Learning to transpose

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by madrich, Jul 12, 2005.

  1. madrich

    madrich Member

    Cardiff, Wales
    I got presented, rather nicely, with fat cheque from the inland revenue, so I've decided to (against my better nature) buy a trumpet and start doing some orchestral stuff. The Cornet will definately remain as my primary instrument but owning a trumpet certainly opens many doors.

    That said, it would appear that simply owning a trumpet an blowing down it as appropriate doesn't quite cut it. I also need to be able to move notes around in my head!?! Is there a recognised way of learning to transpose at sight? I've got an excerpts book which I intent to start sightreading. Does anyone else have any suggestions?
  2. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    Southport, Lancashire
    (warning - boring answer follows)

    I think it's just practice, and probably more practice. I'm OK on sop to Bb and vice versa, cos I've done it a fair bit, but other keys I'd be pretty rubbish I think.
  3. ScreamingSop

    ScreamingSop Member

    i agree, a lot of practice and it come smuch more easier
    i seem to be fluent with sop to Bb and visa versa cos of practise and stuff so thats the best way.
  4. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    Yep - transposition only comes with practice I'm afraid. Orchestral trumpet parts are often in A, Bb, C, D, Eb and F. The more often you do it, the better you get! ;-)

    My transposition has improved greatly by sitting next to some very good trumpet players in orchestras.
  5. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Farnham, Surrey, UK
    Orchestral trumpeters need to be able to transpose from any letter of the alphabet to any other letter of the alphabet.

    This is how it was once explained to me. If you can think of it, it has probably been written for (trumpet in H can be found if you look for long enough!).

    Assuming you are going to be playing just the Bb trumpet, I would suggest becoming fluent at transposing for trumpet in C to start with. Play everything up a tone - everything you can think of. To achieve fluency, get simple study books and work through those. When these are working, step up the difficulty of what you are working with.
    DON'T just work at excerpts.
    Excerpt books are great, but they often don't have all the important moments in them - and many of the classic excerpt books have mistakes in. David Hickman (US trumpet virtuoso and teacher extraordinaire) has just released a new series of excerpt books (through his own publishing house - Hickman Music Editions - visit www.hickmanmusiceditions.com for more details) and they look excellent at first glance. I have the full set on order and will be posting reviews in relevant places when I get the chance to have a good look at them.

    I am a strong believer in being able to play ANYTHING transposed. The way to achieve this is to work HARD at building your fluency. It takes time. Being able to transpose a B sharp, or a D double sharp, at sight, takes some practice.

    I don't know how you would work at your sight-reading on the cornet, but I would suggest that you do the same sort of thing for your transposition - take ANY study book, let it open at ANY page and play whatever is in front of you - TRANSPOSED.

    Once transposition for trumpet in C is sorted out, then learn the next - I would suggest trumpet in F as being one of the easier ones to comprehend (up a 5th - read it up two lines or two spaces). Again, work at fluency, even when sight-reading.
    During this time - don't forget to keep up your C transposition.

    As you become fluent in each transposition, add another (D, Eb, A, F, et al) until you are proficient in all of them.

    Then you get another key of trumpet and you start the whole process once again:biggrin:

    Working at this with a good teacher is often beneficial, as is playing alongside great players.
  6. sevenhelz

    sevenhelz Active Member

    having tried to transpose horn or Eb bass parts several times, my normal method is to work out the first and last note of every phrase, and guess the rest. (people tell me my sight reading is quite good :rolleyes::tongue: )
  7. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Isle of Arran and lovin' it!
    I'm with trumpetmike on learning to transpose for trumpet in C first. Standard concert pitch, it's a good grounding.

    For me (and this may not work with others), I eventually came to terms with transposing by treating each transposition key (i.e. trumpet in C, D, Eb, E etc.) as learning a new, separate fingering for each, after all, I figured, I've spent ages (trying to) learn one! And if, as you say, you wish to be proficient enough to transpose 'at sight', then rapid semiquaver passages aren't going to wait for you to say 'what's that note when it's up an augmented 4th?'.

    Obviously, a damn good knowledge of scales and arpeggios will help as, depending on the music you play, you'll see passages made up of scales and arpeggios and parts thereof, so working out the transpositions in those situations, some 'assumptions' can be made for all the notes in those types of passages.

    As I say, it's a method that's worked for me, and even though my technique isn't what it was, I'm reasonably successful at transposing (after all, everywhere I go, I always seem to 'lower the tone' ha ha!). Whatever method you choose will take time and (alas! :)) practice! ;) Good luck!
  8. madrich

    madrich Member

    Cardiff, Wales
    Excellent - thanks guys. Time to transpose the Arban at sight i guess :)
  9. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Hadleigh, Essex
    Good advice from trumpetmike there: I think that transposition is something that everyone should at least have a go at - it certainly helps with concentration and keeping focused on what the music is really about (intervals, key relationships etc).

    I suppose I'm fortunate in that I was introduce to transposition very early on, and had great fun playing in the concert band at Coventry School of Music. I'd usually be playing saxophone (or occasionally bassoon :shock: ) but I'd often have a number of other parts on the stand if players were absent, particularly oboe, cor anglais, french horn or trumpet. Switching from one to the other certainly meant you had to keep your wits about you, but the worst thing was when I found myself working out how I should be fingering the alto sax part :!:

    I couldn't really explain the technicalities of how I actually do it, as it almost becomes second nature - rather like speaking a different language, although the words are made up from the same letters. Scalic passages are clearly easier to cope with than awkward intervals, but as has been said the more practising you do the easier it should become. One of the strangest ones I had to cope with was when I was playing off a Bb copy on an Eb saxophone, and then discovered the piano was very out of tune, so all I could do was push in as far as I could and adjust the transposition by a semitone :mad:
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