9 Advanced Techniques

The techniques that follow are ones that are called for in advanced settings. As a non-brass music educator, you are not necessarily expected to be able to perform all of these techniques, but you should be familiar with their concept so that you advise students and recognize poor execution.


Vibrato is not extensively used in most settings with brass instruments. There are several methods by which vibrato can be introduced. For all types of vibrato, students should practice it slowly at first with a metronome. Setting the oscillation at ♩=72 is a good way to start. Once students can play vibrato at that rate with consistency and control, they should gradually increase the tempo.

Jaw Vibrato

Jaw vibrato is achieved by slightly adjusting the jaw and tongue. Saying the syllable “yah-yah” establishes the fundamental movement. The amount of movement by the jaw dictates the severity of the vibrato. Jaw vibrato is the most common sort of vibrato used on brass instruments.

Hand/Slide Vibrato

Trumpet and trombone will occasionally use hand vibrato, particularly in jazz settings where a particularly wide vibrato can be desired. When using hand vibrato on trumpet, the pinky is placed in the finger hook and the right hand is gently shaken to alternate pressure on the embouchure. The movement should come from the wrist and only be as big as is needed to create a vibrato effect. Particularly with young players, hand vibrato should be used sparingly, as it is very easy to place too much pressure on the embouchure causing damage.

On trombone, a variation of hand vibrato is with slide vibrato. Slide vibrato is a wrist based movement in which the pitch is moved in and out of tune by 10-15 cents. Again, care should be made to keep movements small so not to place undue pressure on the embouchure.

Diaphragm vibrato

Diaphragm vibrato is typically used on larger brass instruments for slower vibrato effects. Diaphragm vibrato surges air both through the manipulation of abdominal muscles and tongue placement. The syllable “Ho, ho, ho” will help to establish the tongue and muscle movement that creates this vibrato effect.

Multiple Tonguing

Multiple tonguing involves the use of both dental and glottal articulations so that students can articulate excerpts that are faster than they are able to while single tonguing. The development of multiple tonguing takes time, and at first, will be significantly slower than single tonguing. While it can be used for extended excerpts, it is most commonly used for short sections, sometimes for a beat or less, to allow for greater clarity in technical sections.

Practicing multiple tonguing should start slowly on a single pitch to ensure that the student can evenly control the tongue motion with consistency. Care should be made that the tongue returns to a neutral position so that tone is not interrupted. Tempo can then be increased until double tonguing is faster than single tonguing alone.

Double tonguing

Double tonguing occurs by a rocking motion of the tongue, whereby notes are alternately articulated by the dental and glottal articulations. The syllables “tah-kah” or “dah-gah” are often used to establish this rocking motion.

Triple tonguing

Triple tonguing utilizes a similar motion as double tonguing, but rather than alternating between dental and glottal articulation, it intersperses glottal articulation between repeated dental articulations. The most common patterns are “tah-tah-kah” or “tah-kah-tah” (or “dah-dah-gah” or “dah-gah-dah”). The choice of pattern is dictated both by the music and performer preference. Importantly, the musician should know that the dental articulation (“tah” or “dah”) will have a stronger accent, leading to necessary musical decisions.

Jazz and Special Effects

Bends, Scoops, and Doits

Bends involve quick adjustment of the embouchure while increasing air flow. For bending pitches up, the embouchure should start fixed on the given written pitch. At the point that the pitch is to be bent up to its release, the corners of the mouth should quickly firm while increasing air speed. The same is true for scoops or doits, only the embouchure starts relaxed and bends up to a fixed note which has sustain.

To bend down, the corners of the mouth should be quickly relaxed and can include jaw movement as well the exaggerate the dropped pitch. As this drop occurs, more air will be needed to keep the embouchure engaged.

To make the bend more chromatic, half valves can also be used. Half valves are exactly what they sound like. The valves are depressed half-way down, allowing air to move through the open fingering and the valve slides simultaneously. This creates a muffled tone with indefinite pitch that smooths out the drop between partials.

Flutter Tonguing and Growls

Flutter tonguing and growls both occur when the tongue is inserted and held in the moving air stream. With both techniques, more air is needed than would normally be required to allow the tongue to “flutter” or “growl” while still fully engaging the embouchure in tone production.

For flutter tonguing, the tip of the tongue is placed near the articulation point at the base of the teeth and held there. The sensation is similar to the one needed for the Spanish rolled “rr.” As air moves over the tongue, the tip of the tongue flutters in and out of the air stream, creating a very quick multiple articulation.

For growling, the back of the tongue is placed near the articulation point for glottal tonguing and held there. The German consonant “ch” will help to position the tongue properly. Similar to flutter tonguing, the back of the tongue vibrates, creating a gritty tone. Care should be taken not to over exaggerate this effect as it can damage the throat.


Shakes are a favorite audio and visual effect in jazz settings, particularly found in parts for trumpet and trombone. The movement for the shake is about pulling the mouthpiece away from the embouchure, as opposed to pushing it into the face. Younger players can often do serious damage, such as cuts to their inner gums, by widely shaking the instrument.

Similar to vibrato, the shake should be taught slowly with a metronome. Have the students start on a long tone. They should pull the instrument away from the face, leading to a drop of air pressure and pitch. They should then return it to regular playing position. At no time should the mouthpiece be pushed into the lip harder than normal.

Typically when playing a shake, the intention is for the pitch to bend up. To execute this, the player should focus on playing the higher partial, allowing the pitch to drop back down to the lower partial. The change of pitch is then because of a reduction of pressure while still maintaining good technique.


Multiphonics involve playing one pitch with the embouchure while singing a second pitch in the throat. Muliphonics are occasionally written in solo literature for low brass instruments. The key to making multiphonics work is being able to buzz while humming. Practicing initially on a mouthpiece is a key activity. Concern should not be about specific intervals but rather getting both mechanisms occurring at the same time. It is important that both the embouchure and the throat remain relaxed and not tight. Air support is critically important to ensure there is enough air to create tone through both the embouchure and the throat without tension.

Circular Breathing

Circular breathing is a favorite trick to learn for intermediate students. It entails breathing in through the nose while filling the mouth with air, which then acts as a bellows. The key skill to develop is the use of the mouth as a chamber for holding air. Visualizing  pushing air out of the mouth (the analogy of spitting water works well) at the same time as breathing in through the nose is key. When transitioning back to having the lungs providing air support, think about the syllable “Ha” to get the air moving again.


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Brass Techniques and Pedagogy by Brian N. Weidner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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