If a score is written in say the the key of A, should I transpose my keyboard to the same?


I assume you are talking about a transpose button? If so, no, you shouldn't transpose the keyboard. You use the transpose button when you want to play the music in one key, but hear it in a different (higher or lower) key.

In your case, you want to play it in A, and hear it in A as well. So, you leave the keyboard in its default nontransposed state.

Sometimes people use the transpose button to make a song easier to sing, or to play along with guitars that are using non-standard tuning. If you're just starting out, you probably don't need to worry about it for a while. In fact, you may never use it.


If a piece is written in A, then it is normally played in that key on any instrument that is not a transposing instrument. If, for example, the piece in concert A is to be played on trumpet - a transposing instrument - then the trumpet part will be written in B to compensate. For the record - a keyboard is not officially a transposing instrument, even though it has that magic button!

But on keys, it'll be written in the played key. If the player prefers to, or only plays in, say, C (all the white keys - it happens!), then they'll hit the transpose button to move to where C sounds like A. But if it's written music, you won't be hitting the transpose button, unless you want a good challenge to read in one key, and play in another. It's good fun, relieves boredom sometimes, and is darned hard work...

  • I was thinking that the transpose button is a little bit like a capo, except that I can think of good reasons to use a capo. I couldn't think of any good reason for a transpose button, but as you point out, it might make for an excellent exercise to really make you focus and think while you play.
    – ex nihilo
    Apr 16 '18 at 14:41
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    @DavidBowling - capo does a similar job - a player only knows a song using certain shapes, but it needs transposing. Not good to take a key down though... Another use is to retain that 'open string ring'. Keyboard transpose is good for someone who only plays 'in C', or to transpose a learned song that's tricky in another key, physically. Occasionally, in a stream of songs in the same key, I transpose so I'm playing in a different key, for greater inspiration.
    – Tim
    Apr 16 '18 at 15:22
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    A capo enables some guitar-specific licks using open strings to be played in different keys. This would only be a very minor consideration on keyboard. Apr 27 '18 at 20:34
  • @LaurencePayne - if one prefers a specific fingering for something on a keyboard - think something in Ab, and it needs to be played in concert A, then to obviate changing everything, the transpose button will work very similarly to the way a capo does. If it's in major or minor is irrelevant!
    – Tim
    Apr 27 '18 at 20:47
  • Yup. But it's generally a preference, not an enabling. Let's now see if someone picks your 'minor' gag up literally :-) Apr 27 '18 at 21:18

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