Dansm's Guitar Chord Theory
Transposing Chords to Different Keys
Transposing chords to different keys is a basic part of chord theory. It is a very useful tool, and can make you sound better as a musician. For example, if you can't sing the high notes to a song in E, you can transpose it down a whole step to the key of D and this may help you out. Before reading this page, please read my background information on keys because this is required. After that, it's extremely simple: just two short steps! Good luck with it, and make sure you use it to your advantage.
The basic principle of transposition is this: find out what chords you are playing in one key, so you can change them to any other key. This involves those two steps: identifying the chord designation of the original chords relative to that key (I, IV, V, etc.), then figuring out what those chords are in the new key. Here are a couple examples of this process which will allow you to get the idea and learn to tranpose yourself.
All right, let's say we're playing this progression in the key of G, and you want to transpose it to the key of A:


The chord designations relative to the key of G for this progression are:


In the key of A, these chords are:


It's that simple! Let's try another: we're playing this progression in the key of F, and you want to transpose it to the key of D:


The chord designations relative to the key of F for this progression are:


In the key of D, these chords are:


That should give you the basic idea. It's that easy. All designations, like sus2, 7, maj7, and slashes should all carry through, just as shown above; you may have to think about these a bit more than your standard chords. And beware of non-key chords, you'll just have to figure out what they are relative to the original key and do a bit more calculation. Also, be wary of key changes: if you change along with them, it will make your job a lot easier. Another option is to change keys using your capo, so check out my page on capo chord equivalents. I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
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1998 Daniel E. Smith.