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Transposing at Sight

7 January, 2015 - 15:05
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Transposing at sight means being able to read a part written in one key while playing it in another key. Like any other performance skill, it can be learned with practice, and it is a skill that will help you become an extremely versatile instrumentalist. (Vocalists transpose at sight without even thinking about it, since they don't have to worry about different fingerings.) To practice this skill, simply start playing familiar pieces in a different key. Since you know the piece, you will recognize when you make a mistake. Start with pieces written in C, and play them only a half-step or whole step lower or higher than written. When this is easy, move on to more challenging keys and larger intervals. Practice playing in an unfamiliar clef, for example bass clef if you are used to reading treble clef. Or, if you play a transposing instrument, work on being able to play C parts on sight. You may find more opportunities to play (and earn the gratitude of your fellow musicians) if you can say, we can change keys if you like", or "I can cover that bass clef C part for you, no problem."