Welcome to our top 10 tips for trombone players. Learning how to play trombone is a fun, rewarding and exciting journey – but it’s not easy. There is an awful lot to think about whilst playing an instrument, so enjoy the tips below, and remember to revisit this page regular and often.
We often get so involved in improving and working that we can easily forget what a wonderful thing music (and playing a musical instrument) is. Find the everyday joy in your practice sessions. Take the time to listen to music you love purely for the fun of it. Join as many bands and orchestras as you can and surround yourselves with friends who love the same things you do!
Breathing and blowing is the golden rule
If the trombone is a vehicle for making music, then air is the petrol that powers it. The trombone runs off of air. We have to make sure we are always breathing deeply and blowing freely to make the best sound possible.
Being relaxed is so important in trombone playing. Tension does nothing to help what is already a challenging task. When we are stressed, tension naturally creeps into our bodies and constricts everything we are trying to physically accomplish. Take the time to shake out your arms, shoulders, neck, even your fingers. Pick up the trombone in the most natural and relaxed way possible. And breath deeply without bringing tension into your neck and shoulders.
Always have a goal and a plan for reaching it
Having a plan is vital to progression in any field of study. It is impossible to reach goals if you have not taken the time to set any for yourself. Take time to decide what kind of player you want to be. What do you do very well? What do you need to dedicate more time to? It is also very important that you don’t make the mistake of thinking about your goals as something you are bad at. Instead, think of your goals as exciting skills that you will receive with diligent work, practice, and patience. Think about all the small steps it will take to reach those goals and find some exercises and pieces that will help you to start taking those steps in your daily practice schedule.
Play (and listen) to as much music as possible
Fill up your music library with new music constantly. Join every ensemble you can. Find like-minded friends and play with them! And once the instrument has left your face, listen to recordings, go to live concerts, look up who top players are from around the world and have a listen to their style of playing. Being a musician should be fully immersive, It doesn’t stop once the case is closed. You should fill every aspect of your life with music and draw inspiration from what you find.
All trombone players need to remember how important slide technique is. Remember to practice it as something separate from your embouchure exercises, and general playing. Your muscle memory for slide positions will strengthen over time, and like any good muscle, the more you exercise it, the strong it will be.
And if you need help with mutes and what to use, take a look at this great little video here…
Your embouchure forms the basis of your playing. If you develop a bad embouchure, you’ll find playing more difficult, your technique will suffer, and you’ll not enjoy playing the trombone as much as you should! Your mouthpiece is your friend, so make sure you have a decent one that will last, and help you produce a nice tone. A cheap mouthpiece will make your life more difficult, which we absolutely do not want!
There are so many elements to playing the trombone. Don’t forget to practice them all individually to improve your playing all round. Work on your slide technique as mentioned above, keep practicing long notes, work on your tongue position, do your exercise regularly, practice your breathing technique, look after your lips like all brass players have to do, work on your legato playing separately, and above all, remember to revisit these tips often!
And if you need help reading the bass clef, check out this handy video we created…
Master the art of performance
We don’t all learn a musical instrument to perform in public. However, by definition, you’ll be performing to someone (even if it’s your teacher) at some point. So hold onto your nerves, focus on your playing and not ‘performing’.
Look after your lip
I know it sounds obvious, but you need to look after your lip. No lip, no playing. And yes, it sounds simple to do, but in practice, it’s not always easy. Remember to warm up well, control your breathing, keep buzzing, remember your tongue position, and look after your mouthpiece.