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Transposition (music)

In music transposition refers to the process, or operation,

of moving a collection of notes (pitches or pitch classes) up
or down in pitch by a constant interval.

The shifting of a melody, a harmonic

progression or an entire musical piece to Transposition example from Koch[1] Play top Play
bottom . The melody on the first line is in the key of D, while
another key, while maintaining the same
the melody on the second line is identical except that it is
tone structure, i.e. the same succession of
major third lower, in the key of B♭.
whole tones and semitones and remaining
melodic intervals.

— Musikalisches Lexicon, 879

(1865), Heinrich Christoph
Koch (trans. Schuijer)[1]

For example, one might transpose an entire piece of music into another key. Similarly, one might transpose a tone row or an
unordered collection of pitches such as achord so that it begins on another pitch.

The transposition of a set A by n semitones is designated by Tn(A), representing the addition (mod 12) of an integer n to each of the
pitch class integers of the set A.[1] Thus the set (A) consisting of 0–1–2 transposed by 5 semitones is 5–6–7 (T5(A)) since 0 + 5 = 5,
1 + 5 = 6, and 2 + 5 = 7.

Four kinds of transposition
Chromatic and scalar (diatonic) transposition
Pitch and pitch class
Sight transposition
Transpositional equivalence
Twelve-tone transposition
Fuzzy transposition
See also
External links

Four kinds of transposition

Chromatic and scalar (diatonic) transposition
There are two different kinds of transposition, depending on whether one is measuring intervals according to the chromatic scale or
some other scale.

In chromatic transposition one shifts every pitch in a collection of notes by a fixed number of semitones. For instance, if one
transposes the pitches C4–E4–G4 upwards by four semitones, one obtains the pitches E

In scalar transposition one shifts every pitch in a collection by a fixed number of scale steps relative to some scale. For example, if
one transposes the pitches C4–E4–G4 up by two steps relative to the familiar C major scale, one obtains the pitches E4–G4–B4. If one
transposes the same pitches up by two steps relative to the F major scale, one obtains instead E4–G4–B♭ 4. Scalar transposition is
sometimes called diatonic transposition, but this term can be misleading, as it suggests transposition with respect to a diatonic scale.
However, scalar transposition can occur with respect to any type of scale, not just the diatonic.

Pitch and pitch class

There are two further kinds of transposition, by pitch interval or by pitch interval class, applied to pitches or pitch classes,
respectively. Transposition may be applied to pitches or to pitch classes.[1] For example, the pitch A4, or 9, transposed by a major
third, or the pitch interval 4:

while that pitch class, 9, transposed by a major third, or the pitch class interval 4:

Sight transposition
Although transpositions are usually written out, musicians are occasionally asked to
transpose music "at sight", that is, to read the music in one key while playing in
another. Musicians who play transposing instruments sometimes have to do this (for
example when encountering an unusual transposition, such as clarinet in C), as well
as singers' accompanists, since singers sometimes request a different key than the Excerpt of the trumpet part of
Symphony No. 9 of Antonín Dvořák,
one printed in the music to better fit their vocal range (although many, but not all,
where sight transposition is required.
songs are printed in editions for high, medium, and low voice).

There are three basic techniques for teaching sight transposition: interval, clef, and

First one determines the interval between the written key and the target key. Then one imagines the notes up (or down) by the
corresponding interval. A performer using this method may calculate each note individually, or group notes together (e.g. "a
descending chromatic passage starting on F" might become a "descending chromatic passage starting on A" in the get
tar key).

Clef transposition is routinely taught (among other places) in Belgium and France. One imagines a different clef and a different key
signature than the ones printed. The change of clef is used so that the lines and spaces correspond to different notes than the lines and
spaces of the original score. Seven clefs are used for this: treble (2nd line G-clef), bass (4th line F-clef), baritone (3rd line F-clef or
5th line C-clef, although in France and Belgium sight-reading exercises for this clef, as a preparation for clef transposition practice,
are always printed with the 3rd line F-clef), and C-clefs on the four lowest lines; these allow any given staff position to correspond to
each of the seven note names A through G. The signature is then adjusted for the actual accidental (natural, sharp or flat) one wants
on that note. The octave may also have to be adjusted (this sort of practice ignores the conventional octave implication of the clefs),
but this is a trivial matter for most musicians.

Transposing by numbers means, one determines thescale degree of the written note (e.g. first, fourth, fifth, etc.) in the given key. The
performer then plays the corresponding scale degree of the tar
get chord.

Transpositional equivalence
Two musical objects are transpositionally equivalent if one can be transformed into another by transposition. It is similar to
enharmonic equivalence and octave equivalence. In many musical contexts, transpositionally equivalent chords are thought to be
similar. Transpositional equivalence is a feature of musical set theory. The terms transposition and transposition equivalence allow
the concept to be discussed as both an operation and relation, an activity and a state of being. Compare with modulation and related

Using integer notation and modulo 12, to transpose a pitchx by n semitones:


For pitch class transposition by a pitch class interval:


Twelve-tone transposition
Milton Babbitt defined the "transformation" of transposition within the twelve-tone technique as follows: By applying the
transposition operator (T) to a [twelve-tone] set we will mean that every p of the set P is mapped homomorphically (with regard to
order) into a T(p) of the set T(P) according to the following operation:

where to is any integer 0–11 inclusive, where, of course, the to remains fixed for a given transposition. The + sign indicates ordinary
transposition. Here To is the transposition corresponding to to (or o, according to Schuijer); pi,j is the pitch of the ith tone in P belong
to the pitch class (set number)j.


Allen Forte defines transposition so as to apply to unordered sets of other than twelve pitches:

the addition mod 12 of any integer k in S to every integer p of P.

thus giving, "12 transposed forms ofP".[4]

Fuzzy transposition
Straus created the concept of fuzzy transposition, and fuzzy inversion, to express transposition as a voice-leading event, "the
'sending' of each element of a given PC [pitch-class] set to its Tn-correspondent...[enabling] him to relate PC sets of two adjacent
chords in terms of a transposition, even when not all of the 'voices' participated fully in the transpositional move.".[5] A
transformation within voice-leading space rather thanpitch-class space as in pitch class transposition.

See also
Modulation (music)
Pitch shift
Transposing instrument

1. Schuijer, Michiel (2008). Analyzing Atonal Music, pp. 52–54. ISBN 978-1-58046-270-9.
2. Rahn, John (1987). Basic atonal theory. New York: Schirmer Books. pp.. ISBN 0-02-873160-3. OCLC 54481390 (htt
3. Babbitt (1992). The Function of Set Structure in the Twelve-Tone System, p. 10. PhD dissertation, Princeton
University [1946]. cited in Schuijer (2008), p. 55.p = element, P = twelve-tone series, i = order number, j = pitch-
class number.
4. Forte (1964). "A Theory of Set-Complexes for Music", p. 149,Journal of Music Theory8/2:136–83. cited in Schuijer
(2008), p. 57. p = element, P = pitch class set, S = universal set.
5. Straus, Joseph N. (April 11, 2003). "Voice Leading in Atonal Music", unpublished lecture for the Dutch Society of
Music Theory. Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music, Ghent, Belgium. or Straus, Joseph N. (1997). "V oice Leading in
Atonal Music" in Music Theory in Concept and Practice, ed. James M. Baker, David W. Beach, and Jonathan W.
Bernard, 237–74. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Cited in Schuijer (2008),pp. 61–62.

External links
Chords transposition in song sheets plus showing these chords for dif
ferent instruments
Chords transposition
ChordSmith: Java program to transpose chords in song sheets
Online Tool to transpose songs online tool to transpose guitar chords

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This page was last edited on 8 December 2018, at 22:56(UTC).

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