All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
SYOS

transposition - please do justify it (once and for all)

Close the thread?

  • Close the thread

    Votes: 9 75.0%
  • Keep it open

    Votes: 3 25.0%

  • Total voters
    12
Status
Not open for further replies.

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Transposition....in general it is thought only beginners start questioning it - they get confused occasionally and they then learn to put up with it (like anyone else).

The basic question a beginner starts posing is:
I make a noise with my sax and is a C but then I have to call it A; Why?
In maths 2+2=4 but then our teacher told us to call that 4 with the name of 3 - this is a mathematical parallel of the problem - in fact music isn't that remote from maths.
So "intuitively" and logically we all probably got into this questioning stage when starting playing our saxes.

During my musical life - juggling with different instruments and diverse music classes, I came across many explanations about the reasoning behind transposition - as it stands I concluded that this is a legacy from the past which hasn't really be challenged enough and isn't anymore justifiable...unless, unless I've missed some important piece of info.

Can you list the reasons why transposition is good for music in general?
I've omitted the reasons I've already been given to keep the discussion more open...

At this point I'd like to point out that I've successfully de-transposed my saxes (Alto and Tenor) and finding so many benefits out of it - certainly better than using the transposing system...
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
At this point I'd like to point out that I've successfully de-transposed my saxes (Alto and Tenor) and finding so many benefits out of it - certainly better than using the transposing system...
Can you explain what you mean by having "de-transposed" your saxes?

Perhaps that would clarify things a bit. ;}
 

AndyB

Member
Messages
203
As I understand it from the book "The Devil's Horn" which is a fantastic read, there used to be saxophones keyed in C that sounded a C when you fingered a C. There were also saxophones keyed in F as well as in the marching band instrument keys Bb and Eb. Since they were different sizes they sounded a different note when you fingered a C on each of them. The F went away quickly and the C (melody) saxophone lasted longer but is not made any more. So what is left is the 2 saxophones keyed with other marching band instruments, Bb and Eb. So you might say the explanation to your question is that it is just a fluke of history that the C saxophone is not "the" saxophone any more.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Homo Sapiens seem to have an inbuilt aversion to learning to do things in a different way. Jim Schmidt produces saxophones and flutes with a very logical fingering system. Everything pressed, raise lowest finger and the note raises a semitone and so on, not quite 'ad infinitum'. A pro on this site pointed out that it had taken him long enough to learn how to get around a modified Böhm system without having to try to learn yet another system and that seems reasonable to me.

If you try to de-transpose the musical system now, you would have to re-educate the brass band, marching band and possibly military band communities or re-educate the 'classical', in its wider meaning, world to transpose but from where and how.

Just to make matters worse, YC pointed out that the strict meaning of a 'transposing instrument' is any instrument that does not sound at its written pitch and that includes octave transposers. Presumably we would all end up reading from a Grand Clef with numerous ledger lines in case there is a full Pipe Organ with pedal board incorporated.

Rocking THIS boat will result in instant immersion.

Apologies for being serious.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Can you explain what you mean by having "de-transposed" your saxes?

Perhaps that would clarify things a bit. ;}
I think in C all the time no matter what instrument I play: guitar, keyboard, alto, tenor - I did use to transpose (like anyone else) during my first 3 years of sax.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
As I understand it from the book "The Devil's Horn" which is a fantastic read, there used to be saxophones keyed in C that sounded a C when you fingered a C. There were also saxophones keyed in F as well as in the marching band instrument keys Bb and Eb. Since they were different sizes they sounded a different note when you fingered a C on each of them. The F went away quickly and the C (melody) saxophone lasted longer but is not made any more. So what is left is the 2 saxophones keyed with other marching band instruments, Bb and Eb. So you might say the explanation to your question is that it is just a fluke of history that the C saxophone is not "the" saxophone any more.
AndyB....there is nothing inherently physical that makes a Contralto an Eb instrument - the Eb transposition is in our mind.
 

stefank

Member
Messages
366
Recorders are examples of instruments that come in different keys (C & F) but don't have their written music transposed, so there is a precedent for doing it the "other" way. I can only assume that over the course of musical history the majority of practicioners have found it more convenient to have an alignment between written notation and fingering than between written notation and pitch.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Homo Sapiens seem to have an inbuilt aversion to learning to do things in a different way. Jim Schmidt produces saxophones and flutes with a very logical fingering system. Everything pressed, raise lowest finger and the note raises a semitone and so on, not quite 'ad infinitum'. A pro on this site pointed out that it had taken him long enough to learn how to get around a modified Böhm system without having to try to learn yet another system and that seems reasonable to me.

If you try to de-transpose the musical system now, you would have to re-educate the brass band, marching band and possibly military band communities or re-educate the 'classical', in its wider meaning, world to transpose but from where and how.

Just to make matters worse, YC pointed out that the strict meaning of a 'transposing instrument' is any instrument that does not sound at its written pitch and that includes octave transposers. Presumably we would all end up reading from a Grand Clef with numerous ledger lines in case there is a full Pipe Organ with pedal board incorporated.

Rocking THIS boat will result in instant immersion.

Apologies for being serious.
I've heard the story about the ledger lines...still there is a very useful "octave" instruction we can add on our pentagrams.
Regarding marching/military/brass bands - unless they play constantly at a certain interval from each other (depending on the type of instrument) I see little point on the benefits of transposing...
Then we'll have to consider what is the percentage of sax players playing in brass/marching/military bands as opposed to those playing in what I would call "normal" bands with plenty of C instruments (piano, bass ecc.)....
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,944
As a string palyer, I had often wondered about this since, for example both a 6 string treble and bass viol are both in 'D', but an octave apart, and the standard tenor is in 'G', a fourth above the bass (there are other instruments at different pitches and Renaissance viols are all over the shop). These are not transposing instruments - you have to learn to associate different notes with same fingering on different pitches of instrument (e.g. 1st finger on 2nd fret on 1st string of a bass is an E, but A on a tenor).

Theoretically, since modern woodwinds are fully 'chromatic' instrument, i.e. they can play any note, and are not restricted to notes on the harmonic series, there is no absolute reason to tranpose - you would just need to associate the same fingering with different notes on different pitches of instrument.

However... and it's a big one... you'd have to re-train everyone and re-edit all of the music accordingly to put it back at concert pitch.. so a bit unlikely...
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Recorders are examples of instruments that come in different keys (C & F) but don't have their written music transposed, so there is a precedent for doing it the "other" way. I can only assume that over the course of musical history the majority of practicioners have found it more convenient to have an alignment between written notation and fingering than between written notation and pitch.

Didn't know about recorders not being transposed - thanks a lot.
This bias towards the fingering rather than the pitch was probably justifiable ages ago but now?
Also, If one calls a C with the name of A on one instrument and then call the same C as a D on another and then call this pitch of C as a C on yet another instrument...isn't there a chance that something is interfering with e.g. perfect pitch?
The subconscious is a formidable hidden machine of ours...behaviorist psychologist like Skinner have demonstrated the power of positive reinforcing and consistency - these elements are lacking in a musical system affected by transposition.

Would be interesting having some statistics - e.g. does exposure to transposition affect perfect pitch? Maybe piano players and guitar player have a better perfect pitch than sax and trumpet players because C players in general are less exposed to transposition?
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
As a string palyer, I had often wondered about this since, for example both a 6 string treble and bass viol are both in 'D', but an octave apart, and the standard tenor is in 'G', a fourth above the bass (there are other instruments at different pitches and Renaissance viols are all over the shop). These are not transposing instruments - you have to learn to associate different notes with same fingering on different pitches of instrument (e.g. 1st finger on 2nd fret on 1st string of a bass is an E, but A on a tenor).

Theoretically, since modern woodwinds are fully 'chromatic' instrument, i.e. they can play any note, and are not restricted to notes on the harmonic series, there is no absolute reason to tranpose - you would just need to associate the same fingering with different notes on different pitches of instrument.

However... and it's a big one... you'd have to re-train everyone and re-edit all of the music accordingly to put it back at concert pitch.. so a bit unlikely...
that's the point then...we are just a bit lazy - we are destined for the next million years to live with a convention which is obsolete and anachronistic.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
that's the point then...we are just a bit lazy - we are destined for the next million years to live with a convention which is obsolete and anachronistic.
Huh? It works. Why fix it?

You're beginning to sound like those musos who think that, if it's harder, it must be better. I'll stick with transposing, thankyou. Call me lazy if you like - I just think of it as making life a bit easier for me. Getting the music out is what's important, not having to overcome obstacles to do it.

Anyway it's the fingering systems that are obsolete and anachronistic not the transpositions. And no one's going to succeed in changing them.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Huh? It works. Why fix it?

You're beginning to sound like those musos who think that, if it's harder, it must be better. I'll stick with transposing, thankyou. Call me lazy if you like - I just think of it as making life a bit easier for me. Getting the music out is what's important, not having to overcome obstacles to do it.

Anyway it's the fingering systems that are obsolete and anachronistic not the transpositions. And no one's going to succeed in changing them.

Very interesting...what makes you think it's harder to de-transpose?
It is more natural and logical: play a DO and call it a DO then play a LA and call it LA when doing solfege for example - I think this bring some surprising benefits which are impossible with transposition...particularly in relation to the ear.
What makes de-transposing difficult, is the sheer volumes of scores and books already written in Eb and Bb (to name some) and of course the establishment in general. De-transpose all of them transposing publications (computer are wonderful machine which would do the job for us) and that would be a good step forward - then there are tutors who aren't prepared to change their ways of course - yeah, it looks we are really doomed - transposition for humanity forever...
 
Last edited by a moderator:

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Another point...
I'm sure there are others out there who have already de-transpose their saxes - they think in C all the time like myself (I'm aware of a particular sax player more or less famous who thinks in C - just I can't recall his name)....and somehow this is something that every Eb, Bb sax player does here and there.
When communicating in this forum I do use conventional names so in a way I don't think in C all the time...we are both doing the same - it's just a question of ratios rather than a clear cut black and white issue.
Changes do happen in a gradual form most of the time...maybe de-transposing is growing slowly but surely in the background.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
Very interesting...what makes you think it's harder to de-transpose?
Perhaps it's having to learn 3 sets of fingerings instead of one. You may find that easier. I don't think I would.

What makes de-transposing difficult, is the sheer volumes of scores and books already written in Eb and Bb (to name some) and of course the establishment in general. De-transpose all of them transposing publications (computer are wonderful machine which would do the job for us) and that would be a good step forward - then there are tutors who aren't prepared to change their ways of course - yeah, it looks we are really doomed - transposition for humanity forever...
Yes, it would be difficult. So it won't happen. You might as well whinge about the crappy fingering systems we're stuck with for clarinets. They won't change either.

But I don't feel remotely doomed. Transposition makes doing music easier.

maybe de-transposing is growing slowly but surely in the background.
Permit me to chuckle quietly at that one.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Perhaps it's having to learn 3 sets of fingerings instead of one. You may find that easier. I don't think I would.



Yes, it would be difficult. So it won't happen. You might as well whinge about the crappy fingering systems we're stuck with for clarinets. They won't change either.

But I don't feel remotely doomed. Transposition makes doing music easier.



Permit me to chuckle quietly at that one.
Would you start considering de-transposing if a reputable source can demonstrate that transposition is hampering your perfect pitch and capacity to recognize intervals and scales?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Saxholder Pro
Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom