How Do I Transpose Chords?

If you like a song but can’t sing or play it in its current key signature, you can transpose the chords or change the notes to something you can. Taking each note from the song’s current key and moving it in equal intervals higher or lower until the song is in the desired key can be moderately challenging, depending on your experience with musical staffs and note recognition. You must repeat these steps for each note until they are all changed and your new key is finished.

To begin, you should know what note the song begins on. Although some people can successfully transpose chords and entire pieces of music ear, having sheet music in front of you is the easiest way to figure this out. You should also take note of the original key signature observing the presence and placement of sharps and flats within the song.

The next step is to determine the degree of spacing between the notes. Examine each note and determine whether it is higher or lower than the one before it. This is your interval spacing: count how many half steps it will take you to get to the next note. This process will be repeated throughout the song as you transpose chords.

It’s time to move the original chords into the desired key now that you’ve noted the interval spacing. Change your original, or foundation, note first. If the key signature is in C, for example, the foundation note will be in C as well. To switch from a C to an E key signature, the new foundation note will be in E as well. This is a one-third interval change that must be used on every note in the song.

The final step is to transpose chords to the new key using the interval change. If it starts in E, you can write out each interval you counted from the beginning note, whether it’s up or down. The foundation note should be E, and all subsequent notes should move in exactly the same intervals around it to keep the key consistent. Consider the original song being transposed from a C to a D; after transposing chords, it will be an E to an F#. The interval spacing is the same as in the original song, but the notes are higher.