Last month a few million people collectively laughed at me playing the trombone terribly (opens in new tab) in music rhythm game Trombone Champ (opens in new tab). But what the heck do I know about playing the trombone? Surely expert trombonists could handle a virtual trombone better than a novice like me.
For instance, if you sat down the trombone section of The Philadelphia Orchestra, they’d probably be fantastic at the fast-paced trombone rhythm game even though it uses a mouse and keyboard instead of the actual instrument. Right?
You can find out in the video above, in which The Philadelphia Orchestra’s trombone section takes a stab at playing Trombone Champ on a laptop.
It… does not go well.
The players in question are Nitzan Haroz, principal trombone, Matt Vaughn, co-principal trombone, and Blair Bollinger, bass trombone. The three musicians have, as The Philadelphia Orchestra’s director of communications told me in an email, over 130 years of combined trombone experience between them.
That is a hell of a lot of trombone expertise on display, so I’m somewhat pleased to see they suck even harder than I do at Trombone Champ. I mean, they really eat it. To be fair, the game has nothing to do with skill at the instrument itself and is more about a steady mouse hand and quick-clicking reflexes. They’re also tackling a 5-star song, which is medium difficulty and a tricky piece to start with your very first time playing. But still, I can’t help but find myself a bit heartened by their terrible performance. I’m better at fake trombone than real trombonists!
At least they seem to (mostly) have enjoyed playing Trombone Champ, though there are a few looks of confusion when they’re getting started. “This toots?” Bollinger says while hesitantly tapping the spacebar. “Now I’m tooting.”
He adds: “Yeah, we can’t play sixteenth notes on a real trombone, either,” during the more frantic moments of the song.
“Mozart is rolling in his grave,” says Haroz while struggling through Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, though to be fair he may have never attempted a trap mix of the 1787 composition on his actual trombone.
“I’m humiliated,” says Vaughn as the three musicians laugh about their virtual performance after trying the game. “It just goes to show you that practicing the trombone is a waste of time.”
“I’m gonna tell your students you said that!” says Bollinger.
“Nasty! Nasty!” yells Haroz, mimicking the game’s most famous bit of feedback.
Fun stuff. And since it doesn’t feel right to see these three masters humbled by a damn videogame, please take a few minutes to enjoy them (along with a fourth, Eric Carlson) performing Beethoven’s Three Equali on trombone in the video below. It’s an outstandingly beautiful performance. Or, as Trombone Champ would say: Perfecto.