How to transpose up an octave!

By Jade Bultitude
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In the last blog post, we covered how to move between the four main clefs (Treble, Bass, Alto and Tenor). We paid particular attention to keeping the notes the same pitch. In this post we will learn how to transpose up an octave This is a very common question in theory papers and an excellent skill to master. 

Make sure you read the previous how do you transpose blog posts here!

So how do we transpose up an octave? Let’s first visit what an octave actually is.

What is an octave?

An octave simply means eight notes. 

Just think to yourself… How many legs does an OCTopus have?! Eight!

octopus, octave, how many notes, eight notes
An octopus has 8 Legs!

Where should I start?

Before we look at moving between clefs it is important to practice how to transpose up an octave within the same clef. 

Let’s first look at moving a middle C in the Treble Clef up an octave (eight notes).

middle C, transpose, up an octave
Middle C in Treble Clef
transpose up an octave, middle C, treble C, treble clef
Moving up an octave from Middle C to the C above – 8 notes above!

This can now simply be done in our other three clefs… 

transpose up an octave, middle C, bass clef
Transposing up an octave from Middle C in the Bass Clef
alto clef, transpose up an octave, middle C
Moving up an octave from Middle C in the Alto Clef
tenor clef, how to transpose up an octave, middle C
Moving up an octave from Middle C in the Tenor Clef

I feel confident moving my notes up an octave within the same clef – now what?

Ensure that you can confidently move up an octave in the same clef. It is now time to see if you can take this knowledge and apply this to moving up an octave between the clefs. 

Remind yourself how you took the same note/pitch into different clefs. Here is an example using middle C. Below is middle C in the treble clef.

middle C, treble clef
Middle C in Treble Clef

Below we have middle C in the bass, alto and tenor clefs.

middle C, bass clef, tenor clef, alto clef, how to transpose up an octave
Middle C in Bass, Alto and Tenor Clef

Here is another example. If we have the E above Middle C, it would look like this. As you can see all the notes below are an E above middle C.  

transpose up an octave, treble clef, bass clef, tenor clef, alto clef
E above middle C in Treble, Bass, Alto and Tenor Clefs

how do you transpose up an octave in the different clefs?

Now, let’s apply this to moving UP an octave between treble and bass clef. 

Which note do we have below in the treble clef?

treble clef, F below middle C, transpose, up an octave

That’s correct, we have an F below middle C. 

Pay particular attention to the fact we say below middle C. Recognising that this note is below middle C, means you can confidently say that by taking it up an octave (eight notes) you will be writing the F above middle C

Take a look at what this F would look like in the Bass clef without transposing it. 

bass clef, F below middle C, how to transpose up an octave

Now let’s count up eight notes from here to find our F above middle C, an octave above the original note we were given in the treble clef!

transpose up an octave, F above middle C, transpose
Counting up 8 notes from F below middle C to F above middle C in the Bass Clef

F below middle C, F above middle C, how to transpose up an octave, up an octave, transpose
On the left is the original question and on the right is our answer. We have F below middle C in the Treble Clef and F above Middle C in the Bass Clef

Shall we have a go at this question the other way around?

Which note do we have below in the bass clef?

bass clef, A below middle C, transpose up an octave

That’s correct, we have an A below Middle C. 

Find this A in your Treble clef

A below middle C, transpose up an octave
A below middle C in Treble Clef

Now bring this up eight notes (octave)

transpose up an octave, A above middle C, treble clef

What is our final answer?

answer, transpose up an octave
Final Answer

Easy as that!

How do i do This in the Alto and Tenor clefs?

Answering this question in our alternative clefs is now relatively simple, if you keep middle C in mind, this will be easy!

Let’s Try!

Which note do we have in treble clef?

G below middle C, treble clef

That’s correct, we have a G below middle C. See if you can find the same note in the Alto clef…

F below middle C, alto clef, transpose up an octave

Now simply count up your octave to the G above middle C!

G above middle C, alto clef, transpose up an octave

We can also do the same question in Tenor clef, see below.

Which note do we have in the bass clef?

E below middle C, bass clef, transpose up an octave

That’s correct, we have an E below middle C. 

Find this note in the Tenor Clef…

tenor clef, transpose up an octave, E below middle C

Repeat the step you did before, count up an octave. By doing this, you have now transposed up an octave in the tenor clef.

E above middle C, tenor clef, transpose up an octave

How easy is that?! The more you practice doing this the faster you will get. Eventually, you will be able to miss out the middle step (where we find the same note in the new clef)! 

Good luck! Let me know how you get on with this and as always, if you have any comments or suggestions let me know!

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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.