Trombone lesson: slow air

Trombone lesson: slow air

This brass breathing tip is almost self explanatory. It is about the sensation of letting the air pass tour lips as slowly as possible while playing with a rich, full sound. I will not claim to be the first to use the expression slow air, since that would be clearly on the wrong side of the truth, but it is good, so I will give you my take on it.

Focusing on slow air will help you relax while playing and make your throat wide open. Fighting your instrument will never end well. Ever wondered how top brass players can look so relaxed while playing technically challenging music? The truth is that they would not be top players in the first place if they did not have the ability to play with ease.

How to practice this

  1. Sigh deeply. Be really sad and let go of all your air. This releases tensions in your breathing machinery.
  2. Empty your lungs completely. Really squeeze out all air. Then inhale. This way it is hard not to inhale efficiently and stay relaxed.
  3. Build up your confidence. Thoughts like ‘this part is easy, I don´t need to fight for those notes’ can help a lot.
  4. Make low-volume, low-pitch sounds (not notes) on your trombone. If you can scare someone at 50dB, you got it right.
  5. Focus on the music. Do I play in tune? How does this note fit the current chord? Any alternate slide positions that make this phrase easier to play? Anything that shifts focus from potentially fighting your instrument.
  6. Play flexibility exercises starting in the low range, going higher and higher. Make sure to keep the slow flow sensation all the way up in the high register.
  7. Do not use your body as a giant compressor, make sure your lips and embouchure strength handle the high range instead.
  8. Don´t eat too much before practicing. Don’t fight with your spouse or neighbour – at least not just before practicing. Avoid heartaches and depression. Don’t think of those unpaid bills (you’re a trombone player, there will always be unpaid bills 😂).
  9. Think of warm air to achieve a full sound.

I hope this helps! Comments are always welcome.

Slide on,

Anders Larson


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