How Music Works
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Playing with Chords

Playing with Chords

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(7.11)  Transposing Chords

Occasionally you will want to transpose the chords in sheet music from one key to another, for a couple of possible reasons.

A different key may give you an easier set of chord formations to work with.  For example, some of the easiest chordshapes on guitar suit keys like A, D and E, while the equivalent chords in keys such F#, C# and Eb often require more difficult barre chord formations.

The other reason for transposing is to make the melody fit the range of your voice or another lead instrument.

Any piece of music can be transposed to any key and still sound pretty much the same, just with an overall higher or lower sound.

Once you get used to the mental arithmetic of shifting note letters as you transpose, you will find it becomes largely automatic.

To make it easy for you to get started though, the lookup table below can be used for transposing chords, as well as notes and scales.

For an example, let's transpose the following chord progression from the key of G into the key of E.

Step 1.  First we find the interval between these two keys (from G to E), in the row for the original key (G) and the column for the transpose key (E).  We find there is an interval of a sixth (6) between them.

Step 2.  Notice how there is a diagonal series of cells containing sixths in the table (in two sections).  This diagonal is marked with dotted line above to make it easier to see.  Using this diagonal we can transpose any note to its equivalent in the new key.

Step 3.  The first chord is Gmaj, so we find the cell in this diagonal in the row for G.  It is the same cell as before, in the column for E.  This tells us the equivalent chord is Emaj.

Step 4.  The next chord is Em, so we find the cell in this diagonal in the row for E.  It is in the column for C#, so the equivalent chord is C#m.  Repeating this process for the other chords, we end up with the transposed sequence below.

Most ChordWizard products contain the Transpose Chords tool, which offers a much quicker and easier way to transpose chords than the manual method described in this topic.

You simply enter the names of the chords you wish to transpose, together with the original key and transpose key.  The conversion is then done for you instantly.

 

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