I have a small doubt in melody writing of grade 8 standard. The given question is:

Write a 12 bar melody for Clarinet in Bb using the notes of D Mixolydian Mode in written pitch rather than sounding pitch.

My question is: should I write the melody by transposing it a Major 2nd above (i.e. use the notes of E Mixolydian Mode in the case of Clarinet in Bb) to make it sound as D Mixolydian Mode, or just write it as it is?

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    The answer to your question is found in this clause of the assignment: "using the notes of D Mixolydian Mode in written pitch rather than sounding pitch."
    – phoog
    Oct 27, 2022 at 20:27
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    @phoog I think this question exists because it’s not clear how that clause answers the question. I also don’t see how that clause answers the question. To me it’s ambiguous whether the question is looking for music that sounds like it’s in D mixo or looks like it’s in D mixo. Oct 27, 2022 at 21:09
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    @ToddWilcox I think it would be quite weird to have an assignment demand you to notate transposing, but then specify the key already transposed. This kind of makes the demand for transposing notation futile. So I presume it’s the first one ...
    – Lazy
    Oct 27, 2022 at 21:36
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    @Lazy - My natural assumption is actually the second one, not the first one - sounding pitch is (or at least should be) the same as concert pitch. Since they don't want concert pitch, all I can assume is that the assignment wants written D mixolydian, which will be sounding/concert C mixolydian.
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 28, 2022 at 3:18
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    @phoog I play clarinet (and French horn) so I understand transposition quite well. In your last comment you added [not sounding as D mixolydian] to a quote and to me that’s making an assumption that isn’t clear. I don’t find it to be unambiguously worded and it’s not because I’m ignorant of any aspect of music or the English language that’s relevant. It’s because my brain and interpretation are different from yours. You seem feel like the assignment is worded clearly, which is totally understandable and valid. I and the asker are not so sure, and I believe our view is also valid. Oct 29, 2022 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


This is why commas matter. (That, and saving Grandma from cannibalism in the sentence "Let's eat, Grandma!") If the instructions were:

Write a 12 bar melody for Clarinet in Bb , using the notes of D Mixolydian Mode , in written pitch rather than sounding pitch

... then it would be clear[er] that you were to write something that "sounds like" D mixolydian, but to notate in transposition rather than concert pitch.

As Lazy notes, it would be odd for them to request something that is written in D but sounds in C, so that option is unlikely—but it's so unclear that we can't be sure. If you have any way to ask for clarification, you should; the instructions would probably confuse all other test-takers too.

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    Oh, that's how it happened... Poor grandma...
    – Tom
    Oct 27, 2022 at 22:20
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    I actually don't find it odd at all for them to request something written in D but sounding in C when they explicitly want "the notes of D Mixolydian Mode in written pitch", not sounding pitch or concert pitch. I'd only expect to need to transpose the written notes to E Mixolydian if the instructions were to use sounding pitch or concert pitch D Mixolydian instead.
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 28, 2022 at 3:24
  • Thank You @Andy Bonner. Yeah I have raised my question to the board so that it won't be problematic for the other test takers too !
    – SRIRAM M
    Oct 29, 2022 at 18:34

I had to read it a couple of times, but given that it's for B♭ clarinet (a transposing instrument), then written would have to be D Mixolydian (key sig. 1♯).

If it was written in D Mixolydian, then it would sound in C Mixolydian. Not a well phrased question, particularly at grade VIII. In fact, if it's in a trial paper, I'd be contacting the board about the anomaly - it's really a grammatical or punctuation problem.

  • Thank You @Tim. I prefer your answer to be right. Still for further confirmation, as you told, I have raised this question to the board to solve this problem. Anyways thanks for your time !
    – SRIRAM M
    Oct 29, 2022 at 18:36

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