Learn to transpose with Heart and Soul [Part VI]

Imagine playing piano with a praise band at your church someday, or in a teen rock band with friends, in your high school jazz band or for a soloist.

To be versatile, transposing is the single most important skill a pianist can have. Knowing how to transpose quickly means more fun and more music with more music friends!

This is part VI (six) of the Heart and Soul series. Before you try this at home, make sure you’ve covered these steps:

How to play Heart and Soul’s bass and chords

How Heart and Soul teaches Primary Chords [Part V]

If you can check YES to the above, now it’s time to focus on how Heart and Soul can teach you how to transpose!

Heart and Soul is the perfect introduction to transposing music. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s pattern-driven, it teaches the primary chords in the new key and covers every scale note at least once. Kids can actually do this at home! This blog post is part of a series. Check out the rest!

What is transposing?

In short, transposing is playing the music higher or lower, either moving it an octave or changing it into a new key. When you transpose, you move the music to a new range, to a whole new ballpark, but the tune and chords remain the same.

Technically, it’s the intervals that stay the same. If your tune begins with upward steps in its original key, it will start with upward steps in the new key.

But what if you don’t know your intervals, or if you’ve never transposed before? No worries! Heart and Soul is a simple tune and is a good first tune to transpose. It’s worth a try to see if you can transpose by pattern, feel and by ear.

Step One:

Memorize Heart and Soul’s bass and chord pattern.

Memorize Heart and Soul’s chord progression C, Am, F, G.

Step Two:

Notice the way the pattern looks and feels in the keys as you play.

  • Both thumbs start on the same letter name, an octave apart
  • The LH goes down a skip, down a skip (3rds), up a step (2nd) 
  • The RH plays broken chords made of skips (3rds)
  • The RH follows the LH letters

When you transpose to a new place on the piano, the music will keep the same pattern, look and feel.

Step Three:

Memorize the sound of the chords. Three are major (the Primary Chords) and one is minor.

Chords I (one), IV (four) and V (five) are Major and the Roman numerals are in upper-case. Chord vi (six) is minor, and the Roman numeral is in lower case.

Step Four:

Transpose it into a new key. Let’s try the key of G.

  • Start with LH 1 on G and RH 1 on G, one octave apart.
  • Play the Heart and Soul bass and chord pattern with the same skips, finger numbers and RH moves as before.
  • If you know the key of G and the G scale, you might be able to guess what black key you’ll need to play.
  • If you play it all on white keys, one chord won’t sound quite right. Can you tell which one?
  • If you can hear the “wrong” chord it means you have a good ear! You’re on track for being good at transposing!

Before watching the video to get the answer, try to find the right sound on your own. Experiment with different piano keys until you discover the note that sounds like the one you want.

For extra help, here’s a video tutorial.

FREE Printable sheet!

If you’d like to print the above steps and hints, go to my Printables and get your FREE Learn to Transpose with Heart and Soul sheet!

Print your Learn to Transpose with Heart and Soul sheet!

Step Five:

Try your hand at transposing the tunes!

Choose a starting note that matches keys you’ve already tried. For example, if you started both thumbs on G for the bass and chords, try starting the tune on G as well!

When you transpose the tune, try to remember which ‘different’ keys you played in the lower part and play them in the tune as well.

Hint: The bass and chords include every single note of the scale and key at least once. So, if you start on G and see only one black key in the pattern of the lower part, that’s the only black key you’ll need for the tune as well!

When you have success transposing with Heart and Soul, you will build the confidence necessary to transpose other music on the piano. Let your curiosity get the better of you. Experiment and have fun!

[Some reasons pianists transpose]

Most guitarists prefer to play in the keys of G, D, A and E. So if you want to play in a rock or praise band, chances are you’ll have to transpose your music to one of those keys to play with them.

Most music for jazz bands is written in F, B-flat and E-flat. If you already know a standard tune but want to play along with them, you may have to transpose into one of those keys.

If you play for a singer or vocalist, they’ll want to sing in the natural range of their voice. If you have an arrangement of a song that is too high or low for them, you’ll need to transpose the piano part to match their range.

Ready for the next step?

There’s more to Heart and Soul than meets the eye! This gem of a piece can teach the primary chords, how to transpose, relative minors and even how to improvise and compose! Start this amazing musical journey by clicking the link below and then follow the tutorials!

How Heart and Soul teaches Relative Minors [Part VII]

Are you a piano teacher? To unlock this amazing nine-part Heart and Soul series, start here: Piano play-along duets for families at home: Heart and Soul [Teacher intro]

Do you like this post and want more? In the side menu click “follow” to get notification of my posts each week in your inbox.

I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching! ❤

Rebekah Maxner, composer, blogger, piano teacher. Follow my blog for great tips!

Video of the Week

Purple Balloon on a Ribbon (Level 2) is an expressive piece in the French lyrical style. It is about a memory from my childhood when I had a helium balloon and had a lovely time playing with it until the string broke. From The Color Collection Junior, Elementary to Late Elementary piano solos that express all of our feelings. From gorgeous character pieces to the blues, from black-key pentatonic to disco, this collection has it all. Or, check out the Purple Balloon on a Ribbon eSheet!

Video of Purple Balloon on a Ribbon, Late Elementary Level 2.
Here’s a sound clip of Purple Balloon on a Ribbon.

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