Transposition methods

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by tpter1, Sep 30, 2005.

  1. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    I am working on re-learning how to transpose. Normally, when transposing, I try to think the note either below or above by the interval. (Example: if I'm reading something for trumpet in E, but playing on Bb, I am constantly trying to think of a tritone away from the written note). This is cumbersome, awkward, and makes my reading very slow and inaccurate. I was never taught to use clefs; I just had Bordogni thrown at me and it was "sink or swim, kid" basically. So I would just memorize them. But now, if given a Mahler part, I really have to work to read it, until I basically memorize the fingerings. It doesn't seem to me a very efficient way to work.

    What methods do you use when you teach it and when you transpose for yourself? I am trying lately to use numbers...but I tried that playing along with my hs flutes during the sight-reading portion of the lesson (I was on a Bb) and it didn't go so well. (We had a few good laughs).
  2. Alex Yates

    Alex Yates Forte User

    Aug 11, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    How one transposes is also a personal preference. Basically it breaks down two ways. You either tranpose intervalically or using clefs. Yes, there are exceptions, but most of us fall into one of these two groups. I fall into the interval group. I can read clefs, but I don't use them when transposing. And some transpostions are easier than others for me. Playing a C trumpet - F, A and Bb transposition are very easy for me where E, Eb and D do not flow as easily. It is would think if Bb is easy (down one step) that D would be just as easy (up a step), but sometimes I will be reading in D and suddenly slip to Bb. It is the way my brain is wired I guess and I rarely have to do "D" transposition. Playing piccolo and lots of orchestral literature F is a breeze (up a fourth) and of course being a C player, I can read Bb without many hiccups. I could go on with examples, but you get the idea.

    The most famous book for this task is Sachse, Sachse, most-hated book at one time. My lessons with Rapier always included a lot of these and in every key imaginable. He never told me how to transpose - that was left up to me. He would just say or write "this etude in E, Eb and A", etc. Also, transpose other etudes as well. Start with some easy books like Getchell and Bousquet. (In grad school we had to transpose all of the Charlier's!!! Oy vey!) It is a matter of making yourself do it. At first, it really is no fun, but you will love getting better at it. The best way to go about it is to play etudes VERY SLOWLY and DO NOT go on to the next note unless you are SURE of what it is. NO CHEATING!! :lol:

    P.S. When learning to transpose, it is not a bad idea to go through the etude a few times with just your fingers and not waste valuable chop time. This is an efficient way to work your brain and fingers while resting the chops.
  3. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    Sorry to jump in on this one before Manny has had a chance to answer, but there is a fantastic quote by Chris Gekker from Notes on Practicing that really sums up what we all need to do regarding transposition.
    I used to be terrible at my Bb transposition. When I made the decision to play my C trumpet exclusively in all of my ensembles, I had to throw myself “in the fire†with regards to this transposition (I read intervals by the way for most transpositions – except C parts on A piccolo). My first “experience†was in a very low-pressure summer band where playing the right notes was simply not that important. We had a rehearsal on Tuesday and the concert on Thursday, and did this for 8 weeks. I was so embarrassed at how poorly I played on many of the pieces. But, I was under pressure, I was gaining experience, and I had to do this EVERY DAY. My feet were held to the fire every Tues and Thurs, so that there was no escaping this VERY weak aspect of my playing.

    But you know what? By the time my Wind Ensemble resumed in the fall, I had shaken out 90 percent of my problems. I still dreaded first rehearsals when there were Grade 6 pieces, lots of flats, or blistering fast tempos. I was still missing notes, but it was far less frequent.

    After over 10 years of playing only my C in ensembles, the experience and repeated exposure is clearly engrained. I still miss the occasional note, but most of the time I just find myself on autopilot (at least for Bb transposition).

    In all of the reading that I have done about Mr. Vacchiano, he held his students feet to the fire all of the time regarding transposition. I would simply recommended that you commit yourself to your goal (say that up a step transposition from your Bb) and keep at it until it is second nature.

    Good luck!
  4. BigBadWolf

    BigBadWolf Piano User

    Nov 30, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    My solfege classes in college were what helped me the most in my trasposition. But, as far as books, I use the Caffarelli, Bordogni, Sasche, Concone, and Ernest Williams.
  5. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Thanks. Yeah, Derek, Mr. Vacchiano's passing is really my inspiration begin re-doing this; with that came all those stories, and they inspired me.

    Alex- I'm trying your approach on the etudes; I thought a bit more scalar; but chose Longinotti #2...up a step. (eesh!) My brain is now jelly, and I have a student warming up...
  6. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    I transpose by clef. As a conductor and theory major i had to learn the c clefs anyway, and for me it works the easiest. The only one I have problems with is up P5 but am working on that one.
  7. MahlerBrass

    MahlerBrass Piano User

    Oct 1, 2004
    Houston, TX
    I think in the key that I transpose to, I found that thinking intervals made me work harder than I really need to, of course this becomes difficult when playing a piece without a tonal center, but it works well for most excerpts and such. Start slow, I used the Getchell book to get into it, every etude in a different key, then I bought the Bordogni that switches transposition every 4 measures or so, not sure if this is the one you have, but it's done wonders for me. Other than that, it's a matter of patience and keeping our brains constantly working, best of luck!
  8. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Thanks for the responses. I can see a few books I need to get (Sachse, Getchell). I have Bordogni, but the transposition chart came off and got lost years ago.
  9. Bugler997

    Bugler997 Pianissimo User

    Mar 22, 2005
    Well, let's say I'm playing my C-trumpet, and reading a part for a D-trumpet.

    I transpose the key signature, in this case adding two sharps (yes, I think of it like that). Then I pretend each note is one "staff-step" up. For example, if I see a B, I "pretend" it's on the space above the third line from the bottom line, the "C-line."

    Unfortunately, accidentals throw me off WAY much when I use this method. Should I learn a better method, or just stick with that one?
  10. joey

    joey Pianissimo User

    Nov 19, 2003


    You are working a little harder than you need to. Try this:

    First, figure out your interval of transposition (for example, 'D' trumpet from 'Bb' trumpet is up a major third).

    Second, change your key signature the same as your interval of transposition (if your 'Bb' part is written in the key of 'C' major, up a a major third would be 'E' major).

    This cuts your number of possible transpositions in half. Reading up a minor third or up a major third are basically the same, just with a different key signature in your head. So, when you are "...trying to think of a tritone away from the written note." you're not considering the key signature. If the piece is in 'C' major for 'Bb' trumpet, you have the choice of reading up a 4th in the key of 'F#' major, or up a 5th in the key of 'Gb' major, whichever is easier.

    Dutiful practice will make this a fluid part of your trumpet playing. In addition to the fine books already mentioned (Sachse, Caffarelli, Bordogni, Getchell, Williams) do not ignore the 150 melodies in the back of the Arban's. They are short, minimizing the frustration that comes from learning transposition, and musical.

    First, play the melody as written, so you know what it sounds like. Now transpose, listening for the same ease and musicality.


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