How to Play the Bass Trombone

Written by lesley graybeal
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How to Play the Bass Trombone
Bass trombones feature two attachments to lower the register. (Posaunist image by Roland Schnell from

Because bass trombone players must learn to play the tenor trombone first, learning to play the bass trombone simply involves some modifications to good tenor trombone technique. The main changes are the larger bore, the lower register and the extra trigger. The range of a good bass trombone player may go from C1 to C5 (often referred to as "high C" on any trombone). When the second trigger is not deployed, a bass trombone has the same capabilities as a tenor trombone with an F-attachment, but players may find the higher notes more difficult to reach because of the larger horn.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Bass trombone mouthpiece
  • Bass trombone
  • Bass trombone slide position chart

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  1. 1

    Select a mouthpiece that will support your strengths and weaknesses as a player and give you the type of sound you want. Choose a mouthpiece with a shallower cup if you want a brighter tone and help achieving notes in the higher register, and choose a mouthpiece with a deeper cup and wider throat for a fuller tone and larger sound. Look for bass trombone mouthpieces with a larger bore than tenor trombone mouthpieces and a wider lip for comfort at the extreme ranges.

  2. 2

    Learn to use the triggers on your bass trombone. Know what key your valve attachments are in and whether the second trigger is dependent on the first valve being open or can be used independently. Bass trombones typically have one F-key attachment and then often have a second attachment in either G flat or D.

  3. 3

    Use a fingering chart to learn the slide and trigger positions of the new notes available to you on a bass trombone (see Resources for F/G flat attachments and for F/D attachments). Practice scales in the low registers to learn the new slide positions and practice your deeper notes.

  4. 4

    Practice long tones to strengthen your embouchure for the new mouthpiece and to improve your tone quality. You can practice almost anything in long tones, including scales, arpeggios or slow, melodic ballads.

  5. 5

    Practice lip slurs that employ your bass trombone attachments to strengthen your embouchure in reaching the lowest notes of the bass trombone register and the higher notes, which can be more difficult on the larger bore of a bass trombone than on a tenor trombone.

  6. 6

    Practice in front of a mirror to monitor your posture and mouth position, keeping the mouthpiece centred on your lips and keeping your lips and cheeks firm. Do not allow yourself to pucker your lips or puff out your cheeks under any circumstances.

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