MUS 514A / CSC 514A

Clef Transposition Guidelines

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If you have difficulty reading alto or tenor clef, you may digitally transpose the track to which the alto- or tenor-clef instrument is assigned and read/record the part in treble clef, substituting a new key signature an accidentals as necessary.

Alto Clef

The alto clef signature indicates that the center line of the staff is Middle C (c1).  Before you begin recording, be sure that you choose the correct octave.

There are a number of possible digital transpositions for a given key.  You should decide in which key you would like to record the particular part, based on the original key, and then compensate by digitally transposing the particular track--usually up one or two half steps.

In the Track Pane box, click on the desired track's Key+ box.  Adjust the transpose parameter from 0 to +1 or +2, or to whatever would facilitate an easy key in which to read/record the alto clef part, reading the part as if written in treble clef.  (A positive setting of +1 will raise the pitch of all the notes on the track by one half-step.  A negative setting of -1 will lower the pitch of all notes on the track by one half-step.  2 = a whole step change, 3 = a minor third change, etc.

For example, an alto clef part which is written in the key of C may be recorded in the key of Bb, and read as if written in treble clef, if the track is transposed up two half-steps (+2).  Or, the part may be recorded in the key of B, and read as if written in treble clef, if the track is transposed up one half-step (+1).  The particular transposition depends upon the key with which you are most comfortable.

ACCIDENTALS:  Converting alto clef accidentals to treble clef accidentals will vary, depending upon the transposition of the track.

If the track is recorded up one half-step (+1), the following conversions apply:

  • Exceptions:  Any accidental attached to alto clef C (treble clef B) or alto clef F (treble clef E) should be played as written.

If the track is recorded up two half-steps (+2), the following conversions apply:

  • Read accidentals as written.

  • Exceptions:  Any accidentals attached to alto clef C (treble clef B) or alto clef F (treble clef E) should be played as follows:

Alto Clef Keys Transposed to Treble Clef Keys
C: +2, read in Bb E: +2, read in D Ab: +1, read in G
C#: +2, read in B F: +2, read in Eb A: +2, read in G
Db: +1, read in C F#: +2, read in E Bb: +1, read in A
D: +2, read in C Gb: +1, read in F B: +2, read in A
Eb: +1, read in D G: +2, read in F Cb: +1, read in Bb

Tenor Clef

The tenor clef signature indicates that the fourth line of the staff is Middle C (c1).  Before you begin recording, be sure that you choose the correct octave.

Similarly, a tenor clef part which is written in the key of C may be recorded in the key of D, and read as if written in treble clef, if the track is transposed down two half-steps (-2).  Or, the part may be recorded in the key of Db, and read as if written in treble clef, if the track is transposed down one half-step (-1).  The particular transposition depends upon the key with which you are most comfortable.

ACCIDENTALS:  Converting tenor clef accidentals to treble clef accidentals will vary, depending upon the transposition of the track.

If the track is recorded down on half-step (-1), the following conversions apply:

  • Exceptions:  Any accidental attached to tenor clef B (treble clef C) or tenor clef E (treble clef F) should be played as written.

If the track is recorded down two half-steps (-2), the following conversions apply:

  • Read accidentals as written.

  • Exceptions:  Any accidentals attached to tenor clef B (treble clef C) or tenor clef E (treble clef F) should be played as follows:

Tenor Clef Keys Transposed to Treble Clef Keys

C: -2, read in D E: -1, read in F Ab: -2, read in Bb
C#: -1, read in D F: -2, read in G A: -1, read in Bb
Db: -2, read in Eb F#: -1, read in G Bb: -2, read in C
D: -1, read in Eb Gb: -2, read in Ab B: -1, read in C
Eb: -2, read in F G: -2, read in A Cb: -2, read in Db

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