I am currently trying to transpose some notes from singing to the cello.

The Cello uses the bass clef, and because it is one of the many instruments which also uses concert pitch as stated in this article,

...Cello, etc. all play in concert pitch.

I thought I would just change the clef and be done, however, two things happened:

  1. The single flat I had (because the singing was written in D-Minor/F-Major) changed position from the middle line to the second-lowest line.

  2. All the notes jumped almost two octaves up.

Is there a reasonable way to deal with this?


I forgot to mention that I use Logic Pro for the writing and transposition of these notes.

  • What's your source?
    – phoog
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:24
  • @phoog for what?
    – gurkensaas
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:24
  • For the music you want to write for cello.
    – phoog
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:27
  • @phoog I got it from a teacher who probably got it from the internet. I had to manually write it into my music writing software.
    – gurkensaas
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:29
  • I mean is the source music notation or audio?
    – phoog
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:38

2 Answers 2


Uh, that is the reasonable way to deal with it. What do you think the clef indicates? In violin clef, middle C (C4) is on the first ledger line below the system. In bass clef, it is on the first ledger line above the system. If you want to keep pitch, the change you describe is exactly what needs to be done.

There may be one thing you are possibly confused about: a tenor voice tends to be written in octavated treble clef (in modern notation, there is a tiny 8 below the clef indicating this, but in scores from about 19th to early 20th century, it may be missing, going even earlier you get entirely different clefs). In that case, going to bass clef does not imply "almost jumping two octaves" but only "almost jumping one octave".

The cello tends to be more in the range of a male voice (or below), or at least its timbre tends to be more in the male character, sort of low baritone. So if you are giving it a singing part, it will usually be from a male voice. If you already had a proper bass part, the clef would already be as expected. A tenor part may need the "almost jumping one octave" treatment.

  • The practice of writing tenor parts in treble clef began in the 19th century.
    – phoog
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:25
  • 1
    I was just scared because when I showed the notes, that came out, to the cellist, they told me that the notes were impossible to play on cello. I guess I will have to lower it an octave
    – gurkensaas
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:27
  • 1
    @gurkensaas just how good of a cellist was that, and what was their reasoning? Cellists can play at least two octaves above middle-C Sep 21, 2021 at 17:53
  • @CarlWitthoft I do not know about their skill, but I know that they play the cello for around 8 years.
    – gurkensaas
    Sep 21, 2021 at 17:55

A cello has an incredibly wide range. The general consensus is about 4 octaves from C2 to C6. This goes from the C two ledger lines below the bass clef staff to the C two ledger lines above the treble clef staff. It pretty much covers all vocal ranges. Now whether or not a given cellist can play the extreme upper register with skill, good tone and good intonation is another issue because the extreme upper register is what is most difficult to play. Most cellists of reasonable ability can at least play into the mid to upper treble clef inside the staff.

Now to address your question of how to reasonably deal with this, Logic will automatically transpose written material to the clef selected so the two things you mentioned that happened:

  1. The accidental for the key signature changing is normal because B in bass clef is one line lower than in treble clef.

  2. The notes did not transpose 2 octaves up but instead were represented in their actual location in bass clef based on the pitch of those same notes in treble clef. I assume there were lots of ledger lines.

When a cello is written in the upper register alternate clefs are used. The first option is tenor clef, where middle C is the second line from the top of the staff. The second option is using treble clef untransposed. Cellists are accustomed to reading all three clefs.

Here is an example (created in Logic) of the first 4 C’s on the cello in all three clefs for reference:

enter image description here

Changing clefs is easily accomplished in the score editor window of Logic by either using either the clefs in the part box (for temporary changes) or by opening the staff style window and selecting the desired clef on the left side of the chosen style.

You mentioned in comments possibly having to transpose the part down an octave for cello. You didn’t provide a reference but if the part is very high in the treble clef and beyond your cellist’s ability and you don’t mind it being played down an octave that is a good option. Still, use a clef that makes the part as easy to read as possible.

  • It doesn't have to sound amazing and I made three different versions where the cellist can pick which version they like most.
    – gurkensaas
    Sep 21, 2021 at 12:39

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