How to Read Trombone Music

The trombone is a dynamic orchestral brass instrument capable of many interesting extended techniques. While the basic concepts of note reading apply to the trombone, some specific techniques are unique to the trombone as well. Learning these techniques and notation in the score will enable the trombonist to learn how to read music for the trombone.

Step 1

Ascertain how fast a passage is by checking the suggested tempo. If it is faster than the trombonist can tongue, a special technique exists to articulate notes more quickly. By using multiple tonguing, a trombonist can play double, triple, and quadruple tonguing to increase the speed of articulations.

Tonguing one of the pitches, and then pushing air forward while the tongue withdraws on the next articulation accomplishes this technique. The air, which propels forward, will mimic the sound of an articulation and allow the performer to articulate quick passages.

Step 2

Determine whether any particular mutes are called for in the score. A trombonist has a wide variety of mutes at their disposal. Some of these include straight mutes, Harmon mutes, and even the head of a plunger to change the sound of the horn. These mutes show in the score with specific writing above the part with a mute.

Step 3

Creating a slide glissando is the most natural glissando to use in trombone playing. With this technique, the player should use the slide to change from one note to the next. This will create an effect that allows the notes in between to blend and blur.

Step 4

Creating a lip glissando is less natural than a slide glissando but creates a very similar effect. With this type of glissando, the lip brings the pitch of a particular note down.

Step 5

Mimic the sound of two voices playing simultaneously with multiphonic techniques. This technique allows the player to play more than one pitch at the same time. It displays in the score with a smaller note above the pitch played. The smaller note is sung simultaneously as the trombonist plays. This technique also allows the trombonist to speak words through the trombone and create a melodic, yet distorted effect.


Study these advanced techniques to become more proficient at score reading and performance. Seek the guidance of a trombone instructor to help with your technique.


Multiple tonguing can take several months to learn - be patient with the process.


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