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key transposition

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by boomerang, May 26, 2002.

  1. boomerang

    boomerang Guest

    Dec 9, 2001
    if i have a piece of music in concert pitch in the key of F, and i need to transpose it, let's say for the clarinet, trombone, and string bass. What do i do?

    so far i know this, bass and trombone are in concert pitch, so its written as is (with the original key of f). For Clarinet in Bb i know it's supposed to be written a M2 lower, does this mean the new key for clarinet is Eb ?? G? E? i can't figure it out..

    thanks ahead
  2. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Check out this web site:


    Once there, click on "Musical Instruments."

    That will take you to a series of explanations of the range of the most common instruments in an orchestra including "tuned percussion" and the rhythm section , plus a glossary.

    If you click on the instruments you are interested in, a keyboard at the bottom of the page shows the best range of notes for that instrument, the worst and the clearly "avoid" notes.

    The glossary defines terms such as: concert range, scored range and transposed range. Undertsanding these terms will help in your task. Also there is an interesting chart that shows how each orchestra instrument fits with the others in terms of pitch and range.

    If you click on the instrument you want to transpose for, the web site tells you how to do so for that instrument. All seems pretty straight forward, but I beg you to ignore this one peice of advice given: "Most bass players are not worthy improvisers. Write every note you want them to play. Don't trust them with a chord chart."

    In addition to the free advice given, the website offers a paid Internet course in arranging and orchestration.

    By the way, I once took a course in arranging several years ago. I hated it and gave up, but often regret that I didn't have the fortitude to stick it out and complete the course. I now believe any and every skill you can acquire as a musician will make you more valuable and in demand as a player.
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    If you are going to be transposing often, it might be beneficial to purchase a comprehensive book on the topic to have as a handy reference and guide.

    If you are interested, check:


    They are selling the book "Music Arranging and Orchestration" by Jon Cacavas for $18.50. Among the many useful tidbits of information included are chapters on modulation, keys and instrument ranges.

    I've never seen the book myself, so I cannot tell you if it is an easy read or one that is written at an extremely advanced level requiring a major understanding of theory.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    If the piece is in F and you're writing a part for Bb Clarinet, you'd have to write the Clarinet part in G Major and transpose all notes up a Major 2nd from the original. BOPLICKCITY is right on with the suggestion of an orchestration text if you really want to understand the concept of transposition. It's just my opinion, but for my money the best Orchestration book out there at the moment is The Study of Orchestration by Samuel Adler. It comes with a 5 CD set which contains recordings of almost every example in the text. Both the examples and the recordings are excellent.

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