Lately I've been working on writing a trombone concerto for an amateur composition contest. As part of that, I want to conclude the first movement with a cadenza. Since the contest requires that you submit a recording of a "performance" (which generally means Synthesia unless it's a solo piece), I need to supply an "official" cadenza.

I'm ashamed to admit that I don't actually play the trombone. As a result, I could use some tips on how to write a good cadenza for the trombone.

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    The first thing I would do is go listen to a bunch of trombone cadenzas.
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 16:09
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    Can you get a trombone player to work closely with you? Many of the most famous historic concertos were written for a specific player, who worked closely with the composer, often providing the cadenza or at least giving the composer tips on what worked well. What style are you writing in? Baroque cadenzas were just largish ornaments, maybe a few measures; on the other hand, high romantic cadenzas could take pages and pages. If I were in your shoes, I would take the baroque approach of inviting the performer to write/improvise one, in which case I wouldn't include it in a synthesized recording. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 17:06
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    @AndyBonner Having someone else write a portion of a piece OP is submitting to a competition does not seem like a good idea.
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 17:47
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    @Aaron True—all the more reason to just put "Cadenza ad libitum." (I'm imagining a Gershwin-like vaguely-jazz-influenced concerto that just encourages the soloist to take a solo...) But having a player consult with you on the overall piece is probably fair game, and probably a very good idea. Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky get plenty of credit for their violin concerti, and they consulted heavily with Ferdinand David and Iosif Kotek. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 20:22
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    @AndyBonner Consultation, absolutely. I see now I missed "I wouldn't include it."
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


As a trombone player, I can tell you that the solo literature is full of good examples. In particular, music intended to be played by advanced high school/early University students would be a good place to start. These pieces show the "gist" of how trombone cadenzas tend to be written, but since they are aimed at not-yet-pro musicians they are very idiomatic. A close second would be to look at classical period trumpet concertos. Many of these, transposed down a major ninth (if they appear for trumpet in Bb), will be very doable on trombone.

Best yet, if you can, see if you can spend an hour with a university level trombone instructor. He/she can play several cadenzas for you and point you towards a good source of sheet music.

As an example, this is a cadenza from a very common - ubiquitous, even - solo piece called Morceau Symphonique (Alexandre Guilmant).

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I use this as an example because it's flashy and "showy," ending on a high Bb, which is a triumphant-sounding note. As cadenzas go, however, it does several things that make it good for trombonists. It first is a series of runs in Bb major (the trombone's home key), and then an elongated Bb7 sonority. Both of these feature notes that are convenient and idiomatic for trombonists. More difficult cadenzas might be set in different key areas, end on a higher note, be longer, etc. Any of these things would make the cadenza significantly more difficult to play. If you were to compose this exact same idea in A instead, it would be more difficult because the slide positions are less idiomatic in sharp keys (at least for intermediate players).

There's no problem with keeping the cadenza at this level in my opinion, either. A soloist could always choose to up the ante and extend it, or add in some whiz-bang effect, or play a few extra notes in the stratosphere to dazzle and amaze...

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