Carsten Svanberg and The Alto Clef

One of the final steps was to solicit a few testimonials from well-known players. All who have submitted one have offered some terrific advice and support along the way, and for that I am grateful.

The great Carsten Svanberg, retired Professor of Trombone at the University of Music and Arts Graz, and very active international soloist, offered some advice that at first I questioned, but ended up incorporating. Carsten wrote, “since about 95% of all you would have to play on the alto-looking as a classical orchestramusician,or as a soloist, it should be written in the ALTO cleff !!

But wait, the book is done. Yes, it’s all in bass clef, but I’m going to translate the entire thing into another clef–one in which my fluency is questionable at best ? There are almost 100 separate pieces of notation within it. I’ve got balloons and scotch due to arrive any day now!

But the more I thought about it, the more I understood his important point. Carsten further wrote:

“As you know, we have a very close connection to the music printed, and what we expect to hear before playing those notes. It is not a question if you can read the F-cleff on the alto !! As a player many years on the altotrombone I know how big influence the “friendship” with the keys has on our playing as our intonation!”

He’s absolutely right. It’s the reason many players have a difficult time with my exercise of playing a fourth up using the tenor positions on the alto while reading the concert pitches. What is coming out of their horn is not what they are seeing on the page. While I am certainly not one of them, I understand players who read bass clef fluently yet associate the alto exclusively with alto clef.

Now, I still believe there are players out there who would like this book in bass clef, and I’m not willing to abandon all that bass clef work, so I’ll release Alto Trombone Savvy in two clefs: bass and alto. I think it will be interesting to see how many of each sell. Regardless, Carsten is absolutely right and I am indebted to him for his sage advice.

By the way, if you want to hear how the alto trombone sounds in the hands of a master, listen to his performance of the J.C.Albrechtsberger Concerto for Alto trombone:

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