the soprano trombone project - home
patron: Sir james macmillan
here are some of the friends and great supporters
george benjamin, composer
"hultmark deserves a lot of credit for his ability to provide the vocal tone
what is a soprano trombone?!
it is the smallest member of the trombone family. the range is similar to that of a soprano voice,
the instrument is very rare, hence...
...this is how/why the project began
in 2011 I took part as a soprano trombonist in a performance of
this, my very first experience of the soprano trombone,
as soon as I’d played a few notes on this borrowed instrument I was bowled over by its
it seemed to me a paradox that, although the instrument clearly had unique characteristics as well as the potential for creating a great sound, it was nevertheless so little used
the early history of the soprano trombone
the soprano trombone has been around for a long time, possibly stretching back
what can be said with certainty, however, is that the
j.s. bach wrote for it in three cantatas (BWV 2/21/38),
a number of instruments from 17c onwards survive
but why is it so difficult to find out more about the history of this instrument, so difficult that
why initiating a soprano trombone project?
questions struck me very early on - why has this instrument
is it an instrument worthy of rediscovering, and
can/should the manufacture of replicas of historical
can a modern, fully professional chromatic instrument
would it be suitable as a beginner instrument
how has the soprano trombone project developed since 2011?
further development of the modern instrument seemed essential.
practice, practice, practice!
performances and the commissioning of new music:
the trombone trio pandora’s box and I are in a long-term
the soprano trombone as a starter instrument:
where is the soprano trombone project (STP) today?
considerable national (UK) and international interest
tim ewers and kingston university have been and continue to be instrumental in
the young scottish composer scott lygate was commissioned by
a CD recording of new music will be recorded (subject to funding applications),
the trombone trio pandora’s box is in a long-term partnership
in talks with the vocal ensemble apollo5, planning to stage
a major british instrument manufacturer - wessex tubas - are currently designing and planning to
spontonality, cornwall, UK (2015 and 2016)
2016 premieres and performances
video recording of 'vocal shafts' by roger dean
2017 premieres and performances
a series of recitals, workshops and talks in collaboration with roger dean during september/october
world premiere of 'slide' by tim ewers, for soprano trombone and electronics
spontonality festival in cornwall, UK, october 2017 - five days of performances and
2018 premieres and performances
grünwaldsalen, stockholms konserthus, sweden, february 2018
HOW TO write for the soprano trombone
the soprano has through the centuries had some recurring problems:
why should I write for it?
1. the instrument:
these are easy to find and inexpensive but they aren’t always great. instruments also vary in terms of the number of slide positions. some are fully chromatic - having taken the extra length of slide from the bell section which for rasons of tone is not an ideal solution - and some lack the 7th position in the lower range. positions on all trombones are closer together higher up, thus the top half of the register should be fully chromatic. in my view the sound is markedly improved by using a very deep mouthpiece, similar perhaps to a flugelhorn mouthpiece. my own instrument is one that I specially commissioned. it is a fully professional instrument (but expensive!) and it includes an F-valve so the missing-notes problem is in that way sidestepped. i currently work with an instrument manufacturer in the UK on a prototype instrument. eventually it will, (I hope) be the first really playable but inexpensive instrument on the market.
2. the player:
the mouthpiece is too small for most trombonists so it generally has to be played by a trumpet player. you can, however, occasionally find people who play both the trumpet and the tenor trombone, and that person should be able to pick up the soprano more quickly. having said that, any trumpet player can learn to pick it up reasonably quickly as long as the part isn’t too difficult. I’m sure in any case that you’d aim to liaise with the player if possible. tuning is in my view by far the biggest difficulty, and it takes years to learn really good slide technique. learning the violin is a good analogy - the positions are very close and it is all perhaps in a range where tuning is particularly critical. BUT, there are many great violinists around, it just takes time to learn.
3. writing for the soprano:
it is written in treble clef. the soprano is in Bb, i.e. an octave higher than the tenor. the range is pretty much the same to that of a trumpet - F3 up to however high the player feels comfortable (Bb5?). It can be written 'in C' or 'in Bb’ but either way the sounding Bb will be in 1st position, the difference is only what the player calls the note. write for the soprano exactly the way you would for a tenor without an F-valve. glissandi will largely be the same as on the tenor, just not quite as wide. avoid B3 and E4 as they may not exist on the instrument. you might have to imagine the player to be a good trumpet player (good control of register, tone, phrasing and articulation etc) but a beginner trombonist, all in one! but it all depends for whom you write the piece. if you are not sure who’s to play it then I’d suggest stay safe and keep perhaps mainly within in the range G3-F5 (sounding pitch), and not too fast moving.
finally, my advice as a starting point when writing for the trombone, including the soprano, is to think VOCALLY.
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU WRITE FOR THE SOPRANO, I'D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT IT