• Here Are The Two Schools Of Transposition

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    In today’s post, we’ll be addressing the stigma associated with electronic transposition.


    An Overview On The Concept Of Transposition

    Let’s get started by looking at the concept of transposition – it’s definition, function, etc.

    “What Is The Meaning Of The Term Transposition?”

    Transposition in music is word derived from two other words – transfer and position. Transposition means a transfer of position. If you put both words together, you’ll have the transfer of position, which is simply known as transposition.

    “Why Do People Need To Transpose?”

    There are 12 notes (aka – “pitch-classes“) on the keyboard, consequently, there are 12 major and 12 minor keys (24 keys in all.) Transposition is the concept behind taking an idea [be it a scale, interval, chord, chord progression, etc.,] from one key and replicating it in another key.

    Think of transposition as relocating from your current residence and parking into another house by transferring the position of every item in the old residence to the new one, in such a way that there’s no difference between the old and the new residence.

    Two Schools Of Transposition

    Everyone does it. Yes!

    Believe it or not, we all at one point or the other move things around on the keyboard (aka – “transposition.) However, there are chiefly two schools of transposition – the mental and the electronic transposition.

    While the school of mental transposition does the heavy mental work of moving things around the keyboard mentally and mechanically, the school of electronic transposition relies on the an electronic means of transposition that involves little or no mental work.

    It doesn’t matter the school you belong to, both schools have the common goal of moving things around the keyboard and that’s what matters.

    Submission: I’m a believer that both schools of transposition deserve their place. Instruments like the saxophone, trumpet, etc., are known as transposing instruments. When an alto sax is playing in the key of C, it’s actually Eb on the piano. Electronic transposition can help you play in the same key with him in such situations especially if mental transposition will be demanding.

    “Transposition Is Bad Or Is It?”

    So many people have highlighted the term transposition as a bad word in their dictionary.

    In certain music circles across the globe, one of the questions up and coming players ask to probe the expertise of any pianist they come across is usually “does he or she transpose?” So many others find themselves losing the respect and admiration they have for a musician the moment they hear the musician transposes.

    But transposition is an English word that has its place in music. If you play the first three notes of the major scale in the key of C:

    …and do the same thing in the key of Eb:

    …and also in the key of G:

    …you just transposed from the key of C to the keys of Eb and G respectively.

    We all transpose chords from key to key; don’t we? So, does that mean we’re all doing something bad and terribly wrong? The answer is no!

    Even if there’s just one key on the piano, perhaps the key of C major:

    …there would still be transposition. The first three notes of the C major scale can be transposed to D:

    …to E:

    …to F:


    Without any shadow of doubt, you can see that there is nothing wrong with transposition.

    “When Transposition Is Abused…”

    According to a popular adage, “it’s not what you’re doing but how you’re doing it.” You and I know that there’s always a wrong way to do the right thing and once the right thing is done the wrong way, it’s purpose is usually abused.

    It’s possible for the concept of transposition to be abused by those who do it the wrong way. If a keyboardist decides to permanently do electronic transposition simply because it keeps him in a comfortable key, such a keyboardist is abusing the concept of transposition.

    Music by design is a game of transposition, where we move things from one place to the other. The musician’s mind as a matter of fact must be able to do this mentally. I said that to say that mental transposition is primary and electronic transposition is secondary.

    Doing a secondary transposition always feels good – yeah! However, the primary function of your mind as a musician is jeopardized, consequently, it affects certain domains of creativity and the understanding of key relationships with or without your knowledge.


    I know that everyone reserves the right to belong to any of the schools of transposition – especially the school of electronic transposition (that a vast majority of 21st century musicians believe is easier), however, if you look beyond the difficulty of mental transposition, you’d see its benefits too.




    There’s nothing bad about




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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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


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