• Electronic Transposition: The Consequence of Indecision

    in Piano,Self-Improvement,Theory,Transposing Keys


    In a previous article, we considered two approaches to transposition – Mental vs Electronic Approach to Transposition.

    There are countless musicians out there who have tried severely to stop electronic transposition without success. Being a teacher over the years has afforded me the privilege of meeting several musicians who are addicted to electronic transposition aka – “e-transposition” on the keyboard. The few who have confided in me provided self-justifiable reasons why they still patronize e-transposition. Below are the three most common reasons:

    It’s difficult and I think it’s impossible for me to play in all 12 keys. Do you really know what it took me to be able to play the much I can in one key? Heck, why did Yamaha put the transpose button on their keyboards if they didn’t want me to use it?

    I have tried and it’s not working. I even went to the extent of learning chords from key to key per week. I just gave up because it wasn’t really working for me. When I try to put my practice to use and play in the new key, people start complaining in church that there are a lot of mistakes in my playing lately.

    Every key is entirely different and presents its unique challenges. How on earth am I going to keep up with these 12 challenges when after learning just a few new keys, I go back to the first or second key only to find I’ve forgotten some of those chords.

    I can go on with several more reasons and excuses I’ve heard over the years. Most times, I feel for them. Heck, prior to my transformation in January 2008, I was in their shoes. I was them. I was you. I loved that button. Traveling from key to key was a matter of knowing the +12 or -12 difference on my keyboard and learning how to do it as fast and smooth as possible.

    Many Ask Me: “Why On Earth Am I Transposing Electronically?”

    A vast majority of pianists who do e-transposition are familiar with the major scales and minor scales in all the keys. Some are familiar with major and minor triads. Some are even familiar with major and minor sevenths in all the keys. You’d think with a solid knowledge of scales and chords in all 12 keys, they’d take advantage of this knowledge to switch from e-transposition to mental transposition (what I’ll call m-transposition).

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    Why am I familiar with notes, scales, chords, etc. in all the keys and yet, I still can’t play in all keys fluently?

    Why am I familiar with notes, scales, chords, etc. in all the keys and yet, I can’t actually do a mental transposition of scale fragments, licks, runs, chords etc. in all keys in real-life playing?

    I asked myself these questions too until I discovered the answer. I discovered one arch enemy that e-transposition pianists have in common – INDECISION.

    Indecision is the common arch enemy of all musicians who practice e-transposition because there is no logical reason why a musician can possess all it takes to mentally transpose ideas from key to key effortlessly and yet choose to do otherwise.

    Mental Transposition All Starts With A Decision…

    Let me tell you the whole truth that will set you free.

    I didn’t start out PROPERLY with music theory. I actually ended up playing in one key and transposing electronically to the rest. Over time, I garnered the knowledge of scales, chords, and progressions in all the keys. However, I was unable to play in all the keys until January 2008 when I decided to do so.

    Ask anyone who used to be addicted to e-transposition if you don’t believe my story… and if they open up and tell you the truth, their story will be similar to mine.

    Most times, decisions are tied around sacrifices and choices. There are two important things that you must sacrifice if you want this decision-making process to be easier for you. There are musicians who have made the decision to quit e-transposition, but occasionally and unfortunately, look back and gradually find themselves recidivating towards it again. However, these two things, if sacrificed, will put you at peace while you progress from e-transposition to the ideal m-transposition.

    Sacrifice #1 – Reputation

    So many musicians find it hard to sacrifice their reputation especially when other musicians are around. I know the expectations people have when they meet you, how much they long to hear you play those chords, runs and riffs in one key.

    Hey! Why don’t you sacrifice the reputation and work on your character. They’re calling you a keyboard wizard because you are fleshing amazing things out in C, yet deep down, you know exactly what your playing would sound like if the key were lowered to B major.

    So, tell me… what matters to you most? Is it your reputation (who they think you are) or your character (who you really are)?

    Sacrifice #2 – Convenience

    The difficulty of moving from one key to another and having to get used to a different set of notes can be challenging. Playing in one key seems very convenient because every key is practically in between +/-12.

    Dear musician, there are times in life when you need to step out of your comfort zone, defy your fears, and face the challenges so that you can say “I came, I saw, I conquered – twelve over twelve” like others.

    What are the benefits of staying in your convenience? Do you know that aircrafts lift faster against the direction of the wind? The inconvenience is necessary to lift you faster. It will certainly pay off.

    8 months After This Decision…

    After I quit e-transposition, it certainly wasn’t a picnic. However, I kept practicing hard and playing in all the keys on stage. It took me about 8 months to graduate from e-transposition to m-transposition (January to August 2008). You can’t graduate without passing tests and examinations. These tests came to me in various ways. Here’s one of them:

    “I had a singer in my church who loved singing in the key of B. It was no doubt her most comfortable key. I’d always beg her to sing in C so that I can flesh out a lot of stuff to accompany her charismatic style of singing and she’d always turn me down and through it all, I never gave up. The e-transposer functionality of my keyboard was always there and didn’t take more than a push of “-1” to take me to C. However, I refused to succumb to the easy route and remained outsifr of my comfort zone”.

    It took me all of 8 months to stabilize and adapt myself to playing in all the keys. I’m confident that yours will take at last that amount of time too. After all, “E” to “M” encompasses 8 alphabet letters. Graduating from E-transposition to M-transposition is no easy task and if you take the time to do it right, you’re looking at several months. But it CAN be done.

    On the 8th of August 2008, at exactly 8:08pm, I started jazz studies with Mastering Jazz Keyboard with Noah Baerman. I had the necessary facilities to get started with jazz – knowledge of all the keys and mental transposition. I was already experiencing a lift in JUST 8 months.

    If you, dear reader, made this decision 8 months ago, I am confident the leaps and bounds you would have experienced by today. But it’s not too late. START TODAY and I can only imagine the altitude you’ll find yourself soaring at 8 months from now.

    Final Thoughts

    I want you to make that decision NOW. Don’t say “I’ll do so in the beginning of the year, or even next year” because moving from indecision to procrastination is like jumping from frying pan to fire.

    Start applying those major and minor scales that you know. Sure, you may not start off sounding like you do in your comfortable key but with time, you’ll discover a newfound natural way of mentally transposing ideas from one key to another, effortlessly.

    I took this decision in 2008 and it’s paid off. The benefits of mental transposition are numerous – too numerous for you to ignore, too numerous for you to be trapped in the world of indecision.

    I’m now giving you an opportunity to throw e-transposition out of the window and open the door for mental transposition to come in. So take action today.

    Action #1. Expel indecision.

    Action #2. Sacrifice your reputation and convenience.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 zino

    it is good to know how to play in all the 12 keys , because it gives you more flexibility and confident on the piano


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