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Formerly mdavej
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Discussion Starter #1
I can't transpose concert charts to my Bb instrument (tenor) on sight very well. I do ok adding a whole step to every note I read at slow tempos, but when things speed up, I totally check out. So I'm thinking I need to be able to read, say, a Bb and instantly think C without doing the extra mental calculation of adding a whole step. Turns out, this is exactly how alto clef works. What looks like a written Bb in treble clef is a C in alto clef, the clef violists read.

I learned treble clef and bass clef. I figure learning alto clef then pretending my C charts are in alto clef will give me the transposing skills I'm after.

Does this sound like a good approach, or should I just try to get better at adding a whole step as I go? What do those who can transpose on sight really well do?
 

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I figure learning alto clef then pretending my C charts are in alto clef will give me the transposing skills I'm after.

Does this sound like a good approach, or should I just try to get better at adding a whole step as I go?
What's the difference? I think the clef is irrelevant. Either way, you have a staff, and you have notes. You're learning to read a note that would normally cause you to play a Bb on your tenor and play a C instead. Or you see a note and play a G where you would normally play an F. It's just a matter of practicing and building up speed. I don't see how pretending about the clef would help at all.
 

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It seems like an extra step to read concert.

My recommendation is to stop thinking keys and start thinking intervals. You gotta know your keys with your fingers, so you essentially "set" your key, then just see 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 with alterations as they go. That way you can read anything in any key, just set your mental key initially.

At the end of the day, anything that works, works, so happy shedding!
 

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Formerly mdavej
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Discussion Starter #4
Let me rephrase. To those who transpose on sight, do you read note X and play note Y without thinking, or do you read note X and add a whole step to arrive at note Y?

There is no way I could ever do complex harmonic analysis on the fly and instantly transpose to any key, especially tricky lines with lots of accidentals. So the intervallic approach is not an option given the speed at which my brain works.
 

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Let me rephrase. To those who transpose on sight, do you read note X and play note Y without thinking, or do you read note X and add a whole step to arrive at note Y?
Again, you start by having to use the second approach. You have to think about the note on which you should end up. Eventually, after much practice, you end up with the first approach. The process of transposing has become automatic for you.

It's not either/or. It's first one, then the other, after you've improved. It's just like reading music in general. Would you ask someone, "Do you think about which note to play, or do you just play it?" The answer is the same for virtually everyone: "At first, I had to think about it, but after a while, I didn't."

The bottom line is that changing the clef can't really speed up this process. It's still a matter of first doing it deliberately, then learning to do it automatically.
 

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Do it more. Do it often. Rinse. Repeat.
Seriously, you CAN do it. Just takes time and patience. I've been teaching private students for about 28 yrs now (yikes) and over that span, I've become quite "fluent" at transposing up a perfect 4th. What? Yeah, most of my students are alto players and for about 15 yrs, I'd only bring/play tenor with them. Obviously, in order to play along with them, I had to learn to transpose alto parts to play on tenor........on sight. Ironically, that worked incredibly to my favor about 6 yrs ago. I got called to do a show and was told I'd be playing the Tenor 1 book. I traveled about 3 hrs and upon arrival, found out the musical director mistakenly told me I'd be on tenor, but I was actually playing the lead alto book. What to do? I panicked at first, but then confidently told him I could play it on tenor and sight transpose. Yeah, I was quite nervous, but pulled it off and quite well if I may say so (without rehearsal I might add). Moral of story? Yes, you can do it!
 

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Formerly mdavej
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Discussion Starter #8
I appreciate the responses. I've been doing the "add a step" method on and off for many years, and it's still not automatic. Call me slow I guess. Since learning bass clef was pretty quick and easy for me, I think learning alto clef will be the shortest path to success and help me switch reading modes more easily without getting confused. Bonus is it will be easier for me to arrange string quartet charts for sax quartet if I can read the viola part. In fact, doing such an arrangement would be great practice.
 

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I appreciate the responses. I've been doing the "add a step" method on and off for many years, and it's still not automatic. Call me slow I guess. Since learning bass clef was pretty quick and easy for me, I think learning alto clef will be the shortest path to success and help me switch reading modes more easily without getting confused. Bonus is it will be easier for me to arrange string quartet charts for sax quartet if I can read the viola part. In fact, doing such an arrangement would be great practice.
sounds like a good plan to me. whatever works best for you. it took me also multiple years to get relatively fluent at sight reading transposing. these days I mostly prefer actually reading off of Concert key charts rather then transposed ones. that's an essential skill to acquire if you want to informally meet with other players on occasional jams.
 
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