What are you "thinking" when you transpose.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jdostie, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    Why is this thing in Bb?

    Not even my private teacher can explain that one in a manner that makes any logical sense. What I mean is why are we calling it a C when (a majority) or other instruments call it a Bb?

    A trumpet player walks into a jam .... where there are numerous other instruments and players he's wanting to jam with. Paino, guitar, violin, cello, flute, bass, and even some exotic ones like sitar, sarod and shakuhachi flute. They all have a perfectly common language ... why am I (with my trumpet) the only guy in the room who has a variation on the language (like a dialict) and has to transpose? (unless some idiot invited a saxophone). :dontknow:

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
  2. oldenick

    oldenick Pianissimo User

    Apr 10, 2007
  3. R.T. Swing

    R.T. Swing Pianissimo User

    Feb 6, 2007
    Key of C add 2 sharps = key of D. I'm always thinking of the sound I concert pitch. So a written C, I always hear as Bb, if I transpose up a tone the same note I hear C. (When I play Cmaj written to trumpet in Bb I am hearing Bb maj.) It is kind of automatic the more I do it. Less familiar transpositions need more concentration.
  4. craigph

    craigph Piano User

    Mar 12, 2010
    Interesting question. I, too, was thinking about this recently.

    Amzi and bumblebee seem to be talking about playing a tune they have memorized in a key other than what it is written. I don't think of that as transposition. Nor, do I think that playing by ear is transposition. I think of transposing as sightreading in a different key, or playing a piece I know (but maybe not all that well) in a different key. If I am just playing by ear without looking at a score, or 'not knowing the notes I am playing' then this is not transposing.

    I have been trying to practice transposing recently and see two ways to think about it:
    (1) mentally shift the notes up (or down) so that you read them differently. i.e. if a piece is in C and you transpose it to Eb, when you see a C, you read it as Eb. I do think like this a lot of the time when transposing a 3rd or 5th. I just pretend that 3rd line B is really the forth line and read it as D.
    (2) read the notation but only play the intervals, not the pitches. So if it is a scalar pattern starting on C (in the key of C) and you are transposing into Eb, you start on Eb and just follow it stepwise. If there is a 7th arpeggio, play a 7th arpeggio in the new key, etc.

    In either case, I would look at the key signature first and convert that into the new key signature. I assume that people that are truly adept at transposing don't consciously think about how they are doing it. But for those of us who still struggle it would be useful to know what is really going on in their heads when they transpose. I wonder if there have been any academic studies done on this?

    I had to transpose for conservatory exams a couple decades ago and once (apparently) was able to do it competantly. But I can't remember what I was thinking or taught back then. I have recently been transposing (1) to practice transposing (2) to play pieces in a higher register and (3) to extend a piece I am practicing and keep the interest up by playing it again and again in different keys. I find it easiest to transpose a 3rd or a 5th.

    Hymns are good for this. (A Rowukian suggestion I believe) Or any straight-forward pieces without many accidentals. (ie stay away from jazz transcriptions at first.)
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I tend to use a modified solfege--rather than do, re, mi... I think 1,2,3..., rather like the Nashville Number System.

    Example--playing a piece in Ab written for Bb trumpet on the C trumpet:
    First of all, I know that I'll be transposing one step down, so I think Gb. When I read a Bb, I'll think of that as the 2nd note of the Ab scale; since I'm playing in Gb, I know that the 2nd note of the Gb scale is Ab, so I'll play an Ab.

    Having memorized all scales to the point where I don't have to think at all makes it easier to recognize any given note's position in the written scale, so I'll apply that to
    the key I'm playing in.

    Works for me.
  6. leftmid7

    leftmid7 Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 21, 2010
    Franklin, TN
    As far as just the enharmonics go, I think using the most common name is easiest(ie Bb instead of A#, or E instead of Fb). Although there's the consistency rule that you should use #s if you're in a sharp key and bs in a flat key, but I don't care. Transposing, you just have to experiment with what works for your brain. I just lock in the note spacing difference and know what key I'm in.

    And greetings from Nashville, Vulgano :)
  7. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    I think of Milly Vanilly!!:-)
  8. amzi

    amzi Forte User

    Feb 18, 2010
    Northern California
    Playing something you have previously memorized in any key should be fairly easy, but that wasn't the sort of transposition I was talking about. Volgano Brother is right, it's very similar to the Nashville Numbering System or Do-Re-Mi--all that matters is how the notes relate, not what is actually written. It sounds like most are limiting themselves to the transposing music written for "C" instruments; but what if you're asked to play an alto part or a horn part or a trombone part? If the bottom space is fingered "TTT" then the second line is "_TT" or "_T_" depending on your partial (and of course the key signature). Anyway, I don't think about what actual note to play--maybe it also has something to do with learning to read in C (Tenor) Clef.
  9. jmberinger

    jmberinger Pianissimo User

    Jun 5, 2007
    Long Beach, California
    I normally play one of two trumpets, a "d" and a "c". As I play in an orchestra, primarily, the transposition can vary and there are other trumpeters that may be playing other keyed trumpets, including a "Bb". The horn choice is based upon the timbre, projection and nature of the range that I am looking to project to the audience for that passage.

    This means to me that transposition is simply an accounting of intervals from the written script (music) to the sound production requested. As to how it is done, I am just reading the interval from the written to the required tone production.

    If I am playing an "F" part transposition, and I'm playing on the "c" trumpet, it is a fourth (sounds Bb concert); if the "d" then it is a minor third (still sounds a Bb concert pitch).

    All of these intervals can be expressed as part of a particular chordal relationship, which will assist also. Using a "c' trumpet, I will sometimes read in a written "F" part, as from "fifth of the chord" to the "octive tonic". Same works for Eb transportation on the Bb.

    Since chordal structure is a predictor of key changes, and scales to which they relate, it is easier to hear in the context of the whole of the music piece. And since key structures are just an initial reference point for ease in the transcription of the music, a chordal reading is more likely the means of knowing where the music's organizational structure is going.

    For me this shortens the mental transaction, keeps the tonal intervals as the functional guide for fast passages. It also allows the section to not have to pay too much attention to the different intonations of the intruments, but rather pay attention to just matching the tonal center of the section.

    Hope this helps,
  10. Kujo20

    Kujo20 Forte User

    Sep 29, 2010
    The first thing I think is..."why do we always have to play in keys like A and E...stupid string players!" (just kidding, I love the string players I play with!)

    I try to simplify it as much as I can. When I have to transpose on the fly, I just think of how many steps up or down I have to go, and what sharps or flats I'm going to have to play. From there on out, I just leave it up to my ears and fingers to do the rest of the work!


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