An Easy Way to Transpose Music

This lesson will teach you a quick and easy way to transpose your songs from one key to another.

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Ultimate Guitar
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This lesson will teach you a quick and easy way to transpose your songs from one key to another. You will be able to use this easy transposition method to transpose notes, chords or scales. We will jump straight into an example with an explanation of the steps involved.

Note: When studying these examples, keep in mind that sharps and flats can also be read as their enharmonic equivalents. For example, C# can also be thought of as Db.

In this first example, we will transpose a chord progression in the key of D Major to the key of G Major:

Step 1: Write the chromatic scale with numbers as follows:

Chromatic Scale
C C# D Eb E F F# G Ab A  Bb B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Step 2: Find the number of your original key and the number of your desired key. For example, the key of D Major is 3 and the key of G Major is 8.

Step 3: Subtract the number of your original key from the number of your desired key.

Example: G Major (8) - D Major (3) = 5

This number will give you the amount of semitone (half-step) intervals to add to your notes, chords or scales to transpose them to your desired key.

Step 4: List all of your song's notes, chords or scales that you want to transpose.

Step 5: Use the numbered chromatic scale to find the number of each item's root note.

Step 6: Add the previously calculated number of semitones to each item in your list to transpose it to your desired key. To do this, use the numbered chromatic scale to find the number of each item's root note and then add the semitones to find the new root note. If you run out of numbers, then start over at C again with 13 and C# being 14, etc.

For example, a D Major chord progression's F# minor chord (F#m) will be 7 and to transpose it to the key of G Major, you will add 5 semitones (half-steps). The D Major chord progression's F#m chord is now a Bm chord when transposed to the key of G Major

Original Key - D Major Desired Key - G Major

D (3) +5 semitones = G (8)
A (10) +5 semitones = D (15)
Bm (12) +5 semitones = Em (17)
F#m (7) +5 semitones = Bm (12)
G (8) +5 semitones = C (13)

The D Major chord progression of D, A, Bm, F#m and G, when transposed to the key of G Major, becomes the chords G, D, Em, Bm and C.

This transposition method also works for transposing the scales of a key. Here is an example of transposing a group of scales in the key of F# Major to the key of Bb Major:

Chromatic Scale
C C# D Eb E F F# G Ab A  Bb B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Bb (11) - F# (7) = 4 semitones

Original Key - F# Major Desired Key - Bb Major

F# Major Pentatonic (7) +4 semitones = Bb Major Pentatonic (11)
D# Harmonic Minor (4) +4 semitones = G Harmonic Minor (8)
G# Dorian (9) +4 semitones = C Dorian (13)
B Lydian (12) +4 semitones = Eb Lydian (16)
C# Mixolydian (2) +4 semitones = F Mixolydian (6)

This method of music transposition is easy to use and it doesn't take much time after you learn how to do it. It will always work, no matter which notes, chords or scales you use in your songs. I hope this lesson helps you all!

About the Author:
My name is Kevin Parsons. I have been a musician for over a decade and I am also a software developer. I own Overdriven Software and I made four music education software products, two of which are currently available for purchase. Music Theory Assistant for Windows PC is available as a digital download at Amazon.com - it is an affordable and easy way to learn the basics of music theory and it also contains one of the best music transposition tools currently on the market. I also created the Android app MusiCram, which gives you an easy way to quickly look up and learn which notes, chords and scales are in each of the twelve major keys.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    kmp1287
    In the lesson, the numbers are supposed to line up properly underneath the chromatic scale, with each note assigned a number from 1 - 12. The numbers don't line up correctly and I can't figure out how to go back and edit the article. I am sorry for this! Also, my two Windows PC apps, Guitarist's Assistant and Ultimate Transposer, are now available for purchase at Amazon as well! Once again, I hope this lesson helps everyone who reads it!
    kmp1287
    Thanks to whoever fixed the formatting issue in my article!