iBone App: A great way to learn trombone slide positions

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iBone App – The Pocket Trombone

The popular Apple campaign “there’s an app for that” really rang true when I found the iBone app! Who would’ve imagined that someone had a will and a way to create an app – for iPhone & iPad – that accurately represents the sound and slide positions of an actual trombone! Having played a real trombone myself for 35 years, I was naturally both intrigued and skeptical of the iBone app, especially for the low price of $2.99. Nevertheless, I purchased it in 2012 and was instantly impressed with both the fun aspect as well as the great learning opportunities, which is why I am writing about this app now for a Trombone Tuesday blog.

photo 5iBone is obviously a fun little app for anyone to play with and have a chuckle. The virtual slide works great and the trombone sound, albeit a bit static, is a decent tone. We’ve all certainly heard worse trombone sounds – both as MIDI horns on keyboards and actual recordings, and even from live players! With iBone, anyone can simply touch the iPad screen, move the slide with your finger and hear the sound go up and down. It’s fun! Plus moving your finger vertically also makes the sound go higher. However, for trombonists, a notation grid can be illuminated and the app instantly turns into a useful slide position chart containing all the correct note names and partials! This can be especially helpful for young trombone players and should be used as a serious resource for simply learning where the notes are on trombone and their respective positions (and alternate positions!). I’m continually surprised by how many young players (even thru high school) are still unfamiliar where each note is played on the trombone. This is a fundamental requirement which should be committed to memory (and encouraged by a teacher) considering all of the other challenging aspects required for performing music such as reading sheet music – notes on a staff, counting rhythms, executing various articulations, and hopefully acknowledging the dynamics! There’s no time to be thinking “what position is F#?” when performing a concert. Nevertheless, I do realize the trombone is new to all of us at some point in time, and the iBone App can help…students, music education majors, and band directors.

You can clearly see the note names in the correct position superimposed over the image of a real trombone. You can then hear the correct note and pitch being played when you touch the screen with your finger. A cool feature is that the slide really does gliss between the notes, and doesn’t “lock in” to each pitch like a piano or saxophone. Although it should be mentioned that certain partials such as “long 4th” for D and “sharp 2nd” for high G require slight slide adjustments for proper intonation and they are not indicated as such on the grid. But let’s remember, this is a $2.99 app and many young trombonists don’t even know where high G is, nor can they play it. This is undeniably a great affordable tool for getting familiar with the standard range of notes on the trombone – low E up to high D.

Furthermore, there are some built-in Mp3s that allow you to play the iBone with a backing track!photo 4
Pop up indicators guide your way – in time – thru the correct note and positions of a popular melody.photo
I highly recommend this app because it is a live interactive slide position chart my generation never had. And the seasoned player can test his ability by completely turning off the grid, or engaging the “Reality” option which activates your device’s camera for a live view behind the trombone image. A very cool way to get better acquainted with the trombone while having fun for a very affordable price. Have fun!

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