Transpose B flat to C: The Step-by-Step Guide

By Jade Bultitude
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Being able to transpose B flat to C is a great skill to have for any musician. It will allow you to play pieces written for transposing instruments, like the clarinet and trumpet, and piece together ensembles so that everyone is playing in the same key!

Transposition is a tricky subject and it is really easy to make a mistake. But don’t worry, I have your back, so let’s look at being able to transpose from B flat to C. 

Transposing Instruments

When we say we want to transpose B flat to C most people do not mean that they literally have a piece of music in B flat major that then want written in C Major. They are referring to transposing instruments that play the B flat. 

Common instruments in B flat are:

  • Clarinet in Bb
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Tenor Saxophone 
trumpet, clarinet, trombone, tenor saxophone

For these instruments, when the player reads a C on the staff and play a C, we hear a B flat. In other words, their written pitch is a major 2nd above their sounding pitch. 

If you play the clarinet and you want to compose music that harmonises with the piano, your sheet music will be a major 2nd above the notes in the piano’s sheet music (or any other non-transposing instrument). Or you may want to play a flute piece on your clarinet, so you will have to raise each note a major 2nd (a whole step) to play it in the same key as the flute did. 

Another use would be if you are a flute player and you want to play a piece written for clarinet. To play in the same key as the clarinet you would need to lower the music a whole step (a major 2nd). 

How to Transpose from B flat to C?

Transposing from B flat to C involves up moving the notes up two half-steps (semitones) or one whole-step (tone). This is the same as moving up an interval of a Major 2nd as C natural is the 2nd note in the B flat major scale.

There are two different methods to transpose from B flat to C.

Method 1- Move notes up one at a time

Have a look at the melody below.

melody in D major to transpose up a major 2nd

The melody is written in key of D major. We could move all the notes up a whole-step, making sure that we take into account the F# and C# notes in the original key.

Here is the new melody. As you can see, we now have four sharps, so we are in the key of E Major.

melody transposing up a major second with four sharps

Method 2 – Transpose the key signature

  1. We could move up all the notes up a whole step
  2. Transpose the key signature up a major 2nd
  3. Deal with any notes outside the original key 

Look at the melody below.

melody in Eb major before transposing

It is in Eb major so we have Bb, Eb and Ab. First let’s move all the notes up a whole step. 

melody in E flat major moved up a 2nd

Now we can transpose our key signature. A whole step (tone) above Eb is F. Another way to put this is that a major 2nd above Eb is F natural. So our new key signature is for F Major, which has a B flat. 

Here is our transposed melody with the new key signature. 

key signature of F major at the start of transposed melody

If there were any accidentals that were outside the key of Eb, we would not use this method. Instead we would treat them as individual notes and transpose them on their own. So if we had a C# then this would move up to a D# (a whole step above). 

Here is the full transposition.

full transposition E flat major to F major melody, transpose b flat to c

Both these methods work when either transposing up or down a major 2nd. 

Transpose B flat to C Chart

Here is a handy chart for helping you transpose from B flat C to C. You can use it to transpose a single note, for example C to D, or you can use it to transpose the key signature of a piece. For example a piece in D Major would transpose up to E Major. 

transposition chart bb to c copy

Using computer software

A far quicker method of transposition is to use software to do it for you! Apps like Musescore, Sibelius and Finale will transpose whole pieces with the press of a few buttons. You can then export, print and share your new transposed sheet music. 

What’s next….?

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Jade is a flute player and music educator with a passion for educating the next generation of musicians. She is a Masters Graduate from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Jade has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.