41. Transposing

This section deals with the simplest aspects of transposing from one key to another.  Try to gain a working knowledge of diatonic harmony (see 51. Basic Diatonic Harmony for more information).  With this you can easily transpose a song. When you think of the chord progression of a song as being moveable in its entirety you open the door for yourself.  The language of solfege (do, re mi etc) spells any major scale. It does not matter if it’s a C scale, Db scale, F scale or any other. Because the pitch relationships are the same, it is still do re mi etc. Chords act the same way.

Example: Chord progression

C   am   F   G

This simple progression is I  vi  IV  V. These are the diatonic chords made from the 1st, 6th 4th and 5th notes of the C major scale. (Again, refer to the material on diatonic harmony if necessary). When using the scale numbers to label the chords, this same progression can be transposed to any key:

I          vi        IV      V

G      em       C       D

E     c#m       A       B

A       f#m     D      E

D       bm     G       A    etc.

Musicians will often refer to this progression as ‘one six two five’ without naming the chords, since it is essentially the same in every key. This can be done with any chord progression.

© 2012 Jim Greenfield