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Sheet Music Transposition hints and tips.

MarkSax

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Not quite. excuse you still have to deal with accidentals which may change of course
I am familiar with the cycle of fifths which I use when transposing on paper. The main problem I have is recalling it, applying it to the music sheet in front of me and blowing the proper note. Am practicing methodically at the moment, and it’s not pretty.:confused:
 

jbtsax

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This looks like being very useful; however could you advise which 3 sharps are added.

The way the order of sharps in key signatures is taught to students is by memorizing a saying:

F
at Cows Go Down And Eat Buttercups OR Father Charles Goes Down And Eats Breakfast

F# C# G# D# A# E# B#

A saying isn't necessary for the order of flats because it is the order of sharps backwards.

Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb
 

lydian

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As Pete says, accidentals throw a monkey wrench into things. Here are some more rules for handling accidentals when reading bass clef on an Eb instrument:

Keep the above page for reference for when you encounter that situation. Of course, your immediate problem is different, transposing on the fly from concert pitch to Bb, which is unrelated to the bass clef for Eb trick.

I think everybody has at least some difficulty keeping track of key signatures. There are so many other things to worry about while sight reading.

As far as remembering the order of sharps/flats, there are many mnemonics out there, so use whatever works for you. I personally just remember the word BEAD and the letters GCF forward and backward.

I also have a trick for handling keys with lots of sharps. Rather than remember what notes are sharp, I just remember what notes are NOT sharp using the flat key signature as a basis. For example, in the key of B, there are 5 sharps - F, C, G, D, A. Instead I think of B as Bb with every note sharped. What does that mean? If you sharp every note in Bb, then all the flats become naturals, and everything else is sharp. So thinking only of the Bb key signature - Bb and Eb, then changing both of those flats to naturals, and everything else sharp, that means I only have to remember that the key of B has only 2 natural notes - B and E, the exact same as the flatted notes in the key of Bb.

Sounds pretty complicated at first, but in the end, you only have to keep track of 2 things (the 2 natural notes in the key) rather than 5 (the 5 sharps in the key) as well as only remembering the order of flats, not sharps. Another example, the key of F# (6 sharps). So I think of the key of F which has only Bb. Sharping every note results in the only natural note being B. So all I have to remember is one thing, B natural. Everything else in the key of F# is sharp.

Conversely for keys with lots of flats, you can think about only the remaining naturals. For example the key of Db (5 flats) thinking of it as the key of D with every note flatted means the 2 sharps in D which are F and C become the only 2 naturals in the key of Db. So I only have to remember that all notes are flat except F and C.

I like to call this exception based key signatures. When I see huge numbers of flats or sharps (more than 3), I apply the rules above and keep track of just the naturals in those difficult keys. The end result is I never have to remember more than 3 notes in any key. So here's what I end up thinking for all keys:

C - all naturals

F - Bb
Bb - Bb Eb
Eb - Bb Eb Ab
Ab - all flats except F C G (think of the key of A but flatted)
Db - all flats except F C (think of the key of D but flatted)
[Gb - all flats except F (think of the key of G but flatted)]

G - F#
D - F# C#
A - F# C# G#
E - all sharps except B E A (think of the key of Eb but sharped)
B - all sharps except B E (think of the key of Bb but sharped)
[F# - all sharps except B (think of the key of F but sharped)]

This is not entirely my idea, but the concept came from the phenomenal bassist, Victor Wooten.
 

jbtsax

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This is a visual representation of how this "transposition" works. As Pete indicated, the saxophone part is an octave higher on alto, but it is the same octave on bari sax.
reading bass clef on an Eb instrument.jpg
 

MarkSax

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I personally just remember the word BEAD and the letters GCF forward and backward.
That's what I'm doing at the moment.
I also have a trick for handling keys with lots of sharps. Rather than remember what notes are sharp, I just remember what notes are NOT sharp using the flat key signature as a basis. For example, in the key of B, there are 5 sharps - F, C, G, D, A. Instead I think of B as Bb with every note sharped. What does that mean? If you sharp every note in Bb, then all the flats become naturals, and everything else is sharp. So thinking only of the Bb key signature - Bb and Eb, then changing both of those flats to naturals, and everything else sharp, that means I only have to remember that the key of B has only 2 natural notes - B and E, the exact same as the flatted notes in the key of Bb.
Great tip. Reduces my reaction time by a few milliseconds. Working on it.
 

EdJ

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I thought playing a C soprano would sort it for me but when playing with guitarists and singers they go putting capos on. I had this idea of having Bb, Eb and concert parts and a combo of A clarinet, C Bb and Eb saxes then when they said capo on first fret I could think right play Bb part (written up a tone) on A clarinet (taking it back down a semitone) if I ever mastermind this idea into a list I will post it.
 

Pete Thomas

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when they said capo on first fret I could think right play Bb part (written up a tone) on A clarinet (taking it back down a semitone)
This sounds very complicated. More complicated than having to transpose. Also seems a bit odd to switch to a different instrument.
 

Colin the Bear

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Guitar Capo on first fret is up a semi tone. C shape = C#.
Concert C# on alto is Bb. What's the problem?
Capo on 3rd fret. C shape. Alto very happy.
Playing other instruments, however badly helps saxophone playing.
Persuading guitarists to tune a semitone flat, to improve tone and resonance:rolleyes: is very helpful.
E shape = Eb yay:cool:
Woke up this morning...
 

MarkSax

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For those curious how it went.
7 players. 3 saxes, 1 bass, 1 guitar and 1 drummer and a "conductor/vocalist". Every one brought 2 pieces of music, copies passed around or sent to the iPad. I brought 2 which I had already transposed so that part was easy. Only 2 saxes play on any piece.
The ones I hadn't I searched desperately on musescore and the like and only found a couple. 2 weeks of intense practice had obviously not been enough LOL.
I was late on everything I hadn't in Bb because it took me twice the time to read and play. I couldn't even remotely play faster than tempos of 60. My intonation was all over the place as I was trying to check too many things at the same time. Accidentals killed me.
I was 'rescued' innumerable times by the other sax and I had to stop more times than a bus on its route.
Only one other player got a little annoyed but all in all it was a memorable experience NOT to be repeated until I get my **** right.
The pieces I had in Bb were great. I had some practice playing in band so that worked well for me.
Came out of there like my brains had been fried.
I'm still wondering how it'd have turned out without the advice given to me here. LOL. Thanks again.
 

Dr G

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Persuading guitarists to tune a semitone flat, to improve tone and resonance:rolleyes: is very helpful.
E shape = Eb yay:cool:

G shape = F# not yay anymore boo hoo

C shape = B

D shape = C#

Yeah, detuning the guitar a semitone is not your friend all that much.
 

Pete Thomas

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I disagree (slightly) I thin k it may be possible if there was an electronic key system that could fit on an otherwise conventional saxophone.

I love that idea, but will probably not live to see it in production.
 

Colin the Bear

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I bought a cd from Amazon for £2.99.
It lets you build tracks like Lego with blocks of sounds.
There's an option record on top.

Whatever you play or sing comes out in the right key. It was fun for an afternoon.
 

Dr G

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Idea for an inventor: a sax plug that changes the pitch from x to C. Possible?


I disagree (slightly) I thin k it may be possible if there was an electronic key system that could fit on an otherwise conventional saxophone.

I love that idea, but will probably not live to see it in production.

Are you talking about modifying a sax body to be a synth controller? That has already been done, but it has no acoustic output.

If you are talking about making programmable electronic actuators for the entire horn that could be transposed on demand, that would necessitate a whole layer of key work to remove the touches that are typically soldered directly to the cup. Doable, but to what end? It would remove the intrinsic feel of the horn. I see no benefit to offset its extreme cost.

@MarkSax If you just cut off the end of the neck, yes, you would change the overall pitch of the notes, but the intervals between notes would be completely wonky. Everything needs to be scaled appropriately.
 

Pete Thomas

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Are you talking about modifying a sax body to be a synth controller? That has already been done, but it has no acoustic output.
No I’m aware of that
If you are talking about making programmable electronic actuators for the entire horn that could be transposed on demand, that would necessitate a whole layer of key work to remove the touches that are typically soldered directly to the cup. Doable, but to what end? It would remove the intrinsic feel of the horn.

Yes, but without removing the intrinsic feel of the horn.

Not very practical
 

Colin the Bear

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It's much easier to train your brain than engineer an electromechanical solution.
Prettier too.
The brain is a much overlooked resource. Much underused too. ;)
 
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