Jump to content
Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

The transposition game - revised for theory newbies

Dan South

Recommended Posts

What if someone - probably a singer - asks you to play a song in a key other than the one that you learned it in? Can you jump to the new key effortlessly? Can you do it if you think about it? Or would you be confused and have to ask the piano player for help?


In order to avoid the embarrassment of the latter situation, you are cordially invited to participate in this key change exercise thread. I'll post a chord progression - or someone else can post one - and then we'll ask for eleven volunteers each to post the progression transposed into another key.


Example: Here's a simple you've-heard-it-a-million-times doo wop chord progression in C:


C Am Dm G


There are twelve major keys. We've already used C, so we have eleven more to go. To make it challenging, we'll go in the order of the circle of fifth. Here's the list of major keys:


C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G


That should be twelve, unless I miss my guess.


So the next key after C is F. How would you play this progression in F? The answer is:


F Dm Gm C


Does everyone know WHY? Let's look at the original progression.


C --> drops down a third (C B A) to

Am --> drops down a fifth (A G F E D) to

Dm --> drops another fifth (D C B A G) to



If we transpose to the key of F, the starting point changes, but the SPACES BETWEEN THE NOTES stay the same, as do the TYPES of chords (major, minor, etc.)


F --> drops down a third (F E D) to

Dm --> drops down a fifth (D C Bb A G) to

Gm --> drops down a fifth (G F E D C) to



Thus, the chord progression played in F is:


F Dm Gm C


Can I ask for a volunteer to transpose to Bb, then someone else to Eb, etc., until we've covered all twelve keys? If we can get through all twelve keys, I'll post a slightly more challenging progression, one that you'll encounter on many gigs - hint: think "the blues." ;)


Okay, let's see those chord progressions, ten of them, one volunteer for each, please!

The Black Knight always triumphs!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 23
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Funny this came up...


In fact, in pop songs, knowing the I-IV-I's of the thing is really helpful.


In fact, I don't even think of chord names anymore...I just hear the harmony and change with it. I actually get confused if I try to think of a chord.


Sunday night, during a practice session of my jazz reading band (new member wants to mess it up and play for money!!!!now we gotta rehearse) he called a very familiar tune: "Take the A Train"


Then he said, "I know this in F; what key do you guys play it in?" And of course, the key in all the Real Books is C


So he said..."Tell ya what we're gonna do. We're gonna play it in F for the first head and solos, and then play it in C for the last time through.


And we did...no music, no chord chart...just our intimate knowledge of the changes on this tune.


I wonder...just how many songs could I do that with? Hmmmmm.......

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.


Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, good, we've made it (almost) back to the key of E. Let's drop the doo wop and move on to blues.


Here's the progression in E. I won't make it too simple, because I know that you guys like a challenge. Please continue in A, D, G, C, F, etc.


E | A7 | E | Bm7 E7 |

A7 | A7 | E | C#7 F#m7 |

B7 | A7 | E G7 | F#7 F7 |


If that one is too tough, here's a simpler blues. Pick whichever one you're more comfortable with.


E A7 E E7

A7 A7 E E7

B7 A7 E B7

The Black Knight always triumphs!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's true, I guess the tendency is to label that turnaround as a bIII, II, bII, back to the one. I probably did it that way without thinking because A is a "sharp key."


I also always get mixed up because of the similarity to the popular I, #Idim, ii progression like in Stormy Weather (I think that's the one I mean...SRV's cover of Little Wing is in my player right now, so I can't get any other music in my head!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, that's a good question when I look back over it. I put in a minor 6 chord there because, well, I thought that's how a jazz blues is played. A dominant (ie major with a flat 7) family chord would sound fine there, with a bit of sass. I would just assume that it was minor if I were playing it by ear.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Gord -B:

Hi newbie question. I was doing this in A and i got this


A - D7 - A - Em7 A7

D7 - D7 - A - F#7--why is this wrong Bm7

A7 / D7 / A7 C7 / B7 Bflat7

F#7 is correct if you follow the original example. Of course, the example is arbitrary. I could have put a minor seventh there, and it would have worked fine.


The only problem with your version is the A7 at the beginning of the third line. It would be E7, the chord built on the fifth note of the A scale.


Notice, also, why the F#7 and Bm7 were used in the measure BEFORE the E7. Circle of fifths. F# leads down a fifth to B (F#, E, D, C#, B), and then B leads down a fifth to E (B, A, G#, F#, E). - I'm using notes from the A major scale (key of A). - In Western music, the most natural flow from one chord to the next is when you move down a fifth from chord to chord.

The Black Knight always triumphs!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Graham56:

OK, I'll bite...


C | F7 | C | Gm7 |

F7 | F7 | C | A7 Dm7 |

G7 | F7 | C Eb7 | D7 Db7 |


This is a good exercise - although I had to sit down with the bass and work it out on the fretboard!





Very good, but you need a C7 in the second half of the fourth measure.

The Black Knight always triumphs!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll bet Keith Emerson's still mad at Greg Lake for making him re-learn half of Karn Evil 9 down a third because Lake's pipes couldn't cut it anymore. "Gimme Three Steps" in another key? Sure. "Third Impression" in a new key? Gimme a break!

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."


Les Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is anyone out there confused? Don't know what's going on?


Let's go back to an easy example in the key of G.




If I transpose this to the key of C, it's






Look at the original progression in the key of G.




Where do each of these chords fit in the G scale?


G A B C D E F# G


G = first note

C = fourth note

D = fifth note

G = first note (again)


So, if we want to move this to the key of C, we have to use the C scale:




What's the first note in the C scale? It's C, so the first chord in the progression is C.


What's the fourth note in the C scale? It's F, so the second chord in the progression is F.


What's the fifth note in the C scale? It's G, so the third chord in the progression is G.


And we end back up where we started ©.


So, the SAME chord progression transposed from the key of G to the key of C is:






Would someone who has not yet participated like to try to transpose this progression into the key of F, D, A, or E? These are relatively easy keys to work with.

The Black Knight always triumphs!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I - IV - V - I

F - bB - C - F


(was confused on my first effort so hope you don't mind me trying again)


heres how i approach doing it.

(example) (key to transpose to)

I - C F

ii - Dm Gm

iii - Em Am

IV - F Bb

V - G C

vi - Am Dm


then i follow the same pattern as the example

I IV V I. I always get messed up when it come to the Vii i hear its meant to be a half diminished but you normally flatten the 7th (mixolydian styley). Does this mean it would be B7(in C) and E7(in F)? But whats the difference between this and Bmaj7/Emaj7? :confused:

Derek Smalls: It's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water. http://www.myspace.com/gordonbache
Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...