Tuning the Trombone

Tuning is the process of matching pitch, which requires two sources: your instrument and another instrumentalist or electronic tuner. Experienced players tune to a "remembered" pitch.

How to Tune

  1. Warm up thoroughly before tuning.
  2. Tune to a reliable frequency using "F" or "B-flat".
  3. Play "Concert F-G-A-Bb." When approached as the top note of a tetrachord, "Concert B-flat" is a great tuning note for all brass.
  4. Play the tuning note straight and make adjustments from the main tuning slide.
  5. "Pull out" to lower the pitch.
  6. "Push in" to raise the pitch.

How to Control Pitch

Many quality instruments have a spring in the slide receiver that allows first position to be tuned normally. Otherwise, first position should be tuned slightly sharp intentionally. This allows for high "D," which tends to be slightly flat, to be played in tune when the slide is all the way in. The spring bounces the slide out for other notes in first position, such as "F," to compensate the pitch. Without the spring, an experienced trombone player understands how to alter the slide positions for certain notes.


Our brass and woodwind players need air or "wind" to produce a characteristic tone on their instruments, but even our percussionists can benefit from breathing while they play. In a band or "wind ensemble" like ours, each musician is responsible for breathing at the right time and controlling the release of that airstream for proper phrasing and musical interpretation.

  • Place the palm of your hand near your mouth.
  • Keep your shoulders still and take a deep breath.
  • Let your waist expand like a balloon as you fill up with air.

Airstream - "too"

  • Pretend like you're blowing out 40 candles on a cake.
  • Aim for the palm of your hand as you exhale.
  • The air you are blowing onto your hand is called the airstream.
  • Your tongue acts like a valve that releases the air.

EX. 1 - Spray the Garden Hose

  • Smile and make a "thumbs up" sign.
  • Now imagine that you're spraying a garden hose - smile!
  • Cover the nozzle with your thumb and then let go.
  • The water can spray all over the place, but try to control it.
  • Compare your thumb letting out the water to your tongue letting out your airstream.
  • Again, it's your job to control the way you breath and release your airstream.
  • Try five, six, or seven bursts of air in one breath

EX. 2 - Blowing Bubbles

  • Imagine you are blowing bubbles outside.
  • You want four groups of bubbles to float away into the summer breeze.
  • Now, dip the bubble wand and aim high for the sky.
  • Keep your shoulders still and take a deep, gentle breath.
  • Gently release your airstream through the bubble wand.
  • There goes the first group of bubbles - now stop.
  • Without breathing again, release the next group of bubbles.
  • Your tongue will stop for two seconds in between groups.
  • Let the third group of bubbles go, then stop the airstream
  • For the last group, release all the air left over from your breath.
  • Compare blowing bubbles to producing tones on a wind instrument.
  • This idea is great for playing softly or quietly.

EX. 3 - Tongue Twister

  • Say, "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."
  • Imagine you have eyes in the back of your mouth and say it again.
  • "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."
  • Where does your tongue land for every "t" sound?
  • Say it again and again, but think about what you're saying.
  • "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."
  • Start each note with your tongue.
  • "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."


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