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Instrument Transposition. A brief reference and explanation. Basic Info. When writing music for orchestral or band instruments, we must learn to transpose music for various instruments. Terms you MUST know: Written pitch – what you see on the page

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Instrument transposition

Instrument Transposition

A brief reference and explanation


Basic info
Basic Info

  • When writing music for orchestral or band instruments, we must learn to transpose music for various instruments.

  • Terms you MUST know:

    Written pitch – what you see on the page

    Concert pitch – what you hear (also called sounding pitch)

    Concert key – sounding key


Why do instruments transpose
Why do instruments transpose?

  • Throughout history, instruments were not manufactured in a uniform manner as they are in today’s music instrument factories. Sometime a Sackbut, the original trombone might be built upon the foundational note of “C” when made in Germany, but in “Eb” when made in France. So, that the instrumentalist did not have to learn a new fingering system for each different pitch for all of the possible foundational notes, they developed a system where the written pitch was modified for the foundational note and thus there was not a separate fingering system for each variation.


The c instruments
The C Instruments

  • C Instrument are non-transposing instruments. That means that they do NOT transpose. For these instruments you will hear the music exactly as you write it.

  • These instruments are mentioned on the following slide with there instrumental range:


Flute
Flute

SoundingWritten

Same

http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/by-2.0/


Oboe

SoundingWritten

Same

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=oboe&m=text#page=10


Bassoon
Bassoon

SoundingWritten

Same

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=bassoon&m=text


Trombone
Trombone

SoundingWritten

Same

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=oboe&m=text#page=10


Tuba

SoundingWritten

Same

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=oboe&m=text#page=10


Violin viola cello
Violin/Viola/Cello

SoundingWritten

Same

Same

Same: Tenor clef

also used when convenient.

Violin

Viola

Cello

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=violin+viola+cello&m=text


Transposing c instruments
Transposing C Instruments

  • There are a couple of C instruments that do transpose. These transpositions occur at one or two octaves.

  • Examples of these are:

    • Piccolo (sounds 1 octave higher than written)

    • Contrabassoon (sounds 1 octave lower than written)

    • Double Bass (sounds 1 octave lower than written)

    • Xylophone (sounds 1 octave higher than written)

    • Glockenspiel or Orchestra bells (sound 2 octaves higher than written


The bb instruments
The Bb instruments

  • To do basic transposition you must remember that the key of the instrument tells you the sounding note when a C is the written note. Instruments in the Key of Bb (Bb Clarinet) will sound a Bb when C is written.

  • So, for the Bb Clarinet, Bb Bass Clarinet, Bb Trumpet, Bb Soprano Sax and Bb Tenor Sax, if we write a C, we will hear a Bb.

  • Now, not all of the above instruments work exactly the same. The Bb Clarinet, Bb Trumpet and Bb Soprano Sax transpose by a Major 2nd.



Melodies compared for bb instruments
Melodies compared for Bb instruments

  • Take a look at this melody in C Major:

Now see what happens when we transpose for the Bb Clarinet, Trumpet or Sop. Sax:


  • Notice that the notes are moved up by a M2. Also pay attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

  • Sounding Melody:

  • Written Melody

    for Bb Trumpet:


Bass clarinet and tenor sax
Bass Clarinet and Tenor Sax attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

  • These instruments transpose at the interval of a M9.

  • You’ll still have to change keys as with the Bb Clarinet or Trumpet but you must remember that all notes will be a M2 PLUS an octave lower.


Clarinet
Clarinet attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

SoundingWritten

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=clarinet&m=text


Bass clarinet
Bass Clarinet attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

SoundingWritten

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=bass+clarinet&m=text


Soprano sax
Soprano Sax attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

WrittenSounding

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=soprano+sax&m=text


Trumpet
Trumpet attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

SoundingWritten

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=trumpet&m=text


Tenor sax
Tenor Sax attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

Written Sounding

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=tenor+sax&m=text


The f instruments
The F Instruments attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

  • There are several instruments that transpose by a P5. These are the English Horn and the Horn.


English horn
English Horn attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

SoundingWritten

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=english+horn&m=text#page=4


Horn in f
Horn in F attention to the KEY SIGNATURE. This also moves up by a M2. It is important that you transpose ALL elements, notes and key signatures by the appropriate interval.

SoundingWritten

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=french+horn&m=text




  • Now here is the melody written for English Horn and Horn: pitch. This means that when we write for the English Horn or the Horn, we must move everything UP by a P5, including the key signature. Look at our C major melody again:

  • Notice that we are now in G major and that every note has been moved up a P5.


Eb transpositions
Eb Transpositions pitch. This means that when we write for the English Horn or the Horn, we must move everything UP by a P5, including the key signature. Look at our C major melody again:

  • There are several instruments that use a transposition to Eb. The Alto Saxophone and the Baritone Saxophone are the most common.

  • In writing for the Alto Sax, the transposition is a M6:



Sounded Melody: pitch. This means that when we write for the English Horn or the Horn, we must move everything UP by a P5, including the key signature. Look at our C major melody again:

Written Melody for Eb Instruments:


Alto sax
Alto Sax pitch. This means that when we write for the English Horn or the Horn, we must move everything UP by a P5, including the key signature. Look at our C major melody again:

SoundingWritten

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=alto+sax&m=text


Bari sax
Bari Sax pitch. This means that when we write for the English Horn or the Horn, we must move everything UP by a P5, including the key signature. Look at our C major melody again:

WrittenSounding

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=bari+sax&m=text


Final thoughts
Final Thoughts: pitch. This means that when we write for the English Horn or the Horn, we must move everything UP by a P5, including the key signature. Look at our C major melody again:

  • Remember to use the appendix in Tonal Harmony for the correct range for all instruments.

  • Remember to transpose all notes and the key signature by the appropriate interval.

  • There are many web resources, such as http://www.secretcomposer.com/Secret_Composer_Blog_Demo/Concert_Pitch_-_Instrument_Transposition_chart.htm that can be of assistance.


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