I'm an amateur tenor trombone player. I learnt to play by playing with other, never learnt much music theory.
I have a question regarding the "name" of the trombone. The traditional tenor trombone is the Bb trombone, or Bb/F trombone if there is a valve attachments. I understand that this name comes from its fundamental : when played "closed", this is the note played.
However, it is also a "non-transposing" instrument, and trombone parts are therefore written in ut/do/C. So trombone parts (at least mine) usually states "Trombone C".
This confuses me a lot when I try to talk about other instruments :
- The alto trombone is usually said to be "Eb" : what does this means ? is this a transposing instruments? Are the parts written in Eb (like sax alto i think?)? Or is the fundamental Eb ?
- I think that the sax family alternates between Bb and Eb instrument (soprano in Bb, alto in Eb, tenor in Bb, and so on). Is this the same Eb? Clearly not for the tenor : the tenor is transposing as are Clarinets and Trumpets (when they play a C, it "sounds" like a Bb).
In general, what do we mean by "this instrument is in Bb", or "in C". It seems to me that the Bb trombone is in C, which is frustratingly complicated for me. Why do we bother using the fundamental of the instruments in its name?
Edit For example, the same vending site (Thomann for example) will call :
- A Bb trumpet, a trumpet tuned in Bb (standard). Hence transposing.
- A Bb trombone, a non-transposing trombone (in C) but with Bb fundamental. Is this because the name for both refers to the fundamental? But that's messy because the trumpet player "thinks/plays" a fundamental C (hence a Bb in concert pitch).