In the last blog post we looked at how to transpose up a major second! It is not a surprise then that this week we will be looking at how to transpose down a major second!
It is important to separate the two, going up and down. Although they seem very similar, they do require slightly different skills and we can often get the two confused.
A few things to remember before we transpose down a major second
Before starting, we just need to remind ourselves why we have to transpose a major second at all – whether this be up or down! Transposing is used when we have an instrument that is ‘in a key’.
What does ‘in a key’ mean?
This simply means that when the instrument plays a ‘C’ we will hear a different note.
Remember, when the Clarinet in Bb plays a C we, as the audience, hear a Bb.
When the saxophone in the key of Eb plays a C, we hear an Eb!
The reason we need to transpose could be for the following reasons:
- The conductor needs to have all the instruments in sounding pitch so it is easier for them to understand the score and see the chords.
- A piece of music has been written only with the sounding pitch in mind and it needs to be written so that the instrument can play it properly.
What did we learn in the last blog post?
Last time we specifically talked about transposing instruments in the key of Bb. Why?
Because Bb and C are a major second apart.
How did we know that B flat and C are a major second apart?
Remind yourself with the piano below.
We hear a Bb
We read a C
As you can see our sounding pitch is a major second BELOW our written pitch. Now, if you remember, in our last post we discussed transposing up a major second. This means we were transposing from sounding pitch to written pitch!
This week we will look at how to transpose effectively from written pitch to sounding pitch (the opposite way!)
Have a look at the last blog post to remind yourself WHY this is a MAJOR 2nd, if you are unclear.
So how can I transpose down a major second?
Here is a simple melody in C major.
We need to transpose this down a major second in order for us to see what the sounding pitch of the melody is.
We could look at each note individually but this would take us ages! The easiest thing to do is change the key signature first. But how do we work out what is a major second lower than C major?
Remember, a major second is the same as a TONE (2 semitones).
So what is two semitones lower than C?
Take a look at the piano below…
That’s right – Bb is a tone lower than C.
Now you can simply check that this is a major second by asking, is C natural in Bb major? (Remember we always work out an interval by asking: is the top note in the scale of the bottom note)
C is in Bb major!
Now let’s go back to our short melody –
We now need to change the key signature to a Bb major key signature. This will be two flats!
Once the key signature is changed we then need to move all of our notes down a second.
Let’s try another example
The melody below is in A major (3 sharps). This is the written pitch.
We need to transpose this down a major second so that we can see the sounding pitch.
Now let’s transpose it so we can see what the sounding pitch is.
What is a major second below A… Let’s look at our piano below
Remember to the left of the piano is lower, the right of the piano is higher!
What note is a tone (two semitones) lower than A? Remember a tone is the same as a major 2nd!
It’s a G natural!
We can check that this is right by asking ourselves…
Is A natural in G major? (Is the higher note of my interval in the key of my lower note?)
Yes it is!
We now know that we will need a key signature of ONE sharp. This is because G major only has one sharp. Below is our new key signature.
We now need to move each note down by a second…
Let’s think about our accidentals…
If you see an accidental (sharp, flat or natural sign) in the original melody, these need to be treated differently. This is because they are not in the original key signature. Simply look at the note and find a major second below it (like we did with the key signature).
Remember that to find out if we have a MAJOR second we must ask ourselves if the top (higher) note is in the scale of the bottom note.
Lets think about the note below…
Now let’s look at our piano…
Which note is a major second lower? Remember a tone (two semitones) is the same as a major second.
That’s correct, F sharp is a major second lower.
Again, we can check. Is G sharp in F sharp major? – YES!
If you are not completely sure of all of your scales just yet, then remember to use the handy interactive circle of fifths available on my website!
Have a great week and leave your comments below!