Brian's Practice Ideas...

Performance Preparation: We’ll discuss Rhythm, Arban Studies, "Scordatura Trombone”, Musical Musings, Legato on Slide Trombone, Air Control, Sound

My favorite rule: "Never play the same music or phrase the same way twice"; in other words, if you have a repeated section, ALWAYS change something on the repeat. Choices for change include dynamics, articulations, ornaments (if stylistically pertinent), octave displacement, etc. I love to repeat a phrase with piano crescendo. 

Rhythms - 4 Kinds 

1. Personal - subdivisions, consistency... 

2. Group - playing Together (Ensemble), accurate rhythms within a group...

3. Visual - interpreting rhythms from conductor as perceived by a group... 

4. Distance - how rhythms fit together out in hall.

Practice Developing your own sense of pulse: tap your big toe, feel the big pulse while clapping triplet subdivisions, then duplet subdivisions.

Tempo - How to arrive at a specific tempo (for example, What's 100bpm?) Find 60 (once each second), then double it, which gives you 120 (Stars and Stripes Forever tempo), then back off the tempo slightly.

Arban Exercises:

When playing many successive octaves, choose the longer slide positions that will accomodate the lower notes first - the upper ones can always be played in the long positions.

My favorite Arbans:

  • Intervals p. 139 (new edition), p. 126 (old edition) - play in different rhythms, articulations, and dynamics;   p. 146 (new edition) - #7 is my goal!
  • Chromatics
  • Multiple Tonguing
  • Themes/Variations - Carnival of Venice, Fantasie Brillante, Variations of a Tyrolienne
  • Delicate Attacks - practice upper range attacks with high tongue position in the mouth

Breath Attacks - Basis for all articulation!

Develop Multiple Tonguing (so that there is an over-lap between your single-tongue and your double-tongue) so that you can shift easily between both. Make your single-tongue capable of faster sixteenths than your double-tongue sixteenths.

More Ideas…  “Scordatura Trombone"

Re-tuning the F-tuning slide, pull almost all the way out, to E; allows for playing pedal B-natural in an almost true fashion.  This affects the remainder of positions for notes above the B - second space B is now Valve-First position.  

Try this: WITHOUT  Tuning Slide!

Also try taking off the main tuning slide and playing your most difficult passages - it will come out a 4th (or so) higher, but the effect will be for you to hear the shape and breadth of your sound, as well as the cleanliness of your articulation - right at your ear level.  

Further Musical Musings...

What follows is my discussion of issues I’ve ruminated over for many years of performing and teaching.  I hope these ideas provoke a discussion within and among students and musicians for years to come.

  • It takes more air to play at mf with a beautiful full sound than to play at ff with a lousy sound.
  • Give your sound the highest octane of air for the most resonant sounds.
  • The relationship between lip buzz and slide placement - be able to “dis-connect” and “re-connect” through the use of a “berp” or cut-away mouthpiece.
  • Your embouchure must account for every pitch in a phrase: if an interval is a leap, make the appropriate adjustment within the rim of the mouthpiece; if an interval is a half step, think neighbors, and account for the half-step in the right direction - ascending or descending.
  • Base all of your tone production on the “Golden Sounds” of your Long Tones: everything you play is some part of a long tone, of varying duration.
  • Your lips and moving airstream are the dictators of pitch, NOT the tongue.  
  • Connect your ear with your buzzing and to the output of your horn. The horn will amplify what ingredients go in, relating to pitch and sound quality.
  • Breath attacks are a great way of isolating your sound within an articulation; notice the shape of your sound - be sure you have a solid front and think of “bricks” of sound.

Legato on a Slide Trombone

“Can a trombone slur?”  YES, of Course!  but…  

Let’s understand the problem: slurpy slurs in legato that don’t match the legato of other valved instruments.  

“Legato”- definition: a smooth kind of articulation whereby there is a connection between two or more notes in a passage - opposite of staccato

2 Types of Slurs: 

  • Natural Slur, includes “lip slurs”, which contain a subdued “pop” that, when properly blown through, becomes our model of smoothness for the second type of slur:
  • Glissed Slur, which occurs when blowing through two successive notes on the slide, and not involving a lip slur; effect when producing an even connection with second pitch.

The Master Trombonist learns how to smooth out and equalize articulations, no matter which kind of slur they are playing, and through practice will happen automatically.

Natural Slurs occur when:

  1. Pitch goes up and slide goes out
  2. Pitch goes down and slide goes in
  3. Interval between pitches is greater than 2 slide positions apart
  4. If two notes are part of the Harmonic Series

To fix “Glisses” of Glissed Slurs...

  1. Move slide quickly (not to be confused with changing the tempo) between notes
  2. Use “du” legato tongue on the arrival note to “break up” the gliss
  3. Use alternate position to create a Natural Slur

In either case, in legato the combination of the airstream and the buzz will/should ALWAYS be set to “Gliss”.  This means that within the mouthpiece, the lip’s buzz shouldn’t change whether you are (“du”) tonguing or (natural) slurring, but instead always gliss between the notes.

Air Control

Ability to move air (wind) at constant speeds, at range-appropriate air pressures, no matter where you are in your air tank.

And to be able to re-fill without upsetting any fundamental playing parameters, all within as little time as possible.


For Audition/ Performance preparation, try walking up a flight of stairs, then play your most difficult piece. Get used to this uncomfortable feeling while trying to slow your heart-rate. Performances will be easier!

Think About

- Role of Performance Space(s): Acoustically speaking, is it a large hall?  Is it Resonant or Dry? 

- Role of Repertoire played in these spaces - is the piece accompanimental (as in accompanying a soloist or singer or chorus?) or is the piece “a big tune” for brass? (i.e.. Mahler, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss…)

- Find our Natural Sonic Tendencies with embouchure alone, with mouthpiece... lip contour/size, aperture size

Consider Our Sounds

  1. Up Close vs. Last Row
  2. Changeability of Sound: “on the fly” adjust air speed (relative warmth of air), relative relaxation of lips; Think Colors/Shades; Change equipment - mouthpiece/horn for added effects.

Be An Artist in Sound

Envision how your sound eminates from your bell in 3-D!  What shape is your overall sound? Can you change it at will?  What sound colors can you make? Can you change them at will?


Always Presume High Level of Musicianship on each piece of equipment (instrument), high quality equipment and Most Importantly, display a… 

As with any activity for which you are trying to improve, demonstrate a willingness to Improve your Fundamentals!


© Brian Diehl 2017