Trombone in the Band
The traditional trombone section is comprised of three parts. Usually, this is two Tenors and one Bass. Occasionally, a fourth part is used. If a fourth part is included, it is another Tenor part. This is the standard section in an orchestra as well. In a band, there can be more than one player on a part, whereas in an orchestra it is strictly one on a part. Like I’ve said in other places, let’s use these extra players to our advantage.
The only works that I know that use Alto in a wind band setting are works from the 19th Century like Mendelssohn’s Trauermarsch. I know of no reason the Alto shouldn’t be part of a wind band setting.
1 Alto Trombone
2 Tenor Trombones
1 Bass Trombone
This would be a very easy section to form assuming you have a player that is competent on the Alto. Add to this a Contrabass, and we have a large section of five players with a huge range.
The sheer power of the trombone hit me full force when I started to study the score to the film Inception. The composer Hans Zimmer uses a trombone section of 6 Tenors and 6 Basses/Contrabass. Wow! The sound is immense, powerful, and frightening! I can imagine this sound in a band, and I like it.
We can think of a think of a large band section like this:
1 Alto Trombone
4 Tenor Trombones
2 Bass Trombones
1 Contrabass Trombone
This will give us a full section of 8 players. Doublings are not needed here, but one might be made for the Contrabass player and have them take up a Bass or Tenor to save them from tiring from this exhausting instrument. Very rarely does a Contrabass player play the Contrabass instrument for the entirety of a concert or work. The Alto player might also take up the Tenor if needed.
I leave out the Soprano Trombone from the section, as I find it rather useless in the context of a trombone ensemble. Its small sound won’t make an impact against a mass of Tenors and Basses. Even the Alto has a small sound that might not cut through the mass.
The eight member ensemble can be both powerful and solemn at the same time. Go listen to some trombone choir music, and you can hear the possibilities available from this majestic instrument. In harmony, we get the majestic solemnity, in unison, we get the tremendous power.
A Bruckner chorale for 8 trombones (Tenor, Bass, and Contrabass).
Excerpts from Strauss’ Alpensymphonie for 10 trombones (Tenor, Bass, and Contrabass).
Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for Trombones (Tenor and Bass)