First of all,

-Tone := T

-Semi-Tone:= ST.

Suppose you have the well know C major scale pattern:


Well, this is just one example of what we can do in music: creation of scale patterns. The creation of the scale itself, can be motivated by any sorts of influences.

Now, suppose you have the song "X" and you know that the melody of this song is composed by:

D1 A1 C#1 D2 A1 C#1 D2 A2

Given this melody, you create a pattern which is just the distance between the notes of the melody:

T 3.5T 2T ST -2.5T 2T ST 3.5T

My question is: knowing that the song "X" is in D; if you use the pattern created, but starting in key A1, it will be plagiarism? Because, the whole melody will change but will be alike.

  • 1
    I'm still a little confused. Are you trying to transpose the melody in key A1? Maybe this might help? magroove.com/blog/en-us/music-plagiarism
    – user87626
    Jul 19, 2022 at 9:30
  • @user87626 So in other word there's no real standard as to what constitutes plagiarism and a judge can decide on the "I know it when I see it" basis?
    – haxor789
    Jul 19, 2022 at 12:53
  • 2
    @haxor789 - As far as I've read, chord progressions cannot be copyrighted. (This would explain how pretty much every jazz contrafact in existence hasn't been banhammered out of the music-listening world yet, including of the rhythm changes.) Rhythm seems dicey, but I think plagiarism and copyright infringement accusations mainly stem from melody similarities. Complicating things is that you can apparently quote public-domain melodies and publish those in "your own composition" without crediting them.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 19, 2022 at 16:48
  • @haxor789 No, I didn't write the law. I didn't decide the rules. I just found the website helpful.
    – user87626
    Jul 19, 2022 at 21:57

2 Answers 2



You've described transposition — moving to a new pitch level but keeping the note relationships the same — which by itself is fine. Whether it's plagiarism (or, more likely, a copyright violation) depends on what you do with it.

Whether or not it's plagiarism (or, more accurately I think, a copyright violation) depends on what you're doing with your "new" scale.

If you're simply transposing a song to a new key, that's fine (presuming you have the right to arrange or perform the song). But if you're composing a new song of your own, then simply transposing an existing melody is not sufficient. In that case, you would be "plagiarizing" someone else's music.

But even in that case, there is grey area. For example, Weird Al Yankovic routinely "plagiarizes" other musician's songs. But since his music is parody, it's not considered plagiarism. (Also, Weird Al makes a point of getting permission from the original composer.)

Consider the example of publishing a research paper. If you lift material directly from someone else's research and credit them, that's considered normal research (within limits, of course). But if you don't credit them, it's plagiarism.

So, what you're describing — moving a song intervalically to a new pitch level — is simply transposition. What you do with it could be plagiarism.


It's not plagiarism, it's transposition. What's happened is that the melody has been moved in its entirety into a different key. That could have happened in 11 different places (keys) with any melody. The melody stays exactly the same, but is either (or both) higher and/or lower than the original.

It happens quite a lot in music, often due to a vocalist wanting to sing 'in a different key', but also to make it easier for a particular instrument to play or reach the notes involved.

All that, if I've understood the question correctly...

  • Thank you. Acctually, my question was "dumb". I mean, I have all the coordinates of the notes (the melody) and the just shift throughout the keyboard.
    – M.N.Raia
    Jul 19, 2022 at 10:07
  • Give others a chance to answer - there may be a better one coming up from somewhere in the world that hasn't woken up yet !
    – Tim
    Jul 19, 2022 at 10:48
  • you'll probably would like to see my other question haha: music.stackexchange.com/questions/123926/…
    – M.N.Raia
    Jul 19, 2022 at 10:54
  • @Tim Where is the difference between transposition and plagiarism, like if you'd release a transposed version as your own creation you'd probably still be struck with plagiarism because it's essentially the same thing and without perfect pitch or absurdly large transposing jumps you might not even hear a substantial difference.
    – haxor789
    Jul 19, 2022 at 12:55
  • @haxor789 - we all transpose from time to time. If that was all one did to a piece of music, and then published it, in any form whatsoever, that would be plagiarism.
    – Tim
    Jul 19, 2022 at 14:37

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