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Using Wikifonia for Transposition

May 1, 2013

by Emily Greenleaf Greenleaf.Emily@MacPhail.org

What’s wrong with this picture?[1]

What’s wrong with this picture?[1] From the perspective of the MacPhail Music for Life™ teaching artist, this song is too high. Students in our programs typically range in age between 55 and 95. Some of our classes might have a median age of 85. These older singers are, for the most part, singing and speaking at a lower pitch than when they were younger. We do lots of vocal exercises in our classes to help participants expand their singing range, but we also transpose most of our music into lower keys.

There are a number of tools for the task. MacPhail Music for Life™ co-founder and teaching artist Jeanie Brindley-Barnett uses the best tool of all – her brain. As far as I have observed, Jeanie can transpose at the piano while simultaneously singing, cueing class participants, carrying on multiple conversations, and planning a dinner menu.

Fortunately, for those of us who have yet to develop the transposing super-power, there are other options. MacPhail Teaching Artist Vicky Mountain introduced me to one of my favorites: Wikifonia. This site has many lead sheets on offer, all of which can be transposed and downloaded for free.

 A quick search on Wikifonia for  “Makin’ Whoopee” brings up a lead sheet in the key of F. Toward the right side of the page is a download button. Just below is a transpose button. I ask for a version in the key of E-flat, which is given to me in the blink of an eye. I can then download this version and store it on my iPad. I can even download multiple versions in different keys, just in case. After all, we’ve always got a few good tenors in our classes.


[1] other than the obvious case of whoopius interruptis

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