trombone hazard

This chart shows how to play each note on a trombone using it’s slide position.  Pitch is controlled by blowing a note on the correct partial combined with moving the slide to the correct position.

Slide Position chart

slide positions
Note: There is a fundamental partial one octave below the 1st partial. This is where the ‘pedal’ notes reside.

Pulling the slide up makes the instrument shorter and the note goes up in pitch (sharper).

For example, to produce a B;

the player must blow a note on the 4th partial while placing the slide in the 4th position.

Although these mechanics may seem complicated on paper, they become very natural after a little practice.

Mastering the co-ordination between the slide and the partials is key to mastering the trombone.  Slurring without tonguing can be achieved by crossing partials.

Not all slide positions are equal

Slide positions are not equal in length.  They become further apart as the instrument becomes longer!  So the distance between 1 and 2 is shorter than the distance between 2 and 3, and so on.  To go lower by 1 semitone, the length to the next position needs to be 6% of the current length of the instrument.

How to check your positions

A tuner is the best way to check your pitch on any note, however, here is a quick way to check the accuracy of your positions by ear; 

To check your 6th position, play an F in 1st position and then make it sound the same in 6th


To check your 5th position, play a Bb in 1st position and then make it sound the same in 5th


To check your 4th position, play a D in 1st position and then make it sound the same in 4th

Tip:  Notes on the 6th partial (starting with Ab in 1st position) are naturally flat so all positions on that partial need to be shorter than usual (e.g. high G is played in a short 2nd position). The high Ab in 1st position is not usable for this reason. There are as many partials on a trombone as a player can buzz. The sky is the limit.

Bass trombone slide positions

Bass trombones and some tenor trombones have an additional “trigger” or valve. The use of the trigger will change the slide positions. More on this in a future post.

Find the slide position by listening

Exercise:  The best way to determine the exact slide position for any note is to listen. Learning where a position should be is just a starting point. To play in tune, a player must listen to every note and make micro adjustments while playing. Learn the characteristics of your trombone. Many are slightly sharp on the 5th partial. Is yours? If so, every position on that partial should be played slightly longer than usual. Use a tuner to double check the positions for each note.

Leave a Comment