How to Transpose From Flute to Clarinet

The clarinet is a transposing instrument in Bb.

If you try to play a flute piece on the clarinet, you will be playing the wrong notes. Flutes play in concert pitch, and as a result, written notes and the actual sound produced are the same. The clarinet is a transposing instrument; it sounds a major second lower than the notes that are written in the music. This means that a C on the flute would have to be written as a D on the clarinet to produce the same pitch. Learning to transcribe notes will make it possible to play both instruments in unison.

Learn the chromatic scale to determine the correct pitch to use. The chromatic scale is a series of 12 pitches that create half steps from one note to the next. A C chromatic scale is C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B. (Notes separated by a slash are called enharmonics; they are two ways to indicate the same note. For example, C# and Db will sound the same.)

Transpose the notes from the flute part into an appropriate part for clarinet by counting up two half-steps in the chromatic scale. The selected note should also be one note name higher. For example, if the flute part has a C#, you would write the clarinet part as a D# and not an Eb. This is because an Eb is actually two note names higher, even though both pitches sound the same.

Continue to transpose the entire piece note-by-note. With practice, transposing for the clarinet will become second nature.


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