How Do I Transpose an Alto Recorder to Cello?

The alto recorder and the cello are both non-transposing instruments, which means the pitch that they see written on the staff sounds as written. A transposing instrument will sound different from the written pitch. This causes plenty of confusion, but for our purposes, the important thing is that the cello and alto recorder play the same notes. This means that all you have to do to transpose an alto recorder to a cello part is to transpose an octave.

Step 1

The bass clef is shown on the second staff of a grand staff.

Write the part for the cello with a bass clef. The bass clef looks like a backwards C with two dots; however, it originated from a stylized backward-curved F. The back vertical line of the F curves backward and the two horizontal lines that form the ledges of the F turned into dots.

Step 2

Transpose all of the alto recorder notes down one octave. If there is an F4, which is F above middle C in the alto, it will become an F3 in the cello. F3 is directly below middle C on the fourth line from the bottom of the bass clef.

Step 3

Check to see that all of the notes were transposed correctly. Evaluate the cello part; if most of the notes lie in the middle of the staff or just slightly above the staff, then the transposition is in a good range. If the notes are too high above the staff, consider transposing the part down another octave.


The cello has a large range of more than four octaves. If the alto part lies in the lower part of the treble clef, you may decide to leave it as written; however, the cello may sound strained if it has to play in the higher range so it is best to transpose down an octave.


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