Bass Trombone (in "C")?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Bandsman1, Jun 8, 2007.

  1. Bandsman1

    Bandsman1 Member

    I am so frustrated at bass trom music, why oh why is it written in bass clef concert pitch? This is a long long argument of mine and one which I would like to throw open to MOUTHPIECE readers.

    A brass instrument's pitch is defined by it's tuning note i.e. when we play a "C" on a cornet or euph it is a Bb on a piano and thus becomes a Bb instrument. A tenor horn or soprano doing the same reads on the piano as an Eb and thus is an Eb horn.

    When a solo trom or 2nd trom player does the same (in closed position) he plays a "C" note to a Bb instrument and therefore is classed as Bb tenor trom. So if said trombones (including bass trom) all played C-major scale, they would ALL use the same positions on the slide! Proving that the bass trombone IS a Bb instrument.:D

    I know that historically, this all started when the bass bone was played on a "Handle G", and sometimes even new music has BOTH parts (Bass cleff and treble clef) in a full set. So why must we put up with this any longer?:mad:

    I would love to "cross over" and help out on bass trom from time to time but am stopped because I cannot read bass clef. :( Just think how easy it would be for our younger players to pick up a bass trom and play if after years on a tenor trom their embouchures started to "wilt". :-?

    So lets start a revolution and refuse to play bass trom music until it is widely accepted as a proper Bb instrument, lobby your MP, write to your MEP, and chain ourselves to a BBb bass until this cruel deception is stamped out forever. :clap:

    Bandsman Jim
  2. simonbassbone

    simonbassbone Member

    Oh Deary deary me......where to begin.......
    The bass trombone part is the only one written properly. There is no need for any of the bottom end of the band to be written in treble clef (either Bb or Eb) apart from laziness.
    If you can't read bass clef and want to cover the bass bone part then learn. Buy a copy of Tune a Day or similar and by the time your half through the book you'll be able to cope with hymn tunes etc. It'll also open up the wide world of music that isn't brass bands to you. Call me a heretic if you wish, but you could then also play in orchestras, dance bands, big bands, military bands and the hundreds of other ensembles that don't need evrything written out in treble clef to make it easier.
    There's so much fun to be had as a trombonist, don't limit yourself.
  3. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    There's also the practicality of it. Try reading a "proper" bass trom part written in treble clef. There's so many leger lines that the staves have to be double spaced.
  4. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    There has been a debate on this before. Perhaps one of our lovely fluffy mods could redirect this thread?
  5. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    OK I'm not too sure which specific thread Duncan is talking about here, but as he quite rightly says, the whole bass / treble clef / concert pitch / transposing issue has been discussed several times here, so here's a little light reading for you.... – on the joys of reading bass clef. – transposing tips. - transposing specifically from treble clef to bass clef.

    ...and finally – on whether brass band trombone parts written in treble clef is a good thing or not.

    That lot should give you plenty to go at! Hope this helps helps.

    Oh, Duncan - you might be thinking of another mod here, but I doubt I'm that lovely and I'm definately not fluffy! :)

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    You coul say the same about playing Lead Trombone in Big Band .. again ledger lines.. In that instance Tenor cleff would be better.

    This reminds me of a friend who played Euphonium BUT only ever in the REME Army band and hence only ever Bass Cleff he hadn't seen treble cleff and we looked at some duets together and he said how the hell can you play that high !!! then 30 mins to explain that it's not treble clef ? but transposed.. etc.. VERY confusing..

    Have to admit though my Bas Clef reading need 'brushing up'

    Have fun
  7. Bryan_sop

    Bryan_sop Active Member

    Simon summed it up in his first sentence, bass trom is the only one written properly.

    An orchestral friend of mine didn't believe me when I told them that, in a brass band, Tubas read Treble clef! And I understand why!

    In my way of thinking, the clefs are there to differentiate the pitch that an instrument sounds. An Eb bass reading a treble clef part, is in essence transposing the music down (however many octaves it is?), because if they were actually to play what was written on a treble clef stave, it would most probably be well out of their range.

    Bass clef is for bass instruments....the lower part of the band. In orchestral music (which I think is correct) Euphs, trombones and Tubas are written in bass clef.

    I'm a mere Trumpet player and I understand the concept, and I can read bass Clef (and no, I'm not a pianist, I've never had a proper piano lesson in my life!)

    On the other hand, I can see why troms, basses etc would read treble clef....

    It makes the fingerings the same and therefore easier to change instrument, and when it comes to trombone, I've been taught to relate fingerings to slide positions, but only in treble treble makes more sense to me

    I still think however that trombone (and all lower brass) should be written in bass clef because that's the range they play in (ok so they can stray into tenor/alto clef, but that's according to the range they're playing in at the time)
  8. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Orchestral euph parts are written in brass band treble clef as a general rule. Before anybody shouts Strauss, I said as a general rule!
  9. Daniel Sheard

    Daniel Sheard Member

    Except for the tenor trombone parts when they're written properly in C. I have seen baritone parts in C tenor clef, but not recently. Some of us read the "mickey mouse" treble clef parts as if they were concert pitch and add two flats...

    Agree. The OP should learn to read clefs in concert pitch starting with bass clef. He will thank us when he discovers the big wide world of trombone music.
  10. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    I played for Joseph (and the amzaing coloured thingey) once and if I remember correctly the trom part used Bass, Tenor, Alto(perhaps, I'm not sure) and even Treble (Concert pitch) clef - that was fun !
  11. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    I seem to remember being told once, that all brass band parts were written treble clef to facilitate players moving around over time from instrument to instrument.
    This may not be so common anymore (certainly amongst higher section bands) but I know it does occur in lower section bands, and certainly in the past.
  12. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    As far as I'm aware, the idea of all brass band instruments reading treble clef comes from Adolphe Sax who published one (TC) tutor book to sell with all his saxhorns.

    There is nothing unique about bass instruments being written in treble clef as it happens with saxophones, clarinets, oboes and many instruments that come in families. Recorders and string instruments are the exception, rather than the rule, in that each instrument has its own relationship between notation and fingering.

    Notation is only a system for writing down music and each variation has its own merits - try asking a sax player to learn a new fingering for each instrument!
  13. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    And yes, Concert Treble would have the bases on at least 5 or 6 ledger lines below the stave all the way through. Middle C is the A above the stave for a treble clef reading Eb Bass player and the D above the stave for a treble clef Bb reading bass player

    I agree with your final statement.
    I am reluctant to join this debate, being an orchestral trombonist recently joined a brass band, I have been very frustrated with treble clef parts, even more so with some of the tenor clef parts, (Why do people scribble out accidentals? I hate it when someone scribbles out an E natural and puts a sharp there.)
    In the orchestral brass section, the Horns and Trumpets have always been transposing instruments, not to make it easier, but because the tuning of the trumpets used when the composition was published changed, depending on the period of the piece you can get trumpet and horn parts written in D.
    I'm sure Bryan_Sop knows what I mean.
    Whereas with Brass Banding, nothing changes. I have always been of the opinion that brass bands should switch to concert pitch. That way, the percussion would be playing the same notes as the brass and then there wouldn't be any confussion between Bass Trombone and bases or Tenor Trombones, or even any other instrument in the band.
  14. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Just to add my ha'porth to this thread, in my early days I remember being told that the reason brass bands use treble clef was because most of the people in them (being commoners, miners,village idiots and so on) couldn't read or write and in order to facilitate teaching them, the players were all taught in the same clef so that each instrument had the same fingerings and the final form of the BB was determined by this (i.e. only Bb abd Eb instruments apart from the G trombone.

    Saxhorns? I don't know. Sax is responsible for a lot of things, but I would have thought it more likely he wouldn't have been so concerned about making things easier!

    Do we have a BB historian in the ranks?
  15. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    'course it doesn't matter which fingerings you use on a trombone ;)
  16. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    "commoners and village idiots"??
    You are a braver man than I :D ;)
  17. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Ah, but I have frequently been described as both! :):rolleyes:
  18. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    I've seen a copy of one of Sax's brass instrument catalogues and this has the tutor in it - it is marked as being 'for all saxhorns' or something like that. His motive was preumably not to make it easier for players to change intruments but to make it cheaper to publish. He was simply copying what he had done with the range of saxophones.

    (Incidentally he lists an alto horn in F, which explains why the tenor horn isn't called an alto horn!)
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2007
  19. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    But it is in the US! Didn't the yanks like Sax? ;)
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Last edited: Jun 9, 2007

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