You might need to use PlayScore’s transposition for several reasons

  • A score contains transposing instruments with differing key signatures
  • You want to make the music sound higher or lower
  • You want to change the written key of your music

These situations are all different:

The score has transposing instruments (with different key signatures)

Normally PlayScore 2 assumes that all staves have the same key signature.  This assumption helps PlayScore 2 read poor quality scores, but it doesn’t work when there are transposing instruments.  To handle transposing instruments correctly.

  • From the Play screen tap the cogwheel Cog

  • In the control panel, set the Auto transposition switch to on

PlayScore 2 will reprocess the music.  In most cases it will play correctly.  However, if your score has an old-style horn or a trumpet part, written without a key signature (when other staves have them) it will need special treatment.  See Transposing Brass below.

Making music sound higher or lower

Suppose you want to make the music play in a different key, so that it will suit your voice better, or to make a piano part sound right when you read a solo part written at pitch on a transposing instrument.  To do that, use the Staves screen to transpose all the staves up or down by the same interval.

  • From the Play screen tap the Staves button lower left

  • Use the Transpose control to move ALL the staffs up or down by the same amount

  • Tap Done

As an example, suppose you have a song with piano accompaniment but you want PlayScore 2 to accompany you on your Bb clarinet.  Because every note on the Bb clarinet sounds a tone lower than written, you should transpose the music down by two semitones.  Then the piano, played by PlayScore 2 will accompany your clarinet in the same key.  Note that the music still looks the same.  PlayScore 2 just plays a tone lower to match your Bb clarinet. (in this example you would also need to mute the voice part so the PlayScore 2 plays just the accompaniment)

Changing the written key

This is different from the example above.  In this case the aim is to transpose the notation for the music, for a human to play.  The best way to do this is to export the music as it stands as MusicXML, and use SeeScore or a notation editor like MuseScore or Finale to transpose the music.  One advantage of using SeeScore is that you can do everything on your mobile device.

  • Use PlayScore 2 to scan the music or import a PDF

  • From the Play screen tap the share icon and choose ‘Save as MusicXML’

  • Open the MusicXML file in SeeScore or your favourite notation editor

  • Use the notation program’s transposition function to change the key as desired

Transposing manually (transposing brass)

Manual transposition provides a solution for any transposing situation that cannot be accommodated automatically with the Auto transposition feature.  This includes old-style scores involving transposing brass as well as other rare cases.

Transposing brass: trumpet and horn

In many old scores, horn and trumpet parts are written without a key signature, regardless of key.  Players understand this convention, but the lack of a key signature prevents PlayScore 2’s Auto transposition feature from determining the correct transposition.

To make these scores play correctly, the transpositions must be set up manually:

  • Make sure that Auto transposition is NOT switched on

  • From the Play screen, tap the Staves icon lower left

  • For every staff with a transposing instrument (brass or not) enter the transposition (see examples below)

  • Tap Done

Export

When you export a score with manual transpositions as MusicXML, and open it in a score editor it will look just as in the original score, with each instrument taking the right key signature.  However unlike Auto transposed scores, to playback correctly the score editor must know what the instruments are. The score editor documentation will tell you how to do this.

Examples

The transposition you enter on the Staves screen should be the same as the transposition the instrument performs.  After all, all you are doing is telling PlayScore 2 to play like a clarinet or a saxophone.  A clarinet in Bb for example transposes down one tone, i.e. 2 semitones; so the transposition you enter for its staff is -2.  An alto saxophone transposes up by a major 6th (+9).  A horn in F transposes down a fifth (-7).

Determining the transpositions interval

The first page of a score will normally list the instruments and their keys.  The key will tell you the transposition interval but not the direction up or down.  Wikipedia’s article ‘List of transposing instruments’ contains comprehensive information.  Once you know what note the instrument sounds for a notated middle C, count the number of semitone steps in between and set the PlayScore 2 transposition to that number, positive or negative.

Guitar and other instruments that transpose at the octave

Some instruments (eg piccolo) transpose at the octave.  A piccolo, seeing a notated middle C plays the C one octave above.  In the case of the guitar the transposition is the other way.  A written middle C played on a guitar sounds one octave lower.  Guitar music will play from a photo or a PDF, but it will sound an octave too high:

  • From the Play screen tap the Staves button lower left

  • set the transposition to -12

  • Tap Done

If you export the score as MusicXML to a notation editor it will look correct but once again sound an octave too high.  To correct this set the instrument in the notation editor to guitar.

Use the same technique for other instruments transposing at the octave.