Orchestral Excerpts for the Tenor Trombonist: Bolero

By Tom Ervin • April 01, 1997 • 2 min read

There are many challenges in performing this solo. They include waiting through so many "verses" before you get to play, making a perfect "bulls-eye" entrance, using an excellent ballad legato, and maintaining accurate control as the pitches descend. Also keep in mind that this solo has long phrases which may require the performer play louder than they might like. In relation to that, it is important to keep a good, full sound throughout, especially at the end. The glissando to the high Db is also a challenge.

Some extra breaths will be necessary if the general dynamic level of the orchestra is high or if the tempo is slow. I prefer to breathe after long notes as one usually does. I'll also breathe after the second high Db in measure 5, not because I need a breath at that moment, but because I will need it later. I also usually breathe right after the middle C, after the middle G two bars later, after the Eb, and after the low Db if I have any doubts about a strong finish.

I like to use vibrato in this solo, and in this range my safest vibrato is with the slide, "a la Dorsey" on all notes longer than an eighth note. It can easily be "switched off" if the conductor requests.

Vibrato should only be used when playing this line solo. When the trombonists plays it with other instruments one shouldn't use vibrato. In the final "verse", the performer can breathe wherever necessary and remember to blend and balance, not compete. Most conductors will want the final glissandi "as written" rhythmically, on the beat, not scooping into the beats.

Some suggestions on learning and preparing Bolero:

  1. Memorize it; rewrite it from memory.
  2. Sufficient daily work in the high range.
  3. Most of us cannot practice Bolero very many times without exhaustion; mental practice ("pretend practice") is almost as good, and the first 8 bars could be rehearsed down an octave.
  4. Sing it to yourself and conduct yourself in order to be perfectly sure of the rhythms.
  5. For getting used to the long phrases, practice it slower and slower, and be thrifty with the air.
  6. To develop confidence, record it every day for several weeks.

Two final tips. Practice Bolero at a wide variety of tempos so that you are prepared for anything. Check pitches with a tuner, as this is an uncommon scale and an unusual range is involved.

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