How to Transpose From Piano to Saxophone

Written by steven j. miller
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How to Transpose From Piano to Saxophone
The tenor saxophone is a member of the woodwind family. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Learning to transpose saxophone to piano makes it possible to play piano music on the saxophone. The most prevalent saxophones in the sax family are the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Each saxophone transposes in a slightly different way from the piano. Students must have an awareness of the chromatic scale and how to transpose a major second, major sixth and octave before attempting to transpose from piano to saxophone.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Chromatic scale (See Resources)

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Instructions

    Soprano and Tenor Saxophone

  1. 1

    Transpose the piano key signature up a major second. Do this by taking the piano key and determining what key is exactly a major second higher. A piano part in the key of C major would change to the key of D major, since D is a major second higher.

  2. 2

    Change all the notes from the piano part up a major second. A major second consists of two half steps. C sharp to D sharp qualifies as a major second, but C sharp to E flat does not. E flat may sound identical to D sharp, but technically qualifies as a diminished third since E is a third away from C.

  3. 3

    Use treble clef for both soprano and tenor saxophone. The tenor saxophone will sound a tenth lower than written. To ensure that it is playing at the same pitch as the piano, you must also transpose it up an octave. The soprano sax does not need an additional transposition.

    Alto and Baritone Saxophone

  1. 1

    Transpose the piano key signature up a major sixth. If you transpose from C major, your new key signature will read as A major.

  2. 2

    Move all the notes from the piano part up a major sixth. A major sixth consists of nine half-steps.

  3. 3

    Use the treble clef for tenor and baritone saxophone and transpose the baritone sax up an additional octave. The tenor sax does not need to be transposed, but the baritone sax will sound a tenth lower than written.

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