#1
Hello.

I have a question regarding transposing instruments' notation.

Let's say for example that you write for a Bb clarinet - as far as I understood, writing for it on the staff would assign the position of the none-trasposed C to actually Bb. Now, assuming this is correct - are you still calling it C for that instruments? Because that sounds weird to me, it basically ruins the whole point of defining the harmony between different instruments. And anyway, if the C is actually Bb I'd also assume that the rest of the notes are simply a whole tone lower than their original position?

Thanks in advance.
#2
On a Bb clarinet, playing a C would sound a tone down as Bb, and any other note would do the same; G would sound as F, and so on. When writing for transposing instruments, you can write the parts out at "concert pitch", which is the notes everybody else would hear, then once finished, transpose the entire part down as the instrument requires. It can get very confusing if you overthink it
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#3
I assume that it would be to transpose up in this case as the concert pitch (which you actually hear) is lower than the written pitch for the instrument.

But maybe I need a clarification for this thing - if an instrument is Bb - you can on play that scale using it? I used clarinet as an example, but I'm not familiar with those instruments. If it is really only tuned into one scale (possibly you can alter the pitch but it's inconvenient to alter a complete scale?), when a scale changes a different clarinet in the orchestra needs to start playing, or am I getting this all wrong?
#4
What? You can play in any key on a Bb clarinet. I don't know why there are instruments like Bb trumpet and Bb clarinet but they have long traditions behind them - that's how it's always been. You need to transpose one step up if you are playing on a Bb instrument. I know this because I play the trumpet and need to transpose a lot. So if the score is "in C", you need to transpose a whole step up (if you play a Bb instrument). So if the key for C instrument is C major, Bb instrument plays it in D major. And if you are playing a C instrument (guitar, piano, flute, violin...) and the score is "in Bb", you need to transpose a whole step down.

The C of a Bb instrument will sound like the Bb of a C instrument. So a Bb instrument sounds lower and that's why you need to transpose up. You need to play a D on a Bb instrument to get the same sound as C on a C insturment.
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#6
I read that article, but it doesn't explain clearly why does this happen. So you say that you can play any key on a Bb clarinet. So why is there also an Eb clarinet, for example? What I'd the real difference and point of this? And again about the terminology - when someone play for example concert Bb written as C for their instrument, they would actually call it a C? I mean, let's say you're in an ensemble and one of the people plays a transposing instrument. You all discuss the harmony you're trying to play, but for that person you'd need to use a different pitch name, even though it's not actually the pitch you're playing?

Thanks.
#7
Seriously?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposing_instrument#Reasons_for_transposing

The majority of that article is literally about the reasons for transposing instruments.

There's an Eb clarinet because its range is higher than the Bb clarinet's. The reason its transposed is so that the fingering for the notes can be consistent between them. So when a clarinettist reads a C he fingers it the same way on all clarinets, but a different pitch will come out.

People that play transposing instruments are usually decent at transposing on the fly, so if the situation come up where you were discussing harmonies with someone who played a transposing instrument you could just speak in concert pitch and they would be able to transpose it in their head to the appropriate transposition for their instrument.
#8
OK, and that's why I asked about their ability to actually play in any scale. If you can play, modulate to any scale using whatever clarinet, what's this thing about "consistent fingering", that basically sounds to me like comfortability issue? The piano requires different fingerings for each scale and doesn't come in different tunings. With your definition it sounds to me like it makes the notation act like a tablature where it notated you how to play rather than what to play (as with using the same guitar tabs on differently tuned guitars).

And a person that plays let's say the Bb clarinet, that would usually be their instrument of choice or do they basically play any?

Thanks.
Last edited by TLGuitar at Apr 26, 2014,
#9
Quote by TLGuitar
OK, and that's why I asked about their ability to actually play in any scale. If you can play, modulate to any scale using whatever clarinet, what's this thing about "consistent fingering", that basically sounds to me like comfortability issue? The piano requires different fingerings for each scale and doesn't come in different tunings. With your definition it sounds to me like it makes the notation act like a tablature where it notated you how to play rather than what to play (as with using the same guitar tabs on differently tuned guitars).

And a person that plays let's say the Bb clarinet, that would usually be their instrument of choice or do they basically play any?

Thanks.

It's kind of similar to down tuning your guitar. Your E string becomes the D string. The fingerings stay the same but the pitch is different. Actually tuning guitar down to D kind of makes it a Bb instrument. When you play the 3rd fret of the 5th string on D standard guitar, it sounds like Bb. But it's still the same fingering as C on a standard tuned guitar so you may think you are playing a C while the sound is actually a Bb.

Eb clarinet is just like a guitar tuned up. It sounds higher than Bb clarinet. But a Bb clarinet player can play the Eb clarinet because it shares the same fingerings - he/she doesn't need to learn new fingerings. So the fingering for the notated C is the same for both Eb clarinet and Bb clarinet but they are just a different pitch.

This is pretty much the same question as why guitars have different tunings.

And as jazz rock said, people that play Bb (or whatever) instruments are good at transposing. We are not stupid.

Trumpet has all the different scales just like a guitar has. But if you move from Bb trumpet to C trumpet, you can still use the same fingerings for all scales and don't need to learn different fingerings for every note. C trumpet sounds higher than Bb trumpet. Same with Bb clarinet and Eb clarinet. Eb clarinet sounds higher and you can play high parts easier. Why it's an Eb clarinet and not a Bb clarinet but an octave higher is because Eb calrinet can also play quite low notes. It's not completely in another range than Bb clarinet. It's a bit like male and female singers. They sing most of the time in the same range but women can also sing higher and men lower. So you could think Bb clarinet as the "male clarinet" and Eb clarinet as the "female clarinet".

You may ask why women and men don't use different notation. Well, that's because singing doesn't have fingerings but clarinets do. This way you don't need to learn different fingerings. You can use the same fingerings for bass, Bb and Eb clarinets and anyone who plays the clarinet can (in theory) play all different calrinets.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 26, 2014,
#10
I think that the last part of your comment emphasizes what basically happens - it makes the player's (the one who reads the notation) effort in playing different types of transposing instruments rather easy but puts the effort of transposing for that particular instrument on the composer. I mean, in practice, all it does is enabling the notation ro represent a pattern of fingering that applies to all different instruments in that family rather than directly implying the pitch - like tabs. But the thing about down-tuning a guitar is that you may look at it as using a different pitch standard (as rock ensembles who record in lower tunings usually tune all instruments sown together), while a wind instrument which is a part of an orchestra is taking part in music that uses concert-pitch.

Thanks.

Just one thing - if you move from a Bb instrument to a C instrument you could use the same fingerings with its respective notation, but the pitch of the scales would not result in the same scales.
#11
It doesn't work like tabs because tabs only tell you which fingering to play. Trumpet has alternative fingerings for the same notes, same as guitar. But tab only tells one fingering to play. When you read notation, you need to decide which fingering you play.

We have just decided that a certain frequency is an A (440 Hz). But A=440Hz wasn't a standard before the 20th century. Bb instruments use a different frequency for the A note.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#12
Read what I wrote about pitch standard... I referred exactly to this. As those wind instruments are part of an ensemble of instruments that ARE using a certain pitch standard, you can't say (to my logic, at least) that it just uses a different standard. It plays in a piece that was written a certain way, and obviously if it simply plays by its standard than it wouldn't be transposing as the notes are "still the same", and then the whole piece wouldn't make sense and be dissonant.

And as I don't play these instruments I can't say for myself, but I assume that as the trumpet is one type of instrument it would have its own fingerings. But as I understood from you, the clarinet family, for example, all uses the same fingering for their RESPECTIVE NOTATION of each transposing member of the clarinet family, and thus the notation for the clarinet act like tabs. Showing you what type of fingerings to use rather than what pitch to play is what tabs are doing. You could just as well assign numbers instead of notes for the clarinet's type of fingerings and notate it as such.
#13
Why does it matter whether or not it's like tabs? If anything it's actually like scordatura, like Maggara was saying about D-tuning. But either way it's irrelevant.

It has nothing to do with transposing scales or anything else you've been talking about. All it is is a notational standard. The instruments still play the same pitches as everyone else they're just notated differently for the sake of ease. It's not a big deal.
#14
I wasn't talking about the scales anymore, just about what would you define its output as. Never mind, I basically asked this as I might implement something related to a smartphone app I'm planning one writing.

To summarise, the notated C is transposed to the pitch of the specific instrument. Thanks.
#15
Brass player incoming. If an instrument is in Bb, then that means it will sound a Bb when it plays a written C. Theres a few things at play here, including range and timbre. A Bb instrument is larger than a C instrument, and sounds darker/warmer.

The tradition of transposing is easily explained. Back when they were inventing musical notation, the didnt have keys in the same way we do. Instead of keys, they had clefs. All clefs were what look like a modern "K-clef" and whichever line the K pointed was C. This was a way of quickly producing harmony, if the singers could all read the same part in a different clef

Also, brass instruments are special. Per each valve combination, they can play a certain amount of notes. Before valves existed, the chromatic scale was not available to brass players, and to play in different keys, you either had to have a different horn or something called "crooks." So originally, if something was written for A trumpet, you needed an A trumpet

Now-a-days, trumpets will read C parts on Bb trumpets and vice versa. They read whatever part on whatever instrument because all trumpets can play in all keys now (thanks to valves) and transposing by key is such an easy skill to obtain
Last edited by bassalloverthe at Apr 28, 2014,