Reading Transposing Instruments Music (II)

When reading music written for a transposing instrument we must keep in mind:

  1. The key that will be heard or transposing key
  2. The real note that will be heard or concert pitch

Let's go back to our melody:

Transposing Key

To be able to read correctly the melody we must know the transposing key. This melody is in C major. If played by a clarinet in Bb it would sound a major second lower and we would hear it played in a key a major second lower than written. So instead of C major we would hear the key of Bb major.

Real Note or Concert Pitch

To find the real notes we could simply go note by note looking for the note that is a major second lower. But if we know the clefs we can read the music using the correct clef to automatically read the correct notes. Clefs are very useful for reading music written for transposing instruments.

Let's go back to our melody. If we use the tenor clef and we change the key to Bb major we can easily read the real notes produced by the clarinet (keep in mind that they sound one octave higher than written):

In the next table you can see the clefs that we must use when reading music written in the treble clef for the most common transposing instruments:

Instrument Transposition Clef Transposing Key
(assumes C major
as original key)
Alto Flute
(G)
Perfect 4th
Descending
G
English Horn Perfect 5th
Descending
F
Clarinet in Bb Major 2nd
Descending
Bb
Clarinet in A Minor 3rd
Descending
A
Clarinet in Eb Minor 3rd
Ascending
Eb
Bass Clarinet
(Bb)
Major 9th
Descending
Bb
Soprano
Saxophone (Bb)
Major 2nd
Descending
Bb
Alto Saxophone
(Eb)
Major 6th
Descending
Eb
Tenor Saxophone
(Bb)
Major 9th 
Descending
Bb
Baritone
Saxophone (Eb)
Major 6th
+ 1 octave
Descending
Eb
Trumpet in Bb Major 2nd
Descending
Bb
Horn in F Perfect 5th
Descending
F

© 2008 José Rodríguez Alvira. Published by teoria.com


    
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