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How fast can a trombone play? It looks like the trombone is very limited, as opposed to other classical music instruments, in terms of tempo - a player cannot quickly pass from one note to another as it takes long movements of the arm. So what's the fastest of all usual tempos that are assigned for trombone in classical music? (It will be great if you have any link to a video showcasing a fast-trombone play)

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    Bit of a non-question, really, as a trombone can be played as fast as a trumpet, by changing embouchure. And, let's not forget valve trombones...
    – Tim
    Feb 17, 2023 at 8:49
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    Google "trombone flight of the bumble bee"
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 17, 2023 at 8:54
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    @Tim: Thank you. I am an idiot.
    – brilliant
    Feb 17, 2023 at 9:04
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    @Tim as a trombone player myself, I suggest that we ALL forget valve trombones!
    – nuggethead
    Feb 17, 2023 at 14:15
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    @brilliant it's too late to edit my above comment, but I mis-typed it. It negatively impacts intonation and not articulation. The trombone has a benefit of being able to play perfectly in tune because the slide can move freely to any point along its length, similar to a violin's fingerboard. A skilled trombonist will subtly adjust the position of the right hand to get the best possible intonation. Valves, especially when used in combination, don't have this ability. You also can't play a lot of things in the jazz realm, such as glissandi and slide vibrato.
    – nuggethead
    Feb 17, 2023 at 16:55

1 Answer 1

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Obviously a trombone requires comparatively much movement (and has to move a lot of mass) to change between notes outside of a harmonic series. Still a skilled trombonist will be able to play quite fast, but it will require practice. Also it depends: When you have a piece that does not require shifts or and let you reach positions with non-complex movements quite a lot can be done.

Speed does also require quick tonguing, and can be particularly hard when you want to play legato, as you need to avoid portamento (notes sliding into each other). A slightly tricky passage often called for in auditions would be this part in Berlioz’s orchestration of the Rakoczy march:

This might not sound impressive, but getting this done cleanly does require skill and practice. This is something that might already be very challenging for amateur or schools orchestras for example.

Surely you will find performances of Trombone players performing really fast stuff, but these are usually really skilled soloists playing pieces that just do work quite well on trombone, and even then usually impressing only for the fact that it is being played on a trombone. If you want to go for speed go with the instruments that are really good at it. Clarinet, Flute, Violin, maybe Trumpet if you have a decent player. If you score for trombone – keep it at a level you know the orchestra that’s supposed to play it can actually play it. Hearing something like this

(as Tetsujin suggested this flex on trombone) and using this as reference for how fast to have a trombone play would be a bit misleading, as this requires a really good trombone player and lots of effort (all that double-tonguing is not that easy too) and will be hard to keep up for a longer time (it would be like assuming cars can easily go over 1000 km/h because there are some super sonic cars that can do so for a short time). A clarinet will be able to slur the whole thing, getting a lot faster with much less effort.

So yes, a trombone will not be as fast as some other instruments, but I wouldn’t say it was very limited, as you phrased it. A trombone can play moderately fast with some skill and practice.

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    WOW! Very informative and eye-opening! Thank you.
    – brilliant
    Feb 17, 2023 at 12:51

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