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!
Let’s get started!
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.
Memorize Heart and Soul’s bass and chord pattern. (For a complete tutorial, go to Heart and Soul piano play-along — Learn the bass and chords [Part I].)
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.
Memorize the sound of the chords. Three are major and one is minor. For more on this, check out the post How Heart and Soul teaches Primary Chords [Part V].
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.
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.
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!
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.
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