A music expression can be transposed with \transpose. The syntax is

\transpose frompitch topitch musicexpr

This means that musicexpr is transposed by the interval between the pitches frompitch and topitch: any note with pitch frompitch is changed to topitch and any other note is transposed by the same interval. Both pitches are entered in absolute mode.

Note: Music inside a \transpose block is absolute unless a \relative is included in the block.

Consider a piece written in the key of D-major. It can be transposed up to E-major; note that the key signature is automatically transposed as well.

\transpose d e {
  \relative {
    \key d \major
    d'4 fis a d

[image of music]

If a part written in C (normal concert pitch) is to be played on the A clarinet (for which an A is notated as a C and thus sounds a minor third lower than notated), the appropriate part will be produced with:

\transpose a c' {
  \relative {
    \key c \major
    c'4 d e g

[image of music]

Note that we specify \key c \major explicitly. If we do not specify a key signature, the notes will be transposed but no key signature will be printed.

\transpose distinguishes between enharmonic pitches: both \transpose c cis or \transpose c des will transpose up a semitone. The first version will print sharps and the notes will remain on the same scale step, the second version will print flats on the scale step above.

music = \relative { c' d e f }
\new Staff {
  \transpose c cis { \music }
  \transpose c des { \music }

[image of music]

\transpose may also be used in a different way, to input written notes for a transposing instrument. The previous examples show how to enter pitches in C (or concert pitch) and typeset them for a transposing instrument, but the opposite is also possible if you for example have a set of instrumental parts and want to print a conductor’s score. For example, when entering music for a B-flat trumpet that begins on a notated E (concert D), one would write:

musicInBflat = { e4 … }
\transpose c bes, \musicInBflat

To print this music in F (e.g., rearranging to a French horn) you could wrap the existing music with another \transpose:

musicInBflat = { e4 … }
\transpose f c' { \transpose c bes, \musicInBflat }

For more information about transposing instruments, see Instrument transpositions.

Selected Snippets

Transposing pitches with minimum accidentals ("Smart" transpose)

This example uses some Scheme code to enforce enharmonic modifications for notes in order to have the minimum number of accidentals. In this case, the following rules apply:

Double accidentals should be removed

B sharp -> C

E sharp -> F

C flat -> B

F flat -> E

In this manner, the most natural enharmonic notes are chosen.

#(define (naturalize-pitch p)
   (let ((o (ly:pitch-octave p))
         (a (* 4 (ly:pitch-alteration p)))
         ;; alteration, a, in quarter tone steps,
         ;; for historical reasons
         (n (ly:pitch-notename p)))
      ((and (> a 1) (or (eqv? n 6) (eqv? n 2)))
       (set! a (- a 2))
       (set! n (+ n 1)))
      ((and (< a -1) (or (eqv? n 0) (eqv? n 3)))
       (set! a (+ a 2))
       (set! n (- n 1))))
      ((> a 2) (set! a (- a 4)) (set! n (+ n 1)))
      ((< a -2) (set! a (+ a 4)) (set! n (- n 1))))
     (if (< n 0) (begin (set! o (- o 1)) (set! n (+ n 7))))
     (if (> n 6) (begin (set! o (+ o 1)) (set! n (- n 7))))
     (ly:make-pitch o n (/ a 4))))

#(define (naturalize music)
   (let ((es (ly:music-property music 'elements))
         (e (ly:music-property music 'element))
         (p (ly:music-property music 'pitch)))
     (if (pair? es)
          music 'elements
          (map naturalize es)))
     (if (ly:music? e)
          music 'element
          (naturalize e)))
     (if (ly:pitch? p)
           (set! p (naturalize-pitch p))
           (ly:music-set-property! music 'pitch p)))

naturalizeMusic =
#(define-music-function (m)
   (naturalize m))

music = \relative c' { c4 d e g }

\score {
  \new Staff {
    \transpose c ais { \music }
    \naturalizeMusic \transpose c ais { \music }
    \transpose c deses { \music }
    \naturalizeMusic \transpose c deses { \music }
  \layout { }

[image of music]

See also

Notation Reference: Instrument transpositions, Inversion, Modal transformations, Relative octave entry, Retrograde.

Snippets: Pitches.

Internals Reference: TransposedMusic.

Known issues and warnings

The relative conversion will not affect \transpose, \chordmode or \relative sections in its argument. To use relative mode within transposed music, an additional \relative must be placed inside \transpose.

Triple accidentals will not be printed if using \transpose. An ‘enharmonically equivalent’ pitch will be used instead (e.g., d-flat rather than e-triple-flat).

LilyPond Notation Reference v2.25.17 (development-branch).