Players of brass instruments with piston valves can smear a note by depressing the valves slightly, which broadens the "slot" allowing the player to portamento smoothly between two notes.

Is there a trombone counterpart of this technique?

One specific example - on a trumpet it's possible to half-valve smear an octave. You can't use the trombone slide to smear an entire octave. So how would you portamento an octave on trombone?

  • 8
    Er... why is it that our hypothetical trombonist has trouble playing portamento, exactly? Surely I'm missing something...
    – user45266
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 12:06
  • 1
    Yeah, I'm with user45266 here - if anything, smooth glissandos (with playback better approximated by pitch bends than actual glissandos on Musescore) are more common in trombone sheet music than any other brass instrument sheet music (in my experience), and it's probably because of the sheer ease of playing them with a trombone.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 12:12
  • 1
    This question might not be as silly as it sounds: on trombone the slide can allow you to portamento at most 6 semitones, and not at all between some pairs of notes. Whereas, a half-valve gliss on trumpet allows a portamento over a wider range. It should also be noted that the trumpet half-valve gliss sounds quite different to “normal” trumpet notes. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 12:19
  • 1
    @BobBroadley - Thank you Bob. I've added a clarification to the question. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 12:59
  • 2
    Use a valve trombone..?
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 13:01

2 Answers 2


It would seem the valved-instrument folks are playing with interference between those two path lengths, which of course a slide instrument can't do, and that's the real difference. The valve players have worked out a combo of breath support and lip vibration rate that enhances specific overtones in both paths at the same time, probably simultaneously adjusting the relative airflow between the two paths thru the valve (going from, say, 25% to 75% open valve).

I guess i should add that bone models with both the slide and one valve, e.g. , F-attachment, could do something interesting.

  • Yes. I was thinking the thumb valve would be the way ahead… Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 22:40

If you've got a 'trigger' - the valve that switches in the F attachment - you can do the same sort of half-valve effect as a trumpet. And, yes, we've got the slide. But there's a maximum gliss range of a diminished 5th, and the effect is quite different to the 'squeeze' of a half-valve.

There's specific trombone effects though. In the upper register you can do an effective 'rip' by pushing the slide out while lipping up through the harmonic series. Similar to a horn 'rip'.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.