How to Transpose Up a Perfect 5th

By Jade Bultitude
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By now you should be feeling very confident transposing between all four clefs, up and down an octave and also up and down a major second! Now we need to learn how to transpose up a perfect 5th!

Which instruments do we have to think about when transposing a perfect 5th?

The most common instrument we think about when transposing a perfect 5th is the French horn! This is because when the French horn plays a C we actually hear a G. 

But firstly…Why is the 5th called perfect?

Remember with the intervals of a 5th, 4th and octave we don’t use the descriptive words, ‘major’ or ‘minor’. 

This is because these interval’s do not vary whether they are in the major or minor scales. This means that they only have one ‘normal’ state which is perfect!

Let’s have a look if we write out the C major scale below:

c major, c major scale, degrees of the scale

And then write out the C minor scale…

C minor, C natural minor, degrees of the scale

What do you notice about the 4th, 5th and 8th notes in both of these scales?

They are the same!

Let’s also look at the F scales… here is the F major scale:

F major, F major scale, degrees of the scale

Here is the F minor scale. 

F minor, F natural minor, degrees of the scale

What do you notice? That’s right, the 4th 5th and 8th notes are the same!

Now back to the interval of a 5th….

Remember we said that we use the transposition of a perfect 5th when we think about the French horn. This is because when the French horn sees a C, we hear a G. 

Let’s think about that…

We see a C

We hear a G

Let’s write out the C major scale… What is the 5th note?

C major, C major scale, degrees of the scale

That’s correct it’s G!

As you read earlier, the 5th only has one normal state and that is perfect, so we know that this is a perfect 5th already. So in order to write out the sounding pitch (the note we hear), we must transpose up a perfect 5th.

Now we are clear with that.. Here is a short melody in C major

melody, C major melody, C major key signature

We have already worked out that if we transpose a C up a perfect 5th we get a G. This means that we now need to put the key signature of G major at the start of our melody. 

The key signature of G major has one sharp.

G major, G major key signature
G major key signature
  • If you are still unclear on your key signatures, please make sure you are familiar with your circle of fifths

Once you have changed your key signature, we then need to follow this with transposing all the notes in the melody up a perfect 5th.

transpose up a perfect 5th , G major, transposition

Let’s try another example

What key is our melody in below?

A major, melody in A major, transpose up a perfect 5th

That’s correct, we are in A major!

Can you transpose up a perfect 5th from A?

A major scale, A major, degrees of this scale, 5th note

The fifth note above A is E. This means we now need the key signature of E major. How many sharps does E major have? 4!

Once you have changed the key signature, simply move all of your notes up a 5th

transpose up a perfect 5h, E major, E major melody

Notice that the interval of a 5th matches perfectly with our Circle of fifths!

Clue’s in the name….

circle of 5ths, key signatures, scales

What about accidentals?

This is very simple if you have seen the previous blog posts. 

Remember when we are presented with an interval, we work out the descriptive word by asking ourselves, is the top note in the scale of the bottom note? 

So if we have the below interval…

interval, perfect 5th

We can clearly see that this is a 5th … but how do we check that this is a perfect 5th?

We ask ourselves:

Is our top note in the scale of our bottom note?

Or

Is D in G major?

The answer would be yes!

Let’s now add an accidental in:

interval, perfect 5th

Is Bb in Eb major?

It absolutely is, so this is a perfect 5th

If we had been presented with a B natural then you would need to add in a flat sign in order to make it a perfect 5th

You must always pay attention to your accidentals and treat these separately.

I hope that has given you a clear overview of how to transpose up a perfect fifth! 

Check out my other blog posts here!  

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AUTHOR
Jade is an experienced musician and teacher as well as being the founder of Music Theory Foundations. She has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.

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