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Transposing from Bassoon for Sax - help?

MellowD

Lost In Theory
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Hi folk, I need some assistance for transposing please. I've recently joined a local community orchestra, and the music they play doesn't always have saxophone parts, so we are given bassoon to read from (ironically there are no bassoon players in the orchestra, so perhaps I should consider changing instrument).

One piece is particularly challenging - Elgar's Nimrod, and I would appreciate advice where possible.

Naturally it is in base clef for bassoon. It has three flats, and the MD told me to play the notes as written, but with all naturals for the alto sax. Okay, so far relatively easy except that the notes go lower than my sax can actually play so I simply have to drop those notes completely.

Late in the piece, it suddenly changes from base clef to tenor clef for the sake of four bars. Neither my sax companion (of 80+yrs old and 70yrs playing experience) nor the MD have been able to address how to deal with this, so basically we blag it!

So, my questions are:

a) what would be the real solution to playing the bassoon parts for alto and tenor if I were to rewrite/transpose them?

b) what do I really need to do about the tenor clef transpositions as I have never had to deal with this before?

Now I've asked the question, I'm anticipating replies that will blow my head even further lol. One way or the other, I can see this situation being repeated along my journey in this orchestra, so I best deal with it and get over myself.
 

Jonesy

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Looks like a neat trick to do for alto and bass clef.

On the bass clef, the lines (going upwards) are G,B,D,F,A and the spaces are a,c,e,g.
To transpose bassoon to alto, go 3 clockwise on the circle of fifths.
Three flats is Eb so this becomes C (no flats).

If you imagine the bass clef (GaBcDeFgA) as the treble clef (EfGaBcDeF), where 'c' was on bass, would be 'a' on treble, so could be read like that for alto, maybe need to go up an octave.

For the tenor clef which goes D e F g A b C d E, I think you could do a similar trick with the tenor sax, adding 2 sharps or subtracting 2 flats, and the C on tenor becomes D on treble.

PS: This might be a load of dingoes kidneys.

Must get back to work now.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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I'll reply later. But Eb/bass clef transposition is relatively straightforward...

Tenor clef: welcome to my world of playing cello that does that too. And treble as well.

I'll have think about that.
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
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Tenor clef: welcome to my world of playing cello that does that too. And treble as well.

I'll have think about that.

Thanks @tenorviol - have I told you lately that I love you?

Thanks also @Jonesy - I've printed that off so I can keep it handy until I get proficient, as I do expect this to keep cropping up :)
 

Dibbs

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C's on the 4th line in tenor clef so it looks like a D to those of us only accustomed to treble clef. That would be very handy if you were playing tenor, just read as if treble clef and add 2 sharps/cancel 2 flats.

For alto or baritone, read as if treble clef use low register clarinet fingerings and add 3 sharps/cancel 3 flats. i.e. if you see what looks like a treble clef D you should play an A.
 

MellowD

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Thanks @Dibbs. I need to transpose for both, however, personally I would prefer to play it on the Tenor so that we have contrast with the Alto, even though we currently have two alto's playing different parts from the same sheet. I've not got a clue about clarinet fingerings though - that will fry my brain a little more before I get it lol
 

nigeld

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If you are playing tenor sax, you add 2 sharps/remove 2 flats
Bass clef: play as if written in treble clef and transpose up a 4th
(If a note is written on the bass clef top line, it is a concert Ab or A, so you finger a saxophone Bb or B)
Tenor clef: play as if written in treble clef
(If a note is written on the tenor clef top line, it is a concert Eb or E, so you finger a saxophone F or F#)

If you are playing alto sax or bari sax, you add 3 sharps/remove 3 flats
Bass clef: play as if written in in treble clef
(If a note is written on the bass clef top line, it is a concert Ab or A, so you finger a saxophone F or F#)
Tenor clef: play as if treble clef and transpose down a 4th.
(If a note is written on the tenor clef top line, it is a concert Eb or E, so you finger a saxophone C or C#)

It might be easiest to write the 4 tenor clef bars out by hand in bass clef.

The bassoon parts should ideally be played on bari saxes, to get the deep notes.
 

BigMartin

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If you are playing alto sax or bari sax, you add 3 sharps/remove 3 flats
Bass clef: play as if written in in treble clef
(If a note is written on the bass clef top line, it is a concert Ab or A, so you finger a saxophone F or F#)
You do have to watch out for the accidentals with tricks like this, though, eg naturals may become sharps, flats may become naturals.

It might be easiest to write the 4 tenor clef bars out by hand in bass clef.
Or work it out at home and memorise it, iif there aren't too many notes.
 

MellowD

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The bassoon parts should ideally be played on bari saxes, to get the deep notes.


Noooooooooooooo I am adamant I'm not going to get a bari - I'd much rather get a bassoon (partly because of the lush wood)
 
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nigeld

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I play the bassoon and I love it, but they are very expensive, and the fingerings are complicated.
Bari sax is a lot easier to play, though not so pretty.
 

kevgermany

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Easiest way is to put the whole bassoon part into MuseScore with instrument set to bassoon. check carefully for typos. Then add a tenor sax part which MuseScore will create empty, but with the correct key sig for tenor. Then copy the bassoon part into the tenor sax part. All transposition done for you. Just look out for funnies like the occasional E# which should be an F. MuseScore will also colour the notes which are outside the tenor range if you turn the check on.
 

nigeld

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Basson...prettier than a baritone saxophone...on a saxophone forum...how very dare you ;)

My bassoon:
Bassoon.jpg

My old bari sax:
bari.jpg

I rest my case.

The first picture may also help to explain why I think bari sax fingerings are easier than the bassoon - those are the left hand thumb keys.
 

MellowD

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Oh my - forget the thumb keys, its the wood that really grabs my attraction. Didn't say I want to play the bassoon - just gaze at the wood lovingly lol - which I shall be doing on Saturday as I play alongside the Contra Bassoon lady.

@kevgermany - I have musescore, but apart from downloading music into it so that I can find the sax parts, I'm afraid I haven't mastered it. I do want to be able to type music into it, and I just haven't sorted myself out for getting things on the right line and with the right dynamics tied in with them too. I definitely need to sit down to do it for the sake of doing rather than only when I have an urgent need!
 

Tenor Viol

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OK I was tasked with responding to this by various personages... :) This is going to be a long post... I had to read a bari (Eb) part and play it on bass recently and it was moderately mind-warping reading the treble clef and pretending it was bass and adding three sharps to the key signature and hoping there aren't too many accidentals....

Let's pare it back a little. Once upon a time I started to learn the bass viol (viola da gamba). This is a six string instrument about the size of a cello. Tuning is similar to lutes - i.e. in 4ths with an aberrant 3rd thrown in for entertainment value.

The majority of music is in bass celf for the bass viol. When playing higher up, say above middle C, it goes into ALTO clef - that's C3 clef, i.e. C is on the middle line of the staff.

It is tempting when faced with having to read an unfamiliar clef for the first time to adopt the 'Oh read it as B and add one so it's C' approach. A very good tutor on an early music course I was on says he sees that a lot and ultimately it doesn't work as it gets in the way as your brain is inserting an extra process to reading the music. You might as well just learn to read it properly.

If you can already read bass/treble then adding alto isn't that big a deal (lines are FACEG and spaces are GBDF).

I then started playing tenor viol, which uses ALTO clef as its deafult and it goes to treble.

Then I started playing cello and it uses bass clef and TENOR clef (C4) when it goes up and then uses treble... Bassoon music is written the same as cello music: bass, tenor and treble clefs.

So, I've ended up having to read all 4 standard clefs (yes, there are other Soprano clef, French violin clef, baritone clef...) but the others are just about extinct except in very old / original editions.

Now a brief diversion for reasons which will become apparent via French horn. These instruments originally did not have valves and could only play the notes on the harmonic series based on the fundamental of the length of the tube... To play other notes means changing the fundamental of the resonating tube. You do that by inserting different lengths of tube (called crooks) into the instrument. A different crook for each key.

French horn parts were therefore always written as if in C with an instruction at the start fo the score 'Cor en Es' (horn in E) or whatever. The player woudl then insert the relevant crook (E in this case) and just play what was written.

Then the modern French horn (double horn in Bb and F) is invented. This is fully chromatic and can play anything. Unfortunately, no one is going to re-edit and re-print all those old horn parts and put them in to concert pitch. So, if you are playing say Mendelssohn or Beethoven, your part is in C and says "cor en...". Horn players have to transpose AT SIGHT from C to whatever key they need to be in. I have a lot of respect for horn players.

Where does this get us? I agree you can play an Eb instrument off a bass part, or conversely play a bass instrument off an Eb part by adding/subtracting 3 sharps as required. Some people are adept at it, but it is an extra layer of processing between the music and you. This method doesn't work for Bb instrument though.

Options.
  • As @kevgermany suggested, either input or scan music into a package and get it to transpose it for you
  • If there's not much of it, transpose it and write it out
  • Learn to transpose at sight
I need to have a think about options for handling tenor clef as I've only ever used it on an isntrument in C so never had to think about options to 'translate'.
 
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