If I play sax alto or tenor and I have songs written in certain key that I learned for example F who in the band will need to change their key or I have to change to meet their sheet music? If I have to then I didn’t practice that song in different key what do I do? Thank you all for helping me.

So it’s a sheet of music a bossanova in F for my tenor sax and there is keyboard, drums, lead guitar, base guitar and Violin as well vocalist. So I learned my parts but in that key of F and since I’m beginner I have real hard time to play same song in different key right away. Should I ask them to change the key for their instruments?

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    The saxophone is a transposing instrument, could this be the solution to your problem?
    – Lazy
    Commented Feb 9 at 14:01
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    This can depend on the genre/type of music, the kind of band, what your role is in the band, etc. Can you add more detail? At least what kind of music. Also, are you learning from sheet music or by ear? Commented Feb 9 at 16:12
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    Hi! I think there's a solution here, but we need more information. Please use the "edit" button to add: What other instruments are in this band (like, a school band with clarinets and horns, or a rock band with guitars?), and what sheet music are you working with—do you have a saxophone part, and do they have parts meant for their instruments? I'm voting to close for now, but I can retract that vote when all the info is there. Commented Feb 9 at 16:52
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    You you mean you learned it, reading F, or playing at concert pitch F? Are any of the other instruments in the band transposing? Commented Feb 9 at 20:58

4 Answers 4


If I play sax alto or tenor and I have songs written in certain key that I learned for example F who in the band will need to change their key or I have to change to meet their sheet music?

In general, it depends on who cares more: you about playing with the band, or the band about playing with you.

For some instruments it is easier to transpose than for the others. This also depends on a specific instrument. For example, for a bass transposing by a fourth might be the easiest, while a singer may not be happy to move more than 1 or 2 semitones. But if the bassist is incapable of transposing, and it is the only bassist in the town... then everyone else has to adjust.

If I have to then I didn’t practice that song in different key what do I do?

Practice. Prior experience with transposing certainly helps, so do practice. It's also certainly a skill that will help you to get along with other musicians.


This is largely a political question rather than a musical one! Either they change to accommodate you or you change to accommodate them. If you were a singer, you'd have a strong case for getting to choose the key to suit your voice. Sax, not so much!

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    If you're paying the band, they play in the key you tell them. If the band is playing you, you play in the key they give you. If this is a community band or other voluntary grouping, then yes it's a political / interpersonal matter to be resolved on an individual basis; a lot of it comes down to are they sufficiently keen to have you, rather than someone else, play with them?. Also this should have been sorted out right at the start of the process, rather than you arriving prepared in one key and them being ready in another. Commented Feb 11 at 13:35

Tenor sax in B♭ produces concert pitch one full step below. So, if you are reading F, the sax produces E♭.

Non-transposing instruments in the band, like keyboard or guitar... or voice, would play in E♭.

Any other transposing instruments in the band will depend on how they transpose.

E♭ alto sax would read C to match your reading F and produce E♭ concert pitch.

If there is a trumpet or clarinet, commonly both are B♭, they are the same as your tenor sax, and can be treated the same regarding transposition.

The basic idea is when a instrument transposes a pitch is given with the instrument name like "B♭ sax" or sax in "B♭", that pitch being the concert pitch, the pitch the instrument actual makes, when you read a notated C. From that you can get the interval of transposition, compare with other instruments, and adjust which key each plays in until you all match concert pitch. This is how it works, but it could be helpful to find a cheatsheet of transposing instruments to make the task easier.


Most, if not all of the rest of the band (don't know line-up) will probably be playing at concert pitch. That is, if they're reading music - guitar, bass, k'bds, will read what's in front of them, and it'll come out at that same pitch.

You, on the other hand, have two different transposing instruments - alto in E♭ and tenor in B♭. if your charts are written for those instruments, then you simply play what's in front of you - being careful not to get them mixed up!

The dots will already have been compensated for in the charts.

However, if the whole band is working by ear, you'll have to compromise, and probably bow to the weakest player, who may find it more difficult to change key to be in sync. with the rest.

As user 1079505 suggests, it may all hinge on the vox, who may or may not be able to accommodate much of a change, meaning you'll likely have to play 'in a different key' from the band, and/or what's written.

A look at the line-up, and examples of several preferred keys would mean a more specific answer.

To try to be more exact, as in your question, on tenor, the music will be written out in a key one tone higher than everyone else plays. So, your song in key F will be written - for your tenor - in key G. But the rest of the band will need to play in key F to sound in tune. So, given that scenario, no-one needs to change anything.

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