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 transpose or not transpose
Author: Runhammar 
Date:   2019-09-11 07:51

Hello all

I'm new to the clarinet, struggling for air but enjoying. I come from playing non-transposing instruments (piano, violin, guitar) and was quite intrigued to find out about the Bb tuning of my clarinet. (as a sidenote; for two days, looking at my chromatic tuner, I thought it was down to my embouchure and struggled to form my mouth to raise my pitch a whole step. I got nowhere).
Now... I will probably never pick up a clarinet in any other key than Bb. My whole purpose of starting playing it is to play along in simple tunes with friends playing guitar, mostly. I will be resorting to general sheet music that I share with them and pick up melody lines or arrange parts from them. Here is my question:

Why not, in my case, just rewrite the fingering board instead of transposing sheet music. So when the paper says F, i play, and "think" F (all holes open). The top a-button would, in my mind, be a G-button. Im only a week into playing and it would be easy for me to switch.

I bet there are good arguments against this, and I will listen humbly.


Per Runhammar

Post Edited (2019-09-11 07:52)

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-09-11 09:15

Sounds like how British brass players approach their instruments/playing.

Guess it's just a matter of how you look at things. But remember that works for "C" instrument parts. Once you get clarinet music you'll have to re-think again. I don't know if it's worth it.

............Paul Aviles

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2019-09-11 10:06

If you're only going to be playing with guitarists, you might consider getting a C clarinet. Alternatively, get your friends to use a capo and the problem will go away.

Tony F.

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Runhammar 
Date:   2019-09-11 11:40

Thanks for your responses.
But, if a guitarrist uses a capo his instrument will be raised in pitch, not lowered...
When I wanted to mix guitar and clarinet myself (via recording) I experimented with tuning down the whole guitar one whole step. But it sounded and felt awkward, plus I like the idea that the pitch I think I'm playing is the one that is heard by my tuner.

Yes, a C-clarinet would solve the problem, but I have the one I have and like the sound it makes.

Do I get this right: when someone manageing an orchestra hands out sheets for a piece that the pianist knows to be in, say, g-minor, the clarinetist will get a sheet with his notes written in a-minor. He will then use the fingering he har learned, which will sound g-minor and all are happy, and the pianist need not even know that the clarinetists music is written in a-minor?


Per Runhammar

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2019-09-11 12:15

Yes, your understanding is correct.

I'd suggest just learning (as you first posited) that the A key/button is the G key/button. If you truly aren't going to ever be interested in playing clarinets of other pitches (Eb, A, etc), and you're only planning on ever playing with guitars, pianos, etc. You'll be fine.

It is really handy in jazz/rock to be able to play the lead sheets in C because that's what everyone else in the band is going to be using...it's also a lot easier to talk without inadvertently crossing/forgetting/reversing transposition, etc.

I'm probably in the minority on this, though.


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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-09-11 18:47

I think the only argument in your situation for sticking with the conventional pitch-fingering relationship is that you may be limiting your ensemble options in the future. If you ever want to play music that's actually published with a transposed clarinet part with no "concert pitch" version included, you'll have to solve the problem in reverse.

Otherwise, there are lots of self-taught players who play completely by ear without necessarily knowing what note they're playing. At least you'll have a system.

When I taught strings to elementary school students, it was surprising how well some of them did by only knowing what finger to put on what string for any given written note with no idea of the notes' "names" (as long as they stayed in 1st position).


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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Runhammar 
Date:   2019-09-11 20:07

Once again, thanks for your responses and thoughts.
I'm getting confident that I will learn the fingering "concert pitch" and call the uppermost key the g-key etcetera. I note the arguments against, and will have to rework the transposing if I ever end up in an ensamble where conventional sheet music is handed out. I am 45 years old, and only ever play music as an amateur and only folk/pop music, so chanses are low I will end up in an orchestra.
I don't think Ill bother rewrite the fingering chart, but instead try and learn the concert pitch fingering by heart, using the tuner. One thing I find extremely helpfull with the clarinet is that all the tones have such an individual key/button, which makes it easy to memorize. Compare with the guitar fretboard...

So, my issue is solved, but I will still read with great interest what experince other players have regarding this.


Per Runhammar

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-09-11 21:16

Runhammar wrote:

> so chanses are low I will
> end up in an orchestra.

Again, not disputing your approach, which seems sensible for what you're doing now, but orchestra music is not the only issue - band music will always use Bb clarinets and lots of other kinds of published arrangements for small and large groups. You may be limiting future opportunities.


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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Ed Lowry 
Date:   2019-09-12 04:50

If your reluctance to try a C clarinet is more that you like the sound you get from your B-flat, as opposed to limitations of your budget, bear in mind that your mouthpiece, reed and embouchure may have more to do with the sound than the rest of the clarinet. There are some good C clarinets out there that, relatively speaking, are within the affordable range.

Post Edited (2019-09-12 06:30)

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2019-09-12 05:48

A new Buffet clarinet now is in the range of $5-6K US. I own a C Buffet and love the different sound--very bright, almost trumpet-like. Maybe there are some decent deals out there for a used one, perhaps online. Sure solves all transposition problems, though the throat tones can be a little nasty to get in tune. You use the standard Bb mouthpiece, unlike with the Eb clarinet, so the C barrel is disproportionally smaller.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus, Sheet Music Direct.
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus.

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 Re: transpose or not transpose
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2019-09-13 19:24

>> Do I get this right <<

Yes. The only situation that the Bb transposition naming is better is if you play regular clarinet parts (for Bb clarinet). These are pretty much always written in Bb. If you do that you'll have to transpose just like you would have to transpose from C parts if you learn it the regular way.

I guess you can't know for sure what you'll want to do in the future once you play clarinet, but I'd say it's a pretty safe bet from what you described. There are great players who don't even know the note names, they play folk/klezmer/balkan music by ear. One local trumpet player learned it (Bb trumpet) that way and it's not a problem even though he plays in a band (they play their own music and don't use sheet music anyway). Just some examples.

At worst case just get an Ab clarinet :)

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