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The Skill Of Playing A Transposing Instrument

Few will have heard of a transposing instrument, though those who are very involved with music will be familiar with it. A transposing instrument is one that has special music written for it that is at a different pitch than the concert pitch. So, when other music that is written at the concert pitch reads a C, the transposing instrument music will show a different note.

Instruments, like the celesta, that are referred to as transposing instruments will play the special music. The difference is not really in the instrument, it is just that the sheet music that is written will read differently than it does for the other instruments involved in the piece.

One might wonder why there would be use for a transposing instrument.

Transposition at the octave is one reason for having a transposing instrument. Some instruments are too high or too low to write in for a particular piece of music, so to limit the ledger lines used, someone might instead write the part an octave higher or lower for the piece. If there is a musical piece that is using a number of instruments from the same family, a transposing instrument might be necessary.

The different ranges that the different sizes of the instruments within the same family have, may differ too much because they are either too low or too high. To make the music more uniform and to make it easier on the musicians who have to switch instruments throughout the piece, the composer will write some pieces in for some transposing instruments that will need to play an octave lower or higher.

The tone and the quality of the sound is another reason for wanting to have a transposing instrument.

It is sometimes necessary to include this in a piece so that the different instruments playing together will have a better sound that is less divided and more harmonized.

As explained earlier, the term transposing instrument is a little misleading. One might make the mistake of thinking that there are specific instruments that are regarded as transposing instruments that are only used for that purpose. It is actually the music that changes. When an instrument is found or thought to be too high or too low, which does not fit well with the sounds of the other instruments, the composer will find it necessary to write different music for that instrument in order to make it sound better with the other instruments it is being played with. This means that just about any instrument can be a transposing instrument, because the musician is playing it in a different octave than the other instruments.

It really makes a lot of sense when one thinks about it. When an instrument is too high, all one has to do is bring it down a pitch to make it more uniform with the other pitches and sounds around it. The idea is to have harmony in a musical piece where the different instruments sounds belong together. If the composer didnt alter the music of some of these instruments, they would not be able to play in the piece without disrupting the harmony of the rest of the instruments playing together.


About the Author (text)Victor Epand is an expert consultant for used CDs, and used musical instruments. You can find the best marketplace for used CDs, autographed CDs, and used musical instruments at these sites:,, and

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