How to Transpose From Piano to Saxophone

Updated July 20, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

Things You'll Need

  • Chromatic scale (See Resources)
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About the Author

Steven Miller graduated with a master's degree in 2010. He writes for several companies including Lowe's and IBM. He also works with local schools to create community gardens and learn environmentally responsible gardening. An avid gardener for 15 years, his experience includes organic gardening, ornamental plants and do-it-yourself home projects.