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Holding the Trombone

A typical professional model tenor trombone with F attachment weighs around 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Bass trombones or instruments with heavy bells can weigh in excess of 5 pounds. Holding this much weight up for long periods of time can be extremely hard on your body, but there are a few guidelines that should help you avoid pain or injury.

The Left Hand

You should hold the weight of the instrument up with your left arm so your right arm is free to move the slide. Your left wrist should be neutral as you hold the instrument, not bent as in the second image:

A bent left wrist can lead to impaired breathing because to breathe well, you MUST move your ribs. When your wrist is bent, your elbows can collapse and impede your rib motion, as in the first image below:

To help with holding the instrument in a healthy way, I recommend using a Neotech hand brace:

The brace can help you hold up the trombone without using extra effort. This leads to a more relaxed feel in your hand so you can breathe easier. It also frees up your right hand and arm to do the important job of moving the slide. Here are images of a neutral wrist with and without the brace – there is nothing wrong with the first image, but you can see that the second image with the brace uses less muscular effort – particularly in the fingers because they are no longer required to grab the instrument as in the first image.

Look at the boxed area in each image. Without the brace, the instrument is being held up by the palm and fingers. With the brace, the weight is delivered directly through the arm without the help of the palm or fingers.

When you bring the instrument up to your embouchure, stay balanced as in the description and video on this page: Posture vs. Balance. Don’t move your head forward to meet the mouthpiece – bring the instrument to you.

The Right Hand

Right hand images courtesy of Tim Myers


The basic guideline is to remain neutral as much as you can when holding the instrument. Of course, there will be inevitable muscular effort to hold up 5 pounds of metal during long practice sessions, but don’t make your job any harder than it needs to be. Use a minimum of muscular effort and be efficient – preserve neutral in your body.

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