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What Are the Different Types of Trombone Techniques?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

The different types of trombone techniques are tonguing techniques, slide techniques, mute techniques, and other techniques. Other techniques include things like multi-phonics and percussive playing which don’t fall into other categories. Most trombone techniques are either related to the use of mutes, articulation, and changing between notes. These can be used alone or in combination with other techniques, depending on the effect the player is going for. For example, slide techniques can be used alongside muting techniques to produce interesting effects.

Tonguing on the trombone is otherwise referred to as articulation, and many trombone techniques fall into this category. The two main different techniques players have to master are playing legato and playing staccato. Legato means playing smoothly, with light tonguing or none at all. Staccato is the opposite: playing so the notes are all well-separated, with heavy use of tonguing. Other techniques such as double tonguing and triple tonguing require separating every second or third note.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

The slide is used to change between notes on the instrument, and many trombone techniques relate to its use. These are usually expressive techniques used alongside legato tonguing. Trills are one example of a sliding technique, which is a rapid alteration between two notes. Vibrato is similar but involves smaller fluctuations around one note. A glissando is a slide in pitch between two notes, performed by moving the instrument’s slide at the same time as producing a note.

Trombone techniques involving mutes are relatively uncommon. Mutes are placed over the bell of the trombone to affect the type of sound produced by it. A harmon mute is a type of mute which has a specific technique associated with it. The mute has a hole in the end of it, which can be covered by the hand of the player to further muffle the note produced. Covering and uncovering the hole repeatedly in rapid succession produces a “wah wah” effect similar to that produced by guitar “wah” pedals.

Other trombone techniques can be used to create a variety of different sounds. Players can use microtones by altering the pitch of a note with the slide by less than a semitone. Singing into the mouthpiece while playing the instrument produces an effect known as multi-phonics, which means multiple sounds are produced simultaneously. Players can hit the mouthpiece or other parts of the instrument to produce percussive sounds on the trombone. This can be used to create a rudimentary drum-beat.

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