Trombone Champion is the Perfect Game

Trombone Champion is the Perfect Game
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It’s late in the evening, and I’m watching Beezerly, a jovial-looking cartoon on my computer, living out many people’s worst nightmares, confidently serenading the crowd on a tap instrument he can’t play.

Once the tempo of the song picks up, Beezerly excels. The bass moves to the relentless drums in perfect time, inviting our young hero to belt out the complex melody of “Hava Nağila” at lightning speed. What emerges from Beezerly’s golden instrument is an atonal buffet of flatulence-adjacent moaning. At one point, a cartoon musician triumphantly holds a note too long and nearly faints. Visibly pained, he gasps for air, leaving an awkward gap in the classic tune.

I can’t feel bad for Bizerly because I’m Bizerly (or at least I play as him). His pain is my pain—literally, trying to play 20,000 musical notes in less than three minutes left my mouse-clicking hand and arm in excruciating pain. But, like Beezerly, I avoid the immediate pain and embarrassment of receiving a (frankly overgenerous) C grade for my performance. If true artistry is built in the fires of near-constant, ego-crushing failure, Bizerly and I are on the same path of personal growth. Plus, it’s a phenomenal way to kill 15 minutes while laughing at belly farting sounds.

When gameplay videos from Trombone Champ (like Guitar Hero, replace the guitars with trombones) went viral last Wednesday, I experienced the game as I assumed its creators intended: I unwittingly clicked on the video at 8 a.m. with my computer’s speaker nearby. Eardrums nearly burst at the sound of a fake digital man wailing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a scowling Beethoven looked on in the background. My dogs also startled and howled wildly at this musical insult. I started laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes. Within 11 seconds, Trombone Champ had my entire house in shambles. 10/10 You don’t notice. Perfect game.

In just a week, Trombone Champ went the usual route of something really delicious going viral. You get news articles with headlines like “The Internet’s New Favorite Video Game,” and reporters follow the game’s creators, who find large audiences overnight and respond with enthusiasm and confusion to the creation. People start posting their funny videos and scores on Twitch and YouTube, and you end up with a mess of random people and influencers playing the game and reacting.

But, man, I love watching clips of the first guys trying to play Trombone Champion. Of course, no one is prepared for how difficult the game is and how slippery the controls are. But that’s a feature and not a bug, because the inability to produce a consistent melody gives way to all the sharp and flat strums, blurts and tots. Since the player is human and is easily pleased by an unexpected fart-like sound, they usually start laughing. The effect becomes part of jam’s rich history of people surprising audiences with deliberately awful music. Mozart’s composition “Musical Joke” gold this video which changed symphonic instruments and performed “Asso Sprach Zarathustra (2001: A Space Odyssey)”.

Another level of Trombone Champ’s subtle comedic genius is that the game relies on the avatar you play as having at least some understanding of their instrument. But when the curtain opens, the poor soul immediately finds herself in the wrong scene. Dan Vecchitto, the creator of the game, admitted this The The Washington Post, claims that the game feeds off of “the buzz mixed with uncertainty” and “steps up to the plate with overconfidence.” It’s a simulator to get in over your head, but to go ahead and pretend everything is normal, which is a pretty accurate way to describe being alive in 2022.

This weekend I was reading some YouTube comments about the Trombone Champ video. For YouTube comments, they were unusually joyful. One caught my attention from a person who identified himself as a high school band director. “I’ve never seen a better picture of what an 11-year-old goes through when he’s given a trombone than this video,” they wrote. With minimal effort I was able to find out that this person’s name is Curtis Wetzel (no relation, lol) and that he is the band director at East Troy Middle School in East Troy, Wisconsin (his email signature also lists him as “Freelance Arranger and Sousaphonist on Call”). I reached out to him and asked him what exactly the game reflected about entering the musical environment.

“I work with students who are just starting to learn about music and how instruments work,” Wetzel told me via email. “This game captures the weirdness of using something outside of your body to create what you hear in your head… It’s like how your voice sounds different when you hear it on a recording. An instrument adds more speed bumps and complications.

Wetzel also said YouTube videos of people starting to play the Trombone Champ remind him of how his students experience a new instrument. “It’s a lot How does this thing even work, why does this work, why can’t I do this simple thing? A little laughter was mixed in as well,” he said. “If you don’t know, sound is created by slapping your lips on an instrument. Usually, students will think of it as a farting sound and it will sound like that for the first few months. Needless to say – I’m hooked on the big metal fart master (I play the tuba).

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