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I like to play my clarinet to backing tracks. Can all songs be transposed to Bb?

I ask this because there are songs I would like to play which I can't find clarinet sheet music for. Thanks

  • Another alternative might be finding a music player that will change the pitch (I use Transcribe!.) It will sound a bit odd, but it can work. The answers below are better in the long run though. – Duston Nov 14 at 15:49
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Yes, any music can be transposed into any key. The challenge is doing the transposition. You can learn to transpose either ahead of time or on the fly as you read music that has not already been transposed for you. That will open up your ability to play whatever you want on the clarinet.

I have seen a digital sheet music system a long time ago that offered transposition at the time of purchase. There are online music retailers who offer transposition.

I highly recommend learning to transpose yourself. At the very least, there are free music notation software packages that will transpose music for you once you have entered or scanned it in. Musescore is one such package. I believe Lilypond can also do transposition with simple markup, but Musescore is a lot more user friendly.

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Answering the question per se - yes, every song can be translated into sheet music in Bb. That would mean that you would be playing everything in Ab. However, you may mean can it be written in C, meaning you will play it actually in Bb concert, and there will be few # or b in the dots. Yes, again.

This may well mean that no-one will be able to sing along, as the key may be so far from the original, and out of a normal range - whatever that is!

As Todd says - learn to transcribe yourself, it's not difficult - and better still, learn to transpose at sight, so if something is written in, say, D, and you want it to come out sounding the same as if it was played on piano, you'd imagine it was written in E, so effectively you'd 'untranspose' it.

Failing all that, which will take time, but make you a far better player and musician, look for music written for the Bb trumpet, which will effectively be the same as for clarinet - transposed, and near the same range. A note (!) here - when I was learning trumpet, I did what I suggested, and could read in the 'wrong' key - taking ordinary music up a tone, in order to play along with others, using the same dots. A useful trick.

Failing all that, there are many sites which give the option of printing out music in whatever key you prefer - for a small price.

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Any song could be transposed to any key though it might take it out of the singer's comfortable range.

However, I suspect that is not what you intend to ask. I suspect that you mean, leave it alone for the others but you transpose. In which case, you need to play one tone higher. If the others are in Bb then you would be in C, if the others are in C then you would be in D, etc. You will have 2 fewer flats or 2 more sharps. If the others are in E then you will be in the awkward key of F#. To avoid this you could buy an A clarinet.

You coild transpose in advance and write out your part in the new key but, if you are serious about playing the clarinet, it is worth learning to transpose on sight. E.g. read C but play D, read D but play E, read E but play F#, etc.

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