Instrument ranges and transpositions

saxophones | woodwind doubles | brass | rhythm | lead part writing


Writing for Lead Trumpet, Trombone, and Alto Saxophone

Knowing the correct way to write for the lead instruments is very important. Every chord is voiced down from the lead part and it is essential that parts are written in a realistic range. It is also important to know that this will vary from player to player and from band to band.


Lead Trumpet

Lead trumpet playing is extremely demanding. Most lead players will not play unison lines with the other trumpets or play improvised solos. Some will not even double on flugelhorn. There is usually no point in writing four trumpet parts in unison when three will suffice. Let the lead player rest or at least indicate in the part that it is a unison line so he or she can rest if needed. In addition, do not write improvised solos in the lead trumpet part.

Mature, experienced lead trumpet players can easily handle the two examples below. There are several things to take note of:

You Don't Know What Love Is

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Meaning of the Blues

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LEAD TROMBONE

Lead trombone parts are generally written above middle C. There are two reasons for this: 1) When harmonizing trombones the lead part must be high enough to accommodate the other voices in a register that will not be too low and produce a "muddy" sound, and 2) the lead player can play with more "bite" in the register above middle C.

Entropical Paradise

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LEAD ALTO

The line below, written by Brian Williams, is a good example of lead alto writing. This counter melody, with its angular shape and legato articulation, would have only worked for saxophone. Notice how the lines in the upper register cuts through the band. The line is in unison with the tenors, pushing them to the top of their range.

Early Spring (as written for alto)

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Below, the 1st Alto is the lead voice of the section. Lines such as this one are indigenous to saxophone playing.

Yes I Do (as written for alto)

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