I'm trying to transpose a simple piece, like "Bicycle", so the melody is repeated over 4 octaves. Let me explain this for the first note only. The top and bottom notes are defined (can't be changed) as:

  • Highest note: D6
  • Lower octave duplication at D3 is (-3 octaves) from the original D6

Now, I need to place a note exactly in the middle. I chose:

  • The A4 is (-1 octave, -5 semitones) from the original D6

I want them to be equally spaced.. so I don't want the A4 to become D4 or D5.

There's something dissonant about it this way though. I can't quite put my finger on it. Is there a better/more harmonious way to repeat a melody over 4 octaves (and not just using octaves all 'round)?


Here's the piano roll, so you can see the notes. This is the first couple of bars of "Bicycle"bicycle

  • 3
    I think this question is actually about arranging, not transposing...
    – NReilingh
    Aug 20, 2012 at 3:56

3 Answers 3


As you have observed, parallel 5ths are not particularly musical. In fact, in the first semester of Theory I, everyone learns the important rule of harmonizing a melody and bassline: "NO PARALLEL 5ths!" In fact, I give you not one, not two, but three different memes (that I did not make) that detail this. (This page has some much more useful images.)

You need to decide if you are simply spreading the melody out over four octaves, or if you are harmonizing. Unless we get into the really complicated field of manipulating the overtone series, harmonizing is the only situation where you will add notes different from the melody note. So, if we are only spreading the melody out over four octaves, than if the melody note is a D, there should be only Ds being played at that time.

If you are looking to actually harmonize across four different octaves (such that there is more than one note/pitch class being played at one time), the thought process will be much more involved. You will need to start with a melody and chord changes, then write a bassline and parts within the 4 octaves so that they match the chord changes and good practices of voice leading and part-writing.

If this doesn't seem to make sense, chances are we will need some more context as to what the intended use case is for this.

  • OP didn't say they're making some classical era style piece though. Parallel fifths can be used to enchanting effects, as demonstrated by Debussy, Ravel, and the likes.
    – Divide1918
    Mar 20 at 18:45
  • @Divide1918 I agree with this! Harmony is still harmony though, and if OP doesn’t like what they came up with, this could be why.
    – NReilingh
    Mar 21 at 19:53

I'd approach this as an application of counterpoint, where it's not always desirable to have the intermediate voices be a 5th above the bass. In strict counterpoint, you would typically construct parallel voices with a separation of a 3rd or a 6th up from the bass, this may fill out the harmony better than a 5th. This is in addition to the the answer already made by @Rene Marcelo.


Focus on the main downbeats of your melody. The rest you might have to turn into transition-focused points of your melody.

To Reiterate: Yea, ok, A4, that's fine, but you will need to give something up, so focus on the important notes of your melody.

  • Downbeats

  • Longer-held notes (those with more duration)

Hope this catches the point of your question.

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