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Topic: Concert Pitch and Transposing Instruments

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  1. #1

    Concert Pitch and Transposing Instruments

    Hello everyone,

    I have been struggling with this for a while, so I'm turning to the best place I know of to get some information and clarification.

    My background is in Rock and as a bass player, so I have very little knowledge of other instruments. I initially stumbled with the concept of transposing instruments. I did grasp that if something was a Bb instrument, the score would indicate a C to get that Bb sound. But the practical implications are still hanging me up.

    I have GPO and JABB, and wanted to try some experimentation with various woodwinds and brass. I found some sample scores on the Lush Life music site (this is a Jazz site with fantastic transcriptions). As an example, there is a transcription of Glen Miller's (actually written by Harry Warren) "I Know Why".

    (http://www.lushlifemusic.com/arrange...w_why_inst.pdf)

    I chose this because it has a Clarinet (Bb), and Alto Sax (Eb) and Tenor Sax (also Bb). In other words, enough to confuse me.

    On the Wikipedia site, it says that a Bb Clarinet sounds a major 2nd lower, an Alto Sax a major 6th lower, and the Tenor Sax a major 9th lower than the written pitch.

    In this example song, the Key signature for the Clarinet is C, the Alto Sax is G, and the Tenor Sax is C.

    My MIDI keyboard has the ability to detune by semitones. So if I tune it a (-1) and hit middle C, it is really playing B.

    So I got the bright idea that to play the JABB Bb Clarinet, I could tune the keyboard down (-2 semitones) so that when I hit a C it would play a Bb. Then, all I would have to do is just play what I see in the score without having to worry about transposing the part.

    Do you folks see this as a correct approach? Does it matter what the key signature of the part is when you've compensated with this tuning approach? That is, if I detune for the Alto sax part (Key signature is G), can I just play what the score shows and everything else takes care of itself, or do I have to also account for the key signature?

    Sorry to be so thick about this, but until I really understand, the stuff I generate will sound like a de-tuned elementary school orchestra

    Thanks in advance

    dave

  2. #2
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    Re: Concert Pitch and Transposing Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by dsampson55
    Do you folks see this as a correct approach? Does it matter what the key signature of the part is when you've compensated with this tuning approach? That is, if I detune for the Alto sax part (Key signature is G), can I just play what the score shows and everything else takes care of itself, or do I have to also account for the key signature?

    Sorry to be so thick about this, but until I really understand, the stuff I generate will sound like a de-tuned elementary school orchestra

    Thanks in advance

    dave
    Dave,

    I wouldn't do it this way, but if this approach works for you it should be fine. Just detune the correct interval and then play exactly the notes you see on the page including whatever accidentals are in the written key signature.

    JT

  3. #3

    Re: Concert Pitch and Transposing Instruments

    Hi Dave,

    I wouldn't recommend this, although it would technically work. For one thing, Does that G mean it transposes down, or up? In the Tenor sax case you're probably right, but what about the Eb Clarinet? Or the D trumpet?

    Knowlege is never a bad thing. I suggest you take some time to learn the concept of transpositions, and then you can "transpose" anything. You're already off to a great start in that direction, and their are any number of resources out there to help you.

    Matt

  4. #4

    Re: Concert Pitch and Transposing Instruments

    What scoring program are you using? Even my very old ultra cheap Noteworthy Composer has staff transposition tools. I always write my scores in the correct key signature for the instrument but play the score with instruments transposed as required. You should be able to do the same with whatever scoring program you are using.

    If you are using a sequencer, even my 10-year old Cakewalk sequencer has a "Transpose" setting for each midi track, Your sequencer should have the same.
    --gary shannon
    Spooks! - The Movie

  5. #5

    Re: Concert Pitch and Transposing Instruments

    There is a GREAT little book that covers all of this (ranges and transpositions) for most wind instruments as well as including string positions and fingerings for winds. It's Fingering Charts for Instrumentalists by Clarence V. Hendrickson, published by Carl Fischer - you can get it thru Amazon.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

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