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Fine Arts Brass tips for trombone players everywhere

Simon Hogg's 'Tuning Slides'

See also: Repertoire list
Trombone links
Practice plan

String instruments, the human voice and trombones are all capable of perfect intonation.
However, many factors including fluctuation of temperature, contrasting timbre, poor balance, lack of rehearsal time, etc. work against us.
Here are some exercises to help develop awareness in this neglected area.
Lafosse encouraged students to play the same note in alternate positions to gain confidence with the vagaries of the harmonic series.
Choose any melody with repeated notes and play it in a musical, singing style.
Use of a tape recorder may be beneficial.

Tuning Slides example 1

Beware the momentum of the slide sending you flat on an outward slide movement or sharp on an inward movement.

Work with a friend or colleague and play this exercise in every key, progressing through the circle of fifths. Use the perfect intervals, unison, fifth, fourth and octave in the way a piano tuner would.

Tuning Slides example 2

Here is an exercise that works with any group from three (omit part two) upwards.
Start with a major chord then lower the third making it minor.
In bar three lower the fifth making the chord diminished.
Finally lower the tonic, producing the major chord a semitone lower.
Play in all keys. Thanks to Don Lucas for showing me this.

Tuning Slides example 3

Experienced players instinctively feel the relationship between a note and its position within a chord.
Remember tuning is a variable not a constant.
Depending upon your instrument and the context you may have to:

However, remember that the harmonic series needs adjustments of its own. When you play an E as the third of a C major chord you flatten the note twice. Once because it is the 12th harmonic and again because it is the 3rd of the chord of C.

Here is an exercise the most rudimentary pianist can try, either with a colleague or by playing the lower (left hand) part whilst also playing the trombone.
With the exception of the first and last bars, the piano omits B flat.
Observe how your slide moves (almost subconsciously) to find the true tuning position.

Tuning Slides example 4

Try this exercise with a quartet and listen to the concert C as the chord changes.
All chordal variations are affected by their position in the harmonic series.
Memorise your own line and play in all keys.

Tuning Slides example 5

Here is a short chorale that uses five consecutive first inversion chords.
Remember tuning is a variable not a constant.
If in doubt first tune the octave, then the fifth and finally the third.

Tuning Slides example 6

Another chorale, this time using three second inversion chords.
Play the tonic firmly each time to reinforce the key.
Repeat the entire phrase a semitone lower.

Tuning Slides example 7


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