Practicing Smarter

I’ve been using the following visual organizers with students in the UL Lafayette Trombone Studio. I think they help with organizing lesson notes, practice sessions, and developing your own way of getting through the fundamentals and music you need to know each week.

Lesson and Practice Session Note Taking Guide

The goal of the following pages is to help students take notes both while in weekly lessons and while practicing during the week between lessons. The lesson notes page has several blocks to help organize the specific components from each lesson. Not all lessons will have notes in all the blocks, this is just to help the student stay focused and aware of the material in the lesson. Each block should provide space to write down questions from each week of practice. The second page of each set allow for room to take notes during the week of practice between lessons. Students should consider their goals (based on the lesson) and notate the time practiced and what was focused on in each session. This can be filled out very completely or less so depending on the student.

The weekly lesson notes and practice session log is meant to help students track progress and awareness of weekly, monthly, yearly, and beyond goals and accomplishments. This system can be used both to keep the student “on track” and to help students see their long term accomplishments.

If you have questions about how these visual organizers work, feel free to contact me.

LMEA All-State Audition Materials

The following videos and commentary are the culmination of a years long project. When giving lessons, clinics, and information to high school students about the LMEA All-State audition process, I’ve found that there is a substantial amount of confusion about how the audition etudes and scales should be performed. There are many resources for examples of the VoxmanSelected Studies, but I find many students become confused and frustrated on how to execute many of the etudes. Additionally, the stratification of knowledgeable information about a specific instrument and its etudes make is difficult for many students to learn about their audition pieces. My hope is that these eight videos are just a start to providing information at an accessible level to all students around the state, providing everyone a better opportunity to learn and have a good audition process. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette plans to follow up this set of tenor trombone etude preparation videos with videos for the bass trombone, euphonium, and tuba audition etudes. Please check back soon!


I was one of the judges for the LMEA All-State trombone auditions in the fall of 2019.  I noticed some things that can simply be eliminated that affect the overall audition performance.  I think these are worth providing both in a written format and a video format to help students prepare their auditions in the future. This is meant to be an educational tool. 

The best way to help any student prepare for an audition is to take regular trombone lessons with an experienced teacher. Trombone lessons may cost a small amount of money, but will more than pay off in experience and making the student feel more comfortable in the audition. 


  1. Play the articulations
    1. The ascending scales are not marked staccato, they should be articulated, but full value. 
    1. Be sure your descending scales are legato.
  2. Remember, scales for All-State should be at mm. 78, eighth/sixteenth rhythm.
  3. Intonation is key!
    1. Ways to practice: use a drone, play slow, listen for intonation
    1. Alternate positions that will help (check with a teacher):

Example: B, play the a# at the top of the staff in a #5th position, that way it will be close on the slide to the B and more likely in tune.

  • Know the intonation issues with using the valve:

The second partial on the valve needs to be lowered

Do not use the valve for any notes higher than the second space C

  • Know the intonation tendencies of your instrument and the partials.
    • 6th and 7th partials are not in tune, know how to adjust them so they are.
  • Take your scales sheet in with you, you can use it!


  1. Know how to keep the instrument in tune (some F-Attachment tuning slides sound like they are pushed in all the way, be sure to check it with a tuner)
  2. Articulations
    1. Slurs, learn how to slur on the trombone (both natural slurs and articulated slurs)
    1. Notes without a marking are articulated, be sure to actually tongue these notes
      1. Notes that do not have staccato markings should be full length
    1. Staccato is not an articulation
    1. Full Value
  3. Note Length
    1. A staccato eighth note should be twice as long as a staccato 16th
    1. Full value notes, always unless indicated.  
    1. Even “long notes” need to be full value
  4. Accidentals
    1. Accidentals carry through the entire measure
      1. Just mark them in!
  5. Slide position choices
    1. Learn logical slide position choices
    1. 6th and 7th positions are still often a better choice, don’t forget about them.

Sight Reading

  1. You will have 30 second to look at the sight reading before you play. Check:
    1. Key signature
    1. Time signature (and any changes)
    1. Meter Changes
    1. Accidentals
    1. Think through rhythm
    1. Look at large intervals and hear them in your head
    1. Dynamics
  2. The only way to get better at sight reading is by practicing it, ask your band director for music.
  3. The sight reading is 1/3 of the audition. Many students come in with very strong scales and etudes, only to loose points on the sight reading. Practice sight reading!

Bass Trombone Auditions

  1. Work on low range below the staff
  2. Use the right equipment
  3. Take bass trombone lessons, it is a specific instrument with specific knowledge.

General audition success

  1. Organize everything:
    1. Consider having your scales sheet copied front and back. 
    1. Have your etudes in the book marked with a sticky note, or use a copy
    1. As soon as the proctor shows you the cut, mark it in your music
  2. Trombone operation
    1. Be sure your trombone is clean and in working order, see my follow up video on cleaning the slide and oiling the valve
    1. Empty water key before starting any section of the audition
  3. Be comfortable
    1. The audition is behind a screen, wear clothes that a school type clothes, but comfortable
    1. Be ready when you walk into the audition room
      1. Drink water before hand
      1. Have your horn and music ready
      1. Music in order
LMEA All-State Trombone Audition Preparation
Trombone valve and slide Maintenance

Himie Voxman
Many students do not know the background of Selected Studiesby Himie Voxman. Why these studies became standard All-State audition works throughout much of the United States and how the method came to be is an important history.
Voxman was born in Centerville, IA (not far from my hometown) and studied at the University of Iowa. He later was the director of the UI School of Music from 1954-1980, leading not only the financial push, but the research and educational push to make the University of Iowa a respected and known institution for music and music education in the United States. The University of Iowa has named two music buildings in Voxman’s honor. The original Voxman School of Music building was completed in 1971. The facility was flooded in 2008 and rebuilt on higher ground in 2016.
Himie Voxman was born in 1912 to immigrant parents from the Ukraine. The Selected Studiesbook was first published in 1954 through the Rubank Educational Library. In early 1951, Voxman was provided a modest stipend from the University of Iowa to travel Europe in search of unpublished music that could be arranged for a series of method books for band instruments. Selected Studiesis a representation of some of the work Voxman rediscovered. Some of his research led to the “rediscovery” or “American discovery” of European methods not known at the time, included many works by Blazhevich and Boismortier. There is some debate over the ethical use of many manuscripts Voxman found and republished.
Many students ask me why they are expected to learn outdated music. I don’t really have a solid answer. For the most part, these resources came of age as school music and specifically band programs developed. Once an audition work is in place, it is difficult to replace or update it, leaving the older music in place. LMEA ALL-State Trombone Audition Etudes

LMEA ALL-State Trombone Audition Etudes
Set IV 2019. Voxman, Selected Studies Pg. 25, 26

Voxman, Selected Studies. G Major, Page 26

LMEA ALL-State Trombone Audition Etudes
Set I 2020. Voxman, Selected Studies Pg. 22, 28

Voxman, Selected Studies. Db Major, page 22
Voxman, Selected Studies. E Minor, Page 28

LMEA ALL-State Trombone Audition Etudes
Set II 2021. Voxman, Selected Studies Pg. 11, 13

Voxman, Selected Studies. F Major, page 11

LMEA ALL-State Trombone Audition Etudes
Set III 2022

Voxman, Selected Studies. E Flat Major, Page 7
Voxman, Selected Studies. C Major, Page 19

LMEA ALL-State Bass Trombone Audition Etudes
Set IV 2019. Grigoriev, 24 Studies for Bass Trombone. Pg. 14, 19