I want to learn how to write a score for transposing instruments as it will sound (in C). I have a vague idea of how to do this, like for example, you need to know the transposing intervals of the instruments, etc. But it would be great if I could get an example of how is this done.

If this question or anything similar to this topic has been previously answered, it would be helpful if someone could attach a link to the same below. Thanks.

  • Which app are you using to prepare the score? – Rosie F Oct 18 at 7:11
  • @RosieF I am not using an app for this. I want to learn this for music theory purposes, which needs it to be manually done. – Grace Oct 18 at 7:43
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    One major advantage of writing a score in C is that you don't have to worry about the transpositions. – PiedPiper Oct 18 at 12:19
  • @PiedPiper as in? – Grace Oct 18 at 14:43
  • @PiedPiper Like what did you mean when you said not to worry about the transpositions? – Grace Oct 18 at 14:46

B♭ Trumpet, for example, is called that because when the player sees a C note and plays it, a B♭ note comes out. So to compensate for this, a writer would have to write a note one whole tone above the note he wanted played. Thus, to get a B♭ trumpeter to play an actual C at concert pitch, he would write a D note.All B♭ instruments must have the dots written similarly.

All other transposing instruments will need writing for in simialr compensating ways.

E♭ sax players see a C written, and blow what comes out as a E♭.

Take a look at some orchestral scores - you'll see that on a page, several of the lines of music are written in different keys, to compensate.

  • So writing a score in C would mean to write the music for transposing instruments at written pitch, or the pitch the instrument would sound at? – Grace Oct 18 at 7:46
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    Write in written pitch. Not sounding pitch. – Tim Oct 18 at 7:48
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    E♭ sax players see an E♭ written, and blow what comes out as a C. ? – Albrecht Hügli Oct 18 at 8:33
  • @AlbrechtHügli - thanks. Just washed my hands - can't do a thing with them... – Tim Oct 18 at 9:00
  • happy to have found an typo too ;) – Albrecht Hügli Oct 18 at 9:04

Bb instruments are transposing a major second down (and + or -1 octaves or 2) Eb instruments are transposing a minor 3rd up or a major 6th down) F Horns are transposing a 4th up (respectively a 5th down)

To write the voices for transposing instruments you have transpose the notation of their voices by the same amount - of the intervals of their transposition - in the opposite direction (up or down).

Bb (transposing 1 major second down)

Transposing instruments -> notation Bb (major 2nd down) -> major 2nd up Eb (minor 3rd up) -> major 3rd down

examples: Bb trumpet plays C -> sound = Bb but writing D -> trumpet reads D -> plays D -> sound = C

Eb Horn plays C -> Eb however notation A -> horn reads -> sound = C

The key and signatures are also the same amount of the interval in the opposite direction of C:

Bb-instruments have 2 # more than concert picht (respectively 2 naturals less)

Eb-instruments have 3 # more than concert pitch and 1 sharp more than Bb instruments.


Mind that some musicians with transposing instruments read and play concert pitch in G or F clef by transposing themselves. You have to know what your musicians are reading, e.g. tenor and bass instruments as Euphonium or Trombones.

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    I'm in awe of trombone players, who can read just about anything. – Tim Oct 18 at 9:01
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    so you can be in awe of me too! ;) the point of this is: thinking in movable Do ... but this would be limited in 12 tone music. :) – Albrecht Hügli Oct 18 at 9:08
  • Nice answer @AlbrechtHügli – Grace Oct 18 at 9:10
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    I think in terms of moveable do when reading for guitar, but that's mainly because the relative notes retain their shapes very well on that instrument. Can't see how it helps that much on any others. – Tim Oct 18 at 9:14

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