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I don't understand why the alto is pitched at Eb. Why can't you just rename the C note played on the alto saxophone a Eb instead so you don't have to transpose from a piano piece to a saxophone piece? None of this makes any sense:cry:
 
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Why not just change the C note on an alto to Eb so that it is in concert pitch and have the notes on the tenor be called the same as that on the now concert pitched alto except name it to like the G tenor instead of the Bb tenor? All the fingerings and note names on the alto and tenor would still be the same except the tenor would be transposed a bit differently than before, but the alto and soprano wouldn't need to be transposed any more. Wouldn't this make things at least a bit simpler?(at least for the alto anyways)
 
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This would be way more complex than what we have now. Stupid idea
you still need to transpose for the tenor(nothing new here), but you don't have to transpose for the alto or soprano. The fingerings and note names would still be the same for ALL saxophones! I don't see how you think this would be more complex. Please explain....
 

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you still need to transpose for the tenor(nothing new here), but you don't have to transpose for the alto or soprano. The fingerings and note names would still be the same for ALL saxophones! I don't see how you think this would be more complex. Please explain....
The soprano is a Bb instrument (like the tenor). So, using your method you'd still have to transpose for soprano and tenor. Listen, in time you'll realize this is no big deal. If you're reading music, use a chart transposed to the alto (or tenor, depending on which you're playing) key. When playing by ear, simply play in the alto key. For example, if you playing a blues in C concert, you'll play a blues in A on the alto, or in D on the tenor. Simple as that.

This is not a problem. Don't make it one, and your life as a horn player will be much easier. Do be sure to speak in concert key when talking to a pianist or guitar player, though!
 

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Just for clarity: The key of a sax (or any tranposing wind) instrument is determined the piano note (concert key) that is played when the sax plays C: e.g, when the Alto plays C: The piano plays Eb and the Tenor plays C when the piano plays Bb.

Also do the shift in bass clef notation when playing bari (or alto or any Eb instrument) you can read bass clef directly by adding 3# to the key signature.

BTW, all bass clef parts are non-transposed.
Eb, Bb and C tuba players all play the same music using different fingering.

Its easy to transpose with some practice and IMO is a great basic skill to have.
 
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So if a beginner musician is trying to learn to play by ear, do they normally straight up learn to hear and identify the notes with correspondence to concert pitch and then transpose to the key of their instrument or just learn to hear and identify the notes with correspondence to they key of their instrument?
 

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When playing purely by ear only as a beginner would not really need think about what the concert key.
Start learning a few basic scales and play a tune like mary had a little lamb in different keys. This will get you on the way to transposing by ear which you can apply to further developing seamless transposing skills.

When you begin to read music either (in sax key or concert key) transposing will come together with some practice once you have to play along with someone - like a keyboard player for example. Have fun. Its real nice to stand next to the piano player and instantly read along without having to have your own Eb or Bb fake book to schlep along.
 

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Ever tried a clarinet ? It plays in Eb in the low range, and Bb above the break. We still call it a Bb horn. Who's right, who's wrong ? It is just a matter of convention. The music conventions can be strange: the common trumpet is in Bb, and is written transposed, like a Bb clarinet or Soprano sax. It's lower brother, the trombone, which pitches exactly an octave lower, is also physically in Bb. Most european marching bands do consider it that way, and write the music transposed, like a tenor sax. But the symphonic community (and jazz by extension) treats the trombone a bit like a cello, which makes sense from a range point of view. It's music is written in Bass clef, and untransposed (what you suggest for the saxophones). The fundamental note of the trombone, is really written as a Bb, and not a C like on a trumpet.
Maybe you should start a revolution ? Backed by some trombone unionists ...
 

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Didn't Adolf or maybe his son try making horns based on octaves but all keyed to concert C shortly after the horn was invented? But ultimately thought it was a bad idea for some reason and went back to keying the horns to match the low brass and high wind horns they were supposed to compliment? I think I read that somewhere. The Alto being an octave lower than the soprano, the Tenor an octave below the Alto,... etc for the baritone and bass. But all keyed to Concert C. Maybe one of you guys ran across the same article,... it was about the C Melody horn and how it WAS NOT the first sax keyed to Middle C on the piano.
 

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blobbob,

I wondered that once, too. As several people alluded, the various saxophones are not pitched in octaves, so if we all played in concert pitch, you'd have to learn a new fingering system for alto and tenor saxes (and baritone would probably be in bass clef). That's a drag, so we learn to transpose when we need to speak to other musicians. The convenience of having the same fingerings is even more important when you consider that other members of the woodwind family (flute and clarinet, at least) have very similar fingerings over at least part of their range.

For now, though, just trust me when I tell you not to panic about transposition at this point. If you need to discuss notes in concert pitch with bandmates (or something), download and print a copy of the circle of fifths and get someone to show you how to find your note relative to the concert pitch. Then, if you stick all this stuff out, you can get to a point where you can sight-transpose music written for other instruments, which is not only useful for covering missing parts (or for playing orchestra works written for period instruments), but it's also fun. Yeah, I know that *sounds* weird, but believe me... it's not beyond your ability. You'll get there. :mrgreen:
 

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So if a beginner musician is trying to learn to play by ear, do they normally straight up learn to hear and identify the notes with correspondence to concert pitch and then transpose to the key of their instrument or just learn to hear and identify the notes with correspondence to they key of their instrument?
Ideally they should learn the notes that are relevant to their instrument, ie the transposed notes. When I learnt I did not know about this as I was self taught so I learnt all the notes in concert pitch on Eb alto. It was a real pain when I then wanted to go to college and learn other instruments, flute and tenor saxophone.

Some further info here:

Saxophone transposition
 

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So if a beginner musician is trying to learn to play by ear, do they normally straight up learn to hear and identify the notes with correspondence to concert pitch and then transpose to the key of their instrument...
blobblob, it's not nearly so complicated. Here's what I do when playing by ear (and I suspect others do also). If a tune is in the key of C concert, I'll simply play in the key of D on my tenor (or A on the alto). I tend to think in numbers, so the IV chord in the key of D (tenor key) will be a G chord, the 7th tone in D major will be a C#, the flat 5 will be an Ab, and so on. I don't have to transpose each and every note because I'm already 'thinking' in D, not C. Does that make sense?

Now of course if I'm talking to the guitar player, I have to transpose back to the concert key. But I'll often talk in numbers. "Hey Joe Guitar, are you going to the IV chord there?"
 
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