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The Central Coast Philharmonia

Contrabass Trombone

The contrabass trombone is the rarely encountered bottom member of the trombone family. It is literally a larger bass trombone commonly having a "double slide" or two lines of tubing along the slide therefore doubling the length, and it has an approximate range exactly an octave below the tenor trombone, allowing it to descend to contra E as its pedal. The contrabass trombone was a commission by composer Richard Wagner for use in large orchestras. Today the contra trombone is rare, but has found its way into some very large pieces and also into a few motion picture scorings. The contra is a very majestic voice carrying an extreme degree of power and a certain element of unprecedented nastiness. Because of their rarity, contrabass trombone parts are often performed on tubas, but the tuba is not adequate replacement for the contra trombone, as the narrow trombone bore gives the instrument an entirely different timbre and tone quality.

Some technical info: Contrabass trombone music is written in bass clef and is non-transposing, ie. notes for it are largely below the staff. Technically, a bass trombone can play all the notes a contrabass can, but the latter has a much larger and more dominant sound. The contrabass trombone has many technical difficulties which make it very challenging to play, and parts must be scored with respect and attention to its many technical limitations. However, with careful attention to this, it can be a powerful and unforgettable addition to a piece. For more information on the contrabass trombone, check out www.contrabass.com.


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