How to Determine the Trombone Slide Position

The trombone has seven slide positions that are required to play all of the pitches in the instrument. These seven slide positions correlate to the seven main fingering possibilities on valve brass instruments. If you are a brass player already, simply figure out the relationship between slide positions and valve combinations. Learning the proper slide positions and where they are located on the instrument is simply a matter of practice and using your ear.

Step 1: Break down the slide positions into groups of two positions each. The seventh position will be in a group by itself and is the easiest to find since it is the last position.

Step 2: First position involves pushing the slide in all the way. Position your slide in first position by keeping the slide pressed all the way in. First position is equivalent to open valved.

Step 3: Locate second position about two to three inches out from first position. You must use your ear to identify whether the interval between the first position and second position is a half-step. Second position correlates to middle valve on other brass instruments.

Step 4: Move your slide to third position. Most trombone players remember this position by remembering their hand stops just before the bell of the instrument. This position correlates to first valve.

Step 5: Fourth position places the hand just after the bell. Find the fourth position by moving the front of the slide just past the bell. This position is equivalent to the first and second valves on another brass instrument.

Step 6: Slide your hand out about another three inches to play fifth position. This position will leave most players with their arm bent at a 90-degree angle as they hold out the slide.

Step 7: Play the sixth position by letting the slide out a full arm’s length. Most players of average height will have to stretch their arm out most of the way to play this position. It is equivalent to the first and third valves on a brass instrument.

Step 8: Reach your arm out all the way and find the position that is about an inch from the end of the slide. This is seventh position and usually requires the player to lurch her right shoulder forward slightly. This is the equivalent of all the valves depressed on another brass instrument.

Always remember to use your ear. If you have trouble identifying pitch, practice each slide position with a piano.


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