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#953306 - 02/13/07 11:07 AM The Benefits of Transposing at Sight
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
Probably my biggest revelation at the piano recently has been this: Transposing at sight is not that difficult!

Not only that, it is a great aid to learning to sight read. Why? Because it enforces intervalic reading, and makes looking at your hands a useless endeavorer.

No longer can you cheat by recognizing a note name and feeling around or looking down to find the corresponding key. Everything must be done based on the current note's relation to the previous. Most of the "cheats" normally used would make finding the correct notes even harder (and confusing), thus you have little choice but to abandon them, no matter how old your habits are.

I've gotten a lot better at reading music recently. When I started I was looking down at my hands far more than I should have been. Now my eyes stay glued to the sheets 95% of the time. Yet I realized there were many times when I had this "look" impulse, especially when sight reading, that was really unnecessary. Transposing songs at sight has done a great deal to eliminate those unnecessary peeks.

Sometimes a glance down at the keys is required, such as with large jumps. In which case I'll have to quickly transpose the note in my head as to make sure I'm looking for the right key on the keyboard. So it helps a little with theory too.

Accidentals do trip me up, and playing in keys that I am not used to or that are very different from the original key, is not easy. But that's just a matter of practice.


I figure that if I can play through a song in its original key, without regarding note names or looking at the keyboard to find notes; that is reading entirely by intervals, transposing it to another key at sight should be relatively trivial. In fact I find after transposing a song to a few other keys, I can play the song even better in it's original key.

This all might be old news to some, but until recently I regarded the skill the transpose at sight as voodoo magic. Now it's something I enjoy doing. It can breathe new life into an overworked song, as well as break reliance on muscle memory to get through it.

So...yea...transpose ftw!!1

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#953307 - 02/13/07 12:00 PM Re: The Benefits of Transposing at Sight
Colin Dunn Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/05
Posts: 550
Loc: Arvada, CO
My piano teacher has had me attempt this in lessons before, but I fell flat on my face, even with very simple pieces (a 4-part hymn out of a church hymnal).

What / how do I need to practice this to gain some skill at doing this? I don't usually look at my hands when sight-reading music. But I do have "perfect pitch," so I tend to "hear" pitches in my head when looking at sheet music. Having to play other notes in another key really, really throws me off...
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Colin Dunn

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#953308 - 02/13/07 12:32 PM Re: The Benefits of Transposing at Sight
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
I can see how having Perfect Pitch would be a problem in this case, since the whole idea of transposing at sight by interval, is to disassociate the position of the note on the staff with its absolute note name and by relation...sound.

What I would do is imagine that the clef itself is different, such that you would expect different notes to come from each line and space. Perhaps draw a movable C-clef in the appropriate position, in place of the standard treble and bass clefs, to help orient yourself.

The key (no pun indented) in your case is to mentally reassign the values of each line and space on the clef at will, so when you hit a note, you're not surprised by its sound.

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