Transpose E flat to C: A Music Theory Guide 🎶🎶

By Jade Bultitude
Published on

Being able to transpose E 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 alto saxophone, 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, we have your back, so let’s look at how to transpose Eb to C. 

If you want to learn more about transposing specifically for the alto sax, see our dedicated guide to alto sax transposition.

Transposition Chart for E flat to C

E flat to C transposition chart

Steps to Transpose Eb to C

Transposing from E flat to C involves up moving the notes up 9 half-steps (semitones) or 4½ whole-step (tones). This is the same as moving up an interval of a Major 6th as C natural is the 6th note in the E flat major scale.

transpose e flat to c, up 9 half steps on piano

There are two different methods to transpose E flat to C. My preferred method is number 2, but they both work and will get you playing in the correct key! 

Method 1- Move notes up one at a time

Have a look at the melody below.

melody in d major

The melody is written in key of D major. We could move all the notes up a 9 semitones, making sure that we take into account the F# and C# notes in the original key.

melody in d major moved up 9 half steps

Here is the new melody. As you can see, we now have three sharps in our melody.

You might be thinking – we have three sharps to that’s A Major. But this is wrong! We are actually in B major with 5 sharps, it’s just that we do not have any As or Gs in our melody.

melody transposed and now in b major

This is one of the downsides to transposing one note at a time. Another is the fact that it takes ages and therefore is easy for students to make mistakes.

Here is the original melody and transposed version with the correct key signature.

full transposition transpose e flat to c

Method 2 – Transpose the key signature

Here is method 2 to transpose E flat to C (or up a major 6th). I prefer that my students use this one as it links well to other areas of music theory, such as scales and key signatures. It’s also more reliable!

  1. We could move up all the notes up a 6th
  2. Transpose the key signature up a major 6th
  3. Deal with any notes outside the original key 

Look at the melody below.

A flat major melody starting on middle C

It is in Ab major so we have Bb, Eb, Ab and Db. First let’s move all the notes up a 6th. Intervals always include the starting note so in effect, this means moving up five positions on the staff.

melody in a flat with notes oved up a 6th

Now we can transpose our key signature. A major 6th above Ab is F. Another way to put this is that F natural is the 6th note of the A flat major scale. So our new key signature is F Major, which has one flat.

Here is our transposed melody with the new key signature. 

new key signature of f major for transposed melody

Here is the full transposition.

full transposition transpose e flat to c A flat to f amjor

If there were any accidentals that were outside the original key of Ab, we would not use this method. Instead we would treat these as individual notes and transpose them on their own. So if we had a F sharp then this would move up to an D# (9 half-steps above). 

Why transpose E flat to C

The main reason to transpose from E flat to C is so we can create music for instruments in the key of Eb, like the alto saxophone. When the alto saxophone plays a C, we hear the E flat below it.

If we have music in concert pitch (in the key of C), then we would need to transpose this up a major 6th (from Eb to C) in order for the alto sax to be playing in the correct key.

alot sax transposed to concert pitch

The baritone saxophone is also in the key or Eb but it is one octave lower than the alto sax. This means that we could transpose up a major 6th and we would be exactly one octave below concert pitch.

baritone sax tranposed to concert pitch

Some instruments, like the E flat clarinet, play in the Eb above concert pitch. For these instruments we could transpose up a major 6th and they would be sound exactly one octave higher than concert pitch.

e flat clarient transposed down to concert pitch

Alternatively, we could transpose down a Minor 3rd to get to concert pitch.

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.