Share page: 

Return to the Alto Trombone Home Page

Alto Trombone Research Abstracts and Article Links

The following are abstracts from various individuals who have written articles, dissertations, or books on the alto trombone. For complete information or questions concerning a specific abstract please contact the author.

Questions or suggestions about the abstract page should be directed to Robert Kehle.

Abstracts or article links include:

. The Alto Trombone: Twentieth-century Performance Practices and Pedagogy in the United States by David Mathie.

. Playing French Horn Parts on Alto Trombone by Ryan R. Ringnalda

. The Alto Trombone in the Orchestra: 1800-2000 by Ken Shifrin

. Alto Trombone by Jay Friedman

. When is an Alto Trombone an Alto Trombone? When is a Bass Trombone a Bass Trombone? – The Makeup of the Trombone Section in the Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Orchestra. By Howard Weiner


The Alto Trombone: Twentieth-century
Performance Practices and Pedagogy
in the United States

By David Gordon Mathie

The purpose of this study was to examine the twentieth-century alto trombone performance practices and pedagogy in the United States. The document includes a study of the historical background of the alto trombone prior to the twentieth-century; an examination of the alto trombone in twentieth-century music, including orchestra, operatic, choral, solo and chamber music; an examination of the pedagogical materials such as etudes and studies available for the alto trombone; and a survey of the manner in which the alto trombone is presently being used, including equipment choices, instructional techniques, and performance trends.

To ascertain the present use of the alto trombone, the author employed a questionnaire polling 332 professional orchestral trombonists and college-level trombone teachers in the United States. The results of this questionnaire were summarized in five areas: 1) demographic information, 2) equipment uses, 3) pedagogical materials used, 4) orchestral use, and 5) general concerns. The subjects' responses indicated that there is a renewed interest in solo and orchestral alto trombone playing. New music, method books, and editions of older music are now being published; a variety of quality instruments is currently available; and a growing number of trombonists are learning to play the instrument. The survey results also formed the basis for a recommended two-semester course of study for the alto trombone at the college level.


by Ryan R. Ringnalda

In the past decade or so the alto trombone has regained it stature as a useable and viable tool in the trombonists arsenal. Many symphonies are using it on period pieces, a good deal of new literature has been written for the instrument, many university and conservatories feature recitals using the alto, and it has found a home in the brass quintet!

I began using my alto for this purpose several years ago. Having friends who wanted to form a quintet and no interested horn players I decided to tackle the parts. At first I transposed the parts into alto clef and read them that way, but I soon learned that this would take a great deal of time and effort. Instead I realized that by reading mezzo soprano clef and adding one flat to the key signature that I could use the printed parts just fine.

Mezzo soprano clef puts tuning Bflat on the bottom space of the staff and adding the flat gives the transposition of a fifth. It takes some time to get use to but basically you are reading alto clef down a third.

Playing in various quintets over the past several years has given me a great opportunity to really learn the intonation of the instrument, vice setting in front of a tuner all the time. (Although I have done my share of this as well!!!) I haven't really rum into any "hornistic" things that I haven't been able to accomplish with good success and the sound in my opinion blends well with the trombone and trumpets.

In my opinion I think all trombonists who want to be giging, should employ as many usable talents as they can possibly employ and this is one that has gotten many jobs and a lot of practical experience with my alto. This article is just a very scant overview of this topic is anyone has questions or comments please contact me, I would love to hear from you.

Ryan R. Ringnalda
US Navy Band Jacksonville
Paragon Brass

The Alto Trombone in the Orchestra: 1800-2000

This is a must read for those interested in the historic use of alto in the orchestra!

Extracted from the published edition
(Originally PhD thesis, Oxford University, May 2000)

by Ken Shifrin, Former Principal Trombonist, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

  • Part I
    Alto-Tenor-Bass Trombone Trio
  • Chapter 1
    From Beethoven to Schumann
  • Chapter 2
    Ascent of the Tenor Trombone
  • Part II
    Alto Trombone is Rarer Than it Was
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Coda
    Orchestral Alto Trombone in the 20th Century
  • Bibliography
  • Author Biography
  • Appendix 1  Benjamin Britten: The Burning Fiery Furnace
  • Appendix 2 Alto Trombone Technical Innovations: Gadgets, Gimmicks and Gizmos?
  • Appendix 3  Equipment survey
  • Music Examples

Alto trombone
Jay Friedman
Reflections - 12/08/2003

When is an Alto Trombone an Alto Trombone? When is a Bass Trombone a Bass Trombone? – The Makeup of the Trombone Section in the Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Orchestra.
By Howard Weiner

Historic Brass Society Journal 17 (2005), pp. 37-79.

From an organographical point of view, the identification of an alto or a bass trombone does not normally pose a problem. From the performance practice point of view, however, the questions “When is an alto trombone an alto trombone?” and “When is a bass trombone a bass trombone?” are not as straightforward as they might seem, since the concepts of “alto trombone” and “bass trombone” varied, depending on the time and place. When our orchestras of period instruments perform works of the late eighteenth, early nineteenth centuries, works such as Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Creation, or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, these questions are very rarely asked and the trombone section is inevitably made up of an alto in E-flat , a tenor in B-flat , and a “quart” trombone in E-flat or F. Although this ubiquitous “authentic” formation may be appropriate for some eighteenth-century works, it is undoubtedly anachronistic for much of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century repertoire and, in particular, for music of the Viennese Classical composers. Also included is an excursus on “The solo alto trombone” as well as an epilogue suggesting a revision of the history of the alto trombone.


Return to the Alto Trombone Home Page

Return to the Alto Trombone Literature Home Page.