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TraceQL Reference

TraceQL is the query language used in Grafana Tempo to query traces. It is a powerful query language that allows you to filter, aggregate, and search for traces and should be familiar to anyone who has used SQL or PromQL.

Where TraceQL differs from PromQL is it's trailing pipeline syntax, or trace pipeline. A trace pipeline is a set of stage expressions that are chained together and applied to the selected trace data. Each expression can filter out, parse, or mutate trace spans and their respective labels.


A TraceQL query is composed by two main parts: the trace span selector(s) (the query) and the trace pipeline (aggregations).

{label="value"} | stage1 | stage2 | stage3

Trace Span Selector

The trace span selector is used to select spans based on their attributes. It is a set of key-value pairs that are used to filter spans.

Some span metadata are intrinsic to the span, such as name, status, duration, and kind, while others (attributes and resources) are user-defined, such as, db.operation, and http.status_code.

{ span.http.status_code >= 200 && span.http.status_code < 300 }

Comparison Operators

Similar to PromQL, TraceQL supports a set of operators for comparing span attributes and values. One notable difference is type coercion, where the type of the attribute is inferred from the value being compared.

  • = - Equality
  • != - Inequality
  • > - Greater than
  • >= - Greater than or equal to
  • < - Less than
  • <= - Less than or equal to
  • =~ - Regular expression
  • !~ - Negated regular expression

Combining spansets

Since a trace can be composed of multiple spans, multiple selectors can be used together to filter spans based on different attributes.

TraceQL supports two types of combining spansets: logical (&& and ||) and structural relations (>, >\>, <\< <, and ~).


The logical operators && and || are used to combine spansets based on their attributes.

{"server" } && {"client" }

The above query will return traces where a span with the service name server and a differ3ent span with the service name client are present.


Structural relations are used to filter spans based on their structural relationships. The structural relations are:

  • > - Direct parent of
  • >\> - Ancestor of
  • <\< - Descendant of
  • < - Direct child of
  • ~ - Sibling of

For example, to find a trace where a specific HTTP request interacted with a particular kafka topic, you could use the following query:

{ span.http.url = "/path/of/api" } >> { = "my-team.some-topic" }

Trace Pipeline Aggregations

To further refine the selected spans, a trace pipeline can be used to apply a set of aggregation functions on the selected spans.

  • count - The count of spans in the spanset.
  • avg - The average of a given numeric attribute or intrinsic for a spanset.
  • max - The max value of a given numeric attribute or intrinsic for a spanset.
  • min - The min value of a given numeric attribute or intrinsic for a spanset.
  • sum - The sum value of a given numeric attribute or intrinsic for a spanset.

We can use the count() function to count the number of spans in the selected traces. In the following example, we select traces that contains more then 3 database SELECT operations:

{span.db.operation="SELECT"} | count() > 3