Trombone Playing Tips

By Weston Sprott

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General Practice


Be OK with concepts that don’t seem familiar if they will make you better

Bordogni as is, down octave, tenor clef, up an octave, tenor down 2 octaves

Make sure to visit both technical and musical side of trombone playing

Never play tentatively

Always be secure on the first note before moving on



Flexibility, not muscularity

Think letter M

Anchor the mouthpiece

Feel teeth behind the lips

Have proper air/chop ratio

Cushion your transitions

Bordogni/Kopprasch Routine


Low and Slow!

Relax your corners

Don’t use “car horn” sound

Dial it in like the UHF/VHF TV


Aim and fire

Focused air from start

Make sure tongue is far enough back in fast articulations

Hear the pitch before you play it

Blow through the note, not at the front of the note

Loud = Less Tongue

Soft = Little More Tongue


More air, less tongue

Tongued air start

N-o tongue

Bring tongue further back for light articulation, forward for more pronounced

A little back pressure at the start

High Register

Play Lead!

Whistle the notes

Never use forceful air- think air DIRECTION

Play to the top end of the slide

Less Pressure on top lip, press mouthpiece to bottom

Blow through the note, not at the front of the note

Arched tongue

Relaxed and low corners

High diaphragm/beginning of air stream

Small/focused airstream

More narrow embouchure (french horn mp)

Don’t press on every note

Stand up for support

The higher you play, the sweeter you play

Less effort, be aware of your strength and don’t muscle too much

Gliss through high range passages

Dynamically relax the high notes

Don’t blow too fast

Ascension is a pyramid of effort

Bring corners forward in soft playing

Low Register

Slower/more air

Drop jaw

Maintain vibration

Blow to bottom of slide

Tilt horn up

Keep an embouchure

Soft Playing

Focused air stream

Kleinhammer exercise

Vibrato helpful in sustaining tone


Pump up the volume to stop airballs



Tap into the rhythm immediately

Attack and respond/Hear back beats


Blow to bottom end of pitch

Low and Slow

Move slide fully on half steps

Make sure repeated pitches line up

Don’t blow out of the center during crescendos

Never turn back to audience while tuning

Try to tune off stage if possible (if you must, just one note and then get on with it)


Run past the finish line

Play horizontally

Take chances


Twenty-One Day Breathing Routine


Take full, replenishing breaths to aid endurance and confidence

Don’t let nerves make your air move too fast

Slow/Warm air stream

Don’t blow too fast

Don’t open mouth too wide for breath

Lock in the mouthpiece before breathing

Feel teeth behind the lips

Don’t overfill the funnel

Sigh breath... like you just found $5000 that you lost

Stretch lips to the side

Floor exercise (lay on the floor, expand stomach first then chest, one hand on the belt, onehand on the embouchure)

Taper before breaths


Be prepared one month in advance

Put yourself in the piece before it starts (especially with excerpts)

Score study is key

Color the high notes, resolve them before breathing if possible

Practice working pieces from the end back to the beginning

Make use of alternate positions

Don’t be afraid to write in positions

Earmark certain notes in fast passages

Think about the big beats

Don’t be afraid to ask band/orchestra/pianist for EXACTLY what you want

Take risks and stay true to the music

Lower your stand so you can see the audience and they can see you

Find places to relax dynamics, find “chill out” time

Sing all phrases

Practice phrasing and breath choices

Do flairs and glissandi with subtlety

Fragment difficult passages (play separate and then connect adding one note from previous passage first, do correctly 10X in a row)

Bring out the sports car for difficult passages


Two tenor trombones in upper register don’t need to push, especially in unison

Practice beginning with eyes closed listening to the first trombone

Tune each player to the lowest voice (tuba) first

1st player must lead visually

Tip for playing with piano

Slide Technique

Two fingers and a thumb on the slide

Slide often needs to be lower than you think!

Respect “no man’s land”

Don’t telegraph slide positions


Stand in centered position

Have concave feeling in your back

Lange breathing exercise