The Ultimate Trombone Slide Chart

trombone slide chart

You may already know how to play the trombone, but do you know the science behind it? In this article, you will learn about the different notes that can be played on the trombone, why the instrument is built this way, and where you should position your notes on the slide. In this article, you will learn about the trombone slide chart. If you want to know more about your trombone and about playing in a correct intonation, join me!

The Trombone Slide Chart

The slide of the trombone is our way of playing different chromatic notes. Every time you move your slide outward, you are making the trombone longer, and by that, the note you are playing is also traveling longer. This is resulting in a change of pitch.

There are 7 main trombone positions, but as long as you play higher notes, the positions are less accurate, since they are based on the harmonic series. You can see this in the trombone position chart. In this trombone slide chart you can find all of the correct positions, from low E to a high Bb:

trombone slide chart
Trombone Slide Position Chart (For Tenor Trombone)

As you can see, some of the positions in the trombone position chart are marked with #/b. This indicates that you need to use your normal position, and then lightly tilt the slide higher (#) or lower (b). Experiment with a tuner and with your ear, and try to find the right slide placement for each note.

Trombone Slide Positions

Here you can find an illustration and explanation of all the trombone slide positions that can be used alongside the trombone position chart.

The Harmonic Series On The Trombone

According to Zachary Belles from the Jerry Evans School of Music, with each of the trombone slide positions you can play up to 7 different notes in the harmonic series. For example: in 1st position you can play in order from lowest to highest: Bb1, Bb2, F3, Bb3, D4, F4, and Bb4 (the numbers dictate the octave).

These notes in the 1st position, can be changed just by the way you buzz through your mouthpiece. To play high notes you will need a tight embouchure and more fast-moving air. To play low notes, you will need to loosen your embouchure and use slower air movement.

In the next section, we’ll explain about the second way to change notes, and the proper way to do so with correct intonation using the trombone slide chart as a guide.

Is It Really Necessary To Use Alternate Trombone Slide Positions?

In the trombone slide chart above, you probably noticed the marking (or b5)/(or #4). These are options to play these notes in alternative positions. Some of you may have thought “Why should I learn how to use these positions, since I already know how to play these notes in the normal position”.

This will be an understandable argument, but the more you play more difficult pieces, you will find that it will be close to impossible to use only the “basic” positions seen in the trombone position chart since you will be required to play lines that will require too much movement.

If you want to start practicing your alternate trombone slide positions (which I would highly recommend), I would suggest that you check out David Mathie’s article. In this article, David explains the importance of knowing your alternate position on the trombone and giving great exercises that are focused on those positions.

David even wrote a song called “O Come All Ye Alternate”, which is composed almost entirely out of alternate positions!

trombone position chart
Trombone Position Chart

But How Does A Trombone Work?

The trombone is a fascinating instrument; it has a mouthpiece, connected to a slide tube that expands to a bell. Many trombone players believe that the trombone is the main part of the instrument, but in fact, the mouthpiece is the instrument that generates notes with the vibration of the lips. The trombone “fixes” those notes according to the harmonic series and projects them in a larger volume (like a guitar amplifier for example).

For example, when you buzz a middle C on the mouthpiece, you will get the same note on the trombone, as long you are in the right position. Using a trombone slide position chart you will soon understand the different positions. But if you buzz a C on the mouthpiece, and your slide is too high/low, you will get an “airy” sound that is not full.

This works the other way around: If you place your slide correctly in the 6th position, but the note you buzz on the mouthpiece is a bit higher/lower than C, then you will get the same result. So to get a full sound, you should make sure to pay attention to all of these different elements.

Check out this video made by Classic FM, which shows Matt Gee, Principal Trombone with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, explaining and demonstrating how the trombone works:


What’s Next?

If you are interested in improving your intonation and overall playing abilities, you must be wondering “What should I do next?”. Well, I have a few great books that I would highly recommend you should get if you don’t have them already.

Melodious Etudes for Trombone Book 1

Melodious Etudes for Trombone Book 1

This book is a completion of Etudes, originally made for vocalists, and was adapted for the trombone. This is one of the reasons these etudes are so melodic. All of the etudes are focused on air and legato playing. The further you go, the book slowly introduces alternate positions within the etudes, and every time there is a use for these positions, it is marked above the note.

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Advanced Slide Technique

Advanced Slide Technique

Advanced Slide Technique for Trombone
Advanced Slide Technique for Trombone


If you want to focus on your slide technique, then this will be the book for you! It is compiled of exercises that can improve your slide accuracy.

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In conclusion

The trombone is an unusual and very special instrument that can be explored from so many different aspects. I hope you found some helpful information in this article, and good luck with your trombone journey!