Playing scale patterns in all keys as a trombone warm up will make you think while playing. Why not improve your chops and get smarter at the same time? (I will cover how to get prettier in a future post…)
You could put your trombone out in the sun for a quick warm up, but I still recommend the old fashioned way that includes actually playing on it. To get your lips soft and responsive, you should start by planing soft in a comfortable range, slowly expanding the range in both directions.
Playing long notes, slow etudes and simple flexibility exercises is are fine ways to warm up. But in this lesson I want to focus on combining trombone warm up with getting to know your instrument better and heat up your brain at the same time.
Trombones are not as visually laid out as a piano or a guitar. It is hard to visualise notes, and it takes a lifetime to really get under the skin of the bastard. By playing simple scale patterns in multiple keys, you will get to know your trombone better and better. Make up a simple scale pattern, preferably a 3-5 note melody that you move around in a selected key. Then you carry on to the next key.
If you are like most brass players, you are probably most comfortable in the keys around F, Bb and Eb. So don´t start here. Try starting in the key of Db, and then move on in the circle of fourths (Db-Gb-B-E-A-D-G-C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab). Since the whole idea is to make you think while playing, don´t write down the patterns, play them by ear and brain instead.
Four ways to get the most out of this exercise:
- Play in tune. Use the tonic in each scale on a piano or other sound source as a reference while playing in that key.
- Listen ahead. Make sure you hear the next note and the next phrase in your head before you play it. It makes it much easier to play in tune.
- Clean and smooth attacks. Make sure that you get an immediate respons from the trombone. To achieve this, you need to have the proper embouchure in place before you start the note.
- Smooth note changes. Make sure the transition from one note to the next is played with precision. Try to make it as little trombone-ish as possible with no glissandi between notes and controlled slide movements. Just don´t make slide adjustments too aggressive. Think about how a gymnast moves rather than a martial arts champ.
To get you going, here are a few samples of what you could play:
Once you get this into your daily routine, you might want to add some extra spice. Then try playing patterns using alternative positions, and play as much as possible on 4th to 7th position. This is hard, and tricky to get in tune. You could try this sample: