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: 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

              Trombone lesson: Lip trills

              Admitted, this exercise is not the most fun you can have with a trombone, but there´s no way around the fact that there´s a lot of hard work involved if you want to be a top performer on a brass instrument. Footballers don´t kick a ball around all the time at practice…

              With that in place: Let´s do something about the world of lip trills. Regardless of the genres you play, they will be needed at some point.

              There is only one way to make it work, and that is to start slow. Find a metronome, and set a slow tempo that allows you to play the whole phrase. I recommend that you write down the tempo you can play it in today, and try to raise it by a few beats per minute every day over a period of time. The goal is to get to the point where you don´t notice the individual notes, and just let it flow. Think of it as running, you don´t want to think about every step you take, but rather just the direction and the speed. Continue reading

                Trombone lesson: Flexibility – working on speed

                Having good flexibility on your brass instrument is fundamental. In basically all music you will play, you will find use for the flexibility skills you worked on in the practise room. Not always the most fancy and exciting work, but someone has to do it – and I´m afraid that someone is you. And me. And all the other brass players out there.

                The exercise
                Working on control and precision is important, but you should work on speed as well. This exercise really help you speed up your flexibility chops. The pattern I have chosen as example is by no mean my own, but at the other hand it is well known and I doubt that someone will come after me and claim ownership to it! Of course, you can use any pattern you want, but this one is well suited to play in a high tempo. Continue reading

                  Trombone lesson: Flexibility – large intervals

                  Flexibility exercises are very fundamental for brass players. They help you develop your range, legato playing and general control over the instrument.

                  Avoiding the notes “in between”

                  These exercises are made specifically to work on larger intervals while avoiding the notes in the gap between. You should aim for perfection and not speed when you work on these exercises. Continue reading