Fun and Games with a Bone

Jack E

Well-Known Member
I've just started working on three pieces for an upcoming junior band bash, and one piece - 'The Grasscroft Ghoul' - has a G# in it, giving it an almost minor key feel. G# . . . hmm . . . 5th position . . .

So I dug out my cheapie electronic keyboard which I got when I started playing baritone, and marked up the keys with a marker pen to allow for transposition to Bb. That way, if I had an awkward phrase to learn, I could pick it out on the keyboard first, and hear what it was supposed to sound like.

Tried playing the G# - and it seemed way off. ??? Tried playing the whole three bars - A F D A G# - and it sounded reasonably together . . . but as though it was in a different key . . . hang on a minute . . .

Sat down with the keyboard, pencil and paper, and started checking . . . sure enough, the keys were marked, but transposed into Eb, not Bb! I'd forgotten that, when I switched to playing tenor horn last year, I'd re-marked the keys accordingly.

I think the phrase is "DOH!" :rolleyes:

But I know know what the G# should sound like!
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Having the wrong markings on the keys is one of those classic mistakes that ‘everyone’ has made at some point or some way - the datum’s in the wrong place. It’s really good that you spotted the issue though and worked out what was going on.

Using a keyboard is a good idea, though not one I use much, and marking up the keys would normally make things much easier for me. I do use / have used a tuner though and compare what it says against what the note is supposed to be as I play through a tune. Some tuners can be set in Bb and Eb but mine is in C (concert pitch) and I have a paper chart to remind me what the note is in Bb - just a whole tone out. Use your ears too, of course, but the tuner can be a great guide and, unlike our ears, accepts nothing but the truth.

Valves are wonderful things but I often think that many players would benefit from playing a Trombone first. The instrument forces you to listen, adjust and work with it rather than poping a valve down and job done, or done as well as it’s going to be.

Good luck.
 
Last edited:

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Using a keyboard is a good idea, though not one I use much, and marking up the keys would normally make things much easier for me.
I don't use it very often myself - that it was still marked up to transpose for Eb tells me I haven't used it for over a year! - but there are odd occasions when it's very helpful.
Valves are wonderful things but I often think that many players would benefit from playing a Trombone first. The instrument forces you to listen, adjust and work with it rather than popping a valve down and job done, or done as well as it’s going to be.
That's exactly what my MD said when I switched to trombone! And he pointed out that even if I go back to playing baritone later on, that enforced focus on listening for intonation will stand me in good stead.
Good luck.
Thank you, 2nd Tenor, and best regards,

Jack
 
Top