please ! someone help me understand this.

I am writing a score for piano and tenor sax in C Major, simple.

Now, how do you write the music on the sheet for both instruments

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In this example, is the Sax player going to play his C ( Which is a concert Bb ) ? or does he/she has to transpose this note to the sax note in his/her head ?

Thanks, any hints or help is much appreciated.

  • It's ambiguous. I can easily opt to interpret all instruments as being in concert pitch notation, so the tenor sax part is in concert C Major and the sax player will have to do all the transposing themselves mentally.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 12:52
  • I think 'alto' needs removing from this question, as that requires a different answer.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


The whole point of transposing instruments is that they, well, transpose. A B♭ sax is so-called because when the player sees a note, and plays it, it comes out a tone below what is written.

In order to compensate for this, the music needs to be written one tone higher than what would be played. So in your case, for the sax player to produce a C note, you'd write a D.

  • Thank you @Tim, got it, ... following this train of thought ... if I want the Sax player to produce an E then I have to write a F#, so my following question is: should I just put the Sax pentagram in D Mayor instead of writing F# and C# (for the concert B) all over the place ?
    – juancho
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 13:39
  • Yes, that's what should happen. Piano in key C, sax in key D (written). Don't understand '(for the concert B)' bit.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 13:41
  • It is also customary to put the solo instrument line above the piano part. It is easier for the accompanist to follow the soloist's part this way.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 3:01
  • @HeatherS. - true - as opposed to the stave shown in the question.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 8:13
  • @Tim, I figured I would tag it onto your good answer, even though it didn't directly relate to the OP's question.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 12:12

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