View Full Version : Transposing to Uke

08-12-2009, 11:45 PM
I recently worked out an ok tab for la bamba by reading a flute part and transcribing it to ukulele. This is all fine and dandy, but if in the future I wanted to read whole conductor scores to put together ukulele ensembles, how would I go about reading sheet music from instruments that aren't concert pitched? It's pretty intuitive with most stringed instruments, but with a bassoon or a coronet it would probably be a lot harder. Does anybody have a resource for transposing or perhaps a tutorial for me to learn to do it myself?

I found a torrent with over 100 scores in it with some really good stuff and I wanted to make some ensemble pieces...

Ukulele JJ
08-13-2009, 02:14 AM
how would I go about reading sheet music from instruments that aren't concert pitched?

I'm sure there are tricks and shortcuts, and websites and software (Finale, Sibelius, etc.) to help. But really, it basically comes down to just knowing your intervals.

Take the cornet (please! :p). It's a Bb instrument. When it plays what is traditionally notated as a C, the sound that comes out is really Bb. Your goal then, is to write that Bb on your score instead of the C.

What's the interval between Bb and C? It's a major second, aka a whole step, aka two half-steps (two frets). So every note of the cornet part must be written a whole step lower to get it to concert pitch. One way to think of that is to play the note as if it were written in concert pitch, then slide it down two frets. There's your "new" note.

Does that help at all? Or am I just confusing everyone?

Now a bassoon is actually a non-transposing instrument. Instead, it uses a different clef (usually). So the trick there is learning to read bass clef. (You could try to read it as if it were treble clef and tranpose up a major third or down a minor sixth, but that's probably more trouble that it's worth.)

Of course, a lot of these parts are going to have to be transposed up or down an octave or more to get it to "fit" on to your uke. But I don't expect you're having too much trouble with that.


P.S. Thank you for using the word "transpose" correctly, by the way. It seems to be becoming increasingly common to see people on the internet use "tranpose" when they really mean "transcribe". :wallbash:

08-13-2009, 03:03 AM
heh you actually answered most of it with the coronet example. Any tips for reading bass clef? (I've only read sheet music for oboe and ukulele, so not much experience there)

Ukulele JJ
08-13-2009, 04:27 AM
Any tips for reading bass clef?

Middle C is on the first ledger line on top. The C below that is on the second space from the bottom. They're the same as where "A" would be in treble clef.

Eventually you'll start to memorize what all the lines (GBDFA) and spaces (ACEG) are--use the mnemonic of your choice, just like you probably did for treble clef. But for slogging your way through a part, you could get by with just using the C's as guideposts and working your way from there.

Another tip: The bass clef is a type of "F clef". The two dots that look like a colon will therefore mark to the location of the note F. (For the record, treble clef is a "G clef". The circle-y part is on the line for the note G.)

Wait until you start transcribing string quartet music and have to face the Alto clef. :eek:


08-13-2009, 06:17 PM
... In regard to the bass clef, you can also check out piano tutorial sites. The piano uses both treble and bass notation, so piano learning sites can be a great resource. In fact, mst composers used the piano to simulate the sound of other instruments ( including the string instruments)... Except (I believe) Berlioz. Whom believe it or not composed on the guitar. Good Luck.

08-13-2009, 08:02 PM
You might look into notation software. The better packages can read midi files and give you a complete score. You can then translate parts - say alto sax - into concert pitch or you can change the key of the entire score. I don't know if any will produce tab from standard notation. The one I use for my sax work - SongWriter by Finale - does not have tab capability. But SongWriter is at the low end of the Finale offerings. I'm looking into TablEdit for tab work, but it is primarily for that, so I don't know if it will do all you want.

08-13-2009, 10:03 PM
You might look into notation software.

...I don't know if any will produce tab from standard notation.
Powertab works with standard notation and tab and midi and can be adapted to 4-string uke tuning. Plus, it's free. :)

08-13-2009, 11:20 PM
There's quite a nice table of transposing instruments here:


One that it misses is the instrument I play - the BBb (Double B Flat) tuba. For orchestral music, the score is ually written as sounded (with lots of leger lines below the stave). But for brass band music it's notated in the treble clef. Where a middle C is written, the note played is actually a Bb just over two octaves lower. I used to have an Eb tuba which plays the Eb an octave-and-a-half (roughly) lower when middle C is written.

Also, look out for where the clef is written (as someone else said), but you're unlikely to come across a baritone, or a sub-bass clef:eek:



08-14-2009, 04:03 AM
I have Finale 2009 (notation software) on my home & school computer, it's a hefty program with a hefty price. It will display band/orchestra parts in concert pitch (as they sound) or transposed (as they are written for transposing instruments such as clarinets, saxes, trumpets & French Horns). It will also do TAB for guitar or ukulele and most any fretted instrument as long as you provide it with the proper input. It's also great for leadsheets. Most of my leadsheets here were done on Finale 2009. http://www.box.net/shared/4c7tzyfaxl

Finale NotePad is the demonstration version of the program. My middle school students use this in music class. You can score for band/orchestra instruments & display in either concert pitch or as written. I believe it does guitar TAB but not uke TAB. It does repeat signs, but not DS, DC or al Coda. Finale NotePad 2008 is FREE (does not expire). The newer Finale NotePad 2009 costs $10 but supposedly has a few more features.

If you want something more than the bare bones demo, but not the full priced Finale, you could get their in-between software, PrintMusic.

A helpful link http://www.finalemusic.com/

Sibelius is a similar program. If I hadn't learned on Finale first, and if it had a free demo version for my school's computers, I would have purchased it.

Ukulele JJ
08-14-2009, 07:00 AM
Sibelius is a similar program. If I hadn't learned on Finale first, and if it had a free demo version for my school's computers, I would have purchased it.

Having used both Sibelius and Finale, I'm with you.

Neither one of them is a walk in the park. But learning and using Finale is :wallbash::wallbash::wallbash:, whereas Sibelius is merely :wallbash:


08-14-2009, 06:07 PM
Another good notation software (with midi playback) is Personal Composer. I've used it for most of my charts for a long time. There are quite a few clefs, 3 treble clefs, 3 F clefs, 4-5 C clefs.

Band in a Box is also a good tool, it's made to create play-alongs, but you can easily transpose your songs. Note by note entry is awkward, but entering chords is super-easy.

Transposing is kind of a brain-teaser, but you can get used to it. What I do is memorize some reference points (for example, if you have music written for Eb instruments, all the A's are really C's). Then it's not too hard to figure out the odd notes in between.

Here's a quick guide:

Bb instruments to Concert - down 2 or up 10
Eb instruments to Concert - up 3 or down 9
F instruments to Concert - down 7 or up 5

Make yourself a chart showing the 12 notes for each transposition, then you can use it when you're stuck. And you can go in the other direction if you want to, say, make a chart for a clarinet player. Something like this:

C = Bb Eb F
B = A E E
Bb = C F Eb


Then learn which instruments are Bb, Eb, F , or other. Clarinets and Saxes are either Bb or Eb, French Horn is F, English Horn is F, etc.

What you really need, that you can't get from software packages, is knowledge of the ranges and transposition of all the instruments on your scores. I have a great book by Tom Bruner called "Basic Concepts of Arranging and Orchestrating Music" (http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Concepts-Arranging-Orchestrating-Music/dp/087166514X?tag=dogpile-20) (published by Mel Bay). It gives this info for every instrument imaginable. It also gives simple guidelines for arranging, but it leaves most of that to your taste.

There's no substitute for sitting down and charting it all out.