transposing instrument

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transposing instrument,

a musical instrument whose part in a score is written at a different pitch than that actually sounded. Such an instrument is usually referred to by the keynote of its natural scale—the clarinet in A, for example—in which case A is sounded when the tone C appears in the musical notation. Since A is a minor third below C, the part for this instrument must be written a minor third higher than it is to sound. Transposing instruments were necessary in the 17th and 18th cent. when the natural brasses and the clarinets could be played easily in only a few keys; they were therefore built in specific keys. Although improved construction in the 19th cent. obviated this necessity, all clarinetsclarinet,
musical wind instrument of cylindrical bore employing a single reed. The clarinet family comprises all single-reed instruments, including the saxophone. The predecessor of the modern clarinet was the simpler chalumeau, which J. C. Denner of Nuremberg improved (c.
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, the English hornEnglish horn,
musical instrument, the alto of the oboe family, pitched a fifth lower than the oboe and treated as a transposing instrument. It has a pear-shaped bell, giving it a soft, melancholy tone.
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, oboeoboe
[Ital., from Fr. hautbois] or hautboy
, woodwind instrument of conical bore, its mouthpiece having a double reed. The instruments possessing these general characteristics may be referred to as the oboe family, which includes the English horn, the bassoon,
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, French hornFrench horn,
brass wind musical instrument. Fundamentally a metal tube of narrow conical bore, it is curved into circles because of its great length. The horn ends in a wide flare. It is a development (c.1650) of the small hunting horn.
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, trumpettrumpet,
brass wind musical instrument of part cylindrical, part conical bore, in the shape of a flattened loop and having three piston valves to regulate the pitch. Its origin is ancient; records of a type of simple valveless trumpet are found in China from as early as 2000 B.C.
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, alto fluteflute,
in music, generic term for such wind instruments as the fife, the flageolet, the panpipes, the piccolo, and the recorder. The tone of all flutes is produced by an airstream directed against an edge, producing eddies that set up vibrations in the air enclosed in the
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, cornetcornet,
brass wind musical instrument, created in France about 1830 by adding valves to the post horn. It is usually in B flat and is the same size as the B flat trumpet, but has a more conical bore.
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, and most saxophonessaxophone,
musical instrument invented in the 1840s by Adolphe Sax. Although it uses the single reed of the clarinet family, it has a conical tube and is made of metal. By 1846 there was a double family of 14 saxophones, seven in F and C for orchestral use and seven in E flat
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 are transposing instruments. Parts for the piccolo, double bass, and contrabassoon are written an octave below or above actual pitch to avoid ledger lines, but this is not, strictly speaking, transposition.