Posted in Project 1: Orchestras and Virtuosos

Exercise 2.0: Transposing instruments

As the title describes, this exercise is about transposing instruments. The task is to transpose two excerpts, bars 1-5 in Don Juan by Strauss, from the written pitch to the sounding pitch.

Below is the first excerpt of the horns in E, given in the written pitch in the course material:

exercise 2

When played, the horns in E sound minor sixth below the written pitch, meaning that C major in the excerpt becomes E major below. I find this to be the most efficient way of transposing – not thinking about every note as a separate unit to transpose, but instead, I regard the notes as maintaining the same functions within different tonalities – tonic, supertonic, mediant etc. Also, in my ABRSM theory exam, I remember there were two ways to notate transpositions – with key signatures and without. Thus, to practice, I did both versions here, although for the ones without key signatures I still wrote the natural signs within the parenthesis:

exercise 2.0

exercise 2.0 b

The second excerpt is for clarinets in A, given in the written pitch in the course booklet:

exercise 2.0

When this excerpt is played, the clarinets in A sound minor third below the written notes, and the tonality of G major becomes E major below. Here are the two versions of my transposition:

exercise 2.0 c

exercise 2.0 d

In conclusion, I already did some exercises with transposing instruments, such as the ones for my ABRSM theory exam. However, I never actually transposed anything from the repertoire, which is why I found this exercise so beneficial. I also haven’t done it in a while, so this was a great refresher too, to get me back into the gear for orchestral writing.

Posted in Project 1: Orchestras and Virtuosos, Uncategorized

Research point 2.0: The orchestral score

This research point is about the layout of the orchestral scores, by taking a closer look at the first page of Don Juan by Richard Strauss, written in 1888. Below is the score:IMSLP18774-PMLP12183-Strauss_-_Don_Juan_(orch._score)-01.jpg

The task is to find out the instruments within each section of a standard symphony orchestra in their order. I find the advice of the brief about noting all the instrument names in the original language – French, Italian or other, and thus building my own multi-lingual glossary, very useful and productive. Below is the list with the order of instruments from each section with the names in English and German, latter being the language Strauss notated Don Juan. I decided not to include the number of instruments, mostly because I believe the terms are the main focus of this exercise, and not how many of each he used here, although I did keep the singular/plural forms of the nouns.

  • Wind section:

grosse Flötenflutes

  grosse Flöten (auch Piccolo)flutes (also piccolo)


Englisch Horncor anglais (UK and France) or English horn (in North America)

Clarinetten in Aclarinets in A

Fagottebassons (interestingly, we also call bassoon fagot in Serbia)

Contrafagottcontrabassoon or double bassoon

  • Horns:

 Hörner in Ehorns in E (compare this with the cor anglais above – in the singular form for horn in German, there is no ö, but only o)

  •  Brass section:

Trompeten in Etrumpets in E 


Tuba tuba

  • Percussion:

Pauken E. H. C.timpani in E, B and C


Becken  – cymbals

Glockenspiel glockenspiel


  • Strings:




Bassodouble bass

In conclusion, while this hasn’t been my first encounter with the orchestral score, I never paid attention before to the order of the instruments in the layout of the scores I’ve seen. As such, although the exercise wasn’t at all difficult, it was still very useful. With the exception of 3 German terms – Posaune, Pauken, Becken, that I had to search, all the others were very intuitive, so that I was confident in which instruments these were. Overall, I really enjoyed this research point.