Trombone lesson: Save chops!

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.

A walk in the circle of fourth
When you are working on scales, patterns, tunes or anything that you want to play in all keys, I strongly recommend that you use the circle of fourths. By adding flats (going in the direction on the picture), you get the most musical approach.

So what´s up with this for the chops? Except for the musical benefits, you get more variety in range when you constantly move the starting point by a fourth (up) or a fifth (down). I use this in many exercises, like this one about the altered scale in all keys.

Good luck!

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  1. Robert Wittmann 12 years ago

    I am a 67 year old classically trained Bass Trombonist and never learned the circle of 5ths nor did I learn how to improvise in the early 60’s at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. This of course was a problem spot in my teaching career. Look forward to learning from you.

  2. Anders 12 years ago

    Hi Robert!

    Glad to hear that I can contribute to your learning within improvising – let me know if there are topics you would like to read more about in the future!

    All the best,

  3. Evan Deragon 8 years ago

    Hello, my name is Evan Deragon, a 16 year old tenor trombonist for the Vandegrift High School Wind Ensemble. I wish to pursue music for the rest of my life as it is what I love and wish to do. I’m very passionate about music and love to play my horn, but (especially over weekends whenever I don’t practice as much) I tend to find myself coming back to school a little loose in the lips. Although it is not normally a problem for me, just this week as I have played throughout the weekdays, I find myself having trouble starting notes, bad lip reaction, which results in a delayed start and sometimes not great tone quality. My thoughts on this are that on Tuesday of this week when I realized I was too loose in the lips for an elite musician, I practiced a very large amount of time, which I might consider “over practicing” but I wasn’t truly sure why I have had trouble. Can you help me find out what I am doing/ have done to have trouble with my chops?

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