Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Transpose at Sight on the Piano

Transposing at sight requires tremendous skill and experience.

Transposing at sight on the piano requires a tremendous amount of skill and experience. Great composers such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner had the ability to transpose and condense entire orchestral scores on the piano. The ability to transpose at sight on the piano requires a formidable understanding of scales and keys. It also requires a great deal of technical ability. If you do not have the ability to play the piece as written, you will not be able to transpose the piece at sight.

Lean all 12 major and minor scales and their enharmonic equivalents. A solid understanding of scales and keys is crucial to transposing at sight. Practice these scales slowly at first and increase the tempo each week. Memorize all of the intervals available in music. Learn how they look on the staff. For instance, a major third is always be one space higher or lower, while a perfect fifth is always be two spaces higher or lower. The largest transposition is a major seventh.

Practice playing music a minor second above the written score first. To do this, add five flats to the key signature and then play each note one note name higher. If the key signature has sharps, that means you will remove sharps from the key. For instance, D major would transpose to Eb major since D major has two sharps and Eb major has three flats.

Transpose each piece at each of the 12 interval classes. Each time, figure out the key signature of the new key and transpose by the appropriate interval.


Figure out how many sharps and flats to add to the key signature with this formula. Take the interval you are transposing and think of it in relation to C major. If you are transposing a second, determine the number of sharps in D major which is a major second higher. C major has no sharps and D major has two sharps, so the new key signature will have two sharps added to it.