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1  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 18, 2017, 04:06PM
I'm curious as to why that would have been your gut feeling before seeing the data. Nowadays, we regularly perform music from earlier periods, which includes periods where alto trombone was not written for at all. There are almost no dedicated alto trombone players now, because a dedicated alto player would have trouble finding regular work. Alto trombone positions in orchestras do not exist. You would have to freelance or be a soloist. Therefore I would expect a smaller number of alto trombones to exist today, since almost every alto player also plays tenor. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, I don't see any reason to believe there weren't dedicated alto trombone players who made their living playing alto trombone. So I would expect a higher proportion of altos than what we have today.

I wouldn't make that assumption, based on my reasoning above.

Perhaps larger instruments are more easily damaged, but players don't throw away their instrument when it is damaged; they usually have it repaired.


My impression was that in general trombone players were not primarily trombone players. For instance, one of the most famous trombonists in the 19th century, Karl Traugott Queisser, for whom the David concertino was written, played primarily viola (together with David). I would expect this to be much different pre-19th century.

Yes, players don't necessarily throw away instruments when damaged. But the higher the probability of damage, the higher also the probability irreparable damage or damage that is not worth to repair anymore. Important for my argument is not so much how often instruments get repaired but whether tenors and altos differ in their survival probability.

Anyway, to calibrate these assumptions, I would be interest to hear from experts like Howard Weiner, Will Kimball, Trevor Herbert etc. I think it is important to discuss various views of the assumptions and also check how changes in the assumptions affect the conclusions.
2  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 18, 2017, 01:51AM
I think Will Kimball has attempted to do such a thing:

http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/extant-altos/

Thanks for drawing my attention to the list. Very interesting. Here are some numbers:

"Of the 122 extant pre-19th century trombones with positively identified voice (alto, tenor, bass, etc.), Herbert lists the following:

64 tenors (53%)

30 altos (25%)

22 basses (18%)

4 sopranos (3%)

1 contrabass (less than 1%)

1 “quartbass” (less than 1%)"

Now, 25% sounds a lot to me. My subjective prior would have been less than 5%.

Anyway, it doesn't mean though that 25% of all pre-19th century trombones must have been altos. Let's assume that throughout history altos have been played less than tenor trombones. Then they also have experienced less wear. Moreover, simply by the fact that they are smaller than tenors, they are more easily stored than tenor trombones and should be less likely damaged within any fixed period of time. So altos should have a higher "survival" probability than tenors. Thus, it is probably save to say that the actual pre-19th century share of altos was strictly less than 25%. 

To get closer to the truth we would need more assumptions, which is more transparently captured with the help of a little model.

Let p be the probability of being damaged beyond repair within one year ("yearly loss probability"). Then 1-p is the probability of having survived one year. Assuming that survival is independent across years (an assumption clearly violated in periods of war) and that the yearly survival probability is stationary (which again may be violated because of properties of aging of brass), we have that (1 - p)^n is the probability that an instrument survived n years (survival probability after n years). We can also interpret it as the fraction of instruments surviving n years. Then given q number of instruments today, the number of instruments x some n years ago must be x = q / ((1 - p)^n).

Let's plug in some numbers to get some idea about what could be plausible values for p and x. The median age of the pre-19th century instruments in the list seems to be 300 years (i.e., n = 300). Moreover, we got 64 surviving tenors (i.e., q = 64). Hence,

Yearly loss probability   Prob of survival 300 years  Number of tenors 300 years ago
0.5%                                      22.23%                      288
1.0%                                       4.90%                    1,305
1.5%                                       1.07%                    5,961
2.0%                                       0.23%                   27,438
2.5%                                       0.05%                  127,290
3.0%                                       0.01%                  595,196

What is a plausible number of the number tenors produced 1600 - 1800? Let's pick 27,438 from the list, which corresponds to an average yearly loss probability of 2%.

Now suppose because of less use and wear and smaller size, the average yearly loss probability of altos is half of that of tenors, i.e. 1%. Then we can use the same model with q = 30 (number of surviving pre-19th century altos) to get an estimate of 612 altos produced between 1600 - 1800. Rather small compared to the number of tenors but not negligible.

So based on this quick-and-dirty calculation, one may agree with Howard Weiner that the use of altos is much less than the use of tenors even though we got 30 surviving altos today and 64 surviving tenors. But I would also claim that altos must had their role in that period because the estimated number produced is not negligible. Now, it is clear that this conclusion is based on the assumptions about yearly loss probability, known surviving instruments etc. that are debatable. But the nice thing is that the model makes it transparent how these assumptions are used to derive the conclusion. So rather than alto trombone scholars attacking each other on a personal level, there could be now a scholarly discussion about the assumptions that went into the conclusions and hopefully we could come up with a much better model and thus more well-founded conclusions.
3  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: May 17, 2017, 01:17AM
My Schmidt Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece arrived yesterday. Ordering and shipping went very smoothly. The mouthpiece looks like the original except that I ordered it silverplated.

It is an excellent mouthpiece for my Kruspe Weschke. It just feels right. I can compare it to the mouthpiece I usually play on my Kruspe Weschke, which is a Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4 E.

It is sounds brighter. The extreme upper range is effortless. It got a fuller sound in the extreme upper range. The low range is slightly more difficult. That's not too surprising since it is a little shallower than the Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4 E.

Response is more immediate in the mezzo forte and louder but not necessarily in pianissimo. I guess this has to do with the form of the rim. The rim of the Kruspe Weschke is flatter, wider, and less round. The rim of the Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4 E is rounder and pretty small compared to other Schmidt Bambula. This smaller rim lets the lips to protrude more into the mouthpiece. I find this facilitates response in pianissimo but not necessarily in mezzo forte and louder.

The wider rim of the Kruspe Weschke makes it much more comfortable when playing longer in the upper range. But the smaller rim of the Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4E allows for more flexibility.

I have a hard time choosing: For the lowest three octaves, I prefer the Schmidt Bambula. But this is not the most commonly used range of a Kruspe Weschke. For the upper range, I strictly prefer the Kruspe Weschke. In the middle range, I would take the Schmidt Bambula for lyrical work with lower dynamics but the Kruspe Weschke for louder dynamics.

May be I can blur the differences with more practice. 

I should mention that I already use an old original Ed. Kruspe mouthpiece for my Kruspe alto. This mouthpiece is essentially the same as the Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece except that it is a little shallower and more cup-like. But the rim form and diameter appears to be the same. (It is unplated brass though.) So I am used to the Kruspe rim already.
4  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 17, 2017, 12:53AM
There is a set of three Joseph Huschauer trombones in Florence: an "alto," a B-flat tenor, and a G bass. They are dated 1813, although Huschauer died in 1805 -- his workshop was run by his widow until 1815. These instruments display some anomalies: they apparently were never played on a regular basis and are therefore in almost mint condition; all inner and outer slides are identical in size (11.9 mm/inside diameter); the bells of the alto and tenor have the same bell profile. Two friends of mine, both very knowledgeable, have examined these instruments and come to completely contrary conclusions about the "alto": one says that it was built as an alto, the other says it was tenor that has clearly been cut down.

Howard

Why would somebody exert the effort to cut down a tenor if there was supposedly no need for altos? Is this evidence for or against altos?
5  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 17, 2017, 12:47AM
I tend to doubt that statistics would be of help here. There are too many things that cannot be calculated, such as the damages and losses caused by war. A case in point: during WW2 the instrument collection in Berlin suffered great losses, but in Vienna, which I think was hit just about as severely by allied bombing and shelling, the instrument collection survived intact. And even efforts to remove valuable collections from metropolitan areas that were obviously endangered often backfired: for example, the music collection of the Royal and University Library in Königsberg was packed up and moved for storage to a mansion in the countryside, which then took a direct hit and burned to the ground.

And of course even trying to determine the provenance of music instruments is often difficult if not impossible. Sure you can say that a trombone with "Nürnberg" engraved on the bell was made in Nuremberg. But where was it after that, before some private collector bought it in the 19th century and later donated it to a museum in Hamburg, for example? At the royal court in Warsaw, in Rome, in Dinkelsbühl? (It's really a stroke of luck that so many instruments from the Viennese court ensemble found their way into Viennese collections and have remained more or less where they had been used.)

This kind of information usually does not exist, or only for the most recent history of an instrument. And even some of that gets lost and forgotten. Another case in point, which is possibly of particular interest to a number of people reading this: The "classical" trombones made by Egger are based on originals in Basel. That is to say, an alto in E-flat and a quart trombone in F both by Schmied (Pfaffendorf) in the Basel Musical Instrument Museum. These were bequeathed to the museum as part of the collection of Wilhelm Bernoulli, a Protestant minister who lived in a castle on the shores of a lake northeast of Zurich (which is where I first saw and played these instruments). Bernoulli kept records of where and when he bought his instruments. -- I'm not sure anymore, but I think he acquired the Schmied trombones in the 1930s or so. -- In any case, the "alto" was actually an alto bell section with the slide of a tenor trombone, a fact that Bernoulli did not record. Fast forward several decades: In the early 1970s, Heinrich Huber, then co-principal trombonist of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, bought a Schmied tenor trombone from the estate of a collector in Germany. This "tenor" was however a tenor bell section with the slide of an alto trombone. After some negotiation, Bernoulli and Huber traded slide sections. About ten years later, in the early 1980s, Bernoulli's collection was transfered to the museum in Basel, so that Raini Egger had a set of "classical" trombones within walking distance of his shop. Neither the "original" condition of the alto with a tenor slide nor the subsequent trading of slides are mentioned in the records of the Basel museum. And even a master's thesis written in Basel in 2010 on early trombones in Swiss collections lacks this information, because the author did not think to contact Huber, who had sold his original Schmied tenor trombone following his retirement, but who would have been more than happy to supply information.

That's why I doubt that statistics would be much use to us in this matter.

Howard

I admire your detailed knowledge of the subject. Yet, I like to point out that statistics becomes especially useful if there is uncertainty. You mention fascinating details of cases, each of which features some missing information. But each features also some limited amount of information. And it is precisely this limited information that should be used in a systematic way to draw conclusions about the history of trombones. Surely we can estimate features of people in a sample of people of a certain age. Why wouldn't we be able to do the same with a sample of trombones?

Let's do a list of all surviving trombones, estimated age, sizes, features etc. Next, let's find some common understanding how long trombones survive on average depending on use, climate, material, craftmanship etc. From this we should be able to estimate bounds on the historical distributions of trombones. It is so straightforward that I would be surprised if nobody done it already.

Another advantage of such an approach is that it would require us to spell out explicitly all assumptions that go into the conclusions. This would be make them transparent for scholarly debate. 
6  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 07, 2017, 10:55PM
Not true. As far as I know, the earliest surviving alto trombone is from the mid 17th century, which would make it around a hundred years younger than the earliest surviving tenor trombone. And the earliest reliable depiction of an alto trombone is probably that in Praetorius's Theatrum instrumentorum from 1620.


Statistically speaking, how many e-flat altos would we expect to have survived? If we were to assume that e-flat instruments were as rare or rarer as today relative to tenors then given how few tenors have survived, we should expect no alto to have survived. So the fact that there is no surviving alto, is not sufficient evidence that they may not have existed.

Given some theoretical considerations about durability of brass etc. and the distribution of known surviving instruments, it should be possible to calculate the set of historical distributions of instruments consistent with today's evidence. 
7  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 07, 2017, 10:51PM

...

Yes, we are in agreement here. But I'm taking it a step further: What I've been trying to show is that the trombone section in the 18th and early 19th centuries was not a monolithic entity of alto in E-flat (or D), tenor in B-flat (or A) and a quart/quint in E-flat (or D), that the make-up of the trombone sections was different in different places and at different times. In other words, I would like to encourage the players in period-performance ensembles to display even more differentiation in their choice of instruments.


I couldn't agree more. Since there are so few instruments of which copies are made, historical performance-practice seems even more standardized than performances on modern instruments. This goes totally against the spirit of historical performance practice that should also aim to reproduce the historical variety of instruments at that time.
8  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 07, 2017, 10:41PM
Working on getting one made? I've been looking for a mid 19th century German alto for a few years for period German romantic stuff, which is just now starting to be programmed more in the states. ONE came up on eBay a few years ago and it was unmarked (though the details looked exactly like Penzel/Schopper) but I didn't buy it. I've regretted it ever since.

I've played a Kruspe alto, and it's a very nice instrument, but those (the tenors too) seem to be different than the Penzel/Schoppers somehow. Besides, Noah won't sell it to me. :cry:


Although it is a bit off topic, but there seem to be at least two kinds of Kruspe alto. There is a Kruspe alto with Neusilverkranz and a bell of about 16 cm diameter but no 7th position. And there is a Kruspe alto without Kranz but with a slightly larger bell (close to 18 cm) and a 7th position.
9  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: May 07, 2017, 10:33PM
I tried the Weschke piece at the shop a week or so ago. It's a great mouthpiece for Weschke modell trombone. A bit small for my taste.  It's quite small in diameter.
I'll be back there in the summer. To try some of the other ones.

In terms of rim size, depth of cup, and bore it is comparable to Schmidt Prof. Bambula TP 3 1/2 A, which is a standard tenor trombone mouthpiece for a principal trombone player. The rim size is 25 mm or 0.984252 inch. Since Kruspe Weschke was used by principal trombone players, this does not really come as a surprise. 

Nowadays we are trained on larger equipment. So this may look small today.

I ordered the mouthpiece and it has been shipped. Waiting for its arrival. Eager to try it not just on my Kruspe Weschke but also my Kruspe alto.
10  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: Apr 30, 2017, 12:28PM

[this post typed from backstage at an all Beethoven period instrument concert]



Wow, you really mean trombone manufactured at Beethoven's time? What slide lubricant do you use? Do you use the one used in Beethoven's time? 
11  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: Apr 28, 2017, 04:23PM
...

I'm not saying don't use an alto, in fact that is what I would use. But if you're going to do it, don't claim it is for historical reasons, because a) the top trombone scholars in the world are still debating the question and b) your modern alto has nothing at all to do with a classical instrument anyway.

b) holds not just for alto trombones but also for tenor trombones, bass trombones, today's classical trombones, today's baroque trombones (just think about today's standardization of brass alloys), mouthpieces, slide lubricants, trombone training, tuning pitches, physical stature of players, buildings in which music is played, cultural background of players and listeners including their music training and day-to-day exposure to noises ...

In some sense, historical performances seem elusive and in its essence highly romantic of the past. So why not focusing on making nice music in the age of penicillin, cars, and the trombone forum. An alto trombone has definitely a place in helping with making nice music (not that I assumed somebody disputed it here). And of course, we hope to eventually get to the know the outcome of a) even though it may not be that relevant to how we make music today.
12  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: Apr 27, 2017, 12:35PM
Let me quote from an older post by Ralph Sauer (http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,2399.0.html):

"A big tenor sounds dull unless it is played too loudly for these classical compositions. It is easier to get a fortissimo quality (when using the alto) at the lower dynamic levels that are appropriate in this music. Also, it makes a nice "bridge" between the trombones and the rotary trumpet sound."

I don't have experience playing Beethoven's Leonore, but when we played Brahms recently, we used a Kruspe alto, Shires tenor and Edwards Bass in our section and the brass chords in the lower dynamic levels simply sounded beautiful.
13  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: Apr 22, 2017, 09:54PM
This is very good news. I'll be driving down to Markneukirchen next week, so I'll try to visit them and take a look and maybe take some pics to share. Now I think I'll take my Kruspe Weschke along.



May be it is a good idea to give them heads-up in order to make sure that they have them ready.
14  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: Apr 22, 2017, 09:48PM
Do you know if these mouthpieces will only come in the medium (Euro) shank, or if they will also be made for small and/or large-shank receivers? 



They can be ordered with any shank size.
15  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: Apr 21, 2017, 01:36PM
I did not know. Note that the Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece is for a Kruspe Weschke trombone, a narrow bore that was typically used by principal trombone (like still being used by the principal trombone at Berlin Philharmonic or Leipzig Gewandhausorchester). So I am not sure whether I would want to use the Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece on a Conn 8H/88H.

But given that Kruspe produced various trombones including large bore trombones (like the huge bore and bell Steimann model), they would have likely offered various mouthpieces as well. The Kruspe copies that Schmidt currently offers are in PDF file linked below. (They are not yet at his website.)

http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/schipper/Schmidt_Kruspe.pdf
16  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: Rare orchestral works with great trombone solos on: Apr 21, 2017, 02:19AM

Arie with obbligato trombone were quite common in 18th century Austria. Mozart was certainly inspired by a lot of precedent. There is a great article by Stewart Carter in one of the early Historic Brass Society Journal (1990 or 1991 I believe). He already lists quite a few examples between the mid 1600's and mid 1700's, and that's 27 years ago, and limited only to Vienna...There are others beyond the time period he explored and from other locations (including Salzburg, where Mozart grew up, as you probably know).


Many thanks for the reference. This is very interesting. Here is the link to
Carter, Stewart (1990). Trombone Obbligatos in Viennese Oratorios of the Baroque, Historic Brass Society Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 52-77, Permanent URL of PDF: http://dx.doi.org/10.2153/0119900011002
17  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: Rare orchestral works with great trombone solos on: Apr 21, 2017, 02:13AM
Again, many thanks for suggestions and corrections. Here is an updated list (incl. Wagner/Maazels Ring ohne Worte and Dvorak's Karneval Overture)

Adams, City Noir https://youtu.be/l6137doeimU

Malcolm Arnold's Tam O'Shanter Overture https://youtu.be/ceWSd1-udgM

H. Berlioz, Symphonie Funubre Et Triomphale, 2nd movement https://youtu.be/BEcSQ8BTlPQ?t=17m34s

P. Creston Toccata Op. 68 https://youtu.be/NYs3aqSHSRg?t=45s

A. Dvorak, Carneval Overture https://youtu.be/HWloCWTiQDg?t=30s

Goliov "Azul" https://youtu.be/RgCA8zTeFOQ

H.K. Gruber - Frankenstein https://youtu.be/wiqpJekng_4?t=1m40s

P. Hindemith Nobilissima Visione (the Ballet NOT the suite) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-pLs_RwP0c

P. Hindemith Concert Music for Strings and Brass https://youtu.be/U3f_-rJQ_Os?t=12m53s

Leos Janacek Sinfonietta https://youtu.be/NCXRqgXiARA?t=10m45s

Mahler or Brucker or Krzyzanowski or Guersching Symphonisches Praeludium https://youtu.be/JiRdgFLEn8M

Milhaud Le Creation du monde https://youtu.be/DB8e_V_4b2s?t=13s

W.A. Mozart Aria "Jener Donnerworte Kraft" in "Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebotes" KV 35 https://youtu.be/ju7B6tq6n4w or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3tjuayrR5s

Andrey Petrov The Creation of the World,Suite No.1 https://youtu.be/Zbwol3zc4D8?t=924

Respighi, Roman Festivals, last movement (not very lesser-known) https://youtu.be/bIMAicXgZP4

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Russian Easter Festival Overture Opus 36 https://youtu.be/j4CX4qxnA98

D. Shostakovich, The Bolt (bass trombone) https://youtu.be/IcDL8wauKc0

D. Shostakovich - 4th Symphony https://youtu.be/9MjPsYs6b8k

D. Shostakovich - 12th Symphony https://youtu.be/K_IGkwov3EM

D. Shostakovich - 15th Symphony https://youtu.be/N0iZGMXpquQ?t=15m8s

J. Sibelius 7. Symphony https://youtu.be/ZOfUYtSXaXI

R. Strauss "Die Frau ohne Schatten" Symphonic Fantasy https://youtu.be/CnePcliodSo?t=9m12s

I. Stravinsky, Agon (Ballet) https://youtu.be/CoW3-YcjHsY

Abroise Thomas' Hamlet https://youtu.be/P70KBHeDw7U?t=29m19s

Verdi Overture Nabucco https://youtu.be/hIyZNJKu1ik

R. Wagner / L. Maazel Ring ohne Worte https://youtu.be/czDDZnWKbsc?t=10m54s

Kurt Weill - 2nd Symphony https://youtu.be/jLKcIHZYPew
18  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: Apr 19, 2017, 12:12AM
I like to announce that Werner Chr. Schmidt, a mouthpiece manufacturer in Markneukirchen, since 1842, will offer copies of the Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke mouthpiece described in Vereecke and Krause (2015), Ed. Kruspe's Prof. Weschke Model Trombone, Historic Brass Society Journal 27, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272291158_Eduard_Kruspe's_Prof_Weschke_Model_Trombone thanks to one of the authors of the article. (Big thanks!)

The measurements are
Inner diameter: 25 mm / 0.984 inch
Depth of cup: 26 mm / 1.024 inch
Bore: 5.7 mm / 0.224 inch

(These are the measurements I got from Schmidt. The article has another set of measurements that differ slightly because of the way these measurements are taken. But the measurements are literally from the same mouthpiece.)

There seem to be a trend to switch to romantic German trombones for romantic German repertoire. This may be a mouthpiece to go with it. It may also fit very well to alto trombones. (Weschke himself used the same mouthpiece on his bflat-tenor, eflat-alto, and c-trombone). Often I see people spending money on a traditional Thein or Laetzsch but then keep on using their standard mouthpiece. My 1920th Kruspe Weschke sounds and responds very differently depending on the mouthpiece.

Who would be interested in such a mouthpiece? I try to get a sense of how many pieces Schmidt could expect to make. I didn't get his pricing yet. Orders should be placed with Schmidt directly http://www.schmidt-brass.de/englisch/index.htm I suppose.

They are very good in communicating in English via email. I ordered quite a number of mouthpieces from them previously. Shipping to the US went very smoothly.

They will also offer copies of four other Ed. Kruspe trombone mouthpieces. Details can be asked from Schmidt (they are not listed on their website yet). 
19  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Early Trombone Lit on: Mar 21, 2017, 12:04PM
These lists are very nice public goods. Thank you very much.
20  Teaching & Learning / Pedagogy / Experience of learning alto trombone on: Mar 13, 2017, 01:46AM
Yesterday I played my first symphony concert on an alto trombone, for which I essentially learned alto trombone during the last couple of months. Here are some thoughts on the process:

We played Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem. It is the perfect piece for learning alto. First of all, it is beautiful. It automatically forces you to aim for a beautiful sound and proper intonation. Second, it doesn't go up high (just up to C). Again, not pushing the upper range too early facilitates developing a good tone. Third, it is really an alto trombone part. This is clear because the tenor trombone solo is given to second trombone (tenor). If Brahms had a tenor trombone in mind for the alto part, he could have given the solo to the first trombone because the alto trombone part has a break when the tenor plays. But more importantly, you learn why you should learn alto. It is the special quality of sound of an alto that distinguishes it from the tenor. The best description of this quality I saw in an older post by Ralph Sauer in this forum

http://tromboneforum.org/index.php?topic=2399.0

writing "A big tenor sounds dull unless it is played too loudly for these classical compositions. It is easier to get a fortissimo quality (when using the alto) at the lower dynamic levels that are appropriate in this music. Also, it makes a nice "bridge" between the trombones and the rotary trumpet sound."

I simply like how the alto "shines through" even without playing loudly. And the pianissimo chords of the trombone section in the last movement simply sound beautiful.

When learning alto with the Brahms part which is written in alto clef, I was not shy to write both slide positions and note above the notes. I remember that's how a learned tenor clef (and alto clef on the tenor) and after two months I don't need the positions and names of notes anymore.

Besides preparing the Brahms part, I used Harrison Reed's complete method for alto trombone. I skipped the part with bass clef and immediately went to the alto clef. Only after being comfortable with alto clef on the alto trombone, I now go back to bass clef (and also some other pieces with tenor clef and violin clef). I think it is important to learn alto with alto clef from the beginning.

I also adapted my daily tenor trombone routine to the alto (of course somewhat less ambitious on the range at the beginning). For developing a good tone and intonation, I found scales with slurred long notes and crescendo-decrescendo most helpful (including the "pedal range"). 

I warm up with the tenor and I always play tenor and alto during practice. At first, it somewhat affected negatively my play on the tenor both in terms of tone, intonation, and the feeling for "where the partial are."  In meantime, I can switch between instruments without much problems. 

For the first months, I practiced with a tuner only. Slide positions are slightly different from what we know from tenor. Moreover, the tenor seem to "slots" better than the "alto". 

Here are the main mistakes I did: At the beginning I used a little too much pressure on the lips because the instrument is much lighter than a tenor, has a "weight-balance" different from the tenor, and a different feel for where the partial are. I also to rested the instruments onto my neck, which is counterproductive for developing tone and flexibility. It took me some conscious effort to correct these issues.

In terms of equipment, I am lucky to own a 1950th Kruspe alto trombone that sounds very nice and has a fully functional seventh position. It is perfect for the narrow bore "shiny" alto trombone sound. I am happy that it is an instrument without valve section. First, beginners may be tempted to use the valve section for the use "tenor positions", which hampers learning standard alto positions. Second, I don't see much use for the valve section anyway. Trills should be done with lips. Third, having a valve section like on a Conn 36H makes instrument (much) more heavy/clumsy, which is contrary to the general "light" character of an alto (in terms of weight and sound).

I found that a beautiful sound was less easy to develop on the Kruspe alto than on a Conn 36H. At first, I sounded awfully on both. After a while, the sound on the Conn 36H improved remarkably but it was not the light narrow bore alto sound I was looking for. But when I switched to the Kruspe alto I was disappointed. The sound was still airy and a kind of unfocused. Again, after as while it improved remarkably. May be the initial difference in learning alto sound is due to the Conn 36H being somewhat closer to a tenor in terms of bore and sound concept.

At first, I used a specific alto mouthpiece for my alto (Schmidt Prof. Bambula AP2) that is different from my tenor mouthpiece (Schmidt Prof. Bambula TP3 3/4E). But then I found that an old Kruspe mouthpiece very similar to the one described by Vereecke and Krause in "Eduard Kruspe’s “Prof. Weschke” Model Trombone", see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272291158_Eduard_Kruspe's_Prof_Weschke_Model_Trombone works even better in terms of sound and also allows me to use the same mouthpiece on both my tenor (Kruspe Weschke) and alto. Per Gade in an article on Paul Weschke, see http://www.jayfriedman.net/articles/part_two_-_paul_weschke, mentioned that Weschke also used the same mouthpiece both on his tenor and alto. Of course, it is an old brass mouthpiece (and thus less slippery than modern silver or gold plated mouthpieces). If everything goes smoothly, Schmidt will be able to offer copies of the Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece described in Vereecke-Krause in a few months.

The next goal is to learn Mozart's alto trombone concerto.
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