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transposition program

Andy Honeybone continues to enlarge his software with this One Two transposing program. Play in the key of Z squared and be the envy of your math's teacher.


It may come as something of a shock to the uninitiated, but the majority of musical instruments don't produce the actual concert pitch frequency when a written note is played. For example, if a trumpet plays a middle C written, a concert B flat emerges. If a baritone sax plays a written C, an E flat rumbles forth. Both six-string and bass guitars produce notes which are one octave lower than written.

This strange state of affairs is due to a variety of excuses including history, physics, engineering, keeping notation central about the stave, and preserving standard fingerings on instruments of the same basic type. Hence a piccolo player won't have to learn to read notes with dozens of leger lines below them, and a saxophonist won't have to think about where to find the notes when changing from a tenor to an alto.

The advantage is definitely in favour of the player: it is the arranger who has to compensate for these quirks by jacking the pitch of the parts up and down (called transposing) so that the desired concert pitches finally emerge. Lest you ponder why concert pitch trumpets and saxes are not made, the answer is that no one really wants them. The C melody saxophone was in vogue before 1930 but by all accounts the tone was neither one thing nor the other. The altos and tenors cleaned up.

In short, transposing is a drag but has to be done. So why not use a computer? If you have typed in the previous two listings then it is likely that you have started to amass a number of songs which are crying out to be pushed into other keys. This month's listing brings you this facility in the shape of some extra procedures and lines which must be added to the part two program.

Any REMs and redundant lines in part two should be erased because the combined program is fairly large and needs plenty of metaphorical elbow room. The add-on can either be typed in directly or entered as a separate file which can be saved in ASCII form by the *SPOOL "filename", LIST and *SPOOL commands. In the latter case, the new section can be merged with the main program by using the *EXEC command (see User Manual for details).

The program operates on the raw data: it transfers non-alphabetic (A-G) characters unchanged. When alphabetic characters are encountered the adjacent symbol is checked to see if it is a sharp or a flat. Accordingly, a one or two character string is then sent for tranposition and on return replaces the initial value.

A compromise has been forced in making the output both musically correct and easy to read. If you must have E sharp instead of F in sharp keys and F flat instead of E in flat keys, you can change the entries in the DATA statements to suit you (lines 3220 and 3230), as long as the sequence 'sharp-flat' is maintained.

The transposition feature is the real clincher for the usefulness of this series of programs. If you are a vocalist you will be amazed at the difference that a key change can make to a song that otherwise perhaps slightly strains you or doesn't seem 'quite right'. Many performers struggle on because transposing seems like too much hard work — now there's no excuse.

If you're an instrumentalist you'll find that playing an old tune in a new key will give it a new lease of life because your fingers won't fall into the same well-worn phrases.

If you're an arranger and you need to work with vocalists who want to try a whole load of keys, and then want chord charts for every instrument going, then this program is going to save you 734 black ball-point refills.

Because the program asks for the transposition interval in semitones the following table should be of assistance.

Interval No. of semitones Transposing instruments
minor second 1 -
major second 2 B flat clarinet, trumpet, flugel, soprano sax
minor third 3 A clarinet, oboe d'amore
major third 4 -
fourth 5 alto flute
augmented fourth 6 -
perfect fifth 7 cor anglais, French horn
augmented fifth 8 -
major sixth 9 alto sax
minor seventh 10 -
major seventh 11 -

(Click image for higher resolution version)

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Bo Peep

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One Two Testing - Copyright: IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


One Two Testing - Nov 1984

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman



Feature by Andy Honeybone

Previous article in this issue:

> Bo Peep

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> Playback

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