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Transposing key for trumpet??

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mcbassdude, Jun 11, 2003.


  1. I want to run scales on my bass with my 10 yr old on his trumpet.
    I can never remember what the math is in the key transposition. i.e. If i'm in EMajor what key is that on the trumpet?
    Are all brass tuned the same or do saxes differ from trumpet, trombone etc.?
    I should know this....
    Peace and Thanks!
     
  2. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    Hey! I think that's great that you are doing that with your little one!

    E major on bass is F# major on trumpet

    Bass is one step lower (concert pitch) than the trumpet.

    Hope this helps!
     
  3. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Most trumpets are Bb instruments - that means that when the trumpeter says he's playing C, the note actually comes out as Bb ;)

    Note that there are a range of other transposing instruments - eg. saxes are often in Eb (is that the rule for alto or tenor? I forget now, but I think it's alto) - the key is that the note referred to in the name (Bb trumpet, etc) is what comes out when they read the note a non-transposing instrument would take as C.

    If you want to be kind to your ten year old, start with keys like concert Eb (trumpet F), Bb (C), F (G) and C (D), not concert E.

    Wulf
     
  4. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Alto and baritone are Eb, soprano and tenor are Bb.
     
  5. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I thought that was the case (keeps things nice and simple in my band, where we have Bb trumpet and Bb tenor sax).

    Are there any variations to that rule, or saxes outside the baritone / tenor / alto / soprano group that are set in other keys?

    Wulf
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Alto sax is in Eb.
     
  7. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    No, that's pretty much the rule. However, there is, or at least used to be, something called the C melody sax, which I think was a nontransposing instrument--but don't quote me on that as I'm really not sure. I seem to recall that somebody named Frankie Trumbauer may have played one back in the day? There is also a sopranino, which logically would probably be an Eb instrument, though I've never seen one outside the credits for a Jethro Tull album. Finally, there is the bass sax, which logic says is probably a Bb instrument.
     
  8. Thanks for the help! He'll be jammin' Kind Of Blue in no time!
    So the above keys are easier to play on trumpet?
    Is trombone in Bb as well?
    Again Thanks for the tip.
    Peace
     
  9. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    The above keys are going to be more familiar to a beginning trumpet player, assuming that he starts out learning the notes of C major on the trumpet (which sounds like Bb concert pitch) and then starts to learn sharps and flats in the order they get added to key signatures (F#, C#, G#, etc and Bb, Eb, Ab, etc). As discussed in the other thread referred to above, certain keys will be harder to play in tune due to the combination of valves you have to use for some of the notes, but the ones round trumpet C / concert Bb should be a good starting point.

    I think the trombone is a non-transposing instrument - ie. if the trombonist says he's in C, you can trust him :D . However, I could well be wrong!

    Wulf
     
  10. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Actually, trombones are Bb, I'm pretty sure. At least normal tenor trombones, anyway.
     
  11. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Sorry, my mistake.
    (source = http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/1452/history.html)

    Wulf
     
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    what a doer!

    so a Bb horn player is playing a C and the note that actually comes out is Bb?

    how on earth does that work then?

    is this just a notation thing or what?
     
  13. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    It relates to notation. Music for transposing instruments is written in the key appropriate for that instrument. So if the song is in C major, the trumpet parts will be transposed up to D, so when played on a trumpet, they come out in C. Supposing, then, the trumpet players decide they want to play C trumpets, instead - they'll have transpose the part back down a tone. But, at least the same fingerings will be associated with the same notes - so C is always open, Bb is always 1, A is always 1+2 etc.

    Now, as for why Bb trumpet (not C trumpet) has become the standard, I don't know...
     
  14. The Bb horn player is playing what is written in their music as a "C" - what is heard is a "Bb". If they were playing an Eb instrument, the music is written so that when they finger a "C" (as written on their music) the note which is produced is an Eb. Now, the observant reader will notice that as far as the player is concerned, they are fingering a "C' in both cases, and with a little thought the reader will realise that this is just a simple trick to allow a player of instruments of different sizes (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass saxophones, for instance) to need only to learn one system of fingering, instead of a different system for each sized instrument.

    Neat eh?

    - Wil
     
  15. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Neat... until they decide to pick up a piano and vocals arrangement book, sit down to blow through the changes with a pianist and then realise they have to transpose everything at sight! :eek:

    It's good where you've got a steady supply of pre-transposed music but if you don't, it can be a pain (my wife plays clarinet but one of the reasons she hasn't used it more at church is that most of the time we're working from guitar chords or piano / vocal arrangements - Clarinet is generally another Bb instrument).

    Wulf
     
  16. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes. But you can't have it both ways :)

    IMO, it's the way it should be. Transposing music is easier than learning a whole bunch of different fingerings. Especially for sax players. It is very common for sax players to play more than one kind of sax. I don't reckon it's all that unusual for a sax player to play tenor, alto and soprano. I know that I would, ideally, like to play all three.

    If sax players had to learn different fingerings for each sax, it would be a nightmare.

    I maintain it's easier to transpose the music.

    I think the key here, is to think of the music in terms of scale degrees. Don't think of the tune as being C D E, think of it as being 1 2 3. Don't think of Summertime as E C E D C D E C A E E C D D C A C A C B. Think of it as 5 3 5 4 3 4 5 3 1 5 5 3 4 4 3 1 3 1 3 2.

    That way, when the singer says she wants to do it in C# minor, as long as you're familiar with the key, you're ok.

    One good reason to practice everything in all keys.

    I think a skill that people who play transposing instruments should develop, is the skill of transposing from a concert pitch score. Trumpet and clarinet players should learn to transpose up a tone.
     
  17. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Well, it happens, but IME it's not terribly common to play the whole family. A number of tenor players double on soprano (a la Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis), but this may be a little less in vogue than it was a while ago, I dunno. Alto players never seemed to me to double quite as much--at least not in public; who knows what they do in private. Not that many people I can think of play both alto and tenor (Ornette Coleman comes to mind) or both alto and baritone. Both alto and tenor players may double on flute (e.g., Sonny Fortune). Some double on bass clarinet too (Eric Dolphy, David Murray). Baritone players seem to be mostly bari players, period. I guess that big horn is a demanding, uh, partner.
     
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    moley, that's a very thorough explanation, thank you!

    I was thinking about this ages ago (I used to have regular jams with a mate who played sax) and I kind of figured that it was because different horns would produce different notes 'naturally' (that's how i'd got to grips with open fingerings in my mind), so the written music had to be transposed such to accomodate, but i never quite got my head around it!

    so basically the horn player can change between differnt types of the same horn, the fingerings will be the same and he just has to transpose the music.

    i'm with you there moley - that does sound much easier than learning knew fingerings.

    for example, when you play 5 string for the first time you dont have to learn knew fingerings because the additional string is tuned the same, but when i play guitar i have to constantly remember that the b string is tuned a semi-tone lower than the others.

    anyway, that's very interesting :)
     
  19. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, same kind of idea. Imagine playing a violin or cello, for example, the strings are tuned in 5ths. *That* would be confusing :D
     
  20. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    the best analogy i can thnk of is like in many written transcriptions of rock albums. you drop the tuning of your bass a semi-tone and the notation remains the same.

    I bought a double bass recently, before I did so I made damned sure it was tuned the same as EB. I think I'd have bought it anyway, but I'm damned glad the tunings are the same! ;)