Transpose Chords

Chord, note and key transpositions

When you transpose chords for any piece of music, it is important to transpose each chord by the same increment and the same direction - up or down.

If you want to transpose a chord up or down by 2 semi-tones, every chord in that piece must be transposed up or down by 2 semitones. What is done to one chord must be done to all chords. The same applies to music keys and music notes.

It is important to note that chord transpositions only apply to the root or note-part of the chord and not the chord type or number of the interval and additional alterations. If we are transposing Cmaj7, we are only concerned about the 'C' part of the chord and not the 'maj7' part of the chord. This applies to all chords.

Example: Transposing chords in a song

Transposing is used to describe the process whereby a song or chord progression is changed from one key to another - the main reasons being:

  1. Singing - to sing the entire song at a higher or lower pitch depending on the singers vocal range.
  2. Ease of playing - some keys are easier to play in than others due to the musical structure of the guitar. Beginners may not be able to play chords in the key of Eb Major, but easily play chords in the key of C Major.
The following is an example where the singer need to lower the pitch of the song by 3 semitones. The song is by Bruno Mars called Count On Me:
          C                                                Em
1. If you e-ver find your-self stuck in the mid-dle of the sea
         Am     -     Am7/G      F
   I'll sail the world___    To find you
          C                                                   Em
   If you e-ver find your-self lost in the dark and you can't see
        Am     -     Am7/G       F
   I'll be the light___     To guide you
Dm                      Em
   Find out what we're made of
        F                                     G
   When we are called to help our friends in need

This particular song is in the key of C Major and the chords used here are:
C - Em - Am - Am7/G - F - Dm - G


Please note: You don't have to know the key - you just have to treat each chord equally. However, if you do know the key, it is treated exactly the same. C Major - 3 semitones = A Major... easy.


Now, let's drop each chord in the song by 3 semitones - remember we are only changing the root or 'note part' of each chord - not the 'type part' of each chord:


C Em Am Am7/G F Dm G
-3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3
A C#m F#m F#m7/E D Bm E

Please note: Am7/G is an Am7 chord leading with a G bass note. G is still a 'note part' of the chord and is treated exactly as the 'A' part of the chord.

The song now looks like this:

          A                                                C#m
1. If you e-ver find your-self stuck in the mid-dle of the sea
        F#m     -     F#m7/E     D
   I'll sail the world___    To find you
          A                                                   C#m
   If you e-ver find your-self lost in the dark and you can't see
        F#m     -     F#m7/E      D
   I'll be the light___      To guide you
Bm                     C#m
   Find out what we're made of
        D                                     E
   When we are called to help our friends in need

Transposition with Chromatic Scales

Using the same example above we can transpose the song by simply writing the chromatic scale of the original key and then writing the chromatic scale of the new key directly underneath like so:

   C Chromatic: C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G# - A - A# - B - C
                ↓        ↓        ↓   ↓        ↓        ↓
   A Chromatic: A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G# - A

The arrows relate to the note-names used in the song. Once your new notes are located directly below their counterparts, you simply add the 'chord-type' to each chord where required - if the original chord is Em, it's direct counterpart will be C#m. Although the chord 'note-name' changes when transposing, it's type (major, minor, m7 etc.) always remains the same.

If you find this comfortable, you are good to go. If you need to transpose further, simply use the same principles outlined above.


Chord - Note - Key Transposition Chart

The following is a 2-way transposition chart using the root notes or 'note-names' only. This will save you time if you don't want to make the calculations.
  • If you want to transpose higher, find the root note of the chord on the top row and work your way down.
  • If you want to transpose lower, find the root note of the chord on the bottom row and work your way up.
  • The chart is also useful for key and note transpositions
Root A B♭ B C C# D E♭ E F F# G G# Root
+1 Bb B C C# D Eb E F F# G G# A -11
+2 B C C# D Eb E F F# G G# A Bb -10
+3 C C# D Eb E F F# G G# A Bb B -9
+4 C# D Eb E F F# G G# A Bb B C -8
+5 D Eb E F F# G G# A Bb B C C# -7
+6 Eb E F F# G G# A Bb B C C# D -6
+7 E F F# G G# A Bb B C C# D Eb -5
+8 F F# G G# A Bb B C C# D Eb E -4
+9 F# G G# A Bb B C C# D Eb E F -3
+10 G G# A Bb B C C# D Eb E F F# -2
+11 G# A Bb B C C# D Eb E F F# G -1
Root A B♭ B C C# D E♭ E F F# G G# Root

Please note: Many sharp and flat notes have enharmonic equivalents which means the same note with 2 different names depending on the key signature of the music, e.g., A#/Bb, C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab. If your note doesn't appear in the chart, simply use its enharmonic equivalent listed here.

Music Notes
Music Notes and their enharmonic equivalents

Example: Chord transposition using the chart

We have the chords: Fm7, Bb11, Ebmaj7, Am7(b5), D7, Gm and we want to transpose the chords up a whole tone or 2 semitones.
  • Find each root note on the top row of the chart: F, Bb, Eb, A, D, G
  • Move to the +2 row and locate each new note in the same column as the original note.
  • The new notes are G, C, F, B, E, A
  • Now add the original chord type or number of the interval back to each root note
  • We now have Gm7, C11, Fmaj7, Bm7(b5), E7, Am

Here it is in chart form:

Chords Fm7 Bb11 Ebmaj7 Am7(b5) D7 Gm
Root Note F Bb Eb A D G
+2 semitones G C F B E A
Add type/interval Gm7 Cb11 Fmaj7 Bm7(b5) E7 Am
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