ask: Why is the Trombone an essential instrument in New Orleans Traditional Jazz? Display slide 6 of the presentation, Trombone Introduction, to review the anatomy of the Trombone. Identify the instrument parts with students: bell, bell brace, 1st brace, 2nd brace, water key, slide, slide lock, slide receiver, tuning slide, mouthpiece, mouthpiece receiver. Allow time for students to analyze and discuss the anatomy of the Trombone.


  1. Display slide 7 of the presentation, Trombone Introduction, to review the Trombone Assembly instructions. Tell students that proper assembly of the Trombone is important because the inner slide and outer slide are fragile, and the mouthpiece part could be jammed into the receiver if not properly assembled. First, the outer slide is gently attached to the inner slide of the Trombone. Second, lock the slide so it will not slide off. Third, insert the mouthpiece into the receiver gently, without force, until it naturally stops. 


  1. Have students practice attaching the outer slide to the inner slide and locking the slide. Then have students insert the mouthpiece into the receiver. Facilitate the room to provide support for students. Tell students the importance of this practice is to avoid a major problem that requires more rigorous maintenance or repair. If a Trombone requires jammed mouthpiece maintenance, an instructor or teacher can use a Mouthpiece Puller to remove the mouthpiece without damage to the Trombone. 


  1. Follow-up with students about the importance of proper Trombone maintenance. Maintenance guarantees a longer life and maintains the integrity of the Trombone. Keeping a clean instrument also keeps your body safe and healthy. Tell students it is important to always play the Trombone without any food, candy, or gum particles in your mouth. Food particles blown into the instrument cause serious internal damage. 


  1. Display slide 8 of the presentation, Trombone Introduction, to review the importance of proper Trombone Maintenance. Introduce the Trombone maintenance tools: Trombone slide grease, snake brush, water spray bottle, mild dish soap (no bleach), and two microfiber cloths. Show students how to apply the snake brush through the mouthpiece receiver and the inner slide and outer slide. Then gently pull the slides halfway out and apply slide grease to lubricate the slides to avoid sticking. Clean the mouthpiece a few days a week. Rinse the mouthpiece and mouthpiece brush underwater. Apply a small drop of soap to the mouthpiece brush then insert the mouthpiece brush into the mouthpiece to clean it thoroughly. Run the mouthpiece and brush underwater to remove the soap. Dry the mouthpiece with a towel. Use a small drop of dish detergent mixed with warm water to clean the exterior of the Trombone. Dry the Trombone with a microfiber cloth. While performing, always keep a spray bottle with water to help keep the slides lubricated.



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the Trombone. Have students assemble the instrument and describe 2-3 parts throughout the assembly process. Ask: What are the proper techniques for Trombone maintenance?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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