Trombone/Basic Concepts in Musical Theory
There are four basic aspects of music:
- Deals with note duration, speed and stress — the time aspect
- Deals with a series of notes — the horizontal aspect.
- Deals with notes played concurrently — the vertical aspect.
- Deals with the physical sound of notes — the depth aspect.
These, generally speaking, all support each other. The melody is what you generally hear as the dominating sound. The trombone, being a low/medium brass instrument, usually plays the harmony (which is usually the background sound) in most bands and orchestras and the countermelody in jazz and rock groups.
On a staff, there a five 'lines' and four 'spaces'. The notes go on the lines or spaces. Many times, you'll have to go high or lower than what's written on the staff. Lines will have to be written to direct you on which note to play. These are ledger lines.
A clef is a symbol used in musical notation that assigns the pitch of notes to lines and spaces on the musical staff. The trombone usually uses the bass clef (F-clef), although eventually you might have to learn the tenor (C-clef) and treble (G-clef) for extended high parts in orchestral music. In the F-clef, the line between 2 dots is the F below middle C. In the C-clef, the line between the two bumps is middle C. In the G-clef, the line encompassed by the little spiral is the G above middle C. These definitions are true no matter where the clef is placed. However, there are certain standard positions for each clef. Bass clef, which is the most common F-clef, defines the second line from the top as the F below middle C. Tenor clef, the C-clef most commonly used for trombones, defines the second line from the top as middle C. Treble clef, the most common G-clef, defines the second line from the bottom as the G above middle C. The only other clef which you are likely to see ever is alto clef, which is a C-clef that defines the middle line as middle C. Alto clef is rarely used except for viola parts and 1st trombone parts in very old orchestral music. However, most of these 1st trombone parts are available in either bass or tenor clef, so as a trombone player, you will probably never need to be proficient reading alto clef.
The time signature (also known as "meter signature") is a notational device used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each bar and what note value constitutes one beat. You'll learn more about that next section.
A note is a sign used in music to represent the relative duration and pitch of sound. You'll learn more about that next section.