Teachers, what clef do you start your trombones in?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by JonP, Apr 9, 2008.

  1. JonP

    JonP Member

    Just wondering what the majority of people do in the case of starting off a trombone player.

    I was lucky enough to start playing in school, and so was taught from the beginning in Bass Clef. (infact i had to buy two tune a day books because i bought the threble clef one first)

    Ive taught some people at the higher grades that seem to have real trouble making the transition from brass band treble clef to concert pitch. (Bass clef is used pretty much in every kind of ensemble other than a brass band.)
    Far greater trouble infact than those who have to learn to read treble in Bb to play in a band. (Like i did. In fact i remember Ivor Barnet writing out the second trombone part of suite gothique in bass clef for my first contest! Not sure if thats allowed actually!!!)

    Its almost universally agreed by trombone players that it is in fact more helpful in the future for players to be taught first in bass and then learn treble. Obviously there are many really fine players who started in treble too (Andy Berryman for one) so im not trying to say one way is better than the other.

    Starting in bass clef obviously causes immediate problems for players starting in a band, but, is there a policy regarding this were you teach?
  2. hicks

    hicks Member

    I'm not a teacher, but I'm going to comment anyway. I started off playing tenor trombone in a brass band, so I learned treble clef. With hindsight though, I think more emphasis should have been placed on learning to read in other clefs. I learned to be comfortable reading bass clef over the years, but I'm still not happy when presented with something in alto clef. Many orchestral parts are written like this, and at times I do find it limiting.
  3. JonP

    JonP Member

    I think that having a grounding in Bass clef does make the transition to the other concert pitch clefs easier. Maybe its more to do with thinking about a C as a C not a Bb.
  4. Martin Cordy

    Martin Cordy Member

    Also from a non-teaching position (sorry!) I found it more helpful to be able to read Bass clef first. If all you are going to play is tenor trombone for a brass band then go ahead and learn treble and only treble, but as has already been stated bass is the more commonly used clef in other groups and therefore I would (hesitantly!) suggest the better clef to initially teach.

    Also the progression from bass to tenor and then onto treble makes learning the "transposition" that bit easier as it is a natural progression as technical ability improves.

    A further benefit of being able to read bass clef is that you can play Eb parts by simply adding 3 flats to a key signature and reading it as bass clef - useful if you are short of basses!
  5. Bunnymonster

    Bunnymonster Member

    I don't do much instrumental teaching any more, but previously I have always worked on the basis of what is best for the individual student.

    My first choice is always to pick the clef in which the student is likely to get most performance opportunities in the locality: ie, if a school has a mega 'swing band' teach them in bass clef/ if there are a lot of youth bands in the vicinity start them in treble. The only other thing that I would take into consideration is if the student has a particular interest in a specific ensemble - "my dad plays in a brass band and therefore thats what I want to do" etc etc.

    I think a more difficult question is at what point in the to introduce the students to the next clef! :eek:
  6. tubajo

    tubajo New Member

    I am a brass teacher and teach trombones in treble clef, mainly because they are taught in groups with baritones or euphoniums. I also teach whole class (wider opportunities) brass at primary level and it's much easier for the kids to all learn the same notes in the same clef when they're starting off.

    In our area, most children go on to play in brass bands, so it's rarely an issue. As I also run our music service brass ensembles, I am generally happy to transpose parts as necessary so everyone can play.

    I have had some pupils go on to junior music college and the like; they have learnt to read bass clef fairly quickly.
  7. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    The education system in Buckinghamshire don't support any brass bands, so all trombone lessons by the peri's are in bass clef.

    (does explain the lack of young trombone players in Bucks brass bands - in fact the County music setup actively discourages youngsters to take part in non-county-supported groups...)

    Euphoniums are taught in treble, however, when the learner gets to the higher "music centre" bands, they have to suddenly cope with bass. Its happened to my son in the last few weeks but he's coped markedly well having learnt trombone as well in the past...
  8. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    If I may add a contribution as an older student. I didn't start learning the trombone until my mid-fifties and I was taught the treble clef. After playing in a brass band for a while, I was invited to go along to a "military" band. That's when I encountered bass clef and, obviously, I couldn't read/play it.

    I was initially told to add a couple of sharps, take off a flat or two, take away the note I first thought of and Bob's yer uncle. :eek:

    So I enrolled in a Saturday morning Local Authority music school, specifically to learn how to read/play bass clef - and that worked for me.
  9. Crazysop

    Crazysop Member

    I teach beginners and the training band at Mid. We don't have a policy as such about which clef to initially teach the trombones. Personally, rightly or wrongly, I teach them to read treble clef primarily because all our trombone music is in treble clef. I have considered teaching the trombones to read both treble and bass clef but bearing in mind most of my students are primary school age and a vast majority are very young indeed I don't want to confuse them just yet. However I do give each player a good grounding in general music theory including teaching them about other clefs so hopefully when they do come across bass and alto clef they will have some idea.
  10. umchacha56k

    umchacha56k Member

    as a student i was taught first in bass clef which is so much easier to then make a transition and learn treble celf Bb

    now i haev to read 4 clefs and i thank the lord i learnt bass first
  11. umchacha56k

    umchacha56k Member

    i just wish i could type : ( ^^^
  12. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    On this side of the water, trombone students nowadays all start on bass clef / concert pitch
    In the past,s ome used to be taught in treble clef / Bb or even bass clef / Bb

    That's why in Belgian band music sets (for wind and fanfare band, not for brass band), there often are three types of trombone parts. In our band these additional parts are no longer used though. Our last trombone player who read Bass clef Bb retired more than 10 years ago...
  13. Daniel Sheard

    Daniel Sheard Member

    I've never understood why anybody would ever do bass clef trombones in B-flat. It is bad enough having the tenors playing in B-flat treble clef.
  14. basstrom4eva

    basstrom4eva Member

    My dad is brass band through and through (cornet) but I heard Don Lusher live with Rigid containers and I said 'thats what I want to play!!', so he made me start piano and theory first and got to read both clefs well - then my first trombone lesson started with my teacher saying - you have 4 clefs to master if you want to be a top player, in my day there were SIX(!) clefs to learn (Bass, treble tenor, alto, baritone and another I can't remember...).. obviously bass is the only REAL clef!!!
  15. BigD

    BigD Member

    Unless there's a good reason for it I've always started them off in treble clef. You can never be 100% sure that any instrument is the correct one for a pupil, and if they need to change later it's much easier, and less frustrating, if they already read treble clef. Once they are at around grade 4 or 5 though I try to get them reading both. Just a personal preference really.
  16. I'm pretty much with bunnymonster on this one. You should already know the banding/orchestral opportunities in the locality.Ask the new pupil if any family members play, and ask them if they have any set ambition to play in a certain type of ensemble (maybe a friend plays in one).

    Additionally, bare in mind others if in a group lesson and what clef they are playing as this could make life very much easier for all.

    And this whole question should apply to Euphs and Basses.

  17. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    I agree with Ryan_Littleport.
    If I was teaching where I come from (Oldham) then Treble Clef would be the clef I start them on. There have been instances up there where a Euph player was taught bass clef through school and left before learning treble.

    No amateur Wind Orchestras about, just Brass Bands. What does a euph Player do then?

    Personally, I was taught treble. then in school I wanted to play in the Wind Orchestra but couldn't read Bass Clef and the teachers refused to transpose it for us.

    So I learnt Bass Clef in a week.
  18. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    I don't think I've seen much mention, if at all, in this thread of tenor clef, which is frequently used for troms (also bassoons and cellos) in orchestral music.
  19. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    Very true and a good point.

    One of my pet peeves is a Brass Band piece in Tenor Clef where someone has gone through and changed all the B and E Naturals to sharps and B and E flats to naturals so it looks like Treble Clef.

    I'd much prefer it if people could read the clefs properly instead of transposing (Having said that I transpose Brass Band Treble these days)

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