Bloomer fighting transposition
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    Default Bloomer fighting transposition

    Hi everyone. I am in my 50's and just learning Alto Sax. I can play a few tunes and am loving it.
    I have played about 10 instruments over the past 35 but none have been transposing instruments mostly stringed instruments and accordion, piano ect.
    I have never taken a music lesson and don't read sheet music very fast because I have always played by ear. I can muddle through sheet music slowly and am improving daily now with the sax.
    I think I understand the whole reason behind a transposing instrument especially if your going to be playing in an orchestra or marching band and its your first instrument, but I am not sure if learning the notes on the sax that way is right for me. Since I already can read music in C why wouldn't I just learn the note/fingerings on the sax with the concert note names and then if I wanted to play off some sheet music I would find that song in C. Seems like there would be a lot more options to find the sheet music in C anyway wouldn't there??
    I have started learning the transposition way and its getting easier but I am fighting it because I don't really see a benefit for me so can you set me straight on if I should continue with transposing and why?

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    SOTW Administrator hakukani's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    The advantage will become clear if you go from, say alto to tenor. You'd have to relearn the fingerings from Eb to Bb if you learn the fingerings in C.
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    You could do that as far as reading lead sheets. I don't see any problem with thinking this way.
    I play tenor and read concert parts most of the time. In a way I'm doing what you're talking about but I know how to transpose also.

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    This question has come up before; I'd direct you to the previous thread, but I don't have the link handy. Basically, you are choosing between these two scenarios:

    1. You can play sheet music for concert key instruments without transposing, but every single piece of music actually written for the Eb alto sax will require transposition (concert band, big band, solo music, horn section charts, etc.). AND you will have to learn a completely new set of fingerings if you decide to take up the Bb tenor or Bb soprano sax.

    2. You have to transpose when playing music written for concert key instruments, but all music written for the Eb alto sax can be played without transposition. PLUS you'll be able to use the same fingerings if you decide to take up a Bb saxophone.

    It's your call, but I think most people judge scenario 2 to offer more benefits on the whole. As you become a better saxophone player, you may find yourself with more opportunities to play written saxophone parts, and/or with an interest in trying out another saxophone voice. It would be a shame to create obstacles to exploring those possibilities.

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    I started out learning the alto without any idea it was transposing so I learned the concert notes. never don me any harm (though many will disagree)

    When I did my college audition, there was a reading test. The examiner's face was priceless when he congratulated me on being able to transpose to a different key on sight.
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Kramersax: Welcome to SOTW. Others have adequately responded to your question . . . it is a question that many "newbies" to transposing instruments ask.

    I will add that the saxophone world is comprised of many different saxophones in different pitches . . . C, Eb, Bb, and F (and even an odd-ball saxophone in G). If you were to expand your saxophone-arsenal to other saxophones beyond your Eb alto, you'd need to learn a separate set of fingerings for each differently pitched saxophone. In the long run, it is easier to learn one set of fingerings and learn to play in all the keys rather than have to play different fingerings.

    I play by ear . . . I routinely play soprano saxophone (in Bb) and switch to alto saxophone (Eb) mid-tune. All I have to do is to switch the tune's key, as played on soprano to the key that fits my alto. DAVE
    Dave

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Another thing: You might want to take into consideration that you have difficulty communicating with the rest of the saxophone community, including instructors. Yes, there are plenty of examples of folks that learn an instrument in a vacuum, but most find that they need input from others in one form or another (heck, I've taken private lessons on sax and piano on and off for 50 years and have been an instructor as well). I don't know of any sax teachers that would take on a student that was not willing to learn the correct fingerings and their associated note names on the sax.

    Let's say that your sax needs some repair: high F is flat, the G# key is sticking and everything below low E is difficult to play. You'll probably have a hard time discussing these issues with a technician.

    Sorry if what I wrote is a little too strong, but I can't think of a better way to put it. I'd hate for you to plug down the path of learning things "incorrectly" and struggle to relearn it if you find that it doesn't work for you out "in the world", that's all.

    Best wishes for your saxophone journey!

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Quote Originally Posted by Jorns Bergenson View Post

    Sorry if what I wrote is a little too strong, but I can't think of a better way to put it. I'd hate for you to plug down the path of learning things "incorrectly" and struggle to relearn it if you find that it doesn't work for you out "in the world", that's all.

    Best wishes for your saxophone journey!
    You were not strong at all Jorns or was anyone else who replied. I appreciate all the advice I can get and a lot of it has convinced me to keep learning the transposed system.
    I really want to do this right as Soprano and Tenor are already in my sights and I already get lost when I watch a Youtube video and the guy is talking about notes and I cant follow because I am thinking concert notes...
    I spent a few hours this afternoon learning the fingerings and the transposed note names and its getting a lot easier.
    I got the sheet music for Fly me to the Moon off the Saxy page and have a question on it.
    It says on the Saxy page that the sheet music posted there is for Bb instruments. So now that I can play this song can on my alto if I was with someone with a tenor and they were looking at that same sheet of Fly me to the Moon off the Saxy page and we played along would we both be playing in the same key?? or not? Seems like I would be playing in Eb and they would be in Bb wouldn't they?

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Learn bass clef. If you've played piano, you already know it. If the sheet music is for a C instrument, just pretend it's in bass clef.

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Quote Originally Posted by Kramersax View Post
    It says on the Saxy page that the sheet music posted there is for Bb instruments. So now that I can play this song can on my alto if I was with someone with a tenor and they were looking at that same sheet of Fly me to the Moon off the Saxy page and we played along would we both be playing in the same key?? or not?
    Not. An Eb horn and a Bb horn can't play together from the same sheet of music; at least one would have to transpose. Fortunately, a lot of popular published music is already available in versions for both Eb and Bb instruments.

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    Not. An Eb horn and a Bb horn can't play together from the same sheet of music; at least one would have to transpose. Fortunately, a lot of popular published music is already available in versions for both Eb and Bb instruments.
    This is true.

    If Fly Me to the Moon is in concert pitch C, then the alto sheet music is in the key of A, and the Bb tenor sheet music would be in D.

    So if you were both reading off the alto music, you would be correctly in the concert key of C, but the tenor would be playing in the concert key of G.

    To be in the same key as you on alto, the tenor player would need their own transposed music (in the key of D for Bb instruments)
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    So I was looking at some sheet music and it had parts listed for Alto 1 and 2 and Tenor all on the same page and the Alto parts both had 2 sharps but the tenor part only had one sharp??
    Shouldn't the key shown be the same for all three parts since they share the same fingering system?
    So is the "Key" on sheet music for sax in Transposed or Concert?

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    For ensemble music, any part marked "Alto 1" or "Tenor" has been transposed from concert key notation. This type of sheet music has to be in different keys to compensate for the fact that the horns themselves are pitched in different keys. See Pete's post above for an example. But if you come across, say, a D# in the alto music, you'll finger the note exactly the same way as a D# in the tenor music. The two notes won't sound the same -- i.e., their concert pitches will be different -- but they will be fingered the same way. This means that, when using instrument-specific sheet music, switching from one size saxophone to another is quite easy. You play what you read; the arranger has handled the transpositions.

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Thanks LostConn. I don't know if it was clear in my muddling post. I am asking about the Key signature at the start of the staff and the Sharps or flats shown that indicate the key if that makes sense? One sharp shown is the key of G... 3 sharps indicate the key of A ect..
    So is the "Key" (at the beginning of the staff) on sax specific sheet music shown in Transposed or Concert

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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    If the part is transposed then the key signature is treated just as though you were reading a part in C for piano or guitar. In other words, assuming you are using the standard fingerings and reading transposed parts, you read the key signature and dots just like you would any other sheet music.

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Quote Originally Posted by Kramersax View Post
    Thanks LostConn. I don't know if it was clear in my muddling post. I am asking about the Key signature at the start of the staff and the Sharps or flats shown that indicate the key if that makes sense? One sharp shown is the key of G... 3 sharps indicate the key of A ect..
    So is the "Key" (at the beginning of the staff) on sax specific sheet music shown in Transposed or Concert
    I think we all understand about keys and key signatures. (LostConn was just giving you an example of fingering one specific note)

    Have you read this article:

    https://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-transposition


    it should clear up your misunderstandings and explain the mechanics of and reasons for transposing instruments.

    But to summarise:

    Alto sounds an interval of one sixth (9 semitones) below the note that is written on a transposed alto Eb part. So concert pitch middle C is written for alto as an A

    tenor sounds an interval of a ninths(one octave and a whole tone) below the note written on the transposed Bb part. So concert pitch middle C is written for tenor as C

    Likewise if a piece of music is in C (no sharps or flats in key sig) the alto music is in the key of A (3 sharps) the tenor music is in the key of D (2 sharps)
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Thanks for the kind replies. I am trying to get my head straight on this.
    Here is an example of what I mean shown in the attachment. The 2 alto parts have a Key signature of D (2 sharps), and the Tenors key is G (one sharp).
    If both parts alto and tenor are transposed and not in concert pitches shouldn't all 3 show the same key?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  18. #18
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    No.

    Alto and tenor are different transpositions.

    That sheet music is for a tune that is in concert pitch of F.

    So the Eb alto music is in D and the Bb tenor music is in G.

    If there was a flute part on there as well it would show as being in F, because the flute is not a transposing instrument.
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    In saxophone sheet music, the written note is tied, not to the sound of the note, but to the fingering used for playing it.

    Low C is written on the first ledger line below the treble clef. It is fingered with your LH 123 and your RH 123 plus little finger on the bottom-most RH key. Whatever sax you are playing, from sopranino to bass and below, that fingering is the one you will use for low C as written for your sze of saxophone. The real pitch of the note is immaterial, as long as you are playing from music written expressly for your size of saxophone.

    The problems start when you want to play by ear with people playing concert pitch instruments. They'll call a tune in a concert key. You have to learn what that means for you on the alto. Put it another way: what are the notes in the concert C triad on an alto sax ? Answer: A C# E these are the fingerings you must use on alto to sound the notes in the concert C triad. (On tenor, you must finger D F# A, for the same sounds, btw).

    If this approach helps you, well and good. If it doesn't, forget it as fast as you can !
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    Default Re: Bloomer fighting transposition

    Kramersax, key signature would conform to the transposition. So if you're playing alto in concert pitch C, the alto sheet music would be in A, with the key signature of A. If playing tenor, tenor sheet music would be in D, with the key signature in D. Instruments like piano, guitar, flute, would be in C, with C's key signature.

    For now you don't have to worry too much about all this, other than to remember that when playing with people who are on, say, piano, guitar, and bass, if they're in C, you must play the alto in A. I use the following easy mental formula: Alto plays 3 half-tones down from concert pitch. Tenor plays 2 half-tones up from concert pitch. When playing with others, any deviation from correct transposition will be excruciatingly obvious. Pre-arranged sheet music specifically labeled alto can be played on alto AS WRITTEN IN THE KEY INDICATED, because everything has been transposed for you.

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