Transposing (for keyboard players at least) is somewhat of a lost art these days. Technology has progressed to the point that most digital keyboard instruments allow the performer to transpose at the touch of a button. Websites such as musicnotes.com allow customers to transpose their sheet music purchases into any key and print them instantly. So, why should we still teach our piano students to transpose?
- Transposing teaches students intervallic reading. Transposing forces students to look for patterns between the notes instead of just focusing on the letter names. Most pedagogues agree that in music (as in written language) it is better to read in “chunks,” forming patterns from groups of notes instead of focusing on each individual note as a separate entity. Transposing is a great way for students to learn this skill.
- Transposing helps students become comfortable playing in sharp and flat keys. Piano students often spend years of lessons playing only in keys with few sharps or flats. So it is no surprise that many students find playing in keys such as Db major or F# major to be scary and awkward at first! Transposing gives even beginning students the opportunity to play in keys that they might not otherwise encounter in their repertoire for several years.
- Transposing helps with ear training. Students must listen carefully as they transpose to make sure they are playing their music correctly, since they can’t rely on just reading the note names. Since students are reading by interval and looking for patterns, it also helps them to develop an awareness of how different patterns sound.
In future blog posts I plan on sharing how I teach students to transpose in my studio. What do you think? Do you see value in teaching students to transpose?