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Transposing Music – How to Change the Key of a Song

By Lynne May

Do you have a song that you would love to sing but it is just too high or too low? Or is one of your band’s songs not right for your singer? It is easy to “transpose” the song to a more suitable key. Here are two ways!

TRANSPOSE A SONG BY SCALE DEGREE: For this method, you need to be familiar with chord progressions**. The steps to transpose a song in this manner are:1. Determine the scale degree of each chord. For example, if the chords in the song are: G / Am / Bm / C / Am / Em / D7 / G, then the scale degrees of the chords would be : I / ii / iii / IV / ii / vi / V7 / I. 2. Apply the scale degrees to the new key. To change this progression from the old key of “G” to a new key–”A”, for example, just apply the scale degrees to the new key. The above progression in the key of “A” would be : A / Bm / C#m / D / Bm / F#M / E7 / A.

NOTE: This method works best if the chord progression of the song remains in the same key throughout the song.

TRANSPOSE A SONG BY INTERVALS: For this method, you need to be familiar with intervals**. The steps to transpose a song by this method are:1. Determine the intervals between the chords. For example: G to A is a second; A to B is a second; B to C is a minor second; C to A is a sixth; A to E is a fifth; E to D is a flatted seventh (or a major 2nd DOWN); and D to G is a fourth. 2. Apply the intervals to a new key. For example, if you want to change the above progression from G to E, start with E and go up a second to F#; then up a second to G#; up a minor 2nd to A; up a sixth to F#; up a fifth to C#; up a flatted seventh (or down a major 2nd) to B; and up a fourth to E. 3. Apply the “chord qualities” (Major, minor, dominant 7th, etc.) from the old chords to the new chords. The progression transposed to the new key of E will be: E / F#m / G#m / A / F#m / C#m / B7 / E.

NOTE: With this method, you can transpose any song, even if it changes keys several times.

**Informational pages about chord progressions, key signatures, and intervals can be found at the author’s website–see the link below.

Visit this site for free (really–no trial periods, no tricks–just FREE!) guitar, drum, piano, theory and composition lessons.

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