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Tom French Help: Transposing (a music thread) (13) RE: Help: Transposing (a music thread) 20 Oct 01

Transposing Guide for 5 basic Useful Guitar Keys

I ii iii IV V vi dim I

G A B C D E F# G
D E F# G A B C# D
A B C# D E F# G# D
E F# G# A B C# D# E

How to use the above: You are looking at a song in the key of E (4#'s in the music key signature or you see that the song ends on an E chord, begins on an E chord and uses an E chord oftern) Your notice that the first phrase of music uses these chords E - C#m - A - F#m7 - B7. You want to play this song in the Key of G which is better for your voice range or avoids all the difficult barre chords that you don't play well. Your look up the chart from the the E scale row to the G scale row. Now you substitute new letter names and leave the "m"'s the "7"'s and all the other stuff alone and get the following: G - Em - C - Am7 - D7.

If you run a brass band you'd be interested in the following which is the same as above but uses the useful brass band instrument keys. Note a flat = "b"

I ii iii IV V vi dim I

G A B C D E F# G
F G A Bb C D E F
Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
Ab Bb C D Eb F G Ab
Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db

You use this one in the same way. If you play piano or any key insrtument you just put all of these scale lines together and make a massive transposing cue card. You now have all but three keys 5#s 6#s or 6bs and the six # and six b keys are exactly the same scale on the piano, the black keys along with a B and an E. They are unpopular unless you play classical music.

Remember only the letter names (the sharp in F# is part of the letter name) (the flat in Bb is part of the letter name) change when transposing a chord, so something unusual like F#mdim9sus6 in Key of G becomes Cmdim9sus6 in the key of Db. Music is very convenient that way.

Use the tables to learn your sharps and flats in the keys you play in. A key has either sharps or flats, not both, but some tunes call for occassional alterings of notes. It's useful to know how many sharps or flat are in a particular key and which of the letters are sharped or flatted.

Each major scale/key is also a relative minor scale/key. For instance look at the C scale row. Go to the sixth note, which is A. A minor is the relative minor of C major. Likewise E minor is the relative minor of G major, since E is the sixth tone on the G row. You don't want a minor key table; it's not needed. Whether you are playing in A minor or C major makes no difference; they use the same chords (ie they both use a standard F chord). If anything has to be changed the rest of the chord heiroglyfics with tell you what to do.

If you want to be good at this, get some scrap paper and practice writing out all your useful scales by memory. That way you will find out how utterly simple the process is, especially when you really only need to have a small number of them learned.

Even more useful become familiar with the popular chords of each key. Notice the Roman numerals above each chart. The I, IV, V are major chords. The ii, iii, vi, are minor chords. The vii is a diminished chord and is rarely used. When you are playing in major keys, the chords commonly used in order of expected highest usage to lowest usage are: I, V, IV, vi, ii, iii Two chord progression is I-V-I, Three chord progression is I-IV-V-I. Four chord bebop progression is I-vi-ii-V-I. Five chord progression is I-vi-IV-ii-V-I. Put this knowledge to use and you will become good at chording by ear and inventing interesting and varried logical harmonies for tunes.

In harmonizing I and vi are relatives and IV and ii are relatives. They can often be swapped in the harmonies to flavor the major bright sound with some minor dark sound and vice versa.

Make some letter charts in your favorite keys of progressions; these are far more useful than the scale order charts given. Progression Roman numerals are given above. Play these and learn to hear the sound, Make up songs using the progressions.

If you take the time to learn the basic harmony system that essentially all Western Civilization music uses, you will quickly find that you can throw away chord charts, especially those that feature 1000 different chords that are useless. You can also get rid of all the chord diagrams above basic songs for which you already know the tune. I've had at least 10 or 20 people learn to play by ear in three days. The ear leaning leaves the hand and finger technique in the dust. Many people start by playing out of a book, but then think that is the only way to do and don't generalize what they know to realize they do know the musical harmonic system of Western music. Can't emphasize enough how useful and how much fun playing chords this way can be. Try it out!

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