• Stature is adequate to handle the size of the instrument.
  • Arms are long enough to reach slide positions.
  • Lips are medium to thick. Thin lips tend to be better suited for the French Horn or Trumpet.
  • Student is able to sing a common folk song.
  • Sense of pitch is exceptional.

Professionals

  • Ronald Borror
  • Urbie Green
  • Christian Lindberg
  • Glenn Miller
  • Ralph Sauer
  • Henry Charles Smith
  • Bill Watrous
  • Kai Winding

If you can hear it clanking around as you put it together and pack it up, then you need to be more careful.

To avoid damage, take your time and be aware of your surroundings as your assemble and put away your instrument.

Assembling the Trombone

  1. Lock the slide by turning the slide lock ring to the right.
  2. Hold the bell in your left hand, the slide in your right hand, and carefully put the slide into the bell section at a 90° angle. Tighten the ribbed ring to hold the two sections together.
  3. Gently twist the mouthpiece into the mouthpiece receiver.

Using Slide Oil

Trombone slides need lubrication occasionally. To oil your slide:

  1. Carefully remove the outer slide from the inner slide. Set down the outer slide on a flat surface.
  2. Spray water on the inner slide and wipe off with a soft cloth. Be sure to thoroughly cleanse the bottom 6 inches of the slide on each side.
  3. Let the inner slide carefully hang from your hand and apply 5-7 drops of slide oil to each side. Allow the oil to run from the top to the bottom.
  4. Carefully align and attach the outer slide to the inner slide. The longer end of the inner slide should line up with the water key of the outer slide.

Packing Up Carefully

Before putting your instrument back in its case after playing, do the following:

  1. Press the water key and blow air through the mouthpiece to empty water from the instrument.
  2. Remove the mouthpiece and return it to the case.
  3. Make sure the slide is locked and unscrew the slide assembly. Do not take the outer slide off of the inner slide. Wipe off the instrument with a clean, soft cloth. Return the instrument to its case.
  4. Once a week, wash the mouthpiece with warm tap water. Dry thoroughly.
  5. You should have no other materials in your case, except for those it was designed to hold. Do not use force when closing your case or you could damage the instrument.
You should know... The most common problems occur in equipment, tone quality, and pitch.

Equipment

  • Improper assembly may damage your instrument
  • Damaged equipment will cause problems

Tone Quality

To get the best sound or tone quality you should:

  • Hold your instrument with good posture
  • Play with good breath support, focused airstream, and strong embouchure formation

Pitch

To control pitch you should:

  • Develop good listening skills
  • Practice different notes (positions and combinations)

Before you learn new songs, you need to learn the notes. Every trombone player should understand how to read the slide position chart below. Practice holding the trombone and moving your slide to all the different positions for the notes. You will be able to switch faster as your coordination and dexterity improves.

Articulation

Articulation is the process of attacking and releasing a sequence of notes. Ending the sound is just as important as beginning the pitch. Use the "tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."

Dexterity

Dexterity is a mental skill or quickness, as well as the readiness and grace in physical activity. In relation to playing an instrument, dexterity is the skill and ease of using your hands and fingers.

Use two fingers and a thumb to grip the slide of the trombone. You will have problems moving quickly if you grip the slide with a fist. Remember that evenness is better than speed. Playing fast, furious, and fumbling is simply not impressive.

Tone Quality is the single most important aspect of your performance. Good tone is achieved by holding the trombone correctly with good posture and poise, using the proper embouchure formation, and breathing with a purpose.

Trombone Embouchure

"Buzzing" through the mouthpiece produces your tone. The buzz is a fast vibration in the center of your lips. Your embouchure (ahm'-bah-shure) is your mouth's position on the mouthpiece of the instrument. A good embouchure takes time and effort, so carefully follow these steps for success:

  1. Moisten your lips.
  2. Bring your lips together as if saying the letter "m."
  3. Relax your jaw to separate your upper and lower teeth.
  4. Form a slightly puckered smile to firm the corners of your mouth.
  5. Think of the letter "p" and direct a full airstream through the center of your lips, creating a buzz. Buzz frequently with and without your mouthpiece.

Start with the Mouthpiece Only

  1. Form your "buzzing" embouchure.
  2. Place the mouthpiece approximately 2/3 on the upper lip and 1/3 on the lower lip. (Your teacher may suggest a slightly different mouthpiece placement.)
  3. Take a full breath through the corners of your mouth.
  4. Start your buzz with the syllable "toe." Buzz through the center of your lips keeping a steady, even buzz. Your lips provide a cushion for the mouthpiece.

Holding the Trombone

Always sit up straight and bring the instrument to your mouth. The instrument should be nearly parallel to the floor in playing position.

  1. Place your left thumb around the bell brace, and your index finger on top of the mouthpiece receiver.
  2. Wrap your other fingers around the first slide brace.
  3. Place your right thumb and first two fingers on the second slide brace.
  4. Support the weight of the trombone with your left hand only.
  5. Unlock the slide.
  6. Your right hand and wrist should be relaxed to move the slide comfortably.

Posture & Poise

Sit on the edge of your chair, and always keep your:

  1. Spine straight and tall
  2. Shoulders back and relaxed
  3. Feet flat on the floor
  4. Music stand height-adjusted to read the music and watch the conductor

Mouthpiece Workout

Using only the mouthpiece, form your embouchure carefully. Take a deep breath without raising your shoulders. Begin buzzing your lips by whispering "toe" and gradually exhale your full airstream. Strive for an even tone.

Tuning is the process of matching pitch, which requires two sources: your instrument and another instrumentalist or electronic tuner. Experienced players tune to a "remembered" pitch.

How to Tune

  1. Warm up thoroughly before tuning.
  2. Tune to a reliable frequency using "F" or "B-flat".
  3. Play "Concert F-G-A-Bb." When approached as the top note of a tetrachord, "Concert B-flat" is a great tuning note for all brass.
  4. Play the tuning note straight and make adjustments from the main tuning slide.
  5. "Pull out" to lower the pitch.
  6. "Push in" to raise the pitch.

How to Control Pitch

Many quality instruments have a spring in the slide receiver that allows first position to be tuned normally. Otherwise, first position should be tuned slightly sharp intentionally. This allows for high "D," which tends to be slightly flat, to be played in tune when the slide is all the way in. The spring bounces the slide out for other notes in first position, such as "F," to compensate the pitch. Without the spring, an experienced trombone player understands how to alter the slide positions for certain notes.

The causes of poor intonation may be inadequate breath support, a poorly formed embouchure, or poor listening habits. However, every instrument has inherent intonation flaws. They are listed below for the trombone.

Inherent Intonation Flaws

Unlike the woodwind instruments, which have pitch tendencies for different "registers," the brass instruments have different pitch tendencies for each "harmonic level."

  • In general, the 7th harmonic is never played because it is extrememly flat (too low)
  • Specific notes vary in the other harmonics (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th).

Intonation is the process of moving from one pitch to another pitch at a specific interval (vertically). Intonation is controlled by one person because it relies on a trained ear and acquired listening skills while playing.

Specific Pitch Tendencies

Memorize this information

Problem

Sharp tendencies (too high):

  • Pitch centering on the trombone is fully reliant on the keen ear of the performer, as it works on a slide system rather than a system of valves.
  • Each pitch is entirely alterable.
  • Pitch centering for many notes on brass instruments call for the performer to make subtle adjustments in breath support, air stream, and embouchure firmness.
  • The notes listed below that are generally sharp need greater attention.
  • Additionally, there are certain notes on the trombone that naturally tend to be in need of alteration.

Solution

Pitch may be lowered through a variety of techniques including:

  • Adjusting the tuning slide (pull out)
  • Adjust slide position downward (away from you)
  • Directing the airstream downward
  • Change in air speed
  • Slight relaxation of the embouchure
  • Alternate slide position

Heads up! The trombone has the greatest potential for good intonation because of its design. The trombone slide can be moved to the exact pitch while playing each tone centered, focused, and in tune. Other brass players adjust pitch by changing their embouchure, but this is unnecessary and incorrect for the trombonist. Playing the trombone in tune depends on listening and tuning properly with the main tuning slide.

Problem

Flat tendencies (too low):

  • While flat tendencies for brass instruments are not as prevalent as sharp, some notes may border on flat.
  • Generally this calls for the player to make natural adjustments in performance.
  • Additionally, there are certain notes on the trombone that naturally tend to be in need of alteration.

Solution

Pitch may be raised through a variety of techniques including:

  • Adjusting the tuning slide (push in)
  • Adjust slide position upward (toward you)
  • Directing the airstream upward
  • Change in air speed and better air support
  • Slight increase in embouchure firmness
  • Alternate slide position
Good technique depends on good playing position. You may not realize bad position until playing a passage that requires great technical facility. Good technique also requires a knowledge and understanding of intonation and the natural flaws or tendencies of your instrument.

Get more familiar with your instrument and learn who invented it, who composes music for it, and who has mastered the art of playing it.

I. Origin

Trombones were known to exist in the 15th century. Unlike other instruments, the shape of today's trombone remains close to the original. In the 16th century, trombones were a common town and court band instrument.

II. Inventor

There are several kinds of trombones, and the tenor trombone is the most common. Valve trombones were developed in the 1800s and the bass trombone was invented in 1839. An extension allows the bass trombone to play lower notes.

III. Family

As a member of the brass family, the trombone's slide gives the instrument unique playing features. An extremely important member of the concert band as well as a popular jazz instrument, trombones play solos, melodies, and harmonies.

IV. Composers & Performers

G. Gabrieli, Beethoven, Mahler, and Stravinsky are important composers who have included trombones in their writing. Some famous trombone performers are Glenn Miller, Urbie Green, Bill Watrous, and Kai Winding.

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