So I figured that The Four Seasons might be easier to transcribe than The Nutcracker Suite (fewer lines, only real difficulty reading it is I have to translate between alto clef and treble clef because I never learned the alto clef without it being relative to treble clef). I am arranging it for piano and flute. Yes, I know there are piano transcriptions and flute transcriptions of the piece but I can't find any that have both piano and flute. All the piano + other instrument ones I see have string instruments. I have the flute playing the top line. I have the left hand playing the bottom line in octaves. This leaves me with 2 lines for the right hand because the first violins are doubling the solo violin. The second violin line and the viola line. But I am running into difficulties here, namely a 10th interval. I want to make sure it is playable even for pianists with small hands for which reaching a 9th is uncomfortable but possible but reaching a 10th is not possible.

So now what do I do? Do I take the lower note and bring it up an octave? Do I take the higher note and bring it down an octave? Do I find another interval within the chord in between the 2 notes and transcribe that?

Fortunately, it looks like the 10th only occurs twice in the phrase I am currently transcribing(the very first phrase in Spring). Here is the sheet music I am transcribing:

Spring from The Four Seasons Sheet Music

So what do I do about that 10th interval since I can't play a 10th interval without arpeggiation and this 10th interval is harmonic, not melodic?

  • Depending on your needs, you can also use (as starting point) a transcription that uses an instrument with similar tessitura, like violin or even trumpet
    – Josí Neto
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 4:55

2 Answers 2


This occurs all the time when you transcribe a piece for a different set of instruments. You need to make some arranging decisions.

As I understand, you've followed some pretty simple rules to come up with your current transcription. That's a good place to start, but you'll run into exactly the kind of problem that we have here.

There's a few broad options:

  • Omit notes entirely. Is it noticeable? How does it affect the piece? You may need to simplify anyway to allow less-advanced pianists to play the piece. It is worth observing that the original is written as a set of independent melodies, not necessarily as stacked chords. Omitting notes may cause these lines to be lost. Which might be acceptable.
  • Change the octave. Similar to the above. It will change the intervals between notes, which may be a problem. Depends what it sounds like.
  • Distribute the notes across the hands differently. Does the left hand really need to double the cello part in octaves? Can you distribute a few viola notes in there instead?
  • Use the flute differently in that section. Probably not workable in the first line, but you might want to swap it to a different line later on, for variety. Depends what it sounds like, of course
  • Rewrite the parts more substantially. Make each part suited to the target instrument, rather than trying to emulate a string section. Easy to say, hard to do. Experience will help here.

This is not exhaustive, and there's no "right" way to do this. It depends on what effect you want to achieve. It's not going to sound exactly like the original, but that's fine. You need to decide how to use the resources you have (a flute and a piano) to convey these musical ideas.

Also note that the first violin doesn't always double the solo, particularly later in the piece. You might need to take that into account.

  • Yeah I did take that into account when I saw a section with the cello not playing so I changed the left hand from bass clef to treble clef there. Than I changed it back to bass clef when the next tutti section occured.
    – Caters
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 2:40

endorph has some pretty good suggestions already, but this is my take on how to deal with 10ths:

Listen to the original. Listen to multiple interpretations if possible. Maybe determine how to handle that 10th from how your favourite interpretation plays back that 10th.

For example, is one of the notes nearly inaudible? Then don't transcribe that note. Or drop/raise that note an octave to make it closer to the audible note.

Are both notes clearly audible, and does the music sound wrong if you leave one out? Then try leaving the 10th in but making sure it's arpeggiated.

And if none of the ways to handle the 10th sound quite accurate enough when you listen to your transcription again (i.e. even the arpeggio sounds wrong), it may be time to wave the white flag of surrender and leave the unbroken 10th in.

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