Improve Your Trombone Technique

The best guide to perfecting trombone technique​

Would you like to play the trombone better? Technique is the building blocks for any instrumentalist, and so that you can improve performance and defend yourself from injury, a solid technique isn’t optional; it’s an absolute must.  As an element of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Trombone’ range, this information will provide the beginning, primary advice you’ll need to begin improving quickly.

Improve your Trombone technique

Daily Exercises

Many exercises are essential to gain a proper technique. Once you master these exercises, you’ll be able to play almost anything. That sounds like a grand statement – but don’t underestimate the word ‘master’!

If you work enough, you’ll be able to look at a section of music and be confident enough to learn it quickly. For each exercise, there is a specific way to practice it. Your practice is only as good as your form while you practice. So be disciplined about it, as practising exercises wrong is a complete waste of time!  

These are very short exercises which you can use every day to develop the basic building blocks of trombone technique. Methode Complete Volume 3 by Andre Lafosse includes a fantastic set of daily exercises. But don’t worry about having to buy them, you can make up your own. What you are looking for are short exercises, perhaps just a line of music, which then focuses on the following areas: 

legato, staccato articulation, air attack, alternate positions, and basic slurs. 

Spend a few minutes practising each line, each day and your technique will improve very quickly. Better still, if you have a teacher ask them to write something for you.

Piano Exercise

1. Scales

It is very important that you know the ‘key’ – the tonal centre of the piece – you are playing in. They are shown at the start of the piece by a number of flats or sharps. Scales are by far the best way to learn these. And make sure you practise scales in ALL keys; playing these patterns helps to develop your slide technique and most importantly your musical memory.

Have you ever seen someone sight-read a challenging piece and wondered ‘how did they do that?’ The answer is patterns. When reading music, we end up reading a series of patterns, not each individual note. It’s exactly the same reading this paragraph. Did you release I swapped the G and A around in the middle of the word ‘paragraph’? 

The other thing to remember when practising scales is to make sure you practise different articulations – sometimes play them legato, other times detached. Try not to change within a scale, as you want to start to develop consistency and uniformity, meaning that your legato is all as smooth as possible and you detached playing all sounds nice and even,

Improve your trombone technique

2. Arpeggios

The Star Spangled Banner Arpeggio

These are very common patterns used by composers, so practising them will give you a head start when reading and playing new music. Depending on what key you are in, they will sometimes involve large shifts between slide positions. As with the scales practise them both legato and detached, and make sure you are using nice, clean, positive slide movements.

Take these a step further by practising broken arpeggios. Let’s say we are in F major, play a simple arpeggio (F-A-C-F) and then jump down to the A, play the same pattern with an added A-natural on the end (A-C-F-A), and keep repeating (C-F-A-C) etc. 

If you are short on practice time, jump straight into some broken arpeggios. They are a terrific practice tool and you can use them to develop your entire range.

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Improve Your Trombone Technique - Summary

If you really want to improve your technique, the method books mentioned in the Trombone Learning Methods section are a must. They mostly come with very well written explanations of the exercises, why you should practise them, what you are aiming for and how to go about getting the best results. 

Most things in life work well when you take the time to plan them.  Playing the trombone, and improving your technique, is no different.  Challenge yourself on a daily basis – and remember that building a strong technique is the foundation of your playing.  The time taken here will make your life easier down the road and who knows, along the way you can become a master trombone player…

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