How to Transpose Music

How to Transpose Music. Transposing music involves changing the key in which a musical piece is performed. To accomplish this, notes-or pitches-are moved up or down in pitch by a constant interval. This is a complex component of music theory. Follow these steps.

Select your transposition. You might want a key better suited for a vocalist's range or one that is easier for an instrument to play. Or you might be doing it for a transposing instrument. Parts for transposing instruments-clarinet, trumpet, cornet, French horn and most saxophones-usually are written higher or lower than they sound.

Use the right key signature. Located at the beginning of a musical staff, a key signature denotes sharps or flats for that key. If you are transposing for a particular key, the key signature is apparent. If it is a particular interval you want, the key will change to the corresponding interval.

Rewrite the music. This involves changing the notes by the proper interval. To accomplish this for all the notes in a given key signature, count lines and spaces. With a correct key signature there is no need to worry about major, minor or perfect intervals.

Treat accidentals with caution. Accidentals-flats and sharps-must be applied to match major and minor. You can do this by placing the note on the line or space where it would be if it wasn't an accidental; lower or raise it from the new key signature.

Search the Internet. You can find a wide range of Web sites offering free online transposition. A variety of software also is available.


  • If you don't use the right key signature you will not be able to transpose successfully. Practice transposing a familiar piece into a new key to sharpen your skills. After transposed a piece will sound higher or lower. Play the transposed section and listen closely. Your ears will let you know if something is not right.

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