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Breathing

No technique is more important to good trombone playing than proper breathing. Sadly, no technique is as misunderstood as breathing.

I could fill page after page with information about breathing but for now, I’ll summarize the most common student mistakes:

1. Don’t do breathing exercises away from the horn and then do something different when you pick up the horn.

2. The most important part is the blowing. Focus on moving wind through the horn and don’t get preoccupied with how to inhale.

3. Move constant, steady air regardless of how you are moving the slide. Blow without hesitation across the partials and note changes.

4. High notes require fast air and low notes require slow air. Don’t mix these up or your range extremes will suffer.

5. Don’t be a belly dancing breather. Yes there is very important motion which occurs in the abdominal area when you breathe, but the motion is secondary to rib movement. Moving your tummy where your belly button is does not cause air to enter the body.

6. You can’t directly feel your diaphragm and you use your diaphragm every time you breathe. Don’t use misleading phrases like  “support with your diaphragm” because they imply that you can directly feel the diaphragm (you can’t) and that there is some other way to breathe that does not involve the diaphragm (there isn’t).

Here is a video about how to use breathing devices:

Here is a video discussing efficient breathing during technical passages:

If you want more detail about breathing, visit my Breathing Blog.

Here are some additional resources to help you with your breathing:


Tenor Front Small scaledBassBone Front Small scaled

To breathe well means to breathe free of tension, and trombonists who breathe well create a resonant tone quality. The Breathing Book provides concise information about breathing alongside etudes and activites encouraging application of this knowledge in musically meaningful ways. The Breathing Book teaches the truth about breathing, establishing a reliable foundation for improved resonance, articulation, endurance, and tone quality.

“For me, The Breathing Book was an eye-opener and is a new inspiration for my teaching and also for my own playing. I use the book and its exercises on a regular basis in my teaching and in my own daily routines. His ideas are so easy to apply to everything you have to play or work on and they help you to play in more relaxed, easy and controlled manner.” — Ben van Dijk, Bass Trombonist, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Professor of Trombone, Rotterdam Conservatory

Purchase The Breathing Book for Tenor Trombone

Purchase the Breathing Book for Bass Trombone


What Every Trombonist Front scaledDavid’s research and increased self-awareness have resulted in his book “What Every Trombonist Needs to Know About the Body.” It is a remarkable volume that will be of tremendous use to future generations of trombone teachers and players. The great majority of trombonists (myself included) who never had to think very much about this can consider themselves lucky. David is to be congratulated upon his recovery and thanked for showing us so completely how the body works in trombone playing. — Denis Wick, Principal Trombonist (retired), London Symphony

Purchase What Every Trombonist Needs to Know About the Body

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