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Beginner transposing - silly questions!

paul2610

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OK I understand that to distinguish a major from a minor scale is by the arrangement of tones and semitones (and that most sad songs are in minor) which can be recognised by the tonic note!

I have just attempted to transpose 'the long and windy road' which in my book is written with Eb, Bb, and Ab. At first I took the tonic note to be the second note in which is Eb (making it written in Eb major) as the song starts and finishes with it, but it did not quite sound right (once transposed to A major), so redid it in using the lowest note used within the music, this being C (making it written in C minor) and transposed it to A minor (as the first did not seem high enough in tune).

First question is - is the tonic note within a song in the same place i.e. always the lowest used, or could it just as likely be the first note of the song.

second question - when a piece is written in minor, does it have to be transposed within another minor scale or can you use a major scale.

third question - once you know which major or minor scale a piece you want to transpose is written in, does it matter which other scale you transpose it into, i.e. if written in C major for instance, could it be transposed into any of the other major scales.

I apologise if these are really simple questions and I,m just showing my ignorance of music theory but I'd rather know if I'm doing something wrong or right.

Thanks for any help.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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1 - No. In classical definition a tune will finish on the tonic and modern stuff usually does, but it's not always the case. You get the tonic from the key signature. Note each major has an associated minor called the relative minor. This uses the same physical notes, from a different starting point. Easiest to see on a keyboard. C Major and A minor are one such pair. Start with the C, playing all the white notes for C major, and with A, again on all the white notes for A minor. If you're not sure if a piece is major or minor, have a look at the guitar chords. Generally minor pieces will have minor chords.

2 - Effectively Yes, it's the minor scale that gives it it's sound.

3 - You can transpose a piece into any scale you want, as long as it's highest and lowest notes are within the range of the instrument. Despite what I said before, you could transpose a piece from C major to A# minor, but if you wanted it to sound the same in the new key, it'd be a mess of accidentals, not to mention all the sharps in the key signature.

If the tune didn't sound right after your transposition, then you did something wrong, so a couple of rules:

When you transpose
Take the current key and decide how much you want to transpose by.
Let's say you want to go from C to D.
First change the key sig (D has 2 sharps, C none).
Then move each note up one place on the stave. So C moves to D, D to E and so on.
What about an accidental like G# - this does the same, goes to A and retains it's sharp.
The only tricky one is when you move an accidental sharp in the old key to a note that's already sharp in the new key - you need to write it as a double sharp. So E# would move to F## transposing from C to D. Same goes for flats in flat keys.

Nb, the above applies to minors as well. So if the piece had been written in A minor, and you wanted to move it to B minor (the relative minor of D), exactly the same would happen - so no need to worry about majors and minors, just take the key sig, assume it's major, work out the current key, and new key, and apply the rules above.
 

Young Col

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2,419
Yes I'll go with what Kev said and he's put it more eruditely than I could.
Start with the key signature. EG If it has three flats is it Eb Major or C minor? The piece will probably finish on the tonic so that's a good guide. Also watch for a sharpened 7th, which would mean the B is naturalised, not left flattened in C minor, if the harmonic minor is used, although that's not an absolute guide as natural minor doesn't do that. And as you rightly say, what's the mood of the piece?

Yes you can transpose from minor to Major, but I wonder why you would want to and as Kev says, you could end up with a hard key signature and a mess of accidentals.
YC
 

paul2610

Member
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42
Thanks for all this sound advise - the mist is slowly clearing.

from it I have found the tonic as being Eb as first thought but probably messed up a few notes, but after re-playing and changing certain notes it sounds a lot better now - as always I find making mistakes along with sound advise and practise is the best way to learn - the practise of re-writing the piece also helped with my note reading.

cheers all.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just an addition based on YC's post. Although there are 3 minors, for transposition it doesn't matter, as the distinction between the minors is made by accidentals, not by different key signatures.

One other point. The transposed note must alwys be transposed by the same amount as the others, it's not acceptable to (for instance) move it to the next note up to avoid a double sharp.
 

stefank

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366
What Kev said. The only thing I'll add is that the tonic is the place (tonally) that sounds like home base, the note where everything seems to want to settle after all the fuss is over. It's usually fairly obvious in most pieces, although there are exceptions to this.
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
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I have only transposed a few pieces and do it by comparing the two scales, extended as necessary, and writing the new note from the corresponding one on the original. This avoids counting and thinking.
Can any of you with a good knowledge of music theory say if this works in all cases?
 

stefank

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366
I have only transposed a few pieces and do it by comparing the two scales, extended as necessary, and writing the new note from the corresponding one on the original. This avoids counting and thinking.
Can any of you with a good knowledge of music theory say if this works in all cases?
Should do, but be careful with accidentals. Sometimes a flat or sharp can become a natural (or vice versa) in the new key. Eg if the original key was G major but the piece contained a B flat - if transposed to the key of A major that B flat would become a C natural.
 

Young Col

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You could safeguard against that by writing the comparison scales as full 12 note chromatics. Bit tedious but with repeated and recurrring notes you'd soon get used to it and not need to refer back.
 

Targa

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Should do, but be careful with accidentals. Sometimes a flat or sharp can become a natural (or vice versa) in the new key. Eg if the original key was G major but the piece contained a B flat - if transposed to the key of A major that B flat would become a C natural.
Do you mean the B flat should be a C natural?
The way I would look at that would be in G major the third note is B so in A major the third note is C, B flat is one down so one down in A major is B, then play it and hear what it sounds like.
Obviously my knowledge of music theory is somewhat erratic.
 

Young Col

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Targa
Yes Stefank is right. Remember there are three sharps in A Maj and one of these is the third note, C#, not C natural. You have to keep the Tone,Tone, Semitone sequence between the first four notes of the scale, so G-A-B-C becomes A-B-C#-D. In the example, in G Maj the flattened third note is Bb, so in A Maj the flattened third note is C natural.

Look at it another way. The interval between tonic G and Bb is a minor third (three semitones). That interval must be preserved in the transposition. Thus from tonic A it is a minor third to C.
YC
 

Targa

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Targa
Yes Stefank is right. Remember there are three sharps in A Maj and one of these is the third note, C#, not C natural. You have to keep the Tone,Tone, Semitone sequence between the first four notes of the scale, so G-A-B-C becomes A-B-C#-D. In the example, in G Maj the flattened third note is Bb, so in A Maj the flattened third note is C natural.

Look at it another way. The interval between tonic G and Bb is a minor third (three semitones). That interval must be preserved in the transposition. Thus from tonic A it is a minor third to C.
YC
Yes thanks, I knew that was wrong as soon as I keyed it in because it gave two notes the same but lunch and washing the car came in the way of my deleting it.
The 'scales' that I use for comparison have the sharps and flats in them which I think gives the correct transposition (?).
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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The 'scales' that I use for comparison have the sharps and flats in them which I think gives the correct transposition (?).
Will work if you pay attention to key signature AND accidentals.
 

Young Col

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Yes, quite.
Washing the car. I thought about that this morning. Just thought about it.
YC
 

Targa

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I'd been thinking about it for 6 weeks and the sun was shining.
Maybe if I thought longer about what I was keying I would have got it right first time.
Thanks YC and Kev.
 

paul2610

Member
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42
finally got round to playing both of the transposes I did of 'the long and winding road'.
originally in Eb major I transposed it to A major (tonic last note) and later A minor (tonic lowest note).

The only differcult part was the Db incidental. For the A major I changed this to a neutral G (as there was g# in key) and on the A minor to a B# (there are no b or # in key). one the A minor, I orginally changed it to neutral B as I did with the A major but apart from it not sounding right, did think that the process meant that if the incidental falls on # or b on the new scale you cancell it but if it falls on a neutral note, you change it to the opposite i.e. an b to a # - am I right with that?

Both version sound quite reasonable, but I prefered the A major as the A Minor was a bit to high in sound and not as mellow sounding.

I know that there is a heck of alot more to learn when transposing and music theory like all the right jargon for a start but it does open up possibilities like the hundreds of guitar music books my local store has (one or two for a sax).

cheers
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Paul, you seem OK on the major. Sounds good!

I think you've missed something with the minor. Firstly A minor isn't a note, it's a key, so the lowest note in the piece isn't A minor, it's A. I guess you saw a chord symbol saying to play the A minor chord with the low note. This doesn't change the key of the piece. At this point treat the accompanying chords in the music as fillers that can give you an idea of whether the piece is in the minor or major. Given the original had the Eb Major key sig, if it was in a minor key, it'd be in C minor, the relative minor of Eb. But - it doesn't matter. The written notes are the same as far as transposition is concerned.

And that's the secret. A major key and its relative minor use the same notes, in the same sequence, but starting at a different place. So in your example in Eb major, the scale notes are Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb, but for C minor it's C D Eb F G Ab Bb C. Same notes, same order, different starting point.

In your transcriptions you've picked A as the tonic in both cases. Between A Major and A minor it's only the pattern of sharps/flats in the key signature that differs, you still play from the tonic upwards but with different sharps/flats. In both transcriptions the notes you play should be identical if you want to keep the tune the same. Given that the Key sig for A minor has no sharps or flats, then you're going to have sharps as accidentals for all the Cs, Fs and Gs. As the Db transposes to a G natural, you'll need to put the natural sign in front of it and if there's another G in the same bar, then you need to reinstate the G# as well.

For completeness I managed to find a downloadable score here:

http://www.sheetzbox.com/piano/sheets/8744/The_Beatles-The_Long_And_Winding_Road_PianoNotes.html

By my reading (and I'm no expert!!! ) it starts in C minor - see how it drops to C for the first road, and the first chord is C minor... And repeats it frequently on the ends of many lines. However some bars have a major sound and seems to be switching/teasing between major/minor and maybe a touch more. Going from C to Eb... Usually with positive lyrics for the major phrases. And for me it ends up in Major (Eb), giving the destination a very positive feel even though the lyrics aren't on the tonic.This gives it that lovely semi sad, but wistful feeling.

It's things like this that made me say concentrate on the key sig for transposition. Cos many songs change key/mode, often more than once and trying to work out which key/mode is current is more of a technical point than the real issue, which is the mood the music is trying to convey.

Hope this helps, and doesn't confuse.
 

Young Col

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2,419
Yup, what Kev said. In going from Eb Maj to A Maj what you are doing is transposing everything up by an interval of an augmented 4th (don't let's get started on why it's also called the devil's interval here!), so you've rightly transposed Db to G natural.

However, it's the same change to go from Eb to A minor. But as I said before, there's no point in going to a minor key, because all you do (in this case) is to take the three sharps out of the A Major key, but have to put them back in again as accidentals, otherwise it won't sound the same melody. Whatever you do, the Db won't become a B anything in A minor!
YC
 
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