Transposing Music

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This free piano lesson on transposing music will give you all you need to know to take any song you are now playing and play it in another key.

This is an important skill to know especially if you are playing keyboards in some kind of band or if you are going to provide accompaniment for a vocalist who may need to sing a song in a different key

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In music transposition refers to the process, or operation, of moving a collection of notes  up or down in pitch by a constant interval.

The main reason that you might have for dong this it to accompany yourself or others when a particular song is in a difficult key to sing, either too high or too low.

For the most part if you are an aspiring ear player you will be looking to find what chords you should be playing in the new key.

The process of transposing music for this reason is not at all that difficult but as with everything it will take a little knowledge and practice.


To learn this skill you are going to know a bit about the major scales and a little bit about musical intervals which is a term to describe the distance between two notes.

So lets start simple.

Lets say you have a simple three chord song in the key of C such as "Silent Night" or "How Great Thou Art", using the chords C maj, F maj, and G maj.

Let say now that you or your vocalist wants you to transpose the song and play it in the key of G.

Since C maj is the first chord of the song in the key of C then quite logically G maj will be the first chord in the key of G.

The F maj chord in the key of C is built on the 4th note of the C major scale so to find the corresponding chord in the key of G you would count 4 notes up the G major scale and arrive at C.

So all the F chords in the key of C will be C chords in the key of G. Not so hard right?

Finally since the G maj chord is built on the 5th note of the C scale in the key of C then in the key of G you will play the major chord built on the 5th note of the G major scale which would be C maj.

The Number System makes things easy.

While attending music school I learned perhaps the best and easiest way to transpose chords and chord progressions and that was the number system.

In the example we just discussed we used two songs that use in the number system a I-IV-I-V-I progression or at least the I-IV and V chords from two different keys, the key of C and the key of G. (yes we use roman numerals for the chords).

These three chords played in various different orders or progressions make up hundreds of songs already and yet to be written.

In the example below the diatonic chords in the key of C and G are given roman numerals to indicate what note of the major scale that they start on.

So instead of using the letter names of the chords I would say to you that the song Silent Night uses the I, IV and V chords in the key of C or G or Eb etc.

The order and the function (maj, min, dim) stay the same. Only the letter names are different.

I hope this video will help you see how this concept of transposing music is applied to the keyboard.

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