A Trombonist’s Guide for COVID-19

Update: one year on(!), a lot of this advice is in need of some updating. This may still be a useful starting point for some of you, but do keep an eye out for some of the better and more up-to-date tips, especially for the tech related bits! Things have moved quickly.

You don’t need me to highlight the devastating impacts of the ‘C’ word, but here is a collection of thoughts and resources that may be a help to you during this period of uncertainty. 

I will endeavour to add to this regularly, but please do write to me (or talkingtrombone@outlook.com) if you know of something that should feature here.


↳ advice

↳ trombone specials

↳ online performances

↳ resources



10 tips for online lessons

  1. Pupils (and parents) will love it. There is little to fear – this just was *not* the big change I expected it to be, but…
  2. You should wear headphones and ask students to position themselves with their slide/valve hand nearest the camera. Try to avoid them blowing directly at you. Make sure they know to tell you if they are having trouble hearing you.
  3. Be patient with connections, if it threatens to be patchy, drop your video for a little while – students really only need to hear you.
  4. As always, make sure your pupil has understood everything and follow up with notes. Online communication is a *real* help here – include supporting listening/interactive materials. Lessons will lack good quality live playing, so further references are especially important.
  5. Have your books and resources to hand. Ask them to scan you their page if you don’t have a copy. Referencing the same thing will be a help for you both – especially if uncertainty kicks in.
  6. You won’t be able to reliably count them in, but DO still play/sing examples with you counting yourself in. We gotta keep encouraging those pulses.
  7. Maybe space your lessons a little more than you would usually. It’s probably my first day nerves, but I have a big ol’ headache now.
  8. Think about what vocal/imagery cues you can use for posture or breathing prompts. They won’t catch the subtleties from you like they would in person. Encourage them to really ‘own’ their development – this is their time to be independent! 
  9. Have FUN – everyone needs it right now. Do also let pupils show you their pets (especially if they insist).
  10. Connect with your community. More than ever, people are rallying together to support this work. Take a look at our survey – it’s set to bring us together and to help build content to support YOU: forms.gle/Hf4Aj1fDFzy4B5PU8.


Using Zoom

Zoom is my first choice for online lessons. It is free, your audience does not require a profile and the audio seems to be the most reliable and flexible in of the popular platforms.

These platforms are set up to feature the sound of the human voice. Therefore, tweaks will need to be made to optimise this for your instrument. I recommend experimenting with external mics, disabling the inbuilt audio enhancements and most importantly – enable Zoom’s original sound setting.

There are lots of features to check out in Zoom. Screen sharing has been great to point to specific material (it beats waving printed music at a camera) and the ability to record the lesson is a fantastic way to turn your lessons into a long-lasting resource. Just please make sure both parties consent before trying this feature.


Using Microsoft Teams

This great software is part of Office365 – if you teach in schools, this will most likely be the tool of choice. Teams makes communication easy for both parties – everything is based in a chat, with call activity easy to see, supporting any requirements for registers, etc.

Audio quality seems pretty good but like every platform, relies on a good speed of internet. Make sure to ask pupils not to blow directly at the device, but instead stand with the slide hand to the camera.

I did have some trouble with lessons being interrupted by other teachers or activity on Teams and will be looking at how to reduce this over the next few lessons.


Scheduling tools

Both Zoom and Teams have scheduling capabilities which you can use to both ‘book in’ and notify participants.

If you are looking for a specific booking tool to let parents/pupils know your availability, try Calendy. This syncs with your calendar to show when you are available (you have control over the specifics) and allows you to capture all the information you need from those who sign up.



Safety remains as important as ever. Please refer to the ISM’s advice on safeguarding for music teachers for more information.