Transposing

Transposing Lesson Feature Image

Learn how to transpose songs using three different methods.  Transposing is an essential skill for any musician.  This lesson will tell you why you need to know it and provide step-by-step guidance on  how to do it.

Why is Transposing Important

Transposing a song is simply changing the key of a song or a part of music.

There are four primary reasons to transpose music.

  1. To play in a key that is easier for another musician.  Often, this is a singer or a wind instrument.   Wind instruments are often tuned to B♭ or E♭.  
  2. To make a song easier to play.  You man want to transpose a song to a key that is easier to play on the guitar.
  3. It sounds better in another key.  This is subjective, but you may like the song at a higher pitch, or you may not like how your guitar rings on open strings.
  4. To reuse music.  You may have a song that is perfect for a lick that you learned, but the lick was written in a different key.

Steps to Transposing a Song

Transposing is easy to do.  That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to play.  When you transpose, your fingerings may be harder to play.  Regardless, transposing the song is the first step.  Follow these steps to do it easily.

  1. Determine the key of the song.
  2. Determine the new key.
  3. Determine the interval between the keys.
  4. Shift the chords and notes by the interval.

Simply determine the interval, and direction, that you want to transpose.  Shift the notes and chords by that interval

Example (Chord Progression of C-F-G)

  1. Determine the key: key of C.
  2. Determine the new key: key of G.
  3. Determine the interval between the two keys: C to G is 3½ steps (perfect 5th)
  4. Shift every note and chord by the interval difference found in Step 3.
  5. New chord progression G-C-D

Shifting Methods

Three easy ways to shift the notes (Step 4 from above)

  1. Fret Method
  2. Major Scale Method
  3. Circle of Fifths Transposing Method

Fret Shifting Method

One of the easiest ways to transpose a song is to shift your position on the fretboard.  If you need to transpose up a whole step, simply shift all your notes up two frets.  It is really that simple!  This method is practical, but it does not help you rewrite your notation like the other methods that I will show you.

Use of a Capo

Capo
A capo is used to transpose the open notes up.

If you are playing in the open position and transposing up the fretboard, you can use a capo continue to use open notes.  A capo works by clamping a fret similar to a barre on a barre chord.

For practice, transpose one of your favorite songs up a few steps then use a capo so that you can use the same fingerings.

 

Major Scale Method

To use the major scale method, you only need to know the major scales for the two keys.  Simply write out the major key for each and use it as a decoder.

You can use my major scale note chart to easily transpose anything.

Example

If you’re transposing from the key of C to the key of G, The table below shows the C Major Scale and the G Major Scale.  For each column, change the note from the first scale to the note in the second scale.  For example: Change all C notes to G.  Change all D notes to A.  etc.  Chords work the same way, but you change them based on their root note.  For example, Dm7 would transpose into Am7.

 

I ii
iii IV
V
vi
vii
C Major Scale
C D E F G A B
G Major Scale
G A B C D E F#

Circle of Fifths Transposing Method

To use the Circle of Fifths, determine how far around the circle you need to go to get from the original key to the new key. In the case of C to G, it is only one note. From the original key’s note, move around the circle the predetermined number of notes. In this case, we will move one. So an A in the key of C would be transposed to an E in the key of G.

Circle of Fifths

Circle of Fifths

Example

The following song is a church hymn written in the key of D.  We are going to transpose it into the key of E.

Transposing Practice

 

Below, you can see that the key changed from two sharps (key of D) to four sharps (key of E).  You will also notice that the notes shifted up by a whole step, which is the intervallic distance between D and E.  In practice, you can simply shift your guitar position by two frets.

Transposing Practice Answer

Using Software

If your song is notated, you can use notation software like Guitar Pro or Sibelius to transpose your song.  If you want to transpose audio, many recording programs can shift the pitch or transpose your song.  This always works for midi music, but it may not work as well for actual audio.

Conclusion

Transposing is essential knowledge for any musician.  The concept is simple, and there are many methods of shifting the notes.  I recommend learning them all.

If you have any questions, recommendations, or you just like the lesson, let me know by contacting me or leaving a comment.

Subscribe for Free Content, Tips, and More!

3 Reasons to Subscribe to the GLW Newsletter:

  1. Free Stuff! You'll get free content that is exclusive to my newsletter subscribers!
  2. Content tailored to you. Over time, I'll get to learn more about you and deliver content that motivates you to learn, play and be inspired!
  3. No spam. Just real content that's meant to make a difference in your playing

Enter your name and email, and you're on your way!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
Hello again! You're already subscribed to the GLW newsletter. Thank you for being a part of the GLW community. If you have a question, just send an email using my contact page. I'd be happy to help!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


song 2 guitar lesson  how to pick guitar strings with fingers  come and get higher chords  g major scale chords  guitar chorss  did you know chords  what does capo mean in guitar  a major bar chord guitar  guitar lessons world  acoustic guitar labeled  building chords  g mixolydian chord progression  fret definition guitar  how to practice guitar chord changes  12 bar blues jam  how to practice modes on guitar  a flat on guitar  d# bar chord  basics of harmonics  circle of chords  perfect fifth guitar  order my steps chords  you and i guitar lesson  best alternate tunings  fingerstyle guitar books pdf  how do you play a on guitar  e minor pentatonic scale notes  how to read classical guitar tabs  flucking  8 bar chord progression  em7 5 guitar chord  guitar fingerpicking exercises  good fingering techniques  guitar notes standard tuning  6th string guitar notes  how to find intervals in music  what is a pentatonic scale on guitar  how to know key of song  guiter chords  basic guitar chords tutorial  b major scale tab  b scale guitar  music note reading  important guitar techniques  b dim chord  guitar finger tapping exercises  easy chords to play on guitar  plucking in guitar  how to build a minor chord  jimi hendrix tuning  flatpicking guitar lessons  5 pentatonic scale patterns  g7 bar chord  how to play guitar without reading music  f major 7 chord guitar  how to write a solo on guitar  how to play an am chord on guitar  how to understand tabs  guitar note finder  gb chord guitar  body name with picture  how many notes are in a scale  how to learn how to read music  all my mistakes chords  guitar neck chart  how do play the guitar  complete guitar chord chart  c m gitar  how to tune guiter  how to strum a guitar with your hand  i select  pentatonic scale guitar tab chart  2 chord acoustic guitar songs  a day to remember guitar tabs  picking notes on guitar  c minor arpeggio guitar  how many minor scales are there  how to do d minor on guitar  what determines the key of a song  how to read music beginners  drop d tuning tuner  easy way to remember treble clef notes  what does a music note look like  d chord progression  guitar chords with hand position  guitar scale positions  what is a 7 chord  basic acoustic guitar chords for beginners  a flat major 7 guitar chord  chords with notes  how to play g minor 7 on guitar  guitar string frequency chart  12 major scales in order  gcd chord progression  follow through chords  chord love on top  how to read guitar picking patterns  how to make ab chord on guitar  pentanic scale  c scale guitar tab  c minor relative chords  a bar chord guitar  work out guitar chords  whats my name chords  the dominant chord is represented by which symbol  notes in a scale  c augmented chord  i need you more guitar chords  why do guitars have frets  9 11 chord  blues turnaround  red house jimi hendrix lesson  blues scale in e  celtic tuning chords