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Clef Transposition

Derek Reme
June, 2015

1

CLEF TRANSPOSITION

Contents
1 Introduction 4

2 Methods of Transposition 6

3 Reading the seven clefs 7
3.1 The seven clefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
3.2 Reference points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
3.2.1 Other pitches as reference points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
3.2.2 Mental reference points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
3.3 The "infinite sta f" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

4 Suggestions for practice 12
4.1 Fixed-do solfége . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
4.2 Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

5 Transposing music back to concert pitch 12
5.1 The Three-Step Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
5.1.1 Step one: Change the clef. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
5.1.2 Step two: Change the transposed key signature back to the concert
key. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
5.1.3 Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. 15
5.2 Application in context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
5.2.1 Ravel: Bolero . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
5.2.2 Regarding horn and trumpet parts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
5.2.3 Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
5.2.4 Octave adjustments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
5.2.5 Mendelssohn: Fingal’s Cave or Hebrides Overture . . . . . . . . . . 21
5.2.6 Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

6 Transposing music away from concert pitch 24
6.1 Application in context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
6.1.1 Schubert: Der Neugierige . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
6.1.2 Handel: Larghetto from Sonata No. 2 in G minor . . . . . . . . . . 27
6.1.3 Hymntune: NICEA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

7 Conclusion 32

1 Appendix: Tables of transposing instruments 33

2

CLEF TRANSPOSITION

List of Figures
1 Clef transposition (Zarlino, Le Istitutioni Harmoniche, 319.) . . . . . . . . . 5
2 The seven clefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
3 The seven clefs (Diruta, Il Transilvano, 6.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
4 Line and space patterns for even and odd intervals . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
5 Possible mental reference points for each clef . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
6 Other possible mental reference points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
7 The "infinite sta f" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
8 The grand sta f as a mathematical graph (Savard, Principes, 50.) . . . . . . 10
9 The "infinite sta f" (Diruta, Il Transilvano, 7.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
10 The "infinite sta f" (Savard, Principes, 50.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
11 Figure 10 in modern notation with clefs reversed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
12 Clefs for each key when starting in treble clef . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
13 How to alter the transposed key signature when beginning in treble clef . 14
14 The circle of fi ths as a dial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
15 The order of a fected pitches a ter the clef has been changed . . . . . . . . . 15
16 Pitches with altered accidentals in each key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
17 Shi ting accidentals on a fected pitches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
18 Ravel: Bolero, at rehearsal 8 [original transposed version] . . . . . . . . . 17
19 Ravel: Bolero, at rehearsal 8 [concert pitch] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
20 Ravel: Bolero, at rehearsal 8 [hypothetical transposed version] . . . . . . . 19
21 Ravel: Bolero, at rehearsal 8 [another equivalent concert pitch version] . . 19
22 Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, mm.16-19 [original transposed version] . . . 20
23 Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, mm.16-19 [concert pitch] . . . . . . . . . . . 20
24 Mendelssohn: Fingal’s Cave or Hebrides Overture, mm.202-214 [original trans-
posed version] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
25 Mendelssohn: Fingal’s Cave or Hebrides Overture, mm.202-214 [concert pitch] 22
26 Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps Part 1, "Rondes printanières," at rehearsal
56 [original transposed version] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
27 Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps Part 1, "Rondes printanières," at rehearsal
56 [concert pitch] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
28 Transposing keyboard music by interval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
29 Schubert Der Neugierige, No. 6 from Die Schöne Müllerin, [original key] . . 26
30 Schubert: Der Neugierige, No. 6 from Die Schöne Müllerin, [transposed] . . 27
31 Handel: Larghetto from Sonata No. 2 in G minor, from 12 Solos for Flute,
Oboe, or Violin with a Thorough Bass for Harpsichord, mm.1-6 [original score] 28
32 Handel: Larghetto from Sonata No. 2 in G minor, from 12 Solos for Flute,
Oboe, or Violin with a Thorough Bass for Harpsichord, mm.1-6 [transposed] . . 29
33 John B. Dykes: NICEA [original] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
34 John B. Dykes: NICEA [transposed] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
35 Interval and direction of most non-octave transposing instruments . . . 33

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aural memory. Meech. from Zarlino’s Le istitutioni harmoniche. Girolamo Diruta. 7-9. 3 (July.2 Notated without clefs. The Oxford History of Western Music: College Edition (New York: Oxford University Press. F lydian. Robert Wason. Giose fo Zarlino.1 One of the earliest instances of clef transposition is Johannes Ockeghem’s Missa cuiusvis toni. Part 1 (Venice: Alessandro Vincenti. conductors. 1. and hand position." Speculum 10. 235-269. when sup- plied mentally. "Johannes Ockeghem: The Changing Image. the Songs and a New Source. Lastly. "Three Musical Treatises in English from a Fi teenth-Century Manuscript. the "Mass in Any Mode." Early Music 12. or G mixolydian. the source does not mention the use of clefs specifically. Richard Taruskin and Christopher H. While this is a sort of transposition. and his student. and Robert Gjerdingen for their suggestions regarding early sources. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 1 Introduction Transposition is useful in many situations. Girolamo Diruta’s Il Transilvano (Venice. 1558). 4 . and Daniel Pesca for their help in editing this manuscript. 2. 1558). 1597). and copyists need to transpose music accurately at sight to adjust for vocal ranges or trans- posing instruments. 2012). David Fallows. Le Istitutioni Harmoniche.3 Early references directly related to clef transposition as a systematic process include Gios- e fo Zarlino’s Le istitutioni harmoniche (Venice. 763 is an English manuscript dating c. shows how a plainchant in baritone clef can be transposed up a major third when read in tenor clef with a new key signature." published posthumously in 1539. the author extends his thanks to Edoardo Bellotti. 151. Class piano and theory curricula o ten require students to transpose sim- ple melodies and chord progressions through a combination of analysis. and to Jacob Fuhrman. no. Jazz musicians regularly transpose cadential passages and famous solos by ear to practice improvisation. The author’s initial exposure to clef transposition was at the European American Musical Alliance sum- mer program in Paris in the classes of Mark Shapiro and Teddy Niedermaier. composers. singers must decide on one of four di ferent clef combinations. Gibbs. each of which.1460 which contains a treatise describing how to improvise vocal polyphony by mentally displacing a notated chant by consonant intervals. 1935). Louis Cruz. 3. This article outlines a system of transposition using clefs which is intended for this last group of musicians. fixes the notated music in D dorian. accompanists. Il Transilvano. instrumentalists. See: Sanford B. 4. no. Lansdowne MS. 319.4 Figure 1. 2 (1984): 219. and each requires a method suited to its needs. Part 4 (Venice: Francesco Senese. In addition. 1597). E phrygian.

. 319. (Courlay.and twentieth-century publications originating from French and Belgian conservatories make use of clef transposition in a more systematic way than Zarlino and Diruta. France: Editions J. every French source listed in the bibliography uses clef transposition. A facsimile of Baudiot’s Études de transposition can be found in: Jean-Philippe Vaseur. In fact. ed. where the student (or teacher) is sup- posed to choose both. one of the earliest French sources to mention clef transposition is Charles Baudiot’s treatise Études de transposition (Paris. Additionally. Alto: méthodes. Le Istitutioni Harmoniche. Rice. e fectively transposing each exercise. This is all to show that. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 1: Clef transposition (Zarlino. 99. Warriner. 2003?). and Sweigart also use the clef method. as opposed to other techniques of transposition described in the next section. the concept of clef transposition itself is not. 1902) uses clefs to transpose fugue subjects (although this forms a very small part of the treatise). Gédalge’s famous Traité de la fugue (Paris. 1922) contains exercises without clef or key signature. 1875). traités. André Gédalge’s solfége method L’enseignement de la musique par l’éducation méthodique de l’oreille (Paris. Fuzeau. In addition. 1838). 5..5 Perhaps the first systematic description of clef transposition in print is Augustin Savard’s Principes de la musique et méthode de transposition (Paris. while the organization and presentation of the material in this article are original. non-French publications by McHose.) Many nineteenth. 5 . dictionnaires et encyclopédies. Although it contains almost no methodology.M..

or Roman numerals) Scale degrees and solfége are obviously more useful for single line melodies. highly chromatic. Analysis (scale degrees. the reader retains the original clef while mentally displacing the notated music by a certain interval. Aural memory This method is appropriate when there is time for prior preparation. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 2 Methods of Transposition This article is intended as a practical guide to clef transposition. it is limited to one’s capacity for mem- orization.6 The bibliography provides a list of sources that mention transposition in a pedagogical context. This system is o ten advocated by players of 6. and Hunt’s tutorials. Hand position and melodic contour Focusing on contour and transfer of hand position is especially useful for theory and class piano instruction. Warriner. While many sources in the bibliography describe systems of transposition only tan- gentially. it does not allow for reading transposed music at sight. diatonic passages. 6 . 7. those that do describe a method can be divided thus: 1. 3. not a history of transpo- sition itself. while Roman numerals are better suited for common-practice homophonic textures. Porter. For a short history of transposition. 4. refer to chapter one in the dissertation by Esther DeTurk Sweigart. or non-homophonic music requires a di ferent method.7 Non- tonal. Intervallic approach In this method. However. but is best suited to simple. The combination of these three analytical tools forms the basis of Rees-Davies. but a more detailed survey of the evolution of the practice of trans- position remains to be done. solfége. 2. Naturally. and usually in- corporates some analysis as well.

In contrast. copyists.8 However. since 8. In addition. 3 Reading the seven clefs The following is a brief description of the seven clefs and techniques for learning them. clarinet. an advantage of the clef method over the intervallic approach is the consistent correspondence between visual input. it is best suited to transposition up or down by smaller intervals (by second or third). and saxophone. accompanists. instrumental fingerings. The ability to read C clefs is useful in other circumstances. the intervallic approach allows the same visual cues on the sta f to have many potential fingerings and aural "outputs. and players of transposing instruments. In practice. 5. Farkas. and Langenus—all instrumentalists—advocate for the intervallic approach. and the resulting sound—the new clef allows for reading at pitch. The primary disadvantage of the clef method is the time re- quired to learn the seven clefs fluently. Clefs This system accounts for all three variables in the transposition "equation": clef. apart from transposition. com- posers. CLEF TRANSPOSITION transposing instruments. and accidentals. 7 . such as horn. a secure transposition technique draws from each of the above methods to suit the circumstances. it is not entirely systematic because it lacks a method for dealing with accidentals." which could have a negative e fect on sight-reading skills and be an annoyance for those with absolute pitch. clefs allow for absolute certainty when transposing di ficult passages into any key by sight alone. making this method particularly suited to conductors. Whitmer. In addition. In contrast to other techniques for transposition. key signature.

The treble clef.1 The seven clefs The seven clefs in general use today are shown in figure 2. 8 . cello. following the pattern established by the other C clefs. it is helpful to use reference points to identify un- known pitches quickly. Figure 3: The seven clefs (Diruta.2 Reference points When beginning to learn new clefs. also called a G clef. The position of middle C is indicated by the whole note. (The baritone clef is sometimes written as a C clef on the top line of the sta f. Il Transilvano. whereas the F clefs place their dots around F. CLEF TRANSPOSITION C clefs are used by instruments such as viola. and in older editions of many scores. and bassoon. encircles G.) 3.) Figure 2: The seven clefs Diruta mentions the same seven clefs (in reverse order) in Il Transilvano (1597). indicated with small noteheads. 3. trombone. rather than memorizing the letter name of every line and space. 6.

Then. sixths. it is beneficial to have three or four reference points on the sta f (besides middle C) fixed in one’s mind.2 Mental reference points When learning new clefs. Figure 5: Possible mental reference points for each clef Another option is to use the center line of each clef with the octave above and the octave below. octaves. all other pitches are only a third or fourth re- moved from a known reference point. fourths. this is true whether the intervals are simul- taneous or consecutive. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 3. Of course. Dandelot advocates using octaves and fi ths above and below middle C as mental reference points. and sevenths. since these three notes will always be the same pitch for that particular clef. Figure 4: Line and space patterns for even and odd intervals 3. and all even generic intervals (seconds. as shown in figure 4. etc.) will always be on a line/line or space/space. etc.1 Other pitches as reference points Recall that all odd generic intervals (thirds.2. In his popular Manuel pratique.2. fi ths.) will always be on a line/space. 9 .

) 10 . Augustin Savard describes this idea in his Principes de la musique et méthode de transposition. as shown in figure 8. Principes. with ledger lines extending infinitely above and below. Figure 7: The "infinite sta f" The grand sta f approximates this idea. and the bass clef shows the greatest number below. Since the treble clef shows the greatest num- ber of lines above middle C. published in Paris in 1875.) Figure 8: The grand sta f as a mathematical graph (Savard. the need for ledger lines is minimized. 50. as well as the original Guido- nian solmization system.3 The "infinite sta f" It is useful to imagine middle C as the center of a mathematical graph. especially when the two clefs are close enough to overlap at middle C. ("Ut" is "do" in French solfége. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 6: Other possible mental reference points 3.

) Figure 11: Figure 10 in modern notation with clefs reversed 11 . CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figures 9-11 show how sta f lines and ledger lines are equivalent in the "infinite sta f." In this context." Though separated by centuries. Il Transilvano.) Figure 10: The "infinite sta f" (Savard. Diruta (1597) and Savard (1875) use this same concept. Principes. 7. 50. learning seven clefs is less daunting because each clef simply indicates a five-line subsection of the "infinite sta f. Figure 9: The "infinite sta f" (Diruta.

and acci- dentals. one disadvantage to these publications is their emphasis on dry exercises rather than repertoire. By using the system described in this article to switch clefs mentally. any piece of mu- sic can become a resource for practice.1 The Three-Step Process There are three variables in the transposition "equation": clef. J. key signature. Each of the following three steps adjusts for one of these variables.S. For instance. The process 12 . sight-singing anthologies are valu- able resources for practicing clef reading. 5 Transposing music back to concert pitch 5. which is helpful for beginners. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 4 Suggestions for practice 4. Simply speaking the letter names in rhythm is valuable practice. especially for accompanists to practice transposing a grand sta f.1 Fixed-do solfége Fixed-do solfége is especially useful as a practice method because it involves the naming of each letter name on the sta f. Musical context provides many subconscious clues that makes reading new clefs easier and more enjoy- able. Both dedicate individual chapters to each clef with progressively more di ficult exercises. However. since they contain many single-line melodies and many students are required to purchase one anyway. Bach’s chorales are also a useful public domain resource.2 Resources The books by Dandelot and Ledout listed in the bibliography are specifically intended for learning new clefs. without actually playing or singing. 4.

1. it is advised to read directly through to "Application in Context" on page 17. change the treble clef to mezzo-soprano clef. Figure 12: Clefs for each key when starting in treble clef For example.) Notice that the total number of accidentals for 13 . change the treble clef to baritone clef. (Actually there are more than seven clefs. even if the three steps are not entirely clear yet.2 Step two: Change the transposed key signature back to the concert key. (It is the same number of accidentals as the key signature of the transposing instrument. if the transposed music is for B-flat trumpet. It is not a coincidence that there are seven clefs and seven pitches in the diatonic scale. If the transposed music is for horn in F. If you know the original [concert] key. If you do not know the original key. 5. Each clef is suited to transpose music by a generic interval. CLEF TRANSPOSITION itself is greatly clarified when applied to real music. If the transposed music is for alto flute (in G).) Figure 12 shows the clefs associated with each key when the transposed music is writ- ten in treble clef.1 Step one: Change the clef. simply read the transposed music in that key.1. but this is the reason only seven are commonly used. change the treble clef to tenor clef. Notice that the keys begin on the le t with C major and proceed down in thirds because each clef moves middle C up by one line. therefore. 5. Figure 13 shows the number and type of accidentals that must be added to the transposed key signature.

turn the dial three "clicks" clockwise. if the transposed key is D major and is written for horn in F. If the transposed key is A major and the music is for clarinet in A. CLEF TRANSPOSITION the two keys of any clef always adds up to seven. 14 . just like the circle of fi ths. resulting in six sharps in the new key signature. Figure 13: How to alter the transposed key signature when beginning in treble clef It is helpful to think of changing the key signature like turning a dial—clockwise adds sharps (or subtracts flats) and counter-clockwise adds flats (or subtracts sharps). add three sharps to the key signature. with one group of sharps and the other of flats. add one flat to the key signature. Figure 14: The circle of fi ths as a dial For example. turn the dial one "click" counter-clockwise. That is. leaving only one sharp in the new key signature. That is.

It consists of two parts: 1. showing the a fected pitches in parenthesis. begin on F and follow the order of sharps. Figure 16 summarizes this system. This step is summarized in figure 15.1. Figure 16: Pitches with altered accidentals in each key 15 . the a fected pitches would be B and E. If it added two flats (perhaps for B-flat trumpet). Figure 15: The order of a fected pitches a ter the clef has been changed For example. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 5. the a fected pitches would be F. begin on B and follow the order of flats. Dealing with accidentals is the most di ficult step to conceptualize. if step two added three sharps (perhaps for clarinet in A). if flats were added.1. C.3 Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. and G.2). Determine which pitches in the original music will be a fected. As a rule: if sharps were added in step two (section 5.

if flats were added. Alter accidentals on a fected pitches using figure 17. all accidentals in front of F. and sharps become dou- ble sharps. These changes only apply to the a fected pitches in figure 16 a ter the clef has been changed. shi t accidentals one box to the le t. and G will move right: flats become naturals. C. naturals become sharps. If sharps were added in the previous step. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 2. Figure 17: Shi ting accidentals on a fected pitches For example. when transposing a clarinet in A. all accidentals in front of B and E move le t: sharps become naturals. When transposing B-flat trumpet.9 9. and flats become double flats. Cusenza describes this process of altering accidentals on the inside cover of Hanon-Cusenza Simplified Transposing and Phrasing Method. naturals become flats. shi t them right. 16 .

Step one: Change the clef. F major has one flat. so shi t accidentals in front of B one box to the le t a ter the clef has been changed. All excerpts in this article have bar numbers beginning at "1" to facilitate comparison between trans- posed and concert versions of the score. so adding one flat (turning the dial counter-clockwise one "click") results in the key of F major. Step two: Change the transposed key signature back to the concert key. The original is in C major. change the clef to mezzo- soprano clef. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 5. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed.2 Application in context 5. let’s follow the procedure for correcting the key signature.2. 3. Therefore. 2. but for sake of demonstration. There are no accidentals in the original key signa- ture. 10. 10 Figure 18: Ravel: Bolero. 17 . the sharps in this example become naturals. at rehearsal 8 [original transposed version] 1.1 Ravel: Bolero Imagine that a conductor needs to transpose the following passage from Ravel’s Bolero back to concert pitch. Since the music is for horn in F and is written in treble clef.

) In addition. in which all transpos- ing instruments are shown in concert pitch. remember that older scores notate horn in F in bass clef. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 19 shows what the conductor imagines when transposing this passage to con- cert pitch. not down a perfect fi th.2 Regarding horn and trumpet parts Horns and trumpets are o ten written in C major (or without a key signature) in orchestral scores. non-tonal music is o ten written entirely without a key signature. Furthermore. when these instruments were always written in C and players used crooks to alter the key in which the instrument sounded. This is a holdover from the time before valves.2. In general. meaning a transposed score would also lack key signatures in some cases. in which case it transposes up a perfect fourth. at rehearsal 8 [concert pitch] 5. 18 . Figure 19: Ravel: Bolero. (O ten band music and twentieth-century Russian music is in concert score. where there will usually state whether the score is trans- posed or concert—don’t simply rely on the key signature of the transposing instrument. it is best to check the first pages of a score. Do not be tricked into thinking a transposed score is a concert score.

CLEF TRANSPOSITION In the case of Bolero. Figure 20: Ravel: Bolero. since the piece is in C major. at rehearsal 8 [hypothetical transposed version] Adding one flat to the key signature would make the part in C major.) Figure 21: Ravel: Bolero. (There are no accidentals to adjust. at rehearsal 8 [another equivalent concert pitch version] 19 . the horn part would have been written in G major under the "nor- mal" rules for transposing instruments. and the result would sound the same as in figure 19.

Step one: Change the clef. There are no accidentals in the original key signature.16-19 [original transposed version] 1. the a fected pitches are B and E. Figure 23: Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue. Since the original music is for B-flat trumpet and is written in treble clef. Figure 23 shows the version in concert pitch. mm. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 5. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. Figure 22: Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue. so simply add two flats (turn the dial two "clicks" counter-clockwise) to arrive at the key of B-flat major. the F# in this example become F-natural. 2. 3. change the treble clef to tenor. Accidentals in front of these pitches move one box to the le t a ter the clef has been changed.3 Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue The next example comes from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and is for B-flat trumpet. mm. Since two flats were added in the previous step.2. Step two: Change the transposed key signature back to the concert key.16-19 [concert pitch] 20 . Therefore.

This is a drawback of the clef system. 5.202-214 [original trans- posed version] 21 . mm. Sometimes the resulting passage will be an octave too high or too low.5 Mendelssohn: Fingal’s Cave or Hebrides Overture Here is a more di ficult example from Mendelssohn using two clarinets in A.4 Octave adjustments There is a problem with figure 23—it is an octave too low.2.2. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 5. Figure 24: Mendelssohn: Fingal’s Cave or Hebrides Overture. This problem requires the knowledge of the interval and direction of transposing instruments. shown in the appendix on page 33. depending on the interval of transposition.

The original music is for A clarinet and is written in treble clef. That is. Step one: Change the clef. Since the transposed version has one flat. C. mm. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. or turning the dial three "clicks" clockwise. Accidentals in front of these pitches will be shi ted one box to the right.) 3. the new key signature has two sharps. 2. (Note that the passage is not in D major. so it requires soprano clef. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 1.202-214 [concert pitch] 22 . Step two: Change the transposed key signature back to the concert key. Clarinet in A requires the addition of three sharps. and G. the G-naturals will become G#’s. a fected accidentals are F. Figure 25: Mendelssohn: Fingal’s Cave or Hebrides Overture. Since three sharps were added in the previous step.

"Rondes printanières. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 5. 3.6 Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps The final excerpt in this section comes from Stavinsky and is for alto flute. Figure 26: Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps Part 1. resulting in a key signature with one sharp." at rehearsal 56 [original transposed version] 1. Since one sharp was added in the previous step. the F-naturals will become F#’s. or turning the dial one "click" clockwise. accidentals in front of F will be shi ted one box to the right. Step two: Change the transposed key signature back to the concert key. and the passage is in treble clef. Step one: Change the clef. Instruments in G require the addition of one accidental. 2. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed.2. That is. Alto flute is a G instrument (transposing down a perfect fourth). Therefore. the new clef is baritone. 23 .

and church organists. For this reason. but the information is essentially the same. and is easily corrected. but the underlying principles are the same. "Rondes printanières. Keyboard players usually approach transposition for vocal registers from the practical question: Up or down and by what interval? Consequently. it is not for a transpos- ing instrument—but it must be played in a di ferent key than it is written. harpsichordists. solo. rehearsal accompanists. this section is particularly addressed to collaborative pianists. or liturgical set- tings. figure 28 assumes that the music will begin in a grand sta f and is organized di ferently than figure 12." at rehearsal 56 [concert pitch] 6 Transposing music away from concert pitch This process is similar to the previous one in that it involves the same three steps. Therefore. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 27: Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps Part 1. choral. the organization of this section is slightly di ferent. This quickly becomes apparent in practice. with the addition of the new clefs when beginning with a bass clef. (Some of the transpositions in figure 28 will always be an octave too high or too low. The di ference is that the music is already in concert pitch—that is.) 24 . This situation o ten arises when accommodating vocal registers in opera.

1. C major/C# major. D major/D-flat major. change the key signature to F# major to transpose up a half-step. G minor/G# minor etc. The given score is the original key of B major. but remember the number of a fected pitches will always be seven because every pair of keys in this category is seven "clicks" away from the other on the circle of fi ths dial (e.1 Schubert: Der Neugierige The following example from Schubert is intended for collaborative pianists. It would not be unusual for a vocalist to request to sing it in C major. setting C major as the target key makes our first foray into grand sta f transposition a little easier.g.3.) 25 . transposition up or down a half-step can be accomplished simply by leaving the grand sta f and changing the key signature.1 Application in context 6. and le t if flats were added. similarly. if a piece is in E major. Accidentals will still be shi ted right if sharps were added. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 28: Transposing keyboard music by interval In some cases.1. For instance. 6. (In addition. change the key signature to E-flat major to transpose down a half step.). Use the same method described in section 5. if a piece is in F major.

E. Adding five flats moves the pitches B. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 29: Schubert Der Neugierige. [original key] 1. Figure 30 shows what the accompanist imagines in order to transpose this passage up a minor second. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. 2. A target key of C major requires adding five flats to the key signature. No. As shown in figure 28. and G one box to the le t. transposing up a second requires alto and a mezzo-soprano clef. Step two: Add or subtract accidentals from the original key signature. 26 . A. Step one: Change the clef(s). D. 6 from Die Schöne Müllerin. 3.

1. simply being aware of this issue makes the adjustment easy. which are sometimes tuned a half or whole step away from A=440. [transposed] Here we confront the problem of octave displacement. 2 in G minor The next example is aimed at harpsichordists and organists who o ten play on historical instruments. 27 . imagine that the given instrument is tuned a half-step sharp. To compensate. In context. when it cannot. the player must transpose down a half-step. 6. The alto clef staves are an octave too low and the mezzo-soprano sta f is an octave too high. No. This can o ten be accomplished by changing the key signature. clefs can help. For this passage. as described above.2 Handel: Larghetto from Sonata No. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 30: Schubert: Der Neugierige. 6 from Die Schöne Müllerin.

Thankfully. 2 in G minor. G. Again we are faced with the problem of octave displacement. such as flats to naturals. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 31: Handel: Larghetto from Sonata No. figured bass accidentals may need to be changed. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. 3. or Violin with a Thorough Bass for Harpsichord. from 12 Solos for Flute. (In some cases. and D one box to the right. C. Oboe.) 28 . at least the figured bass in this example remains the same. mm.) 2. Step one: Change the clef(s). The target key is F# minor. (The treble part is included just for sake of practice—the keyboard player only reads the bottom sta f and realizes the figured bass with the right hand. which requires adding four sharps to the key signature.1-6 [original score] 1. As shown in figure 28. Step two: Add or subtract accidentals from the original key signature. Adding four sharps shi ts accidentals on F. but of course the direction of the alter- ation remains the same. transposing down a second requires tenor and alto clef.

This could be accomplished only by a Bach and on an oran in Altenberg. Bach as Organist (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. he took those present even higher. 1986). but note that J. mm.S. which is a rea- sonable upper limit for most congregations. which was unusual for the time.1-6 [transposed] 6. It was the inauguration of the newly-installed instrument. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 32: Handel: Larghetto from Sonata No. It reaches a high note of D.. (Modulating twice during a hymn is o ten looked down upon. and for the third verse. Oboe. imagine that the organist wishes to transpose this hymn up a minor third. Bach is known to have modulated twice by half-step on at least one occasion. but for the second verse he li ted the congregation into E-flat minor. or Violin with a Thorough Bass for Harpsichord. 2 in G minor. and it is likely that Bach wanted to show it o f. to E minor.S.)11 11. Just for the sake of demonstration. ix. from 12 Solos for Flute. eds. George Stau fer and Ernest May. "Bach played the Creed [the hymn Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott] in D minor. J.] 29 . which would usually occur a ter a modulation to the intervening key of E major or E-flat major.1.3 Hymntune: NICEA The final example is of the hymn tune NICEA." [The Altenberg organ was in well-tempered tuning.

transposing up a third requires bass and baritone clefs. Step one: Change the clef(s). The target key is F major. CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 33: John B. 2. Adding three flats shi ts accidentals on B. Step three: Shi t certain accidentals a ter the clef has been changed. As shown in figure 28. and A to the le t. 3. which requires adding three flats to the key signature. Dykes: NICEA [original] 1. Step two: Add or subtract accidentals from the original key signature. 30 . E.

simple awareness of the issue solves the problem with practice. however. with the top sta f o f by two octaves. the bottom sta f is in the correct register. Again. Dykes: NICEA [transposed] The problem of octave displacement is compounded in this example. 31 . CLEF TRANSPOSITION Figure 34: John B.

and it preserves the correlation between visual cues on the sta f. one gains fluency with new clefs. aural memory. and the resulting sound. copyists. and non-tonal music. Additionally. analysis. Unlike the intervallic approach. Naturally. composers. some methods are more useful for certain situations. key signature. the method using clefs will become more widespread in the United States. clef transposition works equally well no matter the interval of transposition. In practice. modulatory. accompanists. instrumental fingerings. and common sense. Hopefully. which is useful in itself. CLEF TRANSPOSITION 7 Conclusion Clef transposition is best suited to conductors. 32 . and accidentals makes it useful for chromatic. as it is a powerful tool for those willing and able to invest the time to master it. The amount of time required to learn the seven clefs is certainly a hindrance to learning the technique. and players of transposing instruments—anyone who must transpose complex music regu- larly at sight. transposition makes use of a variety of techniques simultaneously: hand position. polyphonic. but its systematic approach towards the three "variables" of clef.

CLEF TRANSPOSITION 1 Appendix: Tables of transposing instruments Figure 35: Interval and direction of most non-octave transposing instruments 33 .

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