Transpositions can be the director of a small band's best friend. Knowing transpositions (and some tricks) can help open a world of music to the band by allowing you to quickly substitute parts for instruments that you do not have. Below you will find the transposition for common band instruments as well as some tricks that can help along the way.

Remember it is our job to make the music sound as great as possible while sticking as close to the composer's intent as possible. It is my opinion that if you have to sub a different instrument on a line for the good of the piece, as long as it does not distract from the work, do it.



Piccolo - Sounds one octave higher than written.
Flute - Sounds as written.
Oboe - Sounds as written.
English Horn - Sounds a perfect fifth lower than written.
Eb Clarinet - Sounds a minor third higher than written.
Bb Clarinet - Sounds a major second lower than written.
Eb Alto Clarinet - Sounds a major sixth lower than written.
Bb Bass Clarinet - Sounds a major ninth lower than written.
Eb Contralto Clarinet - Sounds an octave an a major sixth lower than written.
Bb Contrabass Clarinet - Sounds two octaves and a major second lower than written.
Bassoon - Sounds as written
Contrabassoon - Sounds an octave lower than written.
Alto Saxophone - Sounds a major sixth lower than written.
Tenor Saxophone - Sound a major ninth lower than written.
Baritone Saxophone - Sounds an octave and a major sixth lower than written.


Trumpet - Sounds a major second lower than written.
F Horn - Sounds a perfect fifth lower than written.
Trombone - Sounds as written.
Baritone/Euphonium (treble clef) - Sounds a major ninth lower than written.
Baritone/Euphonium (bass clef) - Sounds as written.
Tuba - Sounds as written.


Violin - Sounds as written.
Viola - Sounds as written.
Cello - Sounds as written.
Double Bass - Sounds one octave lower than written.


Timpani - Sounds as written.
Xylophone - Sound one octave higher than written.
Marimba - Sounds as written.
Bells/Glockenspiel - Sound two octaves higher than written.
Vibraphone - Sounds as written.
Chimes - Sounds as written.

Tricks for the Small Band

If you do not have enough trombones, but have plenty of alto saxophones give the altos the trombone part. The trick is to have them read it as though it were in treble clef (instead of bass) and add three sharps to the key. They will be able to play the notes as written from there.

You can quickly cover some parts by giving them to another instrument that plays in the same key and approximately the same range. When doing this make sure that the timber is as close to possible to the composer's original intent. Below are instruments that this may work for, and some things to look out for:

Trumpet and clarinet - If you are giving the trumpets the clarinet part, make sure that it does not go too low.

Flute and oboe - This works especially well if you have a flute player with a powerful low register.

Alto Saxophone and Eb Alto Clarinet - In older band works there are occasionally Eb alto clarinet parts that are not covered by many other instruments in the band. When this happens, the alto sax might make a good substitute. You will have to watch as the alto clarinet can play much lower than the alto sax. Additionally, some alto clarinet parts, which in the range of the alto sax, might be too low for comfort.

Baritone T.C., Bass Clarinet and Tenor Sax - These three instruments can read each other's music without too much concern for range. If your baritone reads only bass clef, you will need to transpose the part.

Trombone and Baritone B.C. - Each can play the others part, as long as the baritone is reading bass clef.

Baritone Saxophone and Contralto Clarinet - Some small schools have contralto clarinets tucked away in storage. It might be worth pulling that instrument out and having someone play the baritone saxophone part on it.