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Often, I'll come across music with notes that exceed my range. Typically, I will just octave the phrase down, and that usually sounds fine. Recently, I've come across a run, in which if I were to octave it down so I could play it properly, the lower end would go below trumpet range (below a concert e). Short of improving my range (which I am working on), what is the best way to octave down so that it is playable and still sounds good? The highest I can consistently play is the A just above the staff.

An example I have found in sheet music is an f minor blues scale going down two octaves to middle f.

I couldnt manage to upload a picture of the sheet music so I did my best to recreate the run I want to be able to play

Music notes on a staff

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    As a clarification, you're dealing with an f minor blues scale that starts on the f above the staff and descends to the f on the first space in the staff? Also, what is currently the comfortable top of your range?
    – Aaron
    Mar 31, 2022 at 16:25
  • Yes. Currently the top of my consistent range is the A just above the staff. Mar 31, 2022 at 16:26
  • Is it just an exercise, or part of an actual composition you want to play? Mar 31, 2022 at 17:26
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    If we're dealing with the run, what's its highest note? If we're dealing with the f minor blues scale, you could transpose it down an octave: it would then be within your range. But it would sound brighter and more like the original if you were to transpose it down a minor 6th, so that the highest note would be your top A (just above the staff) and the lowest the A below the staff. Mar 31, 2022 at 18:14
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    Having the notation for the written run will get you the best answers, otherwise it’s a guessing game as there are different ways of handling something like this. Mar 31, 2022 at 20:52

4 Answers 4

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My short and obviously subjective suggestion is to move the first measure octave down. The pause at the beginning of the second measure makes a decent break point. Then both first and the second measure start on the same note (F), which legitimizes the whole structure.

An alternative could be to compose a different version of this (or another) measure which follows the rhythm and shape of the original melody, outlines the same harmony, but moves in appropriately reduced range. In an improvised genre like blues changing some notes of the melody can be acceptable.

Speaking more generally, if the notes fall outside of the range of the soloist, a common solution is to change the key. Vocalists do it routinely. Also jazz/blues musicians often transpose music fluently.

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In general if you are taking something down (or up) an octave because it's out of your range, you'll want to switch to the the correct octave as soon as practical after the notes go into your range. You need to consider musical aspects to choose the exact point. Good places to jump are:

  • at a bar line
  • at a new phrase, or a break within a phrase
  • after a rest
  • where the line jumps downwards (to minimise the jump up)

If your range goes to A, then, for this example, a couple of obvious places to jump are:

  • after the second quarter of measure 1
  • after the fourth quarter of M1

There are several places after that, that make musical sense (e.g after the second quarter of M3), but they put you in your lower range for too long.

In the end it's your decision. Do whatever you think works best for you.

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Keep the shape of each phrase or sub-phrase as far as possible. In your example I think it would be effective to break the octave-down transposition at any of the first three rests. My preference would be for the second one.

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I think the best move is to play only the first 4 notes down the octave. The C up to Ab is a good place to jump up and is the most musical way to play that phrase IMO. Frankly I think the line has a better shape overall that way. It also puts the descending line from the Ab to the C in the staff in a logical place. Try it and see what you think.

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