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I'm trying to learn piano/keyboard by playing simple music that I like, but some sheet music has notes that I cannot play because they're out of reach for my keyboard with 61 keys. I tried transposing some of them, but the issue still arises in some cases. I want to know how I can adapt sheet music so I can work around this issue until I have more money to invest in a keyboard with more keys.

Edit: The sheet in music in question is https://musescore.com/user/2466621/scores/5022717

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    Can you post an example of the impossible situation? I thought along the lines of ElementsInSpace's answer. "Simple" music that can't fit the range after some octave transposing? I wonder what the score looks like. Aug 30, 2022 at 17:27

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There is really no blanket solution for this. Each piece will present its own issues and challenges. The most effective solution will involve transposing segments that go beyond the keyboard’s range an octave lower for the right hand and an octave higher for the left hand. This has to be done in a logical way, not by simply transposing a note when it goes beyond the range but preferably by transposing entire phrases in order to maintain the shapes of the lines and the musicality of the piece. There may be instances where if only a single note or two are beyond the keyboard’s range you might get away with transposing those individually. Bottom line, experiment and let your ears tell you what sounds good and what doesn’t.

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A 61-key keyboard has a range of 5 octaves plus 1 note, which is only 2 octaves (and a bit) short of a full 88-key keyboard, and enough for most pieces of music.

Range of a 61-key keyboard on grand staff

If you just need to shift the range, say add an extra octave in the bass (at the expense of the treble), then the easiest thing to do will be to use the transpose function on the keyboard. Most keyboards have a transpose function that shifts the sounds of the keys up or down by up to an octave (or possibly two).

However, if your sheet music has very high notes and very low notes, you'll need to transpose one of the parts (one of the voices/hands) up or down an octave so that it fits into the 5 octave range. (It's possible that you only need to transpose some phrases of the music.)

If that doesn't work you could try transposing the sheet music to a different key, and then try some of the techniques above. But it's hard to be specific without seeing the actual music you are working with.


Update:

Thank you for linking to the score you are working with — it certainly makes it easier to see the specific problem.

That particular arrangement has lots of areas that would require special attention to make it playable on a 61-key keyboard. I would suggest looking for a different arrangement as a starting point.

This arrangement by Hector Duran (also on MuseScore) is a bit simpler. (It's not a perfect arrangement, the last line (mm. 56-60) seem to have an engraving mistake, but that's rather trivial to fix.)

A quick glance tells me that in Hector's arrangement there is only one note (an A1 in m. 13) that would be below the standard 61-key keyboard range. However this is a very significant note in the piece. I'd suggest replacing this note with an octave "chord" an octave above what is written (A2 & A3 simultaneously), and to play it with an accent.

Alternately, if you can use the octave shift/transpose function, there'd be only one note (an E6 in m. 17-18) above the range. I'd suggest you play this note as well as the preceding note an octave below (as an E5, as an E4 respectively).

If you really prefer the Torby Brand arrangement, it would be a good idea to compare these two and the original (and other) arrangements closely — and see how the various arrangers have handled the various passages.

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Adding to the two helpful answers already. Use of the octave shift will get you out of a lot of the problems, better than trying to play in a different key!

When you encounter a piece with very high and very low notes at the same time, there's only a few options. Play either the l.h. up an octave from that written, or play the r.h. down an octave from that written. Or, find another piece! Those are, I'm afraid, your only options until you get an 88. They won't sound too bad, and it's easy to try each out for appraisal. Of course, if you're recording the piece, you can stop and switch whenever you need to, but playing live, that's it.

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    Yeah, it makes much more sense to use the octave shift function (rather than the transpose function), if you have one of those. Aug 30, 2022 at 7:49
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If I may borrow @Elements in Space's picture...

If you're reading two-handed piano music, I think the main place you'll run out of notes will be at the bottom end. If the left hand plays in octaves, just play the top note. If a single note goes below C, play it an octave higher. You'll probably be OK at the top end.

The octave shift switch isn't going to help much when playing wide-ranging music. You can't KEEP switching it in and out, and anyway you're quite likely to need both high and low notes at the same time.

Though you might find that shifting down an octave gives a more useful range. When using my ultra-portable 61-noter for gigs where transport is an issue I sometimes do this, but usually revert to 'correct' pitch. It's actually quite hard to play fluently when you press the right keys but the wrong pitches come out!

The thing to remember is that on 61 keys you can play a lot of music, but you can't play PIANO music, with it's octave-reinforced bass lines, high melodic flourishes etc. You can play 'songs'. You can't play Chopin.

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If using the octave shift button on the keyboard isn't enough, then the chances are you have chords in the left hand with very low notes.

Try leaving the melody the same, but switching the chords for something you can play. You would try to find higher and/or more compact chords that contain the same notes as the written ones. So if it's a C chord with C's E's and G's, find another one higher up that's also the same 3 notes.

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