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Hey everyone! Back with another video. You voted for it, and here it is! In this one I go over how to transpose, specifically for the saxophone. There are many different methods of going about transposition and I talk about my favorite ways to do it. Let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy!


 

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That is an interesting approach especially for an "old timer" like myself who learned to transpose using a knowledge of intervals. Regardless of the approach I think the baseline skill still needs to be knowing scales in all keys and their key signatures. Numbers are not going to work without that basic foundation. Nevertheless it is a well made video and I see how it can be helpful to players just learning this aspect of playing.
 

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Another great video Dave! I'm a HUGE fan of the numbers approach and I'm often thinking in terms of numbers, especially when it comes to chord changes, but also with the melody especially when transposing it to another key. I also use the number system with chord tones (1 3 5 7 9 11 13). And saxoclese is totally right on regarding knowing the scales in all keys, being aware of each and every scale degree (for ex, in the key of A, A=1, B=2, C#=3, etc) for every key. Without that baseline knowledge, the numbers system can't be used. With it, the whole thing is relatively easy and very useful.
 

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Great Video! I think you have to force yourself to get out of your comfort zone. I had a church gig this sunday playing soprano and tenor, and I decided not to transpose the music before and play everything from concert score. Worked great, using the number approach. Only transposing the parts from concert bass clef to tenor sax was a bit tricky. One thing at a time.
Next would be alto from concert, alto flute in g from concert, reading tenor clef for bassoon ...phhh
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That is an interesting approach especially for an "old timer" like myself who learned to transpose using a knowledge of intervals. Regardless of the approach I think the baseline skill still needs to be knowing scales in all keys and their key signatures. Numbers are not going to work without that basic foundation. Nevertheless it is a well made video and I see how it can be helpful to players just learning this aspect of playing.
Thanks! The tough thing for me about just using intervals is if you have a really tricky key at a fast tempo - in one of the bands I play in the band leader brings in originals (all concert key of course) that are sometimes in tough keys and pretty quick tempos. For me, there's no way on earth I'd be able to sight-transpose it using intervals or numbers...that's why I feel I HAVE to know the horns in concert key. That way I'm not even "transposing" - I just play the alto or tenor in concert key and don't think of changing anything that I see in front of me.
 

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And I hate you saying it but I agree. I need to be better at transposing to an alto from a concert lead sheet. i"m much better on tenor. But I can do it when I work at own alto. K
 

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Very interesting video indeed.
I have one question then...

It so appears that the saxophone being a transposing instrument becomes more of a drawback than an asset, at least at such a professional level. The saxophone being the saxophone, there is no redesigning it (assuming it would be possible).

However, that made me think about how it is taught : would you advise a student starting the saxophone to learn it directly in concert pitch ?

My thinking here is that it would cover half of the saxophone family already, and since a student would not change instrument for a while, switching to the other half would take a new learning curve - just as would learning another instrument - but maybe not so difficult after all.

Thoughts ?
 

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Great video, very helpful and direct. I didn't get the number thing until I did...now I wish I'd known it from the start.
 

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VIt so appears that the saxophone being a transposing instrument becomes more of a drawback than an asset, at least at such a professional level.

However, that made me think about how it is taught : would you advise a student starting the saxophone to learn it directly in concert pitch ?
I'll let Dave answer your question because I don't know the answer. Pete Thomas (a member on here) said he first learned the sax in concert key and later had to relearn the 'sax key' notes. He's a great player so evidently it did him no harm. I'm not sure it's the best method for everyone, though.

I think it's great to be able to read music in the concert key but I'd still rather have the transposed sheet. I have no trouble transposing a chord chart though because that can be done easily enough using the 'numbers system.'

Beyond that, for those of us who rarely have to sight read and instead memorize tunes and play by ear, the sax being a transposing instrument is in no way a drawback. When you play by ear (knowing the chord changes and head melody), you simply have to 'think' in the sax key. Transpose the KEY, rather than each and every note and chord. When I hear a tune called in the key of Bb, I immediately think key of "C" on my tenor; key of E is F#, key of G is A, and so on. I do this automatically. It's also important to be able to communicate with band members in concert key. Always speak in concert key on the bandstand!
 

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Very interesting video indeed.
I have one question then...

It so appears that the saxophone being a transposing instrument becomes more of a drawback than an asset, at least at such a professional level. The saxophone being the saxophone, there is no redesigning it (assuming it would be possible).

However, that made me think about how it is taught : would you advise a student starting the saxophone to learn it directly in concert pitch ?

My thinking here is that it would cover half of the saxophone family already, and since a student would not change instrument for a while, switching to the other half would take a new learning curve - just as would learning another instrument - but maybe not so difficult after all.

Thoughts ?
This has been discussed ad nauseum before. The saxophone works great just as it is - whether for “ear” players, or those reading notes from the page. Brass, by the way, is the best material for making the body - no need to reinvent the wheel there either.
 

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Here's an "outside of the box" thought. Learning to transpose from music written in concert key by learning new names for the lines and spaces of the staff. For example transposing to alto sax the lines of the staff would be C E G B D, the spaces D F A C. The saxophone fingering would go with the note name. A "G" would always be 1 2 3 regardless of where the note is on the staff, and so on. We already learn different names for the lines and spaces when we learn the bass clef, and as everyone knows it is easy to read bass clef when playing alto or bari. In college my punishment as a music ed major was being forced to play the viola for an entire year. For that I had to learn to read the alto clef which was a PITA but it was doable.
 

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Dave's point about being well-rounded, both reading music and playing by ear, is well-taken. Here's another tip for playing/transposing by ear, using the number system. I've found that just transposing the note that a phrase starts on to the new key is often enough to play a given melody in the new key. This works assuming you know the melody well. So for example, take a simple tune like "Happy Birthday." Just knowing it starts on the "5" of the key, you can start it in any key (on the 5th tone of the major scale) and play it from there. Obviously you can learn the full number 'formula' (5 5 6 5 1 7, etc for Happy Birthday), but often all you need is the first note. This works well with any tune that you have already learned well in one key. Give it a try with some simple melodies you know and you'll get the idea.

You can do this with any type of phrase; licks, ii-V-I lines, riffs, etc. That doesn't mean you'll nail it the first time through in every key, every time! But it's a good way to practice and internalize a phrase. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
 

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would you advise a student starting the saxophone to learn it directly in concert pitch ?
In the vast majority of cases, this is a bad idea.

Ignoring the excellent techniques in Dave's video for a moment:

If you learn the sax in concert, you can read concert charts but not sax parts. This means the student will be unable to read the vast majority of sheet music he/she will encounter, but will have the ability to read piano and guitar parts that a beginner is very unlikely to encounter. The student will even be unable to receive instruction from most music teachers. When the teacher shows the beginner alto sax section how to play a C, for example, the concert pitch student will have to think Eb, which they may not even have a concept of yet.

If you learn the sax transposed, you can read sax parts but not concert parts. That means they can read sax instructional books, concert band charts, jazz band charts, transposed fake books, etc., etc., etc.
 
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