Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Guide to French Horn Transposition: Methods of Transposition and Conceptualization

My guide for French Horn Transposition is no longer published through Knol, so I decided to post it on this blog. I know this doesn't really have anything to do with rehabilitation...but I still feel the need so share it with anyone who can benefit from it.

This is a more rough version since I didn't save a backup (go figure), but I FINALLY FINISHED IT AS A PDF FILE ONLINE.

The PDF version is way better than this one, so if want to access it, can click on the link here: Berglof Transposition Guide Online PDFThere are pictures, and much better layout....similar, but still a lot of work to do on it. Check it out! :-) I'm happy with it so far. 


Sometimes it is important to cover all the methods or ways a person can go about transposing. Some people prefer a specific way, but for many students who are introduced to transposition or learning how to transpose french horn orchestra parts, they don't understand it and dislike it. This is usually due to not being explained well, or that another method happens to work better for them. So I tried to list as many ways possible. Though it's a bit much to take in all at once, I think some of the examples I posted below will help summarize how I transpose on french horn.

Knowing all your standard Major scales and key signatures (Circle of Fifths/order of sharps and flats) really well before learning how to transpose is vital, as it helps you transpose more accurately and understand it better.

Transposition
The easiest way to figure out transposition is to know two things: How many notes up or down you need to go, and the key signature. It's as simple as that, once you get use to it!

1. Up or down?
I'm not someone who relies on the Major/minor interval method
of figuring things out, it is handy to know and a common method so I listed the interval (in brackets) (ex. M2 = Major second. m2 = minor second) if it works better for you. I also don't use the clef system method very often unless in bass clef transposing. Transpositions in red are rare.

Downward Transposition:
Horn in E - 1 note down (m2)
Horn in Eb - 1 note down (M2)
Horn in D - 3 notes down (m3)
Horn in Db - 3 notes down (M3)
Horn in C - 4 notes down (P4)
Horn in Bb (B/si bemol) - 5 notes down (P5)
Horn in B (H/si) - 5 notes down (dim.5th)

Upward Transposition:
Horn in F# - very rare 1 note up (m2)
Horn in G - 1 note up (M2)
Horn in Ab - 3 notes up (m3)
Horn in A - 3 notes up (M3)

Also just wanted to add an interesting tid bit of information here:
When you see "Horn in H" on your music, it means Horn in B.
When you see "Horn in B" on your music, it means Horn in Bb.
Can things get any more confusing?
Usually there is the word "si" next to Horn in H which means B.
Usually there are the words "si bemol" next to Horn in B which means B-flat.
If you are confused, always look to see if it says "si" or "si bemol."

2. The key signature: How many flats or sharps?
The Key signature is found easily by thinking 5 notes above whatever horn you are transposing in.

Example: Horn in Eb: 5 notes up is "Bb", so Bb Major is your key signature (2 flats), and "Bb" is 99.9% of the time going to be your tonic/root note when playing Horn in Eb.

What about if it's a minor key? you don't really have to worry about it. A majority of orchestral horn parts have no key signatures, the accidentals written in the music  will adjust and cover the modulations or transitions into minor keys.
* What if there IS a key signature in the staff? If you do come across a pre-existing key signature, then see my notes farther below near the end of this guide...it will explain how to adjust in a simplistic way.

Key Signatures for Downward Transpositions
Horn in E - just flat everything (or B Major, 5 sharps)
Horn in Eb - Bb Major (2 flats)
Horn in D - A Major (3 sharps)
Horn in Db - Ab Major (4 flats)
Horn in C - G Major (1 sharp)
Horn in Bb (B/si bemol) - F Major (1 flat)
Horn in B (H/si) - F# Major (6 sharps)

Key Signatures for Upward Transpositions
Horn in F# - just sharp everything (or C# Major, 6 sharps)
Horn in G - D Major (2 sharps)
Horn in Ab - Eb Major (3 flats)
Horn in A - E Major (4 sharps)

Here is a more detailed thought process below of how to find the key signature...if you don't understand it, that's ok, just remember, in order to find the key signature, you think 5 notes above whatever horn you are transposing in, and that's it, that's all you need to know. This is just a more lengthy explanation...

If you specifically wrote out a C Major scale to transpose (because it has 0 sharps, 0 flats...no sharps or flats just like many of our orchestral parts that have no key signature) while using this thought process, you will find the following key signatures surface....

F Horn playing a C Major Scale:         C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
F Horn transposing this to Horn in C: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G. (G Major)

Here are a few more examples of this...

F Horn playing a C Major scale:          C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
F Horn transposing this to Horn in EbBb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb. (Bb Major)

F Horn playing a C Major scale:          C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
F Horn transposing this to Horn in D:  A, B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A. (A Major)

F Horn playing a C Major scale:               C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
F Horn transposing this to Horn in H (si): F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E#, F#.  (F#/Gb Major)

F Horn playing a C Major scale:                           C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
F Horn transposing this to Horn in B (si bemol): F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F. (F Major)

....as you can tell, these examples show what the primary key signature turns out to be while transposing (ex. Horn in C: 5 notes up from C is G, therefore G Major is the key signature which is 1 sharp. Horn in Eb: 5 notes up from Eb is Bb, therefore Bb Major is the key signature which is 2 flats).

So you can see why it is important to know your order of flats and sharps (through learning the circle of fifths), how it comes in handy (plus you'll need to know it well if you plan on majoring in music, and for music theory, and for transposing on horn...it's a requirement). In other words knowing what it means when someone says "Bb Major is the key signature", meaning Bb key signature has 2 flats and that these 2 flats are Bb & Eb. So for example: 1 flat means = Bb, 2 flats means = Bb, Eb, 3 flats mean =Bb, Eb, Ab etc. and 1 sharp = F#, 2 sharps = F#, C#, etc.

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Here are some examples of how I transpose (combining steps 1 & 2):

Example 1
Professor: "Read this excerpt as Horn in C."
I think: 4 notes down, 1 sharp.

....Other ways of thinking:
4 notes down, G Major.
4 notes down, G Major = 1 sharp (F#).
Perfect 4th down.
Or use the clef system.

Example 2
Professor: "Read this excerpt as Horn in G."
I think: 1 note up, 2 sharps.

...Other ways of thinking:
1 note up, D Major.
1 note up, D Major = 2 sharps (F#, C#).
Major 2nd up.

Example 3
Professor: "Read this excerpt as Horn in Eb."
I think: 1 note down, 2 flats.

...Other ways of thinking:
1 note down, Bb Major.
1 note down, Bb Major = 2 flats (Bb, Eb).
Major 2nd down.

Example 4
Professor: "Read this excerpt as Horn in E."
I think: Flat everything. If a natural sign appears in front of a note, then don't flat that note. If a flat sign occurs in front of a note, then it's double flatted.

...Other ways of thinking:
1 note down, B Major.
1 note down, B Major = 5 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#).
minor 2nd down.

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A summary of both steps 1 & 2: Combining how many notes Up/Down and Key signature for memorization purposes:

Downward Transpositions
Horn in E: Flat everything. If a natural sign appears in front of a note, then don't flat that note. If a flat sign occurs in front of a note, then it's double flatted. Otherwise I use: 1 note down, 5 sharps (*especially if there is a pre-existing key signature).
Horn in Eb: 1 note down, 2 flats.
Horn in D: 3 notes down, 3 sharps.
Horn Db: 3 notes down, 4 flats.
Horn in C: 4 notes down, 1 sharp.
Horn in Bb (B/Si Bemol): 5 notes down, 1 flat.
Horn in B (H/Si): 5 notes down, 6 sharps (or 4 notes down, 6 flats).

Upward Transposition
Horn in F#: Sharp everything. If a flat appears in front of a note, then don't sharp that note. If a sharp sign occurs in front of a note, then it is double sharped. Otherwise I use: 1 note up, 6 sharps (*especially if there is a pre-existing key signature).
Horn in G: 1 note up, 2 sharps.
Horn in Ab: 3 notes up, 3 flats.
Horn in A: 3 notes up, 4 sharps.
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* If you do come across an already existing key signature written in the music and are required to transpose it (ex. most etudes):

(Flat) transposition with a flat key signature:
The flats are added onto the flats you already have.
(Flat) transposition with a sharp key signature:
The number of flats cancel out the same number of sharps.

(Sharp) transposition with a sharp key signature:

The sharps are added onto the sharps you already have.
(Sharp) transposition with a flat key signature:
The number of sharps cancel out the same number of flats.

You will usually come across this in lessons if your professor makes you transpose Kopprasch etudes.

Example of how I think:
Professor: "Read Kopprasch etude number 28 as Horn in C."
How I think:
* First I look at the key signature of the etude/music and it has 3 flats.
* Second, I think of Horn in C and realize it has 1 sharp.
* This 1 sharp cancels out 1 flat in my etude key signature, so now I have 2 flats.
* Now all I have to think about when playing the etude as Horn in C is: 4 notes down, 2 flats.

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Tip for Bass clef transposition in C: Read it as treble clef and transpose it as Horn in Eb.

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Another comment that I got on my transposition guide from a very knowledgeable professional was:

For the transpositions not listed on here: Low: Horn in A and Ab basso, which you will see frequently in Italian opera, notably Verdi. These are very easy to read if you know the trick: just read A or Ab basso as old notation bass clef and add the appropriate key signature (4 sharps for A basso and 3 flats for Ab basso). The lowest/worst transposition I ever saw was a Donizetti opera (don't remember the name) that had Gb basso. A fright to read, and it would have been a nightmare to play a horn that long (a Bb basso natural horn is bad enough).
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To learn how to transpose doesn't necessarily require your horn, it is very much a mental preparation, so take the time once a day to sit down and mentally transpose without the instrument. Quiz yourself: "What is the note D in Horn in A?" it's F#. "What is A in Horn in A?" It's C#. etc. Like I stated above with links, knowing your scales and key signatures very well will help you out a lot with transposition.

© Katie A. Berglof



Tags: How do I transpose on French horn? Transposition on French horn. Transposition Chart. French horn transposition. French horn transposition Guide. Learning how to transpose on French horn. Interval Method Transposition. Clef Method Transposition. Transposing horn orchestra parts. Transposing with key signatures.

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