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Re: Contents of Lilypond-user Digest 138:76, Transposing instruments

From: Dennis Clason
Subject: Re: Contents of Lilypond-user Digest 138:76, Transposing instruments
Date: Thu, 15 May 2014 21:53:57 -0600

Folks, every discourse community has implicit assumptions, and the music community is no different both in its jargon and in its score conventions.  Guitar transposes down the octave unless the score states otherwise.  Contrabass and contrabassoon sound an octave lower than written.  Piccolos sound an octave higher than written.

The only transposition that is confusing to those who know the conventions is F Horn in bass clef.  The modern practice is sounding a P5 below the written pitch.  The old practice is sounding a P4 higher.  (Given that the purpose of using bass clef for horn is to avoid ledger lines, the old practice is just stupid.)  You should note which convention you use, or it will be misinterpreted by someone.

Putting parts out that invoke an octave clef will confuse the players (if they notice it): they are accustomed to reading the transpositions.  In my world, the only place the octave clefs have is in a concert pitch score.  When parts are extracted, lose the clefs.

Conventions change: in twenty or twenty-five years octave clefs denoting sounding pitch may be the new convention for players.  But for now, if your usage is outside the usual conventions, put a footnote on it.

Dennis Clason

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