How can I transpose music written for one instrument to the other so they can be played together? ie same pitch

  • Aren't both instruments typically Bb instruments? Saxophones are sometimes Eb; are you trying to transpose music written for a Bb instrument to an Eb instrument or vice versa? – ex nihilo Dec 16 '18 at 4:49
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    Tell us what type of sax (alto or tenor) and what kind of clarinet (most common is Bb). – ghellquist Dec 16 '18 at 7:40

It depends on what sax and what clarinet you actually have. Most clarinets are Bb instruments. That means all the music is written a tone above what you read, so it comes out at concert pitch.

Saxes vary. Mainly because there are several: soprano, alto and tenor are the most used. Alto is an Eb instrument, so the music is written to automatically transpose to concert pitch. Tenor is Bb, as is soprano, the same as your clarinet probably is. Although the tenor plays in a lower range than the clarinet, the music is written in the treble clef, so you will be able to use that music while someone else plays from the same on the other instrument. Playing in unison has a limited life, though - it gets tedious quickly.

If it's an alto you play, then everything will come out a 5th/4th different.


While tenor and soprano saxophones are both in Bb like the clarinet, it is not possible for all clarinet music to be played on the saxophone. The clarinet has a much larger range than the saxophone. The saxophone is limited to just two-and-a-half octaves, while the clarinet can play over three octaves easily (excluding harmonics.) The soprano and tenor saxophones can play in the same key as the clarinet, but what part is given to each needs to be assessed according to range.

The alto saxophone can be transposed up a Perfect 5th from the clarinet music, which is a pretty easy transposition. However, range must be considered here as well. Simply transposing may put a piece out of range for the saxophone, so a key that works for the range of both instruments must be chosen. This may require transposing both parts.

Since the saxophone has the narrower range, I would suggest choosing a piece and a key that works well for the saxophone and making the clarinet part work around that.

  • This is generally correct. I'd just like to point out that some people do manage to get three octaves (or more) out of the saxophone- for instance, the soprano in this transcription of Vivaldi's Storm from the Four Seasons: youtube.com/watch?v=tCCCH3Uit14 – Scott Wallace Dec 17 '18 at 18:47
  • @ScottWallace, without harmonics? I do know harmonics can be used to extend the range, but kept things simple for the OP who has only been playing a couple of years. – Heather S. Dec 17 '18 at 22:34
  • You are quite right to keep things simple, because not every saxophonist will be able to play three octaves. But I'm not sure what you mean by "harmonics". Every note played on a saxophone past the first register is a harmonic, making most of its range harmonics. – Scott Wallace Dec 18 '18 at 11:30
  • @ScottWallace, yes that is true about the second register (also clarinet.0 – Heather S. Dec 18 '18 at 12:20
  • @ScottWallace, yes that is true about the second register (also clarinet.) But the standard fingering charts are based on the design of the instrument to easily produce those pitches. The extended range needs advanced technique of special fingerings and embouchure to achieve and may not be able to be produced on every saxophone. They are not built in to the design of the instrument, but are found by playing around with harmonics (thus why I have only always heard them called that). This the reason for so many alternate "possible" fingerings and why they cannot all be played on all saxophones. – Heather S. Dec 18 '18 at 12:26

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