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: Doodle Pentatonics

    Pentatonic April – part II

    This is the second pentatonic exercise in a series of two, read the first part here

    New to doodle tonguing? Here is a series of articles to get you started.
    Doodle tonguing part I
    Doodle tonguing part II
    Doodle tonguing part III
    Doodle tonguing part IV

    Doodle Pentatonics
    Pentatonic scales are useful for many things, including working on your doodle chops. You will expand your range, build up strength and really get those pentatonic scales into your slide arm.

    No secret formula here, just plain hard (and rewarding) work. Make sure that you play the scales in a tempo that you can master. Every attack should be clear, and make sure the difference between the doo-attacks and dl-attacks are minimal. 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

        Trombone lesson: Pentatonic licks for 2013

        Christmas is over, and we have now entered 2013. For me that mean picking up the trombone again and get back in the practice room. To get back in shape, I tried to come up with something to challenge myself with, and the result are these pentatonic trombone licks. It is basically just a three note lick, but it moves around in all twelve keys, following the circle of fourths.

        For me, a good trombone lesson learned is when I forgot about the horn and just play music. This exercise help me do just that – shift focus away from the trombone, embouchure, breathing and other technical aspects, and rather just try to get the right notes in the right place. 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: Mike Stern lick in all keys

              I stole this phrase from a Mike Stern recording a few years ago because I liked the sound of it. And bored on a rainy day, I decided to write it down in all keys and work on it on the trombone. It turned out to be a quite hard but rewarding technical trombone exercise. Try to play it as written, and you´ll get a good high range work out!

              Enjoy…
              Continue reading

                Trombone lesson: Kick starting lips and air flow

                Monday morning in the practice room? This is a great little exercise to get the chops going when you first pick up your horn that day. The key to all brass playing is in the air flow, and the key to a good air flow can often be found by working on a full, overtone rich sound in the medium to medium low range.

                In this exercisee, I focus on F (below key hole-C) an augmented fourth down to B.* Many players have a hard time getting this register to sound as good as the rest of the middle range. One of the reasons is that the sound waves of the fifth in any given slide position doesn´t fit the instrument as goods as the fundamental on the same position (for example F versus Bb on 1st position). Continue reading

                  Trombone lesson: Save chops!

                  You might know the feeling, playing all those scale patterns one half tone up at the time… Seven keys to go ands the lips already feel as flexible as a train rail track!

                  There are lots of exercises where you gradually expand the range, and end up playing in either the extreme high or low register. I will give you a little but effective tip how to get the most out of those exercises, without busting your chops.

                  Expand from the middle
                  The solution is simple, make sure that you start in the middle range, and work your way both up and down from there. Mixing high and low range both save chops, and helps you to play with the same embouchure in all registers. This mouthpiece exercise works this way. Continue reading

                    Trombone lesson: maj7 and maj7#5 patterns in jazz improvisation

                    Are you a jazz improviser? Do you know all the maj7 (major seven) and maj7#5 (major seven sharp five) patterns in all keys by heart? If not, I strongly recommend that you get started! They are extremely useful in when you improvise since they set the mood of a chord very clearly, and most of them are quite well suited for trombone as well.

                    The reason that I bring up the maj7 and the maj7#5 patterns at the same time, is because Continue reading