The trombone is one of the deepest and most powerful symphonic instruments. Whether in the form of a symphony orchestra, marching band, brass ensemble, concert band, or jazz band, the trombone will always be heard and enjoyed. It is not an easy instrument to play, but with a little practice and passion, you will be on your way to being a formidable musician.
Part 1 of 4: Assembling the Trombone
Step 1. Attach the mouthpiece to your receiver
The mouthpiece receiver will be attached to the top of the main wand, the tip of the metal "U" shaped piece that is parallel to the bell portion of the trombone. Place the mouthpiece on the receiver and rotate while applying light pressure. Do not force or press the nozzle or it will clog.
Never try to insert the mouthpiece into the receiver with the palm of your hand, this will cause it to jam
Step 2. Connect the two ends of the bell section to the two ends of the tuning slide
The tuning slide is the smallest "U" shaped part of the trombone, which has a vertical bar inside. Align the two tips of the pump with the two exposed tips of the trombone section that contains the bell. Now, press to assemble them.
Don't push too hard, moderate pressure is all that is needed to connect the tuning slide to the bell section
Step 3. Attach the hood section to the main pole
Hold the hood section on the left with the hood near you. Hold the main wand (the piece with the mouthpiece attached) with your right hand with the longer side facing you and the shorter side facing the other side. Lay the wand section on the ground and secure the small end of the bell section (the part that is not the bell) to the longest part of the wand with the mouthpiece (which should be closer to you). Screw the pieces so that the main rod is at right angles to the bell.
- Put two fingers on the edge of the bell, this is the distance that should be between the mouthpiece and the bell.
- Tighten the thumbscrew once you have properly aligned the wand with the nozzle.
Part 2 of 4: Holding the Trombone
Step 1. Hold the trombone with your left hand grasping the socket thread
The fitting thread is located under the hood. Hold it firmly with your left hand, you will be able to hold the trombone with this grip. Next, make a pistol with your left hand by extending your index finger to the mouthpiece and placing your thumb around the nearest bar.
- Use the remaining three fingers to grasp the vertical bar below the index finger.
- Make sure the wand is locked when you are not playing. If you leave it unlocked, the wand may fall off and be damaged. The rod lock is typically found in the region where the main rod connects to the hood section.
Step 2. Gently hold the movable part of the wand with your right hand
Use the tips of your index, middle, and thumb fingers to grasp the main stick. This is the hand you will use to slide the main rod back and forth. Again, make sure the rod is locked, a small dent can cause it to get stuck and cannot be moved.
- Relax your grip on your right hand and shoulders.
- Always keep a firm grip on the trombone with your left hand, even when relaxing your right hand.
Step 3. Keep your body straight when you play
This will relax your chest and stomach, allowing you to fill your diaphragm with more air and helping you breathe in faster. If you play seated, sit as far back as possible and always keep your back against the back of the chair. Sitting on the edge of the seat restricts the flow of air into the lungs.
- Avoid playing seated whenever possible.
- If you sit down, place your feet firmly on the floor while keeping your body straight.
Part 3 of 4: Playing the Trombone
Step 1. Blow through the mouthpiece using an "O" shape with your lips
Place the small mouthpiece in the center of your lips. Now, press it firmly with your lips, take a deep breath and blow through it. Keep the edges of the lips tight and leave the center loose. Blow hard enough to feel your lips vibrate and hear a blowing sound.
- Make a small hole in the center of your lips as you blow out the air.
- Don't puff out your cheeks when playing, this will quickly cause you to lose your breath and the note will sound harsh and choppy.
Step 2. Play the highest notes by pressing your lips together as if you were saying "ti"
High notes are created by faster lip vibrations, which are created by pressing the lips together when blowing. To tighten your lips, draw back the corners of your mouth to make them firmer when you play higher. The jaw should rise naturally and the blown air should move in a more downward motion. The final sound should be a "ti".
- Make sure you're relaxed when playing high notes and blowing air faster through the instrument. Do not put weird faces that can cause tension in the sound.
- It will feel natural to want to press the mouthpiece for high notes, but you must resist this temptation as this will lead to problems down the road.
Step 3. Play the lower notes by loosening your lips as if you were saying "te"
Low notes are created by slower lip vibrations, which are achieved by loosening the center of the lips and releasing the jaw. However, the air will still need to be fairly fast and steady. To maintain good sound quality, you will need to blow more air than higher notes. Keep in mind that trombones (especially bass trombones or transposer tenor trombones) will need a lot more air to play a well sustained note due to all the extra tube.
The first time you start playing the low register, it can be very difficult. To get it right, the key is to increase your lung capacity
Step 4. Blow harder and "open" to play louder
Loosen your jaw and part your lips slightly for a rounder, more metallic sound. Always remember that playing "openly" does not mean loosening your lips.
Step 5. Learn the first 3 positions on the pole
The first position is when the rod is almost all the way in. The second position is a little more than halfway between the first and third. Again, this position will vary, but the higher the note, the higher the stick will tend to be. The third position is a little after the bell, but it will vary depending on the register in which the note is played.
Try not to hit the rod when you return it to first position
Step 6. Practice the remaining four positions on the pole
The fourth position is just after the bell and the fifth is just beyond the fourth position. The sixth position is almost completely out (close to the seventh position) and the seventh position is completely out of the way.
- On most trombones, there is a mark where the seventh position is.
- The positions may vary slightly depending on the type of trombone you play.
Part 4 of 4: Improve Your Skills
Step 1. Increase your note range by practicing regularly
Try to practice once a day for at least 30 minutes. Increase the flexibility of the lips by going from one note to a higher one and vice versa. Keep doing it faster and faster while maintaining a stable sound.
- Do scale exercises very often.
- Remember that most music stores have books on trombone techniques. If you really want to learn how to play the trombone, check them out.
Step 2. Increase your lung capacity
Practice long notes to increase your lung capacity. Other ways to increase it are running, biking, and swimming. In general, any cardiovascular activity will benefit your performance.
Do some general breathing exercises
Step 3. Find new pieces to play as often as you can
After you feel comfortable playing all the pieces you already know, find more! Listen to songs by Joe Alessi, Christian Lindberg or Wycliffe Gordon and know their discographies. Search for trombone scores online and try to learn new pieces as often as you can.
- Be on the lookout for songs that have trombones and if you hear something you like, learn it!
- Download sheet music for free here:
Step 4. Join the International Trombone Association (ITA) to attend regular events and classes
After joining the ITA, you will have access to a list of events and competitions for trombonists like you. Not only that, you will also have access to its video section, which offers lessons, interviews, musical short films and much more.
- Choose the student membership for the cheapest option. For a more comprehensive package, choose the Library, Donor, Sponsor, or Lifetime Package.
- Visit the ITA website here:
Step 5. Watch trombone lessons on YouTube to learn comfortably from home
YouTube offers tons of trombone lesson videos from seasoned professionals. For example, Mr. Glynn offers seven lessons that cover everything from the first five notes to techniques like articulations and stick gliding. The lessons are designed to give you classroom learning in a home environment. Most of the videos are under five minutes and are simple but effective.
Subscribe to the channels that offer the most helpful trombone lessons
- Listen to professional trombonists like Joe Alessi, Christian Lindberg or Wycliffe Gordon. Listening to a professional will give you an idea of how you can sound on the trombone.
- Practice every day for at least 30 minutes or about 210 minutes throughout the week. Try to spread it out, but if you need to get a lot done in one day, that's fine. If you can do more, great!
- Try not to dent the rod, it is very easily damaged.
- Join a beginning band or orchestra or take private lessons with a tutor. It takes most people years to play the trombone well.
- Take good care of the rod by daily covering the inside with a thin layer of oil or cream. A little spray of water will give it an extra touch of mobility.
- A good way to warm up is to practice playing different notes where you don't have to swing the wand. Also, try to change the notes with a soft breath of air. This is called a lip ligation and is used by professionals and beginners alike.
- Do not put the mouthpiece to your lips when you are playing. Over time, this can cause scarring, which will decrease your playing skills.
- When laying down the instrument, do not leave it on the pole. This will cause it to warp over time.
- Don't force yourself into a position or you will hurt your arms. Many beginners, especially the younger ones, will not be able to reach sixth or seventh position. If you can't, that's fine.
- Do not eat candy, gum, or any other type of food shortly before or while playing the trombone. You should also wait 15 to 20 minutes after eating any type of food before playing the trombone.
- Always rinse your mouth with water before playing.
- Never use "Brasso" on a brass instrument. This will remove the lacquer and allow the metal to erode. You can buy instrument hairspray at most music stores or specialty brass stores.
- Although the F transposer is ideal for beginners, always use it sparingly. The transposer is very useful for certain musical passages and alternative positions, but many students use it as a crutch. Some musicians use it to be able to play notes of the low register in the seventh position.