Trombone History: Bruckner and the Trombone

Added the below new entries to the 19th century timeline (2nd half) on Bruckner’s use of trombone with voices from Mary Rasmussen’s “A Bibliography of Choral Music with Trombone Ensemble Accompaniment, as Compiled from Eleven Selected Sources” Brass Quarterly 5 (Spring 1962), 109-113.

c. 1850—Anton Bruckner’s Psalm CXIV calls for 5 voices and 3 trombones. In addition, a manuscript fragment labeled Missa pro Quadragesima indicates a separate work scored for voices, organ, and trombones (Rasmussen, A Bibliography of Choral Music).

1854—Anton Bruckner’s Libera is scored for 5 voices, 3 trombones, and organ (Rasmussen, A Bibliography of Choral Music).

1861—Anton Bruckner’s Offertorium is scored for voices, 3 trombones, and organ (Rasmussen, A Bibliography of Choral Music).

1868—Anton Bruckner’s Inveni David is scored for men’s voices and 4 trombones (Rasmussen, A Bibliography of Choral Music).

1884—Anton Bruckner’s Christus factus est calls for 6 voices and trombones (Rasmussen, A Bibliography of Choral Music).


  1. I had wondered whether alto trombone would be a transposing instrument or not, and strictly speaking, I guess it is not. But I think it easier for me and others who dabble in trombone to either transpose our charts or transpose on the fly from trombone music (which is not all that easy). My use of the alto is to play pop tunes and standards with my own backup CD’s, and when I think of, say, sixth position, I think of F,C,F,A,C, etc. I think that learning new positions for alto would mess up my limited improvisation skills, to say nothing of learning alto clef. Are transposed parts used when “newbies” transition from tenor to alto in various ensembles? What does the “alto trombone world” think?

    • Don,
      Good question. You’re right–strictly speaking, alto trombone is not a transposing instrument. Most people prefer to go ahead and learn the new set of positions for the alto trombone, which is how I teach my university students the instrument. However, there is a “transposition method” that has been espoused by some teachers. Stephen C. Anderson, in particular, has a set of method books that feature non-transposed music on one side of each 2-page spread, with transposed music on the other (reading as if you were playing tenor trombone). There are also some published alto trombone solos that give these 2 different versions, a concert pitch version and a transposed version. Then there’s the “interval transposition” method that Anderson also mentions in his method, which is actually the way I learned: think of the written alto clef note as up a fourth in bass clef (and use that tenor trombone position). In that case, you’re just imagining a different clef and transposing up a fourth. But that’s not the way I teach it. So again, the “alto trombone world” generally prefers to learn the new set of positions from the start; there’s a steeper learning curve at the beginning, but it seems to be better in the long run. However, I would say, for your purposes, you should do whatever works for you and what you’re playing. Trumpets and horns (and many other instruments) certainly become adept at transposition.
      Good luck!

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