where to start to learn to transpose

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by playibanez, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. playibanez


    Apr 3, 2006
    hey guys. i havent practiced in a while so this summer im going to get back into it alot more. i already started guitar lessons to help with chord theory and hopefully to just get an understanding of guitar so i can jam with a guitarist a lot better.

    but i am terrible at transposing, but i want to learn. i took a theory course this year in school(didnt teach me anything, i knew it all already) but we did 'dictations' every day on the piano. i am decent at telling major and minor intervals, some of them mess me up but i can tell some basic stuff by ear.

    but can someone help me out with a starting point ???
  2. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Pick out a Christmas tune on your bass like Jingle Bells. Now play that tune in all 12 keys.
  3. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    What do you mean by transposing? Do you mean notating a transposition, or playing a transposition? And do you mean melodies and bass lines, or do you mean chords?

    Assuming you mean playing a transposition:

    Focus on the chord changes. Chord in a song follow follow a pattern, typically the same chords in every verse and the same chords in every chorus. All of those chords can be notated numerically, say for example you have a song in the key of G, , and your chord changes are: 2 bars of G, 2 bars of C, 1 bar of G, one bar of D, one bar of C, and one bar of G for every verse. In a G Major scale, the G is the root, or 1st note of the scale, the C is the fourth note of the scale, and the D is the 5th note of the scale. Numerically notated, we use Roman Numerals, so the chords would be represented as I-IV-V in the key of G.

    You know that the I is on the 3rd fret of the E string, and IV is right below it on the 3rd fret of the A string, and the V is two frets up from the IV on the same string, or the next lower open string. This pattern between I-IV-V (and all the other chords) can be moved anywhere on your neck, assuming you are tuning in 4ths (standard tuning).

    Everything is in a nice little box. Now take that box, and move it up the neck by three frets, to the 6th fret, and play what you were playing, pretending that the 6th fret on your E string is really a G. Now you're not only ready to play with guitar players who use capos, you've also just transposed the song from G to Bb.

    Just as an aside, this is one reason why I avoid open strings - my guitar players tend to use capos quite often, and refer to chords according to how they are fingered with the capo - for example, they have the capo on the 2nd fret, they will call the 5th fret, E string a G. Then I'll point out that the song is actually played in Bb, or G, or F, and we have to move everything around all over again - easy for me, because I just move up or down the neck.
  4. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    +1 There are lots of simple songs we learn as kids that good to learn by interval numbers, solfegge. Besides training your ear learning to hear that way make moving the song another key easier. Try to change key and stay in the same position. That way your will find and "see" different interval shapes on your fretboard. This not only will make transposing easier, but raise your fretboard knowledge to the next level. Pretty soon simple melodies your will hear and know instantly how to play, then more work and you be playing anything you hear in any key.
  5. Martin Bormann

    Martin Bormann

    Sep 20, 2007
    Alright I'm going to get your feet wet in transposing music here. This method was taught to me by my piano teacher my freshman year in college.

    1. First thing you do is on the sheet music, look for the tonic.

    2. Decide which key you want to transpose to.

    3. Find the first note on the sheet music, figure out which note it is in relation to the key. and now raise/lower it to match the key you're transposing to.

    4. play that transposed note.

    5. Looking at the next note on the page, don't read the note and worry about transposing that not. Look at the written intervalic distance, and replicate that distance. (If you're transposing from major to minor or vice versa, the intervalic distance might have to be modified in order to fit the key)

    It takes a bit of practice to get though.