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I am currently putting the finishing touches on a brass trio I am composing. After meticulously checking every note and every phrase, I realized the technical difficulty of the opening 4 measures of the piece for F Trigger Trombone:

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The difficulty stems from slide positioning:

  • The Db can only be played in position 5
  • The C can only be played in position 6 or T2.5
  • The Bb can only be played in position 1 or T3

The musicians that will be performing this piece are collegiate performance majors, so a good deal of technical proficiency is expected of them. However, since I do not personally play the Trombone I am not sure if this passage would be too difficult to expect of a college level player.

Could any trombonists clarify for me if this would be too difficult?

Thanks a million!

Edit: tempo is at dotted quarter = 80

  • Please provide an approximate metronome marking! – aparente001 Nov 8 '15 at 4:58
  • As someone who plays the entire brass family but is kinda sloppy at trombone slide positions, I think this is totally fine. – MattPutnam Nov 8 '15 at 17:02
  • Just a note, the C would be in position 6 or T1, not T2.5. At this speed I wouldn't have much trouble even without a trigger, but with the trigger the C and Bb would be in the same position, and thus possibly even easier: 5–T1–1. If in the end you decide it sounds too rough or messy, bringing it up an octave would make it a total cinch to play, but I don't think it's too bad as written. – Pat Muchmore Dec 8 '15 at 10:35
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This depends on the speed of the piece. The technical problems of playing those positions are pretty inconsequential even on a straight (no valves) trombone at slower tempi (dotted quarter = 60). At faster tempi (ca. Dotted quarter = 120) this would be more difficult but doable by a "college student" standard. Compare this passage to some of the standard orchestral excerpts undergraduates routinely are assigned to study and you'll find this is not very difficult in comparison.

What might make this a difficult passage to play for a "college student" standard might be more the repeated Bbs at a very fast tempo. This would necessitate a multiple tonguing technique that might be odd to a less experienced player, especially as it is repeated with no break for 4 bars. This would also make it difficult to find a good spot to breathe, which would be harder particularly if the passage were loud. Much like I mentioned before though, at slower tempo these problems would not be considerations. Normally I would inquire this information before answering, but I think the additional perspective could help your (and others) writing by providing what would make the passage difficult.

  • wow sorry forgot to include speed... its at [dotted quarter = 80] – SpiderShlong Nov 8 '15 at 5:55
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    That seems like a pretty reasonable tempo to me. I wouldn't be worried about it. Another good resource is the tromboneforum.org. Composers/arrangers frequently stop by to ask similar questions, should you ever have another question about low brass writing. – mkingsbu Nov 9 '15 at 13:13
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Speaking as a college trombone player, this passage should be able to be played without much trouble. What the player will need to do is play the Db in 5, the C in 6 and the Bbs in the first measure in trigger flat 3rd, then in 1st on the second measure. So the positions would be: (5 6 Tb3 Tb3 1 1 1) (5 6 Tb3 Tb3 1 1 1) (5 6 Tb3 5 5 6 Tb3 5) (5 6 Tb3 6 5 6 6 2).

With an F-attachment there's not much the trombone can't play.

Happy Composing!

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It's not impossible to play, but there will definitely be some griping. Could you change the key up a half-step? 4-5-7 is definitely easier than 5-6-1.

  • It could be 5-6-t2. But, really, it's no problem in either key, with or without trigger. We can play scales a lot faster than that. – Laurence Payne Jan 31 '17 at 1:17
  • True, and with collegiate-level players it won't be an issue, especially at 80bpm. If it were high school or a community group, it would generate comments within the section. :) – Spivonious Jan 31 '17 at 20:14
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At dotted quarter = 80 this is perfectly playable, with or without a F trigger. Trombonists, particularly bass trombonists, put in a lot of practice to develop agility in this register. This wouldn't be considered a particularly hard exercise.

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