Music theory and music practice. Transposing instruments.

When is a note not itself?  Here is a brief excerpt from Wikipedia on the topic of transposing instruments.  Keyboards that change keys electronically and capoed guitars function similarly.  That is, the same fingering yields different notes, chords, and keys.  There are plenty of reasons why this is done, no need to feel like you are "cheating" as you will eventually hear someone say.

A transposing instrument is a musical instrument whose music is recorded in sheet notation at a pitch different from the pitch that actually sounds (concert pitch). A written middle C on a transposing instrument produces a pitch other than middle C, and that pitch identifies the interval of transposition when describing the instrument. For example, a written C on a B clarinet sounds a concert B.
Rather than a property of the instrument, the transposition is a convention of music notation. Instruments whose music is typically notated in this way are called transposing instruments. As transposing instruments is a notation convention, the issue of transposition is mainly an issue for genres of music which use sheet music, such as classical music and jazz (while jazz is an improvisation-based music, professional players are still expected to be able to read lead sheets and big band sheet music). For some instruments (e.g., the piccolo or the double bass), the sounding pitch is still a C, but in a different octave; these instruments are said to transpose "at the octave".

Reasons for transposing

There are several reasons that composers, orchestrators and arrangers transpose music for certain instruments.

Making it easier to move between instruments in the same family

Many instruments are members of a family of instruments that differ mainly in size (see examples below). The instruments in these families have differing ranges, with the members sounding lower as they get larger; but an identical pattern of fingerings on two instruments in the same family produces pitches a fixed interval apart. For example, the fingerings which produce the notes of a C major scale on a standard flute, a non-transposing instrument, produce a G major scale on an alto flute. As a result, these instruments' parts are notated so that the written notes are fingered the same way on each instrument, making it easier for a single instrumentalist to play several instruments in the same family.
Instruments that transpose this way are often referred to as being in a certain "key", such as the "A clarinet" or "clarinet in A". The instrument's key tells which pitch will sound when the player plays a note written as C. A player of a B clarinet who reads a written C will sound a B while the player of an A clarinet will read the same note and sound an A. The non-transposing member of the family is thus called a "clarinet in C".
Examples of families of transposing instruments:

Examples of families of non-transposing instruments:
Recorders are either untransposed or in some cases transposed at the octave. In the early 20th century, however, instruments with basic scales other than C were sometimes written as transposing instruments.


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