Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

H. Keith Jackson.


Coinciding with a concern for authenticity and balance in the orchestral brass section, and a renewed interest in 18th century solo trombone literature, the nearly forgotten alto trombone has enjoyed a rousing comeback in recent decades. The alto trombone has traditionally existed as a concert-pitch instrument likely due to its early use in church music as a means of doubling the voice. Standard notational practice for the modern E-Flat alto has changed little over the centuries. While performance practice in previous centuries is not verifiable, current alto trombonists are tenor trombonists first; the alto trombone is nearly always a secondary instrument. Trombonists typically make the transition from a tenor trombone pitched in B-Flat to an alto trombone pitched in E-Flat without the use of a notational transposition. This is contrary to the overwhelming trend for wind instruments. Generally, secondary wind instruments pitched in different keys are written at a transposition for (relative) ease of maneuvering between the primary and secondary instruments. With transposition, the same basic fingering/slide patterns from primary to secondary instrument are maintained.;Despite the success of the transposing method with other instruments, the most accepted method for alto trombone performance and pedagogy is for the alto to be played as a non-transposing instrument in alto clef. This requires the tenor trombonist learning to play alto to: (1) have a command of alto clef---a clef that is infrequently used for tenor trombone outside of a small body of the orchestral literature, (2) relearn all the correct positions for written notes, (3) relearn the appropriate notes for use of alternate positions, and (4) recognize the inherent intonation tendencies of a harmonic series constructed on E-Flat instead of B-Flat---all of this in addition to the other inevitable physical adjustments of switching between trombones in terms of proper tone production, range, and slide maneuverability. Considering these obstacles, it is hardly surprising that alto trombone playing is usually reserved for advanced college study, or graduate work.;Due to the secondary status of the alto trombone, transposition allows the alto trombonist to maintain familiar tenor slide positions and intonation tendencies. This provides an advantage that outweighs the benefit of merely having an instrument that sounds at concert pitch. In an age of notation software, scanners, and music translation programs, the burden of rewriting music is no longer a valid basis to preclude the advantages of the transposing method of alto trombone. After reexamining the factors surrounding the existence of the alto trombone as a non-transposing instrument, the current study proposes that a change in the fundamental pedagogy of this instrument is warranted.