The Church Pianist: How I Learned to Transpose

Transposing can be learned by the
church pianist but requires frequent
application to acquire confidence.

I do play by ear but my parents had me start
lessons at a young age so I would know how to
read music. Thank the Lord for that!

As a teenager I began to play for my dad to sing.
Prior to this, I had learned all the major scales
and played comfortably from the hymnal.

My dad is a bass so therefore I had to transpose
everything he sang!

Transposing a melody was easier if I already knew
how to play the song. The notes of the melody would
be the same distance apart but I would have to re-
member what was black.

Here was my thinking process:

Say, for example, the song was in G Major and
my dad wanted it in E flat Major.

E (flat) is three notes lower than G. I would just
think three notes lower for each melody note and
remember to flat the notes: E, A and B.

I always thought by chord numbers to transpose
for the left hand.

For example, the D chord in the key of G is the V (five)
chord because D is the fifth note in the key of G.
So, in the key of E flat….B flat is the fifth note….so
I would use the B flat chord in the new key.

Learning to transpose was a slow process at first but
I steadily grew more comfortable with constant practice.

See, I had no choice…I was my dad’s only pianist at
the time and had to learn.

Being forced into a situation does wonders for the learn-
ing process!

Challenge to the church pianist: Try transposing
a simple melody to several different keys.
Gradually add the left hand once you have a feel
for the melody in the new keys.

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