Tips for Trombonist

The most important aspect of trombone playing…

  • Breathing. Get the Breathing Gym series of videos &. books and practice deep, full breathing.
  • Take-in more air than you think you need.
  • Imagine filling the lower back and abdominal area, not the chest.
  • Keep chest & shoulders loose.
  • Air pressure should come from the abdominal muscles, pushing air up through the mouth.
  • Develop breath control by practicing at piano (soft) volume. Whisper your scales & arpeggios in legato, tento, & staccato.
  • Longtones from Low (pedal) Bb up to high register. M.M. = 60 two measure whole notes. Deep breath between tones.
  • On Staccato Playing…
  • Use the syllable “top”.
  • Do not press the mouthpiece too firmly against the embouchure, this will destroy the tone.
  • Take very deep breaths and maintain a reserve of air.
  • Articulate from the abdomen. Proper articulation feels like sit-ups.
  • Practice daily: middle F down to B, then low Bb down to E, finally high Bb down to E (1st through 7th positions on each partial). Play whole, half, quarter, eighth, & sixteenth notes on each tone using “top” syllable (M.M. = 60).
  • Practice sixteenth notes (M.M. = 60) first soft P, then loud F, finally talking volume MP.

Slide technique…

Glissando from Low Bb in first position, down to low E in 7th position. Next,  glissando separating each of the seven notes, descending & ascending with the legato “doe” tongue. Next use a slightly more articulated tenuto (portamento) “doe”. Lastly, use the staccato “top” articulation. Repeat this in the middle & high registers. Keep the slide in gliding motion.

On your mouthpiece…

  • Make sure your are using a mouthpiece that compliment the repertoire you are playing.
  • Make sure the mouthpiece feels comfortable to your lips. This is personal & depends on the fullness of one’s lips. My “go to” mouthpiece is the Bach 5G.
  • For high register playing (including jazz work) try a 6 1/2 AL or 5GS mouthpiece.
  • For orchestral middle & upper register, as well as low, try the 5GS, 5G or 5GB model.
  • For low & middle register playing with a lot of darkness & full tone, try the 4G.
  • On articulation…
  • Be sure to practice your scales & arpeggios in two octaves using legato, tenuto, & staccato articulations.
  • Practice at P, MF, & F volumes.
  • Practice breath articulation (let the air pass over the lips until sound is produced).
  • Try “Da” or “doe” for legato, a harder “da” or even “ta” for tenuto (portamento), and “top” for staccato. Experiment with different syllables that produce the sound you are looking for.

On tone quality…

  • Deep breaths!
  • Long tones every day to warm-up.
  • Swell from P to F to P on long tones.
  • Don’t press too hard against the embouchure.

On the body…

  • Keep it relaxed.
  • The body should hang-loose and never be rigid.
  • Practice meditation, Alexander Technique, & get frequent massages!

For freedom in playing…

  • Memorize all major & minor scales.
  • Play all major scales starting on each degree of the scale (modes).
  • Memorize all major, dominant, minor, half & fully diminished seventh chord arpeggios.
  • Play spontaneous, free-improvisation, with the eyes closed, every day.

Developing the high register…

  • Be patient. Years of consistent practice yield results; slow cook your practice!
  • Two octave scales & arpeggios played from Low E (7th position) up to Eb (3rd position). Progressing through each major scale, rising gone half step in the register will build the upper register.
  • Glissando from 7th position up to first, holding the high tone for eight beats (M.M.=60). Progress to higher partials.
  • Five note exercises (C D E F G F E D C) played in upper register using legato, tenuto (portamento), & staccato articulations.
  • Breathe! The upper register depends on strong air pressure, not pressure on the embouchure.

On choosing the right teacher…

You should leave your lessons feeling inspired to explore, to practice, and to live your musical life to its fullest! You will know your teacher by the way you feel when you are with them. I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher when I was young. I left every lesson feeling more sensitive, more thoughtful, and more capable of living my best life. You can read about him here.