how to play the Trombone

What the heck is the next element of figuring out how to play the Trombone?

Now that you have purchased your trombone – what’s next? Figuring out how to play the trombone might be a good start… This portion of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning the Trombone’ will start you off in the proper route.

How To Play The Trombone

Making a Sound

To make a sound on any brass instrument requires a vibration between the lips. This is called the buzz. In order to produce this buzz, you must first form your lips (or embouchure) into the correct position: 

Position a pencil so it is supported between your lips and resting on your upper teeth; remove the pencil but hold that position; keep the teeth exactly where they are, blow air through the gap left by the pencil and close the lips just enough to produce a buzz. This is your basic embouchure.

Forming your embouchure will become second nature. But always remember these three rules:

Keep the corners fixed

Keep the chin flat

DO NOT SMILE

To make a sound on the instrument you need two things: a vibration (from your buzz) and air. 

Take a breath and perform your buzz into the instrument. You will be rewarded with a lovely, rich sound coming out of the other end of the instrument. It is now time to learn the positions.

How to play the trombone
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Slide Positions

There are only seven positions on the trombone: the first position is fully closed and seventh position fully extended. The five positions in-between are roughly 3 inches apart – in actual fact the positions gradually increase in distance as you move down the slide. Most beginners use the bell, halfway down the slide as a visual guide – right-hand level with the bell is roughly third position (but try not to actually touch the bell with your fingers) – you learn to move between positions through developing muscle memory

In order to achieve more than these seven notes, you need to first understand that brass instruments are built around the harmonic series. Within each position, there is a range of possible notes which are achieved through the tightening or relaxing of your embouchure (or buzz). With time this not only gives you a huge range, but it also allows you to play the same note in a number of different positions – we call these alternate positions.

You can use this website for your reference.

Here are your first tasks…

Slow chromatic scales

These are the best way to practise your slide technique and check that you are in exactly the right position for each and every note. 

Basic flexibilities

Moving from one note to another in the same position is one of the hardest things you can do on the trombone. Practice makes permanent. 

Hymn tunes

Once you have a few notes ‘under the slide’ as we say, you can quickly put them together to form a tune. Simple melodies, or hymn tunes, are great to practise; be as musical and expressive as possible. 

How To Play the Trombone - Summary

By now, you should be able to:

  • Produce a proper sound 
  • Know about slide positions 

Now it’s time to improve your technique…

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