One of the dealers at the MMEA Mid-Winter Conference was selling pBones, plastic trombones that went on sale in the United States in October, 2011. Although my primary instrument (other than tenor voice) is tuba, I took the opportunity to play one and fell in love with it. These horns cost $149, and although they are not a “concert level” horn, they are perfect for the beginner, the novice, the traveler, or just the interested.
I have a twelve-year-old stepson who started the F Horn this past summer, and quickly dropped it for trombone. Being a stepdad, I try to stay out of discipline issues as much as possible when it comes to my stepson, unless I am directly backing up his mother. To this point, we’ve seen my stepson practice trombone once since we brought home the rental unit from the local dealer. His mother doesn’t enforce practicing, so I don’t get in the middle of it (even though I’m a music teacher and brass player). He has already indicated that once he hits 8th grade, he’s quitting band (music in 6th or 7th grade is required, and students have to choose between band and choir; and he would rather be shaved bald than sing in choir, and not just because I’m a high school choir director).
My stepson’s school colors are red and white, and this pBone made me think: what if using the pBone will cause my stepson to practice? So I bought one and brought it home.
On Saturday, he took me aside and asked me to help him play his new pBone trombone. For the record, this hasn’t happened before. I was able to ascertain three things: he knows the positions for each note, but he doesn’t know how to read music, nor does he know how much lip tension is required to play a B-flat (high or low) instead of an F. But we worked through his most recent assignments, and focused on the hard part of one of the songs his band is playing (“Eye of the Tiger”). Perhaps $150 ($160 after taxes) is too much for one “good” lesson with my stepson, but my wife and I think it is going to lead to other such sessions. I’ve already told my stepson that if he quits band, the pBone is mine.
I’ll be interested to see what his band teacher says about the horn–I don’t know if she has seen these horns, if she will allow him to play this horn in band (if she does, we’re taking the rental instrument back and we’ll perhaps buy a second one (one for school, one for home)…at $29 a month for renting a trombone, we’ll save money).
I’ve been a little surprised at how good the pBone is, and a search for reviews on the pBone resulted in many other positive reviews (In a quick search, I couldn’t find a negative review). The main complaint I’ve seen is that the included mouthpiece should be replaced for a “real” mouthpiece or a better “Kelly” Lexan mouthpiece. We can always buy another mouthpiece.
Do you have a budding trombonist, or a situation where pBones might be a good fit (Pep Band, Marching Band)? Check these out!