How To Approach Excerpts

Why? | How: The 3 Steps To Follow | Repertoire Lists

Studying orchestral music is an important part of understanding your instrument. This process will not only introduce you to the history and development of our instrument, but vitally it will expand your variety of style and ensemble skills so that you have the appropriate tools for every playing situation.

Excerpts remain a focus in most audition processes, and while we might look for a better way to display our skills, you will always be expected to show that you know the various ‘core’ pieces of our repertoire, very well. For this reason, any specialist institution will have this process as a central part of their programme so if you are looking at further study, it is a good idea to set up a productive way to approach this learning.

Starting this journey can be daunting so here are a few simple steps to follow, with a list of suggested repertoire to get you going, and how that can be extended in to what is considered to be our core repertoire.

How to Start

1. Gather your tools. Ideally, you will need access to the score, parts and a variety of recordings. Note, instruments and excerpts are not required at this point. Most scores and instrumental parts can be found at IMSLP, and services including YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music will cater for your recording needs. If you are lucky, your library will have these options available to you, all in one place!

2. Listen critically & prepare your part. Consider the style, the context, what’s happening in the story and how your part fits. Do listen to a variety of recordings and note what can vary. For example, speed can sometimes be very much left to interpretation, so be prepared to be flexible. There are typically few right or wrongs, but there are appropriate and inappropriate decisions to make.

I would always recommend preparing the full part for each piece, where available, leaving the excerpt books only as a reference for the specific sections that might come up in an audition context. In some cases, preparing both tenor trombone parts carefully is required, but even without thorough study, you should always know what is happening in the rest of your section, better – the full orchestra.

Watch out for editions when you are sourcing your parts. There are some cases where full passages of music are omitted – eg. Mozart’s Requiem – depending on the edition in front of you, you will either do a lot of counting, or a lot of playing.  If in doubt, ask your teachers/colleagues for advice on which edition to look out for.

3. Practice. After your careful preparation, you should be ready to play these with a clear idea of how you want to sound, what speed to choose and what details you need to include. Take care with how these factors might vary and make sure you know your musical terms. If you are unsure of any of these points, refer back to the previous steps before playing anything.

Do you really know your part?

I would recommend regularly asking yourself the following questions to make sure you are on track. What sound do I need to use? What detail is needed? What is the speed, does this vary? Can I sing the tune at the beginning of this movement? Where does my part fit? Who else has this melody with me? Do I know the meanings of every direction printed?

In short, always refer back to the bigger picture; you are telling one part of a story, if you don’t know the context, your part will not make sense. Finally, remember that even the Probespiel, the go-to book for the orchestral excerpts commonly required at auditions, makes the following statement in the Preface;

‘It goes without saying that the passages included here should always be viewed in the overall context of the piece in question. To augment these studies we strongly advise studying the scores and listening to the music.’

The First 10 Excerpts to Learn on Tenor Trombone

  1. Bartók – Concerto for Orchestra
  2. Berlioz – Hungarian March
  3. Brahms – Symphony No. 1
  4. Mahler – Symphony No. 3
  5. Mozart – Requiem, tuba mirum
  6. Ravel – Bolero
  7. Rossini – William Tell
  8. Saint-Saëns – Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony)
  9. Strauss – Till Eulenspiegel
  10. Wagner – Die Walküre (Act 3)

This selection introduces you to a variety of roles that you might play in an orchestral setting with varying degrees of difficulty, but it is not a fixed list. Consider adapting this selection to suit your own requirements. For a more full list of ideas, keep reading.

What next? Core Repertoire

Tenor Trombone
  • Bartók – Concerto for Orchestra
  • Beethoven – Symphony No. 5*
  • Berlioz – Hungarian March, Symphony Fantastique*
  • Brahms – Symphony Nos. 1, 2 & 4, Tragic Overture
  • Bruckner – Symphony No. 8
  • Mahler – Symphony No. 2 & 3
  • Mozart – Magic Flute*, Requiem
  • Ravel – Bolero
  • Rimsky Korsakov – Russian Easter Overture**, Scheherazade**
  • Rossini – La Gazza Ladra, William Tell
  • Saint-Saëns – Symphony No. 3
  • Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 & 7
  • Sibelius – Symphony No. 7
  • Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel
  • Stravinsky – Firebird, Rite of Spring
  • Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6
  • Verdi – Force of Destiny
  • Wagner – Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Walküre

* 1st trombone on Alto ** 2nd trombone excerpt

Bass Trombone
  • Bartók – Concerto for Orchestra
  • Beethoven – Symphony No. 9
  • Berlioz – Hungarian March, Symphony Fantastique
  • Brahms – Symphony Nos. 2, 3 & 4
  • Bruckner – Symphony No. 7
  • Franck – Symphony in D minor
  • Haydn – The Creation
  • Kodaly – Hary Janos
  • Mahler – Symphony No. 5 & 7
  • Neilsen – Flute Concerto
  • Respighi – Fountains of Rome
  • Rossini – La Gazza Ladra, William Tell
  • Schumann – Symphony No. 3
  • Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 & 7
  • Strauss – Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Till Eulenspiegel
  • Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6
  • Verdi – Nabucco
  • Wagner – Rheingold, Tannhäuser, Walküre

Fancy even more of a challenge?

Alto Trombone
  • Berlioz – Symphony Fantastique
  • Berg – Lulu, Three Pieces for Orchestra
  • Beethoven – Symphony No. 5 & 9, Missa Solemnis
  • Mendelssohn – Elijah, Symphony No. 5
  • Mozart – Mass in C Minor, Requiem†
  • Schumann – Symphony No. 2 & 3
  • Stravinsky –

you might see this Alto part in tenor clef

Tenor Trombone (continued)
  • Bartók – The Miraculous Mandarin
  • Berg – Wozzeck
  • Bernstein – West Side Story
  • Borodin – Polovtsian Dances
  • Brahms – Symphony No. 3, German Requiem
  • Britten – Four Sea Interludes
  • Bruckner – Symphony No. 4, 7 & 9
  • Copland – Appalachian Spring
  • Dvorák – Symphony No. 7, 8 & 9
  • Elgar – Cockaigne, Dream of Gerontius, Symphony No. 1, Pomp and Circumstance No. 1
  • Hindemith – Symphonic Metamorphosis
  • Holst – Hymn of Jesus**, The Planets
  • Mahler – Symphony No. 5, 7 & 9
  • Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 2
  • Prokofiev – Symphony No. 5
  • Ravel – L’enfant et les sortilèges
  • Rossini – La Gazza Ladra
  • Schubert – Great Symphony, Unfinished
  • Strauss – Alpine Symphony, Death and Transfiguration, Ein Heldenleben
  • Stravinsky – Petroushka, Pulcinella Suite
  • Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 4 & 5
  • Verdi – Requiem, Nabucco, Otello
  • Walton – Crown Imperial

** 2nd trombone excerpt

Tenor Tuba
  • Holst – The Planets
  • Janacek – Sinfonietta
  • Mahler – Symphony No. 7
  • Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition (Bydlo)
  • Strauss – Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben†

you might see these parts in bass clef, Bb transposition

Bass Trumpet
  • Janacek – Sinfonietta
  • Schoenberg – Gurrelieder
  • Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring
  • Strauss – Elektra, Macbeth
  • Wagner – Ring Cycle
Bass Trombone (continued)
  • Berg – Three Pieces for Orchestra, Wozzeck
  • Bartók – The Miraculous Mandarin
  • Brahms – Symphony No. 1, German Requiem
  • Britten – Four Sea Interludes
  • Bruckner Symphony No. 4, 8 & 9
  • Dvorák – Symphony No. 7
  • Hindemith – Symphonic Metamorphosis
  • Holst – The Planets
  • Mahler – Symphony No. 1, 2, 3 & 9
  • Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 2
  • Rimsky Korsakov – Russian Easter Overture, Scheherazade
  • Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra, Alpine Symphony, Death and Transfiguration, Ein Heldenleben, Death and Transfiguration
  • Stravinsky – Petroushka
  • Tchaikovsky – Francesca da Rimini, Symphony No. 4 & 5
  • Wagner – Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin

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