Mike Cope's blog

Friday, September 03, 2004

There is a trombone living in my house. I'm trying to make friends with it, but it's hard. To be honest, we've never been a band family. I never was in band. Diane wasn't either. Nor did Matt spend one minute in band. (There was, of course, that memorable 6th grade boys' choir concert that forced us all to keep reminding each other that their voices were changing.) But Chris didn't choose to be in middle school choir. He's in the band. So, as I said, a trombone has come to live in our house. Baseball I understand well. And football. And basketball. Parts of soccer. Even choir. But a trombone isn't there in my repertoire, shaped as my life has been by a cappella singing. So far he can play one song. I'm not sure what that song is, though. At times, it bears some resemblance to "Mary Had a Little Lamb." And whatever it is, he plays it again . . . and again . . . and again. So I'm begging for help from others who've had 6th grade instrumentalists. Does it get better? Quieter? More on key? More diversified? Is the trombone the LOUDEST instrument in the band? Is it wrong to suggest the garage as an acoustically perfect place for practice? Would it be wrong to suggest the Porches' house next door (since this would probably be quiet compared to the drums Ryan played all those years)? Would it be wrong to say that the dogs in the back yard seem to be pleading with him to come back there to serenade them? This I know: if he someday decides to stick with the trombone, then I'll be one of the world's great trombone lovers. But in the meantime, while he's just meeting a requirement, I need your help here.


  • I've been a drummer and percussionist for 25 years and I still love it! My 10 year old son has just began playing as well. Get used to it. He WILL get better. This also means that you have many Funky Winkerbean type band (or is it banned) fundraisers in your future! Enjoy.

    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 9/03/2004 05:16:00 AM  

  • Ahh Mike - been there done that. Max was an aspiring trombone player in the 6th grade too. He used to go out on the patio out back and march back and forth playing. He would turn on a swing CD and try to play to it. Rather well I thought. I kinda liked the ol' trombone. But alas, it became uncool to lug that case around school and now, though his dad is making him take band again in 7th, he refuses to bring it home and play. There is great hope. By the way, Mr. Walker in 6th grade is far more desireable a teacher than Mr. Darby in the 7th. The only thing worse than trombone music is whining about trombone class. Enjoy it while you can!

    By Blogger Candy, at 9/03/2004 05:31:00 AM  

  • As a former 6th grade floutist, I have to ask: what kind of dad lets a kid grow up to be low brass??

    Okay, I'm kidding. Just be glad the baritone doesn't hit the upper registers. My parents put up with high pitched sixth grade "music." I admire their patience - I couldn't have listened to me learn. But I've been playing for 14 years now and rarely get death threats anymore...

    By Blogger Q, at 9/03/2004 05:37:00 AM  

  • I was once an aspiring clarinet player (middle school and most of high school). Unfortunately, I didn't get much better, quieter or more on key, which is why I eventually gave up on the instrument. But let's hear it for perseverence -- I stuck with it for six years (and thousands of my parents dollars) before I let that pesky lack of talent get to me.

    By Blogger Wendy, at 9/03/2004 06:40:00 AM  

  • Michael played trombone. I remember the 6th grade concerts.(sigh) Of course, smart parents will wear earplugs and smile a lot. But it gets better. He got better....made UIL All-Region and even got a scholarship. Since I don't teach at ACU and couldn't get that wonderful benefit of slashed tuition costs, it was a nice perk.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 9/03/2004 06:44:00 AM  

  • When we had a beginning band student, a sixth grader and a creative saxaphonist, my understanding with the teacher was that he was not to bring the saxaphone home until he learned to play - and he didn't. Coping

    By Blogger Coping, at 9/03/2004 07:54:00 AM  

  • ahhhh, the trombone. Bless. It gets better, but not immediately. I think the best advice so far was ear plugs and lots of smiles. May the peace of Christ guard your heart during these troubled times.

    Oh, and speaking of trombones, do I ever have a funny video clip to send you. you need to watch this with Diane and imagine this being Chris.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 9/03/2004 07:54:00 AM  

  • This one's easy! Everybody keeps mentioning patience and learning to live with it, but there IS a reasonable solution I have learned from playing saxophone, banjo, and even drums: put a sock in it. (or towel, depending on size needs.) Any acoustic instrument is made to amplify sound, and simply placing a towel in the bell will dramatically reduce the volume while allowing the player to continue with practice. I first started doing this while learning the banjo, which was driving my family crazy.

    Good luck.

    By Blogger don, at 9/03/2004 07:54:00 AM  

  • Should he continue to play the trombone into high school, he'll need a little device called a "mute" (the name alone should have you excited). Mutes are used to supress the sound coming out of the bell (end of the horn) and give it a more metallic sound. Here's a picture of one in use:


    Sure...he may not need one right now...but I think that's beside the point...

    By Blogger Brian, at 9/03/2004 08:00:00 AM  

  • by the way---that video IS NOT ME. I keep getting email from people asking if that's me. IT'S NOT!! Though I did move like that while I sang for Norwegian Cruise Line, it's been a long time ago and a galaxy far far away. Enjoy!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 9/03/2004 08:02:00 AM  

  • We are going to start addressing Don as "Oh Grasshopper". He knoweth what he speaketh. I think his solution along with everybody else encouraging you to be patient provides you with the tools to meet this new challenge. Isn't it great to have wise friends?!?!
    Just be glad he isn't wanting to learn to play the Tuba.


    By Blogger David U, at 9/03/2004 08:04:00 AM  

  • My vote for "give thanks that he didn't choose..." is TRUMPET!!
    Do Trumpet players EVER learn to stay on pitch?? :(

    By Blogger Kathy, at 9/03/2004 08:49:00 AM  

  • Move.

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 9/03/2004 09:28:00 AM  

  • OK BST we all want to see the video!

    By Blogger SG, at 9/03/2004 09:44:00 AM  

  • Just remember that you have keys to a big ol' building that is mostly empty for several days a week. The accoustics are great in the men's restroom off the south foyer.

    By Blogger Val, at 9/03/2004 09:49:00 AM  

  • Our sons play drums and guitar,respectively,and have since '92. At first, it was almost more than I could bear and limited practice time to 45 minutes before supper(I turned the vent fan above the stove to High). Now the older son has just married and moved to another state and the other one is in college and I LONG to hear them jamming down in the basement we fixed up together! Those shrill,off-key notes can literally be "music to your ears"! And now, they play quite well and I dance to their CD! Annie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/03/2004 10:04:00 AM  

  • Relegated to the garage, for sure. Think carpet remnants nailed to the walls.

    By Blogger Clarissa, at 9/03/2004 10:06:00 AM  

  • Garages are generally regarded as acoustically ideal for wind instruments.

    By Blogger Greg, at 9/03/2004 11:33:00 AM  

  • Ah, Mike! Now, perhaps you can understand why the parents of high school and college musicians are so proud--they understand better than anyone the amount of improvement that has occurred!

    First, since it's the very beginning of his career, he shouldn't be practicing more than 30 min. a day because he will hurt himself if he does. Yes, facial muscles can be strained just like a hamstring. Buying a mute at Caldwell's is another idea, but it effects the sound in more ways than just volume. Since he's only beginning, he might learn some bad habits.

    I can see it now--Mike Cope, president of the Lincoln Band Booster Club!

    By Blogger RPorche, at 9/03/2004 12:02:00 PM  

  • Mike, you should email my dad about this issue...I'm sure he will commiserate with you since he had to put up with my flute playing for six years! :) My poor dog fled from the room when I practiced, and howled every time I brought out the piccolo in later years. However, I did eventually gain enough skill to prevent my family's eardrums from popping. You Neosho High boys just never realized the glories of band, apparently...so you get to make that exciting discovery now!

    Seriously, it does get better - much better - and before long you'll begin to actually enjoy the concerts, and become a more learned critic of music than you ever thought possible. Hang in there, and remember you can always crank up the Zoe or Hallal CDs if it gets too raucous! :)

    By Blogger Katie, at 9/03/2004 01:40:00 PM  

  • Take heart! Where would the Music Man be without the 76 trombones? And amen to the relax and enjoy it while they're still at home sentiment. You know how fast it flies, and soon you'll miss it.

    By Blogger don, at 9/03/2004 01:41:00 PM  

  • oh yeah, one other thing. a trombone has a spit valve, which means you want him practicing where he won't empty it on the carpet. the towel in the bell comes in handy for this, as well.

    By Blogger don, at 9/03/2004 01:48:00 PM  

  • Y'know, I wrote baritone and fully meant trombone. I think that's just a quirk I've got. Like when I say Hemingway, there's a 30% chance I really meant Whitman -- and when I say Chicago, I might really mean Michigan.


    erm, yeah. I'm blaming the fried brain on Dr. Fortner.

    By Blogger Q, at 9/03/2004 03:10:00 PM  

  • Completely off the subject, esp. b/c I don't know what you mean, I only played piano and the flute from ages 8 - 18. I was a savant (to my own ears anyway!) ~ is savant really the word I'm looking for? Anyway, back to my off the subject comment. My husband and I just made guacamole and salsa from some recipes found here ~ let me just say, "Holy crap, is that some good stuff (esp. w/ sour cream added on top)!!!" Thanx! :)

    By Blogger Mae, at 9/04/2004 01:38:00 PM  

  • I think my dad would recommend you letting him practice as much as possible, wherever he would like. In 7th grade I changed from trombone (think small enough to put in a case and get in almost any car) to tuba (think unless the band has an extra one you can bring home, you have to haul that thing back and forth to school and mine never fit well on the bus). Since no one played tuba, it didn't take much to be good at it, contrary to the hours of practice you need for trombone. Never was any good on trombone, but good enough on tuba to stick with it for 6 more years. Dad bought a Honda wagon which I think was a move motivated by my choice of band instruments. (Also played electric bass which required a large amp carted around town...)Just a thought.

    By Blogger Rob, at 9/06/2004 08:16:00 PM  

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