Five Pieces of Trombone Jedi Wisdom

Every now and then, I will try to post learnings from my time spent as a trombonist, which is what I call "Trombone Jedi Training". Some may be relevant to the trombone, some not so much.

1. Don't work so hard! And furthermore, don't look like you're working so hard!

2. When you're unsure, it's better to act like you're confident. That way, if you really have made a mistake, no one will notice. And if you haven't made a mistake, no one will notice that you were unsure.

3. If you are turning a page, always use the hand closest to the stand. This means that if you're sitting on the left side of the stand, use your right hand. If you are sitting on the right side of the stand, use your left hand. (Note: this presupposes that you have equal page-turning dexterity in both hands. If you don't, try to sit on the side that will make you use your dominant hand, or get your stand partner to be the page-turner.) If you are just turning one page, as though opening a one-page sheet into two, you must grab the lower right corner and open in one motion; if you are flipping a page, grab the lower corner closest to you, and turn it in one fluid motion. It helps if beforehand you have turned down a corner to make for easy grasping!

4. Don't move around a lot. (Note: this is actual Trombone Jedi Training from Joe himself, originally said during a trombone choir rehearsal, referencing the fact that parents who have daughters in middle school should not move from city to city because it's tough on young girls, apparently. I borrow the general concept -- the more motion that you have, the less solid your playing will be.)

5. Take the same breath to play pianissimo as you would to play fortissimo. Breathe the same way all the time. Consistency is key. You will play better at pianissimo with air support behind it, and the notes will speak much easier.

Stay tuned for more random bits of Trombone Jedi Training, and feel free to share your own!


  1. I was always taught that it was the duty of the person on the right of the stand to turn pages, going back to age 4 in the violin section. I have to say it was a little disconcerting having you on the left turning pages, but now I wonder if this is some kind of weird orchestral holdover from my early training as a string player, since I've seen more of it in bands after I started paying attention.

    But beyond that, you always use your left hand to turn pages as a string bass player, since that's easier than putting the bow down. As a violinist, you usually use the right hand, because it's easier to put the bow down than the instrument. So it was always a lot easier for me to do the page turns when playing bass since I was always taller than my stand partners, so I always stood on the right of the stand.

    There's a PhD thesis in here someplace.

  2. Note that this is Trombone Jedi Training -- which presupposes that one is a trombonist! And the only time that trombonists share a stand are in bands or trombone choirs, since we're mostly one on a part in orchestras.

    With us, it's equally easy to hold onto the instrument with one hand or another, although slightly more awkward if using the right hand only to hold at the slide brace. However, it's nearly impossible to reach around a trombone with one hand or another, so we're restricted to the inside hand.

    What does being tall have to do with standing on one side of a stand or another, as a string bass player? My own ignorance of the ways of string sections is showing!

  3. If I'm on the right side of the stand, I can take advantage of my height to reach around the bass and turn the page, more easily than a shorter person could, even on the right side.

  4. Interesting. Things you don't consider when you always sit down to play!