I'm currently doing homework from this textbook (Unfortunately, I don't have the name of the book), where there are these exercises:

Write the following scales in (treble/bass/tenor/alto) clef, ascending and descending. Use (accidentals/key signature) and mark the semitones with slurs:

  1. E major, from (dominant/mediant/supertonic/etc.) to (dominant/mediant/supertonic/etc.)


I don't have a lot of trouble doing the exercises in treble and bass clef and whenever using key signature, but - when it comes to writing in accidentals, in tenor/alto clef, or from [degree] to [degree], that's when I have frustrations.

Are there any tips for me to speed up writing these exercises? Is this like the multiplication table where I should just disregard trying to understand it, but just rote memorization?

For tenor/alto clef, I think I have to go with that route (rote memorization). After all, that's how I learned treble and bass clef - just do it a lot until you know where the notes are on those clefs.

For remembering key signature and accidentals, I could either derive them from the circle of fifths (for keysig) or remember the position of the keys on the keyboard (for accidentals). This is slow at the moment and when a key isn't in my memory, I have to walk through the keyboard in my head along with the "tone-tone-semitone-...".

Additionally, how should I sing/hum out (either out loud or in my head) the scales when I write them down? I could sing out the absolute note names "see-dee-ee-eff..." with pitches, or solfege "do-re-mi...". I thought that having "do" always corresponding to the tonic would be helpful in writing different modes and keys, but my history of fixed solfege is making this change really difficult.

Thank you,

Note: I don't know which search terms to query when it comes to this kind of general question. Please leave me with another StackExchange link if this question had been asked before.

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    The transition from fixed do to moveable isn't easy. As I've found the other way. However, once you have established the other 'language', it's worth doing that transition. The 'absolute' usage of letter names (including the # and b) wil probably be the best route, as it is - absolute. So, assuming knowledge of key sigs. etc, go that way. The notes that need # or b will show on any stave at all. – Tim Jul 26 at 18:31
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    Rote memorization has been shown by cognitive researchers to be a critical aspect of learning, so it can be the best solution to getting started. Eventually we tend to transcend the memorized facts and learn to understand more deeply, but often that deeper understanding only comes after we do the memorization. – Todd Wilcox Jul 26 at 19:56
  • Diese Frage hängt mit einigen anderen zum Lesen von Bässen und Tenorschlüsseln zusammen. Sie finden dort gute Antworten. Just look up: how to read the different clefs. – Albrecht Hügli Nov 4 at 18:19

The badest mistake that people make is that they try to transpose when they read/write different clefs! As you have learnt to read the Bass clef you should be able to make the transfer recognition that the ledger line between treble and bass clef id the line of c‘. And this ledger lines becomes now the C-line in the tenor and alto clef. If you have checked this out the orientation will be quite easy! s. my answer here:

How can I learn to read bass clef score more naturally?

E.g. the triad c,e,g of c’ is on lines, also the triad c‘,a,f downwards. Don‘t memorize the single tones, learn to read and notate triads and find out the relationship of the tetrachords of different keys, the position of the sharps and flats. (leading tones).

I always recommend to train the do re mi but in your case it will make more sense to practice the abc. In German we add the ending -is to F#. You might invent your own style of singing the altered tones. When you write use the abc adding sharp or flat. When you sing you can use the dore mi or abc.


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