Trombone lesson: flexibility with staccato and doodle tongue

Brass instruments in general put high demand on their puppeteers in order to sound good (damn you, piano players and guitar players). I think of it as being a soccer player; you can do your tricks and move the ball around anytime, but in order to be 100% and have the strength to play a whole game, you need a lot of practice. Every day…

There are a few fundamentals in trombone playing that need constant attention. You need to be aware of yur sound, air flow, embouchure, flexibility, attack, slurring, legato playing…as well as making music, a purpose the trombone is more suited for than most other musical instruments! Therefor, here are a few tips to combine some fundamentals, making your practice session more fun (right…).

Flexibility-For-TromboneBy combining slurring with staccato and doodle tonguing, you make sure to give the embouchure a healthy workout. Here are a few samples of how you can modify a flexibility exercise by including staccato playing and doodle tonguing. These specific samples are developed from a part of chapter 7 in the book Flexibility For Trombone; Flexibility With Rhythm. With a little bit of creativity, you could give most trombone flexibility exercises the same treatment. Continue reading

    Trombone lesson: Bouncing ‘bone and large intervals

    Being able to switch registers rapidly and with ease, is a key to a relaxed trombone technique. In this trombone lesson, I give you some advice on how to achieve this, combined with five pages of exercises. Before you download and  print the free sheet music, please read the full article. This will help you get the most out of the exercises.

    The distance between high notes and low notes are only a few millimeters. Moving the cheek a few millimeters down, and increasing the distance between the lips another few millimetres is basically all it takes to make a leap of an octave. The problem is, that many of us brass players (my self included if I don´t focus while playing) tend to engage too many muscles and strange parts of our body when we play large intervals.

    Playing a low note with a big sound is only possible with large opening between your lips, and by moving your cheek slightly down and out. Air compression will be low. Besides making sure that the embouchure is stable, playing low notes should be a very relaxed task, and your focus should be on moving a lot of air.

    Playing higher notes requires a smaller lip opening and a higher cheek position. This will automatically lead to a higher air compression.

    This is a really important notice: Correct high note embouchure combined with an open throat will trigger higher air compression. Increasing compression will NOT trigger correct high note embouchure or air flow. Continue reading

      Trombone lesson: Pentatonic scale flexibility

      I like pentatonic scales. They tend to fit the trombone quite well, and are in general useful for many things such as bass lines, blues themes and funky horn section phrases. And of course in improvisation. This is probably the best scale to start with if you are new to improvising, since it will sound melodically any way you play it. I have written about how to use pentatonic scales in improvisation here.

      This is no improvisation exercise. It is a simple trombone flexibility exercise, based on the pentatonic scale. The idea is to start each phrase on a low note, and working on expanding intervals with ease. Don´t try to fight the instrument when you work on these patterns. That never help your trombone playing. Try to blow as relaxed as possible, bouncing up from the low notes. Continue reading

        14 tips for trombone flexibility

        What to think about when working on your flexibility

        1. Don´t play too fast! Speed is nice, but always make sure to play the exercise well rather than fast. Are all notes in tune? Is your sound good?
        2. In a hurry? Play exercises on 1st, 3dr, 5th and 7th position (or 2nd, 4th and 6th). I do this when I want to cover more exercises without playing them sloppy. Saves you 50% of the time required for each exercise and only make it 34% less effective. See, that is a 16% gain right there!
        3. Do it daily! Flexibility and embouchure exercises are essential for all brass players. Make sure it is a part of your daily routine. And then make your daily routine daily!
        4. Keep embouchure in place. You don´t want to make big movements with your mouth when shifting notes. Look at yourself in a mirror and try to minimize it. Are you unnecessarily good looking? Another good reason to find that mirror.
        5. Try playing exercises on both trombone and mouthpiece. This is a killer tip. When going back and forth between trombone and mouthpiece, you can really get some basic embouchure stuff in place. Try it. Continue reading

          Trombone lesson: Flexibility with rhythm

          There are a series of articles here on Digitaltrombone about flexibility for brass players, and they all have their distinct advantages. Many trombone flexibility exercises tend to have a rather uninspiring rhythm and focus mainly on changing notes.

          With these trombone exercises, I have added some rhythmical flavor, making them a bit more fun to play, but most of all, adding a new challenge to the concept of flexibility.

          You should focus on playing these patterns as effortless as possible. Whenever you are changing note or changing from quarter notes to eight notes, think light and easy, rather than trying to nail it with force. More ballet, less sumo. Continue reading

            Trombone lesson: Flexibility – moving around

            Yet another flexibility exercise – seems to be that time of the year! These patterns show you some ways to get out of the first-down-to-seventh-position-playing-the-same-pattern-mode, making it more fun to play. This also makes your flexibility practicing come closer to the actual use of it in real music.

            Many trombone (and other brass players) tend to do their flexibility home work, but as soon as they start moving the slide around, they put an attack on every note and cut up their airflow. Don´t go there! On of the benefits of flexibility exercises, is that it improves your legato playing – that is, if you actually use your flexibility skills. Both legato and flexibility should focus on constant air flow! Continue reading

              Trombone lesson: Flexibility on trombone and mouthpiece – Part 2

              Did you miss part 1 in this series? Read more here: Flexibility on trombone and mouthpiece – Part 1.

              In this second part with exercises for both trombone and mouthpiece, the focus is on octaves and a mix of staccato and legato playing. The idea is to work on mouthpiece and trombone simultaneously to make sure that you use a similar embouchure. Beware of the pitch on the mouthpiece, especially when playing staccato phrases.

              When a task is repeated over time, the muscle memory will be better and better at remembering how to do it, eventually allowing it to be performed without very much effort. This is important when playing on the mouthpiece since there is no tubing to “force” the lips to vibrate with the correct speed. You should combine this with using your ears to be able to hear the next pitch, before you play it.

              By practicing the switch from mouthpiece to trombone, you will improve instrument control and your ability to hit the right pitch on the trombone.

              The trick with playing on mouthpiece alone, is also to use the muscles at the side of the mouth where the lips meet, without creating tensions elsewhere in your body, disturbing the free air flow.

              Good luck!



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              You will find this exercise and many others in the book Flexibility for Trombone – 38 pages in print friendly pdf format.

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                Flexibility on trombone and mouthpiece – Part 1

                No secret for trombone and other brass players that practicing flexibility is one of the keys to good technique and chops! Playing the same exercise on both mouthpiece and instrument is great both for building up strength and gaining more control over the instrument.

                Slightly re-inventing the wheel, I have made a bunch of trombone exercises that focus on playing both on the trombone and the mouthpiece. They are supposed to be played first on trombone and then on mouthpiece, but as a variation you could start with the mouthpiece. There will be some fiddling around with the mouthpiece on and off, but please bare with me on this one. Continue reading

                  Trombone lesson: Flexibility with pedal tones

                  I have written about the value of working with pedal tones before, but there is more to it! In these exercises, focus lays on including pedal tones when you work on flexibility on the trombone (or other brass instruments), and being able to access them effortless and without changing the embouchure to much compared to the normal range. Continue reading

                    Trombone lesson: Crescendo with full control

                    Can you play a perfect crescendo in the middle/low range going from ppp to fff in one breath? This exercise is great to improve those skills!

                    But before you start playing the exercise in the sheet music gallery, please read the following:
                    The goal is not to play as strong as possible all the time! The goal is to get the feeling of opening up your throat and let the notes in ff pour out effortlessly.

                    The analogy of a water pouring out of a tap is a great way to visualize the air flow. Take a look at these three pictures: Continue reading