Fundamentals of Trombone/Euphonium Performance


A good breath is relaxed, big, and quiet. Excess noise while inhaling is a sign of tension in the throat and/or tongue. This tension will reduce the amount of air you can take in, it will affect your tone, and will cause, yes, actually cause a certain amount of performance anxiety.

Inhalation: To make your best music, regard breathing in as an act of relaxation. Allow atmospheric pressure to rush in and fill the lungs; feel your abdomen expand and rib cage lift. Take air in slowly and steadily wherever possible - create relaxation.

Exhalation: Support from the abdominal area, sides and lower back. Think of constant, gentle support that keeps the chest high. Strive for constant, unimpeded air flow.

Rule of thumb: Constant, unimpeded air flow = constant, unimpeded sound.


 An embouchure has two basic parts, the corners and the center. Simply put, the corners control the center. In the upper range the corners become firmer and the center aperture is smaller. In the lower range the corners relax a bit and the center aperture is larger. Puffed cheeks generally impede control. Mouth corners should be firm and turned down; frown. The mouthpiece should feel anchored right in the middle of your lower lip, just below the red part. It touches your upper lip just enough to make a seal. Generally there should be equivalent amounts of upper and lower lip covered by the mouthpiece.


You will produce an acceptable tone if you move a constant, unimpeded breath through a well formed embouchure. The only muscle groups you should be aware of are those controlling air support, and the corners. Everything else, neck, throat, tongue, and shoulders, etc. should be relaxed, or "in neutral." A quality instrument and mouthpiece obviously help.

pinched, small tone = closed throat or clenched teeth or both
breathy, unfocused tone = big aperture, weak corners

By altering the vowel formed in the mouth while playing, tone quality will also be altered. See the section under Articulation for recommended vowels.


 To play cleanly it is essential that you coordinate embouchure, tongue, and slide/fingers. It is all a matter of synchronization, of being in the right place at the right time. In order to synchronize these three components as you move from note to note, move them all late, fast, and smooth. Practice with a metronome.

Rule of thumb: Slow music = fast slide
          Fast music = slow slide
Fast valves always

Flexibility/Lip Slurs: Ideally, you should feel as comfortable playing your instrument as you do when you are singing. Lip slurs help foster this vocal concept. A lip slur is slurred movement between pitches that are on different partials. Whether you have a simple legato etude or a technical double-tongued passage, the flexibility of your embouchure and the speed of your slide/fingers will dictate how clean you play.

Articulation/Tonguing: After filling with air, execute the following four skills simultaneously (this will take practice):

1. With teeth apart, close lips. Say "M."
2. Place tip of tongue on roof of mouth at gum line.
3. Set air. That is, pressurize the air behind your tongue, just like you are about to say "T."
4. NOW, drop tongue out of the way and release the air. Your lips should vibrate instantly.             

It is possible to produce a wide range of articulations by using variations of the consonants "D" and "T," where "D" is understood as a softer form of "T." Avoid "football shaped" swells in volume - strive for "brick shaped" notes. Listed below are some common articulations with instructions on how they may be achieved. Practice these on scales and etudes.

Lip Slur: Connected. "Oh" or "Ah" in upper range - no tongue.

Legato: Connected. "Doe" - light tongue pressure.

Tenuto: Slightly separated. "Doe" - light to medium tongue pressure.

Staccato: Separated, shorter. "Doe" in low and mid range - "Doe" or "Toe" in upper range. Not too short, emphasize the point on the articulation.

Marcato: Slightly separated, broad, and heavy. "Doe" - medium to firm tongue pressure. Emphasize length and weight of notes.

Multiple Tonguing: Mostly connected. "Doe Goe" for double - "Doe Doe Goe" for triple. For more percussive effects harden the consonants towards "Toe" and "Koe". As the dynamic level increases, the consonant used to tongue should shift from the hard "T" to a softer "D."

Rules of thumb: Soft music = hard tongue "T"
Loud music = soft tongue "D"
Accents are generally made with breath, not tongue.


Naturally out of tune partials exist to some degree on every instrument. As you lengthen the sounding tube with a slide or valve the adjustments required to play in tune become greater.

7th partial: Very flat - 2nd position "g" to 7th position "d"

6th partial: Quite sharp - 1st position "f" to 7th position "b"

5th partial: A little flat - 1st position "d" to 7th position "g#"

Unlike an equal-tempered piano, we can adjust individual chord tones to make them ring pure. In tonal music it is relatively easy to determine which chord tone you are playing. The following adjustments should be made in relation to the root which is not moved. Let your ears be your guide; strive to eliminate the "beats" caused by poor intonation.

Major Triad and V7 - Lower 3rd - raise 5th - lower seventh

Minor Triad - Raise 3rd - lower 5th