What Are the Best Tips for Playing the Trombone?

Lee Johnson

The best tips for playing the trombone are to maintain good posture, to say “toe” as opposed to “tee” when playing notes, to breathe with the diaphragm, and to use “tip of the tongue” articulation. Most of the tips relating to playing the trombone focus on proper articulation of notes and maximizing air-flow. Articulation has a profound effect on how the notes sound out and how well they are separated. Breathing properly enables players to produce even, clean notes that aren’t thin or faltering. Even taking in larger breaths can drastically improve the tone players achieve on the trombone.

Breathing from the diaphragm may help trombone players take in more air, which helps tone production.
Breathing from the diaphragm may help trombone players take in more air, which helps tone production.

Good posture is extremely important when playing the trombone. The main reason for this is to achieve maximum air flow through the instrument. Players should keep their backs straight, and look straight ahead of them when using the instrument, even if they are sitting down. Leaning forward constricts the air flow through the throat. Players are advised to bring the trombone’s mouthpiece to their mouth, not the other way around.

Breathing from the diaphragm enables players to take in more air when playing the trombone. This helps even tone production and increases the ability to play longer phrases. Students should practice breathing by first expanding their stomachs, and then the lungs should follow. The expansion of the stomach prompts the diaphragm to drop and the lungs to take in air. Teachers can get students to hold their hands over their stomachs to ensure that it expands before the chest when they breathe.

The syllable players say when producing notes on the trombone also has a dramatic effect on the tone of the instrument. Players who articulate a “tee” sound when playing the trombone are likely to produce more nasal and high pitched notes. This is because the position of the tongue is too high when articulating this syllable. Teachers should ask trombone students to say “toe” when they play a note, in order to encourage a lower tongue position.

Tip of the tongue articulation is another important tip for playing the trombone. Players separate notes on the trombone using their tongues, in a technique called “tonguing.” The motion of the tongue during the “t” sound separates the notes efficiently; this should be practiced during scale exercises. Saying “dah” and “lah” when changing between notes produce a legato effect, or a smooth transition between different notes. Players should be comfortable performing both tonguing techniques.

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Discussion Comments


Another important tip for trombone players is to practice as much as possible. Even if you know how to play, you need to constantly work at reading notes and playing your instrument to keep your playing skills up to speed. In addition, constant practice on the trombone will keep your diaphragm in good shape and your breathing patterns well controlled.

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