How to transpose Saxophone - Complete guide for beginners

How to Transpose Saxophone

Written by Greger Hillman, Saxophone teacher and music educator

Transposing saxophone is a useful skill to know about. Especially when you want to play along with other instruments like a piano or guitar.

This is also one of the frequently asked sax questions I get from my students so I've put together a guide to transposing saxophone explaining the whole process.

First step is to identify what type of saxophone you play (E♭ or B♭ Saxophone)

Next step is to look at the image below and use the saxophone transpose tool that help you transpose all notes on saxophone in relation to C instruments like the piano.

How to transpose saxophone notes into piano notes and vice versa

Use the saxophone transpose tool (see below) that I made to help you find out the relation between your own sax note and C instruments like the piano. It's useful when you want to find out quickly what the note should be on your sax when playing together with other instruments.

However, as you'll see below there are other ways to calculate and learn how to transpose saxophone to fit with the band” and that's how you can learn and use the skill of transposing on the fly with a bit of practice.

In my experience as a saxophone teacher and pro musician being able read C-instrument sheet music and transpose into the right notes on the saxophone is a really useful skill to have and it will set you apart from the majority of other sax players too. So, good on you for wanting to learn how to transpose your saxophone.

Transpose saxophone tool

Find out what your saxophone note is on a piano or a guitar with the click of a button. Start by choosing your saxophone type, pick a note and click the button.

Saxophone type:

Choose Note:



You need to click each time when changing note

Learn all the notes on saxophone here: Saxophone fingering chart



Why does the notes sound different on the saxophone?

Maybe you've played with a band or looked at the same sheet music as the piano player trying to play together only to find that it sounds a bit weird. The notes are not the same. Even if you and the piano player are playing an C it sounds way off.

This has to do with fact that a piano is a C instrument while your saxophone is pitched in a different key. Depending on what type of saxophone you play it is either a Eb instrument (E-flat) or a Bb instrument (B-flat).

That means that you will have to adjust your notes in relation to the C instrument, so that it lines up and sound the same. You do this by transposing your saxophone music to fit the concert key.

To summerize there are 4 types of saxophones. The Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone.

Saxophone transposition chart

With the saxophone transposition chart you can see clearly the relation between the C instrument notes and the Eb instruments (Alto sax and Bari sax) and the Bb instruments (Tenor sax and Soprano Sax).

C instruments Eb Alto Sax & Bari Sax Bb Tenor & Soprano sax
C A D
C# Bb D#
D B E
Eb C F
E C# F#
F D G
F# D# G#
G E A
G# (Ab) F A# ( Bb)
A F# Bb
Bb G C
B G# (Ab) C# (Db)

Download the Saxophone transposition chart PDF for reference ››

Here's a closer look at how it relates to your saxophone model.

Transpose Soprano Saxophone

The Soprano Saxophone is an Bb instrument (B-flat) which means that it is tuned in the key of B-flat. The relation between the Tenor sax and C instruments like a piano is a whole step.

Transposing Soprano Saxophone to Piano

If you play a C on the piano you need to play a D on the Soprano Saxophone in order to sound the same. That whole step translates into all transposition between Soprano Sax and piano as well as all other C instruments.

Simply by playing every note a whole step above what's written in the C instrument sheet music you will find that your soprano sax sound the same.

If the melody is in C-major on the guitar (or other C instruments) you will be playing in the key o D-major on your tenor saxophone. 

Note: Both Soprano Sax and Trumpet are B-flat instruments which means that you can reed the same sheet music

Basically moving every note in the C instrument part a whole step above what's written you will be playing in the right sounding key. If the song is in G-major (concert pitch) you play A-major on your soprano saxophone.

Transpose Alto Saxophone

The Alto Saxophone is an E♭ instrument which means that it is tuned in the key of E flat.  The relation between the alto sax and C instruments like a piano is a major 6th.

If you play a C on the piano you need to play a A on the Alto Saxophone in order to sound the same.

Transposing Alto Saxophone to Piano

Playing a piece of music in G concert pitch translates to E on your Alto Saxophone. This goes for all the notes you want to translate.

If the song follow the C major scale on Piano (the white notes) you will be playing notes from the A major scale on your Alto Saxophone. That's the major 6th interval on every piano note translated into alto saxophone.   

Transpose Tenor Saxophone

The Tenor Saxophone is an Bb instrument (B-flat) which means that it is tuned in the key of B-flat. The relation between the Tenor sax and C instruments like a piano is a whole step.

Transposing Tenor Saxophone to Piano

If you play a C on the piano you need to play a D on the Tenor Saxophone in order to sound the same. That whole step translates into all transposition between Tenor Sax and piano and other C instruments.

Simply by playing every note a whole step above what's written in the C instrument sheet music you will find that your tenor sax sound the same.

If the melody is in C-major on the guitar (or other C instruments) you will be playing in the key o D-major on your tenor saxophone. 

Note: Both Tenor Sax and Trumpets are B-flat instruments which means that you can reed the same sheet music as a trumpet player.

Transpose Baritone Saxophone

The Baritone Saxophone is an E-flat instrument (Eb) and just like the Alto saxophone it's also tuned in the key of E-flat. That also translates the intervall between C instruments and the E baritone Saxophone.

Transposing Baritone Saxophone to Piano

If the piano plays a C you play an A on the Baritone Saxophone in order to sound the same. That's a major 6th interval that you apply to every note you want to transpose from concert pitch to Baritone Saxophone.

Side note: Most modern Baritone Saxophones have a low A key which means that you can really make your low A stand out if you want it too. 

What's the tuning of a saxophone?

There are 4 main types of saxophones. The Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone.

B ♭ saxophones

The Soprano and Tenor Saxophones are both B♭ instruments (B flat) which means that they are tuned in B ♭ in relation to C instruments like the piano and guitar.

That means a whole step intervall and playing a D on a soprano or tenor sax translates into an C on the piano.

E ♭ saxophones

The Alto and Baritone Saxophones are both E♭ instruments (E flat) which means that they are tuned in Eb in relation to C instruments like the piano and guitar.

That means a sixth intervall and playing an A on a Alto or Baritone saxophone translates into an C on the piano (Concert pitch).

Here are a few examples of instruments and their difference in tuning.

C Instruments Bb Instruments Eb Instruments
Piano Soprano Sax Alto Sax
Flute Tenor Sax Baritone Sax
Guitar Clarinet
Bass Trumpet

Transpose E flat Saxophones

The Alto and Baritone Saxophones are E♭ instruments (E flat) which means that they are tuned in Eb in relation to C instruments like the piano and guitar.

That means a sixth intervall and playing an A on a Alto or Baritone saxophone translates into an C on the piano (Concert pitch).

Make that major 6th jump while transposing on the fly can be a bit challenging and there actually is an easier way to go about it even if the “correct” intervall is a major 6th above the concert key note.

For your E-flat saxophones you want to be playing a minor 3rd (or 3 half steps) below the heard concert note. That means a concert pitch C played on a piano or any other C instrument translates into an A, a minor third below that C note. Still the same note in both versions but imagine transposing in real time and you will find that dropping a minor third is way easier than transposing a major 6th above.

Here are a few examples of transposing between a C instrument and Eb saxophone:

  • Piano plays Bb and your Alto saxophone play a G in order to be heard the same way
  • A guitar plays a G7 chord and you can solo on your baritone saxophone over the E major scale
  • The band is playing a F blues and your Alto Sax will sound awesome playing the D blues scale as it will be heard in the same F concert pitch key.
  • You play Bb on your Baritone Saxophone (E-flat instrument) and the piano needs to play a D in order for you both to be heard playing the concert pitch D note.
  • Play A on Alto Sax and C on piano to be heard as the same C concert pitch note

Transpose B flat saxophones

The Soprano and Tenor Saxophones are B♭ instruments (B flat) which means that they are tuned in Bb in relation to C instruments like the piano and guitar.

That means a whole step (or 2 half steps) intervall and playing a D on a soprano or tenor sax translates into an C on the piano.

Here are a few examples of transposing between a C instrument and Bb saxophone:

  •  The Piano plays a F chord and the tenor sax need to play notes from the G major scale (1 whole step above the concert pitch) in order to be heard the same
  • A guitar plays a G7 chord and you can solo on your Soprano saxophone over the A major scale adding the minor 7 in order to create a bit more jazzy sound
  • The band is playing a F blues and your Tenor Sax can roar in a sax solo playing the G blues scale and the entire band including you will be heard in F concert pitch key.

Transposing Saxophone to other instruments

Here are some common FAQs on transposing between Saxophones and other instruments.

How to transpose Alto Saxophone to Tenor Saxophone

The Alto Sax is an E♭ instrument and the Tenor Sax is a B♭ instrument. That means they sound a 5th apart.

When the Alto Sax play an A and the Tenor Sax play a D (that's 5th below) they are both playing C concert pitch, which means they essentially are playing the same note.

How to transpose Trumpet to Alto Saxophone

The relation between the B♭ Trumpet the E♭ Alto Saxophone is a 5th apart. If you want to play the same note in concert pitch that means you need to adjust accordingly.

Playing a C not i concert key means that the B♭ trumpet play a D note and the E♭ Alto Sax play an A note. The result will be that both instrument sound a C in concert pitch.

How to transpose Trumpet to Tenor Saxophone

Trumpet and Tenor Sax are both B♭ instruments which essentially means that you do not need to transpose the sheet music in order to play it together.

However, the B♭ Tenor Saxophone will sound one octave lower playing the sheet music with a Trumpet.

The easy fix is to just transpose the music one octave on Tenor Saxophone. That way both Tenor Sax and Trumpet will be in the same octave creating a solid and full sound.

This is a common way of doubling a part with both Tenor Sax and Trumpet and in my experience it sound a lot better when the Tenor part is transposed one octave up.

How to transpose Piano to Alto Saxophone

The relation between piano and Alto Saxophone is a major 6th. When the piano plays a C (Concert Pitch) the Alto Sax need to play an A in order to be “heard” the same way.

An easier way to transpose this is by lowering the Piano note by a minor third. The C note on Piano still translates into an A on Alto Saxophone. In my experience it's a much quicker way of transposing on the go using the minor 3rd.

How to transpose Piano to Tenor Saxophone

The Piano is a C instrument, also referred to as being tuned in “Concert Pitch”. The Tenor Saxophone on the other hand is a B♭ instrument.

That means that Piano and Tenor Saxophone is 1 whole note a part in their tuning.

So, in order to “sound the same” and to have both Piano and Tenor Saxophone play the same note in Concert pitch you need to transpose the Tenor part 1 whole step up.

Here's an example:

  • Piano plays a C note
  • Tenor Saxophone plays a D note

This will make both instruments sound a C note Concert Pitch.

What Key is Tenor Saxophone in?

The Tenor Saxophone is in the key of B♭, making it an B flat instrument. This means that when an tenor saxophone plays a written C, it sounds like an B♭ on a piano or other concert pitch instruments like the Guitar and Bass. Similar B♭ instruments include the Clarinet, Trumpet and the Soprano Saxophone.

What Key is Alto Saxophone in?

The alto saxophone is in the key of E♭ (E-flat). This means that when an alto saxophone plays a written C, it sounds like an E♭ on a piano or other concert pitch instruments like the Guitar and Bass. Similar E♭ instruments include the Baritone Saxophone, E♭ Clarinet, E♭ Cornet and the E♭ Tuba.

Saxophone teacher online Greger Hillman

Written by Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher with +36 years of experience playing saxophone. 

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learn saxophone teacher Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher and musician from Sweden.

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