My jazz band is playing a song called "It's About Swing," and I'm playing the flute for this song. However, there is not flute part written in the chart, so my band teacher gave me the bass part. (I believe it's the bass guitar) However, I don't know anything about the bass instrument, so how would I transpose the bass music to music that I can play for flute?

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    I would bet your teacher gave you the bass part through error. Ask. Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 19:01

2 Answers 2


The role of a bass, be it bass guitar or double bass - or even l.h. piano - particularly in swing, is quite defined. To play that same part on an instrument 2 octaves higher will not help the band much. Unless you're expected to be playing in unison with the existing bass, which would sound odd, as the bass plays pizz. while you won't on flute. Doubling up on sax or clarinet parts seems to make more sense. Although they will still need transposing from Bb or Eb. Just as bad as from bass to treble clef! But the main problem will be the balance of the harmonies - one end of the spectrum to the other. Check if that's actually what the bandleader wanted.


That only makes sense when you are playing bass recorder. Otherwise you'd have to transpose at least two octaves up and then the whole harmonic base that a bass voice is supposed to provide is gone. This can work so-so when playing Bach (though is still messes up the voice relations), but for Swing played in a band? One conceivable way would be to get the whole partitura, figure out the harmonic framework and overtone series and write a melodic part for the flute that covers those aspects of the bass-based harmonies that otherwise become ambiguous.

But that's an entirely ambitious feat. So you better get back to your band teacher and ask whether you were supposed to play the bass part. If you were, you'll have to transpose up by whole octaves until the voice matches the range of your flute. Check out how bass notes are written (basically, shift them up one whole staff line distance and exchange the bass clef for a violin clef, for a transposition by two octaves) and transpose by whole octaves.

But don't expect great results.

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