Transposing Tips???

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Skelingtin, Aug 18, 2014.

  1. Skelingtin

    Skelingtin New Friend

    Feb 5, 2013
    I need to learn to efficiently transpose as I play music in my youth orchestra. I was learning on my Bb and was still pretty bumpy, but I recently got a C trumpet to learn on. I know it's only a step up, but I still feel like I hit ground zero with this. What is the most effective way to learn transposing while playing? I never took a music theory course so I really just have a basic idea like how many sharps and flats are in a scale.
  2. tjcombo

    tjcombo Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    Learning to transpose is more a matter of practicing rather than theory (IMHO). The simple way to work out key signatures when going from Bb to C and vice versa - to transpose up a tone, add two sharps or subtract two flats and vice-versa. Pardon me teaching you how to suck eggs if you already know this, but that's it in a nutshell.

    That's the "theory" - now it's "just" a matter of practice. :-)
  3. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I found that transposition is like learning another language. When you use that other language a lot, transposition becomes easy. I learned transposition when taking lessons at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music with Mick Dennison. He had me work through a transposition work book. Don't recall the name, but it was a white book. I use this to this day. One of the best techniques I ever learned. I read better from a C part on my Bb trumpet than reading the Bb parts. This is a gift when sitting in on jazz combos and reading the scores off the piano players music stand.
  4. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    Welcome to the world of Orchestral playing.

    A lot of the older music was written for instruments in other keys to match the key of the piece, common being C, D, E, Bb, A, G, F. There is no magic method, like any skill transposition must be learned and practiced.

    Some of the major symphonic works the transposition may change with the movement and within the movement. French Horn players suffer this more than trumpeters who often just double with the tympani.

    When I learned French horn 25 years ago my teacher played a lot of duets with me, the first time through as written, then played transposing into different keys.

    I think it helps to be able to hear the sound pitch in the new key, play a D major scale on your Bb trumpet and then a C major on your C. they should sound the same.

    Regards, Stuart.
  5. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    In this day and age of music being delivered as a PDF file I have wondered why not more (or any) of it is instead (or also) available as a MusicXML (or alternative open format) file which can then be bumped up and down before printing, to suit the player/ensemble/instrument choice.

    MusicXML - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I've found myself rewriting in MuseScore (MuseScore | Free music composition and notation software) some awkward orchestra parts. This is usually quite slow, even when I get help from Audiveris (

  6. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    We were fortunate in having daily transposition practise at school accompanying the hymns in morning assembly. After a few years of that, it just became second nature, and when we moved up to big orchestra, the new keys fell into place pretty quickly. Though trumpet in E was always a bit daunting.

    Most seem to regard transposition as an unnecessary chore. I disagree; I firmly believe that it helps other skills such as sight-reading, phrasing and improvisation. You learn to read ahead of the music, and 'play the intervals' rather than just follow the tadpoles. Most of my practice regime is transposed or played by ear on a random starting note. Try playing the hymn tune Ewing ('Jerusalem the golden') by ear starting on an E. If you 'play the intervals', the B# half way through shouldn't catch you out. If you play it note by note, it probably will.
  7. Rapier

    Rapier Forte User

    Jul 18, 2011
    You must have gone to a posh school. La di da music lessons and orchestras. That's a first. A Posh northerner. ROFL
  8. tjcombo

    tjcombo Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    I bet there were lots of arrangements in the key of Eeeeee :-)
  9. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    bumblebee likes this.
  10. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    When beginning on trumpet the pieces are slow enough that the young player has time to read the next note, puzzle out the fingering, then press the valves. Over time, we learn to read the note and finger it based on something like a reflex --no need to puzzle out the fingering so we can finger correctly almost instantly. We learn transposition the same way, and at first it is like being a beginner all over again.

    The first "transposition" I learned was to play was to read in bass clef. Using the Rochut book of Bordogni vocalises. It took a while to shake off the notion that what looks like an A is really a C, but the adjustment is pretty quick and easy. When I got my C trumpet, my professor had me play everything on C and transpose to Bb. Weird things happened--I would transpose time looking at a clock and reading it a step (one hour) "down." As I became more proficient I would even double transpose--as that C became an automatic Bb I would transpose down a step and play an Ab.

    A great help for other transpositions can be the Clarke Studies. Once those are memorized we can play in E by reading the C study and let our muscle memory push the right valves and hit the right notes--this really speeds up that reflex action of reading and fingering.

    Transposition is a skill, and like all skills requires diligent practice at first, but it does get easier.

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