Transposition Chart

by Colin Dorman/www.ColinDorman.com

Transposition is an important skill for every horn player. Although pre-transposed copies of solos and orchestral pieces are becoming more common, many times they are full of errors and they also hide one of the most important considerations for performing classical and romantic horn repertoire - which notes would be played with the hand out of the bell, in the bell, half-stopped, or fully stopped.

The following chart gives information about the most common (and some uncommon) transpositions that are found in the orchestral and solo literature.

The “Key” column is the indication that you will see in the music. Be aware that sometimes solfege will be used instead of the more common letter-named keys (Do = C, Fa = F, etc.).

The “Interval” column gives the direction and distance from the written note to the note that you will play to transpose by interval.  The “Key signature” column gives the direction and new key signature in order to transpose by scale. The Example column gives you an idea of some of the pieces which use the transposition, and the Musical example column gives an example in musical notation (the written note in all musical examples is “C”)


For example:

You could either think:

-One whole step down for every note. For notes like D, E, G, etc. this is easy. For C and F you need to remember that a whole step down flattens the lower note.

-Adjust the note the appropriate amount up or down, and apply the indicated key signature. For example, one note directly below a written C is B, and the key signature is 2 flats (Bb and Eb), so a written C becomes a  played Bb.

Either one gets you this:

Different transpositions may be easier or harder depending upon the method you use. It is certainly advisable to learn both methods (especially for the more awkward keys like Ab alto and basso, and B natural) so that you are able to quickly adapt if you have to sightread a tricky part or if you must make an adjustment on-the-fly (“the singer has a cold, can you play this song a little lower?”)

Key

(Horn in…)

Interval

Key signature

Examples

Musical example

C Alto

Up a perfect 5th

If in a space, 2 spaces up, if line, 2 lines up. 1#; G major

Rarely encountered.

Playing in concert pitch, early Haydn

 B alto

up a tritone

If in a space, go up 1 space and 1 line, if on a line, go up 1 line and 1 space.

6#; F# major

Rarely encountered.

Haydn symph #46

Bb alto

up a perfect 4th

If in a space, go up 1 space and 1 line, if on a line, go up 1 line and 1 space.

1b; F major

Not very common.

Mozart Divertimento #14

A alto

up a major 3rd

If in a space, the space above, if on a line, the line above.

4#; E major

Not very common.

Beethoven symph #7

Ab alto

up a minor 3rd

If in a space, the space above, if on a line, the line above.

3b; Eb major

Rarely encountered.

Schubert symph. #4

G alto

up a major 2nd

One note directly above the written note.

2#; D major

Not very common.

Ravel Pavanne, Brahms symphonies

Gb/F# alto

up a minor 2nd

One note directly above the written note.

5b; Db major

Rarely encountered.

Bizet’s Carmen, Haydn symph #45

F

as written

E

down a minor 2nd

One note directly below the written note.

5#; B major

Quite common.

Brahms, Beethoven, Haydn symphonies

Eb

down a major 2nd

One note directly below the written note.

2b; Bb major

Quite common.

Mozart Horn Concerti 2-4, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart.

D

down a minor 3rd

If in a space, the space below, if on a line, the line below.

3#; A major

Quite common.

Mozart Horn Concerto 1, Haydn Horn Concerti, Brahms symphonies

Db

down a major 3rd

If in a space, the space below, if on a line, the line below.

4b; Ab major

Rarely encountered.

Verdi opera

C basso

down a perfect 4th

If in a space, go down 1 space and 1 line, if on a line, go down 1 line and 1 space.

1#; G major

Quite common.

Brahms, Beethoven symphonies, concert pitch sounding an octave lower.

B basso (H)

down a tritone

If in a space, 2 spaces down, if line, 2 lines down.

6#;  F# major

Not very common.

Brahms symphonies 1&2, Schumann symph 3

Bb basso

down a perfect 5th

If in a space, 2 spaces down, if line, 2 lines down.

 1b; F major

Not very common

Beethoven, Brahms symphonies.

by Colin Dorman/www.ColinDorman.com