I need advices to play between B♭1 and B♭2 on bass trombone with two valves.

I come from tenor trombone (only one valve) and already have position chart. What I would like is how to efficiently move using slide and valves. For know I have the feeling to play superbone with a clumsy left hand.

Do you have any advices?

3 Answers 3



I'm assuming that what you mean by position chart is just a letter name to position number reference. That's not going to be enough—when you open a valve on the trombone, all of the positions get larger: you can only fit 6 positions on the slide with the F valve down, and only five with both F and D. I'm going to provide you with the following chart, showing the approximate slide position adjustments made when using a slide trombone with valves. Slide position chart

Bringing the slide into the proper position will make it easier to play these notes in tune.


As far as actuating the valves themselves, no one will disagree with you that the bass trombone with traditional trigger placement is an awkward instrument to hold. (Even just from the sheer weight of it.) Many bass trombonists use an accessory to help support the instrument with more than just the two little fingers on your left hand. There are TONS of accessories out there, but some of the more popular ones are the Yamaha Trombone Hand Strap (very inexpensive) and the Edwards Bullet Brace.

These may help, but if you're not holding the trombone properly to begin with, they will probably not do much good. If you are using a traditional grip, make sure you are supporting the weight of the instrument with your pinky and ring finger wrapped around the bottom slide tube. The thumb and middle finger should be free to actuate the valves. (Try not to rest too much weight on the thumb with the trigger bar.)


Developing the bass trombone technique will depend greatly on whether your F and D valves are dependent or independent. Dependent valves are stacked so that actuating the D trigger will do nothing unless the F trigger is already open. Independent valves are stacked along the slide receiver tube so that the D trigger can be activated by itself. All of these valve combinations give you MANY alternate slide positions in the mid-low register. Professional bass trombonists utilize these alternate positions and valve combinations in order to minimize slide movement and increase flexibility.

In order to develop this technique, you will need to do a lot of experimentation to find the exact positions for the correct tuning on your particular instrument. When you open a valve, you change the harmonic series you're playing in from B♭ to F, D, or G. The chart above gives you some of the notes possible with both the F and D triggers active, but here's a more complete/concise example: Trombone Harmonic Series Note where the overlaps and breaks occur in each of the series of slide positions for each valve combination. Trombonists often forget about the third partial of the trigger combinations, but this can simply a lot of technical passages with regard to slide movement.

If you have a dependent valve section, this chart is going to be pretty accurate. However, if you have an independent valve section, it is likely not going to be exact. There exist MANY alternate tunings for the independent second trigger—if the 2nd trigger side alone does get you the G harmonic series, then likely the F/D combination is going to be closer to an E♭ than a D. (Conversely, if the F/D combination gets you an in-tune D, the 2nd trigger alone will be closer to G♭.)

All it really comes down to is that you've got to experiment with your own instrument to identify what's possible and where on the slide the notes are going to be in tune. If this is all largely over your head, you should focus mostly on becoming familiar with low D♭2, C2, and B♮1 as double-trigger notes. The Tyrell 40 Advanced Studies for B♭ Bass is an excellent etude book for developing technique in the double trigger range of the bass trombone.

I hope this answers your question. If it does not, please elaborate in your original post or in the comments.

  • Thank you very much, great answer. I realize, reading you (correct me if I'm wrong), that the second valve is intended to be used with the first and only occasionally alone, making some major arpeggio a left hand job.
    – shellholic
    Apr 30, 2011 at 21:56
  • @shellholic The primary advantage of valve independence is technique. Tone is always better with less tubing (read: fewer valves down), so in sustained and loud passages you'll generally use only as many valves as you need to get the note in tune. (When I see a high school student playing quarter note D3s in 1st position with two valves down, I've got to slap his wrist a bit.) Practice arpeggios both ways, and then use whichever technique is most appropriate for the music.
    – NReilingh
    Apr 30, 2011 at 22:16
  • Do tenor trombone players modify the positions depending on the register they are playing? I don't mean in regard with the valve. Trumpet players modify the length of their third valve in the low register, so I figured trombone players would do the same. I just never thought of it before.
    – Gauthier
    May 19, 2011 at 6:17
  • @Gauthier you're kind of right, but you're not considering how the harmonic series works and that the trumpet can be constructed with the "position distance" ingrained. You should ask this as a different question; there really isn't enough room here to explain properly.
    – NReilingh
    May 19, 2011 at 13:34
  • @NReilingh: I started writing the question, which made me think about it more... and I think I understood. Then rereading your comment "how the harmonic series works" makes sense. Just like the fret spacing works the same on all the strings of a guitar. Maybe I should ask the question anyway, but it feels awkward to ask a question of which I already know the answer.
    – Gauthier
    May 20, 2011 at 8:35

This is personal opinion, your mileage may vary.

If you are primarily playing the orchestral literature (and that includes most of the wind ensemble literature) you don't need a second valve. You would be better served to learn how to negotiate with a single F valve. I am consistently amazed to see bass trombonists playing a g arpeggio jumping to first position for the Bb. There is a perfectly lovely Bb in 3rd position on the F-side. There is an A in 4th, and so on.

Get an etude book (Pedersen Elementary or Intermediate, Tanner/Roberts, Ostrander are all good) and start working. Reach a point where you are as comfortable playing on the F-side as you are on the Bb-side. When you are fluent with the Bb/F bass trombone, start adding the second valve.

If your bass is set up with the old left-thumb only setups (the old Conn, Bach linkages and Holton's Glantz bar) do yourself a big favor and have a cross-over (thumb and finger) system installed. Advice on the use of the second valve is tougher, because the tunings vary so much. The most common tuning is Bb/F/D for stacked systems and Bb/F/bG/D for inline systems. But that varies a lot. I've seen inline setups in Bb/F/D/bC, Bb/F/G/bEb, Bb/F/E/BBb; and stacked setups in Bb/F/E, Bb/F/Eb and Bb/F/C.

By the way, in most tunings on inline systems the finger valve is used at least as much as the thumb valve. The big exception would be the Bb/F/D/bC tuning -- there, the finger valve is almost exclusively used alone. Some instruments respond better on the finger valve than on the F-side, and besides, you can raise the pitch of the F or C if necessary on the finger valve.

The key is to become fluent on the basic instrument, and then add the additional valve. There is simply no substitute for good slide technique, not even good valve technique.


Another thing to really pay attention to is your intonation. As you experiment with various combinations (none, one, two triggers, etc.) you'll find that you need to adjust your slide from any kind of "strict" position, especially as you go into the lower registers.

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