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Clarinet Space
by Kyle Coughlin

Understanding Clarinet Transposition

Musical instruments exist in many different keys. Most instruments are in what we call “concert key.” The following instruments are in concert key: piano, flute, oboe, bassoon, guitar, bass, most string instruments, harp, and many others. The notes they play could be called the “official” pitches. If you play a note on one of those instruments and check its pitch with a tuner, the tuner will give you the exact name of the note you are playing. For example, if you play the note B flat on the piano, the tuner will indicate the pitch B flat. That seems pretty simple, but not all instruments are in concert key.

Many instruments are in different keys, such as B flat, E flat, A, or F. These instruments are called transposing instruments. When you play the pitch “C” on an instrument that is in the key of B flat, that note will sound like concert B flat. When you play the pitch “C” on an E flat instrument, it will sound like concert E flat.

The most commonly played clarinet is the “B flat” or soprano clarinet. Like the trumpet, tenor saxophone, and soprano saxophone, it is in the key of B flat. If you play the pitch “C” on your clarinet, it will register as a B flat on your tuner. The note C that you play on the clarinet is also called the “written pitch” for the clarinet.

Why don’t we just learn the clarinet by playing the concert pitches? Read here for the answer.

To figure out the concert pitch of notes played on the B flat clarinet, transpose down one whole step.
Here is a list of written B flat clarinet pitches and the concert pitches that they produce:

Written B flat Clarinet Pitch
Actual Concert Pitch
G sharp
F sharp
G
F
G flat
F flat
F sharp
E
F
E flat
E
D
E flat
D flat
D sharp
C sharp
D
C
D flat
C flat
C sharp
B
C
B flat
B
A
B flat
A flat
A sharp
G sharp
A
G
A flat
G flat

To figure out the concert pitch of notes played on the E flat clarinet, transpose down a major sixth.
Here is a list of written E flat clarinet pitches and the concert pitches that they produce:

Written E flat Clarinet Pitch
Actual Concert Pitch
G sharp
B
G
B flat
G flat
B double flat
F sharp
A
F
A flat
E
G
E flat
G flat
D sharp
F sharp
D
F
D flat
F flat
C sharp
E
C
E flat
B
D
B flat
D flat
A sharp
C sharp
A
C
A flat
C flat

 

To figure out the concert pitch of notes played on the A clarinet, transpose down a minor third.
Here is a list of written A clarinet pitches and the concert pitches that they produce:

Written A Clarinet Pitch
Actual Concert Pitch
G sharp
F
G
E
G flat
E flat
F sharp
D sharp
F
D
E
C sharp
E flat
C
D sharp
B sharp
D
B
D flat
B flat
C sharp
A sharp
C
A
B
G sharp
B flat
G
A sharp
F double sharp
A
F sharp
A flat
F

 

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