Meri’s Musical Musings

Six keys that will help make sight transposition easier

Posted on: February 23, 2016

For some instruments, such as French horn and clarinet, learning to sight transpose is part of the development for students who play those instruments. However, this skill sets fear into some to many students of those instruments, especially clarinet players who begin learning these skills late in their development. However, I have found these six tips that should help make learning this skill easier.

Read by key.

For the horn, use the circle of 5ths to find your new key. For clarinet, remember that the new key is two half steps higher than the given one, and remember the new accidentals.

Read by accidental.

At least on clarinet, transposing from a C part to a B flat clarinet, watch the notes affected by key changes, especially ones that don’t normally occur, or notes that on the piano that don’t have a black key between them. (Rare) double flats become flats, flats become naturals, naturals become sharps, and sharps becomes double sharps. In other words, all the notes on the B flat clarinet from a part written for C instruments are two half steps higher.

Read by interval.

If you know that odd numbered intervals are always line to line or space to space, that even numbered intervals are space to line or line to space, and you can instantly recognize all intervals up to at least a 9th or 10th, you can find your next note in the new key more easily.

Read by pattern.

Much music has major/minor scale patterns (usually partial, but occasionally full scale), chromatic scale patterns, and arpeggios. If you know these basic patterns, it will help you sight transpose.

Read by listening.

Some of the pieces you will sight transpose are familiar folk songs or classical melodies, so you may be able to rely on your auditory memory to aid you in finding notes for learning to sight transpose.

Read at the piano.

Take some of your sight transposition practice to the piano, especially in the early stages or with pieces you are unfamiliar with the melody.

By practicing and incorporating these ideas regularly and on an ongoing basis, sight transposing can become painless, perhaps even fun! Knowing how to do this well will make you a major asset in orchestral and chamber music playing, which some to a lot of music will be written for C instruments such as flute and violin.


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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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