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Scoring for woodwinds (transposing instruments) with Logic Pro

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Hi !

This time, I made my homework and I read everything that I found in the Logic Pro Guide related to the questions I have here.  I went through the complete chapter on scoring and through everything I could find related to transposing.  Maybe I missed something, but I did not find my answers.

So here I am.

Those who write for brass, woodwinds or some orchestral instruments know that there are some (many) transposing instruments : all the saxophones, trumpet, trombone, tuba, french horn, all the clarinets and some more.

This means that when these instruments read let say a concerto in A minor, their own part will be written in a different key, with a different key signature. I won’t go into details.

I  have read in the Logic Pro Guide that there can be only ONE key signature at the time in a project, but the key signature can change whenever we want through time. This means that at measure one, for example, it can only be in ONE key signature, let say C major, but at measure 32, it can switch to E major… etc.

How can we deal with this when scoring for instruments that include some transposing instruments ?  If I write a score for piano, strings, bass, Bb clarinet and Eb alto sax, I can write the complete score in the « real » tonality and key signature, including the staves for those transposing instruments, so the director has the real portrait of what is to be played, let say win A major. But when it comes to printing individual parts for the clarinet (a Bb instrument) and the alto sax (an Eb instrument), their own individual part HAS to be written in a different key, with a different key signature. In fact, if we look at the individual parts for that song, we will see three different key signatures.

Did I miss something in the Logic Pro Guide or this is simply impossible when scoring with Logic Pro ?

The only way I can figure out to get things done would be quite complex and would generate extra painful work  :

- Finish to compose the music

- Duplicate the project in a second project alternative in the second key (for Bb instruments), and one more project alternative in the third key (for Eb instruments).

- Print the complete score  in A major with the first project alternative, and the Bb and Eb parts with the second and third project alternatives.

- While working on the song, rehearsing and adjusting that song - which might be a work in progress- keep going from one alternative to the other to change one note here and there (when changing a note for alto sax, I would have to change it on the complete score and also on the individual part), same thing for the Bb instrument. I could also have an F instrument… (french horn for instance…) and thus a fourth project alternative in a fourth key signature would be required.

So, is there a better way to score for transposing instruments ?

Is there anyone reading this and used to write for woodwinds, who could help me and tell me how to deal with this ?

Thanks for reading me.

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  • Solution

Maybe I missed something

Indeed. But the good news is, it's in no way as difficult as you wondered. 

The following uses *transposing staff styles* to accommodate the display of instruments that do not read out in concert key. 


With a nod to your willingness to research, see if you can find a description of these styles, as they are the key (forgive the pun) to your question. 

If you open a completely new file (not a template), and you see the Staff Styles that appear by default, you'll find several that are "pre-transposed." From there, I'm sure you'll be able to reverse engineer whatever you need. 

For example, I used "Trumpet in Bb." Not a wind, of course, but the same transposition as a Bb Clarinet. As you can see, anything in the score style is revised up two steps for display. Importantly, it will *not* transpose the playback. 

Beyond that, the choice of submitting a C score or a transposed score to the conductor is your call. It's not to hard to swap score styles for instrument part printouts independently of the conductor's score.  

One caveat: you can get symbol collisions when display keys change, so swapping score style may take a proofing pass to tidy things up. 

Also, there are times that users of this forum have sought different default transposition keys to a more friendly flat/sharp display for a given instrument. I am less skilled in such things, but there is usually a solution one way or another. 


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Hum, I will have to read this again a few times to grab everything.

it seems very interesting.

By the way, is there a way to transpose diatonically MIDI data, rather than by an amount of semitones, in order to have more correct sharps and flats ?

I did not find how to achieve such a diatonic transposition…

Thanks so much for your help.

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I do completely appreciate Logic Pro. It is my DAW and I just love it.

But it would be very useful if diatonic transposition could be done (Digital Performer use to offer that decades ago).

Also, it would be great to have the possibility to use different Key signatures for different staves, for scoring purposes, while still having a main key signature for the whole project (that could change through times).  Musescore 4 offers that, even if it is globally far, far behind Logic Pro.

Is there a place where we can suggest new implementations ?

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On 2/17/2024 at 6:37 PM, Plowman said:

Indeed. But the good news is, it's in no way as difficult as you wondered. 

Wow, I just gave a look and I think that you bring up a very interesting solution.  I realize that I went too quickly through the section on Staff Styles, assuming it was only a matter of style, or visual aesthetic,but it goes far beyond that !

I have to read that part of the Guide on Staff Styles to efficiently apply what you suggest.

I will mark your comment as  the « solution » and might come back with further positive comments or questions.

Thank Mr. Plowman !

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I fall off my chair !

Concerning writing for transposing instruments and printing their individual parts, either in concert key or transposed key as well have having their parts written in concert key or transposed key in the director score, ALL OF THIS IS EASILY POSSIBLE IN LOGIC.

It's all there !

At first, things are not quite obvious, but by working with Staff styles, everything is possible. Within a click, a complete part can be transposed on the score or on individual parts for any of the numerous transposing instruments. And the transpositions do not affect the playing.

I am amazed ! It's fantastic !  I still have to get used to some tricks and learn many other related tricks, but it seems that all the tools for scoring had been properly implemented in Logic Pro X.

In french, I would say « Chapeau » !

Thank you so much for the hints you gave me, Plowman !

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I celebrate your enthusiasm. Thanks for posting it. 

This link leads to an paid tutorial by Peter Schwartz, one of our beloved Score posters. Though the tutorial is older, it still covers many core functions of Score that remain valid.


Cheers to all discoveries that await you. 

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