Transpose at the Octave

Transpose means “write in another place”. Transposed music can be written in a different clef, different key, or different octave, or any combination of these! But you won’t have to transpose music into another key at grade 3 – that comes later. At this grade, you need to understand transposition between clefs and/or at the octave.

“At the octave” means that the music is transposed either up eight notes or down eight notes. For example, we can transpose this C:


down an octave (8 notes), to this C:

C4 treble

Between Clefs

This means that we change the clef used – from treble to bass or the other way round. For example, we can transpose the same C:


down an octave AND put it into the bass clef:

C4 bass


Middle C is known as C4. The C above it is C5, and the C below it is C3. You don’t need to know these terms for your grade three music theory exam, but it’s a really useful way of referring to notes by octave, when you are talking about them, so it’s worth learning!

Transposition Examples

Here is the scale of C major in the treble clef, transposed at the octave and to the bass clef:

transposed scale of C major

Here’s a short melody transposed at the octave and to the treble clef:

transposed melody
transposed to treble and octave higher

In the online ABRSM grade 3 exam, you will normally be asked to check through some transposed notes and say whether or not they are correct, as well as comparing music written in different clefs and octaves. Here is a typical exam question:

typical grade 3 ABRSM music theory transposition question

Whatever the type of question, you will need to work out the exact pitch of the notes relative to middle C (C4).

Transposition Exercises

Hover your mouse over the questions (tap on mobiles) to reveal the answers.

Exercise 1 – Transposing Up an Octave

Transpose these melodies up an octave, using the treble clef as shown.






Exercise 2 – Transposing Down an Octave

Write out these melodies an octave lower using the bass clef as shown.