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    Default Transposing Notes

    I have a tune that is in the key of A, but the jam that I attend prefer to play it in the key of G. I know how to transpose the chords using the Nashville numbering system, but I don't know how to transpose the notes for the melody. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

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    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    A to G. Lower all notes a whole step. (two frets)

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeb Williams View Post
    I have a tune that is in the key of A, but the jam that I attend prefer to play it in the key of G. I know how to transpose the chords using the Nashville numbering system, but I don't know how to transpose the notes for the melody. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
    Since you understand the NNS as it applies to chords it won’t be too difficult to apply it to the notes. For me it’s easier to take it one phrase at a time.
    Assign the same numbers to the scale tones as you do the chords for the keys of A and G.
    First identify the scale notes in the phrase and transpose those from A to G and then identify the notes that are not in A major (accidentals) as either flatted or sharpened notes. An example a Bb could be called either 1# or 2b. Transposed to G it would be G# or Ab.
    Once you identify the scale notes you might find the accidentals by ear. I hope this helpful.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeb Williams View Post
    I have a tune that is in the key of A, but the jam that I attend prefer to play it in the key of G. I know how to transpose the chords using the Nashville numbering system, but I don't know how to transpose the notes for the melody. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
    Buy this one, it takes most of the thinking out of transposing.

    Chords, notes and capo placement

    https://shubb.com/product/transposing-guide-tg1/

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Capo on the fifth fret and move everything one string towards the sky... if you’re playing octave mandolin.

    -then move the capo up one fret if your singer suddenly makes a decision at the last minute, and says, ‘I think Ab would be so much better.’
    No problem!!! Ha, ha!!!

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    If you have the whole tune figured out in A with no open strings, then move the whole thing down two frets. If the way you play it includes some open notes, then figure it out in a way that doesn't include them anymore. And then move the whole thing down two frets.

    You could always write it all out with letters, and then replace all the letters with letters that are a full step down. That is, if you feel like spending two hours doing that for a two minute tune. Or proceed as above.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    If you know your scales and play by ear, it won't take much to simply figure it out in G instead of A. It's a good practice and sometimes I just do it for fun.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    It is very good practice to transpose tunes/songs to other keys. You could start with a more familiar tune like twinkle twinkle little star or other common nursery rhymes or whatever you know. Then, when you are comfortable with those take the tune you want to transpose and do it, play the melody and listen, you will hear it and after you do it a few times it’ll be easier - probably take a few moments tops…or you can spend 2 hours with paper and pencil like JourneyBear said…
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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    If you know your scales and play by ear, it won't take much to simply figure it out in G instead of A. It's a good practice and sometimes I just do it for fun.
    This is great advice for a jam tune. I'd try it this way: play an A chord and sing the tune in A. Then play a G chord and sing the tune in G. Easy, no? Then find and play the notes you sang. And yeah, knowing your scales will help a lot.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Answers like “just figure it out” probably aren’t super helpful. The simplest thing is as suggested by another poster, move each note down two frets. You may need to move a note to another string, in which case remember that the 7th fret is the same as the open string above it.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    This may be cheating, but if this happens a lot...take a mandolin to the jam that's tuned down a full step F C G D low to high, then play the same fingerings as you regularly do? Some Scottish fiddlers who play with Highland pipes in Bb have another fiddle tuned a half step flat so they can play as if it's in A with all open strings.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    This may be cheating, but if this happens a lot...take a mandolin to the jam that's tuned down a full step F C G D low to high, then play the same fingerings as you regularly do? Some Scottish fiddlers who play with Highland pipes in Bb have another fiddle tuned a half step flat so they can play as if it's in A with all open strings.
    Well, I have tuned a mandolin down to the key of Bb (which is what you get when tuned FCGD) to read clarinet music duets.

    Many Cajun fiddlers tune down to play with C accordions using their fiddle D fingerings.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeb Williams View Post
    I have a tune that is in the key of A, but the jam that I attend prefer to play it in the key of G. I know how to transpose the chords using the Nashville numbering system, but I don't know how to transpose the notes for the melody. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
    A little more info about the tune and the instruments in the jam would be helpful.

    If it is a fiddler or singer that plays the key of A tune in the key of G then yes you'll likely need to adjust to them. However, if it is a guitarist or banjo player that plays the key of A tune in the key of G you could politely ask them to use capos to transpose their notes. This might help but sometimes people just play tunes in other keys than expected and you have to roll with it. Learning to transpose is a great skill to build. Good Luck!

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Well, I have tuned a mandolin down to the key of Bb (which is what you get when tuned FCGD) to read clarinet music duets.

    Many Cajun fiddlers tune down to play with C accordions using their fiddle D fingerings.
    So then, regular tuning puts a mandolin in C? Je ne comprends pas, monsieur! I don't believe the mandolin is truly in any one particular key, with the way it's tuned. I will say the bottom two strings help make playing in G pretty easy and natural, as the top two strings do the same for the key of A. And lord knows, fiddlers lean on that a lot.

    I've played a few gigs with a fiddler who would bring two fiddles to our gigs with the seasonal Cajun-country-bluegrass band, one tuned down a whole step, for the very reason you cited. There also is a friend of ours who brings two accordions for the same reason, one in each key. Apparently there's no such thing as an accordion capo.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    So then, regular tuning puts a mandolin in C? Je ne comprends pas, monsieur!
    I believe he meant that he wanted to play in "C Shapes". Like a reverse capoing trick to match the clarinet.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by hogansislander View Post
    Answers like “just figure it out” probably aren’t super helpful.
    Not sure if this was addressed to my post #9 above, but in case it was:

    How much "figuring out" does it take to sing Happy Birthday in Eb, or Jingle Bells in B? You know the tune and you just sing the right notes. When you really know your instrument, playing is no different from singing; you hear the sound you want in your mind and your fingers produce that sound. Good ear-players can move easily between keys without much thought.

    Start by getting the common major scales under your fingers, and then try playing all the easy songs you can think of in each key you're practicing. You may be surprised how quickly this becomes second nature.

    Just to be clear, I'm not talking here about transposing while sight-reading a tune you don't already know— that's a little more complicated process.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    This may be cheating, but if this happens a lot...take a mandolin to the jam that's tuned down a full step F C G D low to high, then play the same fingerings as you regularly do? Some Scottish fiddlers who play with Highland pipes in Bb have another fiddle tuned a half step flat so they can play as if it's in A with all open strings.

    "as if it's in A" ?????????? "all open strings" ?????????

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    A little more info about the tune and the instruments in the jam would be helpful.

    If it is a fiddler or singer that plays the key of A tune in the key of G then yes you'll likely need to adjust to them. However, if it is a guitarist or banjo player that plays the key of A tune in the key of G you could politely ask them to use capos to transpose their notes. This might help but sometimes people just play tunes in other keys than expected and you have to roll with it. Learning to transpose is a great skill to build. Good Luck!
    Yes, as usual, some relevant information is missing. Is it a song or an instrumental? If it's commonly done in A, what's the reason for moving it down a full step?

    On the other hand, if someone asked me to use a capo (on my guitar) to transpose a tune from G to A, I would promptly leave the jam (or whatever).

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    That would be cause to leave the jam? Why is this such a big deal? For that matter, the OP's issue. Am I missing something?
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    That would be cause to leave the jam? Why is this such a big deal? For that matter, the OP's issue. Am I missing something?
    -the assumption here is that we’re playing a mandolin (capo=cookey), rather than, for example, an octave mandolin (capo=cool).

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeb Williams View Post
    I have a tune that is in the key of A, but the jam that I attend prefer to play it in the key of G. I know how to transpose the chords using the Nashville numbering system, but I don't know how to transpose the notes for the melody. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
    I suppose Zeb is playing a mandolin and he says that his version of the tune is in A. His question is how to transpose the melody notes. That question has been answered here although I would find a version in G as another solution.

    Sessiun etiquette is another topic.
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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    another approach:

    jot down a G scale and an A scale, either right next to each other or right on top of each other:

    A B C# D E F# G# A
    G A B C D E F# G
    now number the scale degrees:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

    play the tune in A, identifying the scale degree of each note..."let's see, starts on C#, the 3rd degree of the scale..in G the 3rd is B.."...and on and on.

    technically you'd need to plot out the scales that happen in the chord progression as well. If your tune in A moves to a D chord, then your comparison of notes by scale degree would involve D major and C major:

    D E F# G A B C# D
    C D E F G A B C

    As you can see looking at things this way utilizes your experience with the (Nashville) numbering system. Jazz people have a numbering system for chords that works the same way, just uses Roman numerals instead of regular numbers, plus major and minor are noted by upper case=major, lower case=minor. Here's the harmonized C major scale, in both systems:

    C Dm Em F G(7) Am B(m7b5) C
    I ii iii IV V(7) vi vii(7b5) I
    1 2- 3- 4 5 6- 7-(7b5) 1 * the m7b5 chord is not used in Nashville so this number is an approximation..

    The idea here is to transpose the music, then find the notes on the mandolin. Use your mandolin for visual reference of course, as a pianist would look at the piano.
    But when you convert everything by number (intervals) you cultivate familiarity with intervals, key signatures, and even the sound and feeling of each interval. The beautiful thing is that the mandolin fretboard is symmetrical, which speeds the process of memorization right along. The fret pattern for a major scale for instance is the same no matter where you put it on the fretboard, as per the suggestion above to simply drop everything two frets from A and you'll be finding it in G...

    Keep it fun. The numbers are your friend. "Music Theory" is your friend. To be able to find all these things on the symmetrical fretboard of the greatest instrument in the world is a blessing.

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    I suppose Zeb is playing a mandolin and he says that his version of the tune is in A. His question is how to transpose the melody notes. That question has been answered here although I would find a version in G as another solution.
    Exactly. I think the problem I'm having here with this discussion is partly hidden in the OP. I don't understand how Zeb could understand the Nashville numbering system as it relates to chords but not melody notes - they go hand in hand.

    Don lays out a good, solid, in-depth approach to solving the problem. I'm not sure if writing stuff down is necessary, as one should be able to do this in one's mind, but if one is having trouble with the problem as described, enough so that one deems it necessary and dare I say wise to bring it to a forum populated by the likes of us then it may well be more vexing to the OP than I envision.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    The idea here is to transpose the music, then find the notes on the mandolin. Use your mandolin for visual reference of course, as a pianist would look at the piano.
    I think this is the crux of the biscuit, as the old philosopher once said. The fretboard is more than a tool; it's a visual aid. It should help you produce a mental image of a scale with the proper fingering locations. And this pattern, once envisioned, is easily moved around the "symmetrical fretboard of the greatest instrument in the world."

    But when you convert everything by number (intervals) you cultivate familiarity with intervals, key signatures, and even the sound and feeling of each interval. The beautiful thing is that the mandolin fretboard is symmetrical, which speeds the process of memorization right along. The fret pattern for a major scale for instance is the same no matter where you put it on the fretboard, as per the suggestion above to simply drop everything two frets from A and you'll be finding it in G...
    This further explores the methods by which a player can visualize transposing in one's mind, thereby enabling transposing in physical reality, ie, playing. These are pearls of wisdom being imparted by someone with great knowledge and experience, and I hope the OP can benefit from applying these suggestions.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Session etiquette is another topic.
    Boy howdy, yes it sure is and sure can be problematic - and may be part of the problem here. But let's see if we can help Zeb solve this matter without opening that can of worms.

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    -the assumption here is that we’re playing a mandolin (capo=cookey), rather than, for example, an octave mandolin (capo=cool).
    No-o-o-o ... I was responding to ralph's post regarding being asked to use a capo on a guitar.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    If you have the whole tune figured out in A with no open strings, then move the whole thing down two frets. If the way you play it includes some open notes, then figure it out in a way that doesn't include them anymore. And then move the whole thing down two frets.
    Considering the ensuing discussion, this seems like a fine time to mention "FFCP", the Four-Finger Closed Position patterns that, while some consider them "mere" fretting exercises, are really SO much more.
    http://jazzmando.com/ffcp.shtml

    Someone accomplished enough to understand Nashville Numbering should be able to "get" FFCP pattern #1 in 5 minutes or less. The 3 other patterns may take a bit more (especially the stretches to actually finger them), but their logic is reasonably self-evident. THEN it becomes almost easy to play a tune with no open strings, and just as easy to move that pattern down 2 frets. You (meaning I!) don't even have to care what the notes are; just "anchor" on the root note and follow the same pattern as playing in A and it will sound in G.

    This may seem over-simplified, but nobody here has ever claimed that FFCP was a waste of time. It "unlocks" the fretboard.
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    Default Re: Transposing Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    So then, regular tuning puts a mandolin in C? Je ne comprends pas, monsieur! I don't believe the mandolin is truly in any one particular key, with the way it's tuned.
    Technically, any musical instrument is classified as a "C" instrument when you play the note fingered as C and the actual pitch is C.

    Thus mandolin, violin, etc. are C instruments.

    A Bb clarinet or trumpet, for example, plays a concert pitch Bb when you finger a C note. An Eb alto sax plays a concert pitch Eb when you finger a C.

    Thus a mandolin tuned so that your fingered C is a whole step low, a concert Bb, is a "Bb instrument".

    It has nothing to do with being in a particular key. Mostly it allows woodwind and brass players to use the same fingerings when reading music on instruments of various keys.

    For some years, many rock guitar players have tuned their guitars down a half step, Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb; it's commonly referred to as "Eb tuning" but it really is tuning to B concert, because when you play a fingered C, it comes out a concert pitch B natural.

    Anyway, this is much more common in band and orchestral situations where there are a lot of Bb, Eb, and F tuned instruments.

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