21st Century Oboe
Christopher Redgate & the Howarth-Redgate Oboe
   Home      Composer Basics      Transposing for the oboes

Transposing instruments:

The oboe, the bass oboe and the hecklephon are all written in C. This means that the notes written on the paper are what you will hear played. HOWEVER the bass oboe and the Hecklephon sound an octave lower than written. You write form them in the treble clef but what you hear will be an octave lower.

Two important things you must know as a composer: 

  1. It is your job to provide a part written at the correct pitch - transposed for the performer to play off.
  2. When writing for transposing instruments it is very easy to get confused about their ranges an more than one composer has written for a transposing instrument only to find out that the part is either too high or to low exceeding the range of the instrument.


The musette in either model is unusual for an oboe in that what you hear will be higher than what is written. For the musette in F you need to transpose the part down a perfect fourth as the instrument sounds a perfect fourth higher than written. Therefore if you write a bottom C4 you will hear a bottom F4 a perfect fourth higher that what you have written. The musette in Eb is a transposition of a minor third. Therefore you will need to write the part a minor third lower than you want to hear. If you write a bottom C4 you will hear a bottom Eb4 a minor third higher that what is written. 

Oboe d’amore

The oboe d’amore is pitched in A. In order to write for the instrument you must transpose the part a minor third up. When you write a bottom C4 you will hear a bottom A3 a minor third below.

Cor anglais

The cor anglais is pitched in F and sounds a perfect fifth lower than written. Therefore you must transpose a cor anglais part up a perfect fifth for the performer to read off. If you write a bottom C4 for the instrument it will sound a perfect fifth lower - an F3.