Transpose Questions and Answers

What are the acceptable formats for the song lyrics and chords?

Transpose accepts both of the common text representations for lyrics and chords found at sites such as The Gospel Music Archive and Classic Country Lyrics.

In the first format, the chords are placed on the line above the lyrics. For example:

Sidewalks of New York

3/4  Key of C

C         G7  C
Eastside, Westside,
F    G7        C
All around the town,
C7     F                 C
   The kids sang "Ring-a-Rosie",
A7    D7                G7
Londonbridge is falling down.
C        G7      C       C7
Boys and girls together,
F              C       C7
Me and Mamie O'Rourke,
F                    C
Tripped the light fantastic
A7     D7        G7     C
On the Sidewalks of New York.
This is referred to as the Two Line format in this document.

When this format is used, Transpose automatically recognizes chord lines, and changes them to the new key. Note that the chords must align with the corresponding lyrics, so always use a font with fixed spacing, such as Courier or Lucida Console, when editing songs. Also, a simple text editor, e.g., Notepad, usually works better than a word processor, e.g., Word. Don't use the tab key when editing songs, because various programs assign a different number of spaces for each tab character. Note: Chord lines must contain nothing but the chords, or Transpose will assume they are lyric lines, and not change the chords to the new key.

Transpose also accepts the other popular format, Chord Pro, which was developed by Martin Leclerc and Mario Dorion. In this format, the chords are in square brackets on the same line as the lyrics. For example:

{title:Sidewalks of New York}
[C]Eastside, [G7]West-[C]side,
[F]All a-[G7]round the [C]town,
[C7] --- The [F]kids sang "Ring-a-[C]Rosie",
[A7]London-[D7]bridge is falling [G7]down.
[C]Boys and [G7]girls to[C]gether, [C7]
[F]Me and Mamie O'[C]Rourke, [C7]
[F]Tripped the light fan[C]tastic
[A7]On the [D7]Sidewalks [G7]of New [C]York.
A song may be converted from the Chord Pro to the Two Line format by setting New Key the same as the Old Key. Applicable Chord Pro commands, such as title in the above example, are interpreted when converting to Two Line format.

A variation of the Chord Pro format places the chords in parentheses, and this is also accepted by Transpose. However, Chord Pro commands in braces will be interpreted only when square brackets are used. The original song must consistently use either square brackets or parentheses to designate chords throughout the song.

What do you mean "Paste the song in the Old Key here"?

Although you could manually type all the chords and lyrics into the Song Window, the original song will usually be in a text file or perhaps on a World Wide Web page. When this is the case, you can copy all of the text to the Song Window with a few simple steps. For example, if the original song is in a Web display (such as Sidewalks of New York, above):

  • Highlight the desired text by left clicking on the upper left corner, then drag the mouse to the lower right corner of the song. Finally, release the left mouse button.
  • Click on Copy in the Edit menu.
  • Go to the Transpose page.
  • Left click anywhere in the big text window (you should then see the blinking cursor).
  • Click on Paste in the Edit menu.
To speed things up, you can use Cntl+C and Cntl+V in place of Edit Menu Copy and Paste, respectively.

When it is available, always go to the printable plain text version or Printer Friendly Copy before copying the song. These are often cleaner than other representations, which may include leading spaces or other unwanted characters.

Don't be concerned about the Song Window being too small for your song. If the amount of data exceeds the window size, the scroll bars become active.

Why is the song sometimes in one continuous line when I paste it in the window?

This problem is caused because the system fails to insert new-line characters in the text, under certain circumstances, when text is copied from a Web page. It is believed that this problem only occurs when text is copied from a Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) Web page. Thus, one solution is to use a different Web browser, such as Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Safari.

Another work-around is to first copy the text into Microsoft Word or Microsoft WordPad (perhaps other word processors would work too), and then copy the text from the word processor into Transpose. Note that WordPad is installed and available in the Accessories program folder on almost all Windows systems.

What happens if I don't specify the Old Key?

If you don't specify the old key, Transpose attempts to determine it automatically. Generally, it does this by scanning the chords, and deriving the old key based on probability. However, if it finds a "Key of " line before any chords, it will unconditionally use that as the old key.

The result of the key derivation process may be ambiguous. If so, Transpose will ask you to specify the old key. In some cases, such as when the key changes in the song, Transpose may be completely fooled. When that happens, you need to click on the browser Back button, and enter the old key. (Look in the page title at the top of the screen to see what key was derived.)

Can I specify the Old Key in the song text?

Yes, if you specify the key in a line near the top of the file before any chords, it will be used to define the old key. Furthermore, this line itself will be converted, so it will be correct in the transposed song.

A very specific format is required: "Key of " followed by the key. Note that this text is case sensitive, and there must be one and only one space between "of" and the key. There should be nothing else on the line except the optional time notation (and the square brackets, for Chord Pro). For example:

3/4  Key of C
Or, for the Chord Pro format:
[3/4  Key of C]

For the Nashville Number System as input or output, the "key" is named NNS. For Roman Numeral notation as output, the "key" is named ROM.

How do the various Output Format Options work?

If no display option is selected, the output format defaults to a basic text output.

The first display option (Lyrics/Chords/Pictures) includes guitar chord fingering patterns above each chord name, and various fingering patterns for the chords may be displayed simply by clicking on the chord patterns. An example of the Lyrics/Chords/Pictures display pattern may be viewed.

The three Chord Help options offer a variation of the Lyrics/Chords/Pictures format. Rather than displaying the fingering pattern above each chord, patterns for some or all of the chords used in the song are displayed at the bottom. The help options are defined as follow:

    Maximum - Display all chords used.
    Medium   - Display all chords used except major and seventh.
    Minimum - Display all chords used except major, seventh, and minor.

Note that the Medium and Minimum selections may display no chords at all, depending on the complexity of the chords in the song. Note also that chord fingering patterns are not applicable to Nashville Number or Roman Numerals, so output format selection Lyrics/Chords/Pictures and the three Chord Help selections will all function the same as Lyrics/Chords when these are selected as the new key.

When Chord Help is selected, just click on each pattern to see the available variations for that chord. (If nothing happens when you click on a chord pattern, there may be only one pattern for that chord in the data base.)

Other output options display just the chord names and lyrics, or just the lyrics. The chord patterns available to Transpose include all of the chords in the Guitar Chord Finder data base.

Note that Text - ChordPro is a valid display selection only when the original is in Chord Pro format.

How do I save the transposed song to a text file?

When any of the three Text display options are chosen, the page may be saved in a text file, as follows:

  • Select the File menu in your Web browser, and click on Save As.
  • Find the directory where you want to save the file by double clicking on folder icons. (Click on the folder with the up arrow to go to directories nearer the root.)
  • In the Save as Type pull down menu, select Text File (*.txt).
  • In the File name window, enter a file name with a .txt extension, such as sidewalks.txt.
  • Click on Save.

What do I do when I get the chords touching or chords overlap warning in the transposed output?

In the Two Line format, the chords in the new key may take up more space than in the old key. For example, if "C" is changed to "F#", it now requires two spaces rather than just one to keep it separated from the next chord. If there was only one space between chords in the original song, the chords will be touching in the transposed version.

The solution is to spread the chords out more in the original song. This can be done right in the Song Window, if you like. Just click on the Back button of your browser to return to the Transpose Entry page. Remember to spread out the lyrics also, so the chords are still lined up correctly with the lyrics.

What are some other problems I might run into?

When the Chord Pro format is used, there must be no other square brackets (or parentheses) in the text other than those used to specify chords. Parentheses may be used for other purposes in a song that specifies chords with square brackets. It is, however, advisable to avoid all square brackets in a song that specifies chords with parentheses.

Sometimes songs in Chord Pro format will not have brackets around the chords when there are no lyrics in the line, such as the intro. These chords must be in brackets or they will not be transposed.

Occasionally, a lyric/chord file uses lower case letters to specify minor chords. For example "e" is used rather than "Em". Transpose does not recognize this style. You must change all single-letter lower case minor chords to the corresponding upper case followed by "m" before the song is submitted for transposing. Note also that the "m" denoting a minor chord must be lower case ("Am", not "AM"). Similarly, an upper case M cannot be used to specify "major". For example, don't use "EM7", use "Emaj7". (The only upper case letters allowed in a chord line are A through G.)

Simple edits, such as those described above, can easily be made right in the Song Window before the Click Here! button is clicked.

Will the new chords be displayed in sharp or flat notation?

If the new key is Ab, Bb, Db, Eb, F, or Gb, flat (b) notation will be used for the root of all sharp/flat chords. Otherwise, sharp (#) notation will be used. (Note that this applies to Transpose Version 2.0 and later. Pages generated before June 25, 2007 might be different.)

See Nashville Number System and Roman Numeral notation for sharp/flat notation rules for these output "keys".

How do I transpose a song that is in a minor key?

Just use the major key designations. For example, to transpose a song from the key of Am to Em, select "A" for the Old Key, and "E" for the New Key.

What does a capo do?

Clamping a capo on the instrument neck changes the relative pitch in half step (semitone) increments. See Using a Capo for more information.

How do I find song lyrics and chords on the Web?

Several of the entries in the Music Links are good lyric and chord resources. If the desired song cannot be found at these sites, a Google search will often yield good results. When searching for lyrics with chords, it is helpful to follow the title with "chords". For example: Amazing Grace chords

If searching for the title followed by "chords" doesn't produce satisfactory results, try searching for a phrase in the lyrics in quotes. For example, "how sweet the sound" or "that saved a wretch like me".

What features were added in Version 3.0?

New features in Version 3.0 include the following:

Most of the new features are optional, and Transpose will work very much like it did in the past if you choose not to use the new features. If you use the old standard form, or the new Advanced Form without changing the initial values, the default selections noted below will be in effect.

Nashville Number System

The Nashville Number System (NNS) is a method of transcribing music that includes chord notation, rhythm, etc. In the context of automatic key transposing for text chord charts, we are concerned only with chord notation. Chord roots are designated with relative numbers starting at 1 with the keynote (tonic), rather than absolute notes. Thus, Nashville Numbering is independent of the song key.

Nashville Numbers may be specified as the old key (input), new key (output), or both. The numbers 1 through 7 are used to represent the scale notes, starting with the keynote. In chord notations, these numbers replace the root notes, e.g., "C", "D", "E", etc. The remaining parts of the chord notation remain the same, e.g., "7", "m", "sus", etc.

It is occasionally necessary to sharpen or flatten the numbers 1 through 7 in a song. The Advanced Form allows the user to choose either sharp (#) or flat (b) notation for output, with sharp notation as the default. The advanced form also allows the user to choose whether the "#" of "b" precedes or follows the number. The default is for the "#" or "b" to follow the number.

When NNS is the old key (input), the sharp/flat notation must follow the number, or NNS Input Normalization must be selected (which is the default).

Chord fingering patterns are not applicable to NNS output, so output format selection Lyrics/Chords/Pictures and the three Chord Help selections will all function the same as Lyrics/Chords when Nashville Numbers is selected as the new key.

Nashville Number notation is compatible with both the two-line and Chord Pro formats for both input and output.

To specify Nashville Numbers as the old "key" in the source text with a Key of line, use Key of NNS.

Roman Numeral notation

Roman Numerals may be selected as the new key (output). The result is similar to selecting Nashville Numbers, except the numbers 1 through 7 are replaced with I, ii, iii, IV, V, VI, and VII, respectively. If All UC Roman Numerals (the default) is selected on the Advanced Form, then all roman numerals are displayed in upper case. Note that Roman Numerals is not an option for the old key (input).

It is occasionally necessary to sharpen or flatten the roman numerals in a song. The Advanced Form allows the user to choose either sharp (#) or flat (b) notation for output, with sharp notation as the default. Unlike Nashville Numbers output, the sharp or flat symbol will always follow the roman numeral.

Chord fingering patterns are not applicable to roman numeral output, so output format selection Lyrics/Chords/Pictures and the three Chord Help selections will all function the same as Lyrics/Chords when Roman Numerals is selected as the new key.

Roman numeral notation is typically used with the two-line format; but if the input is Chord Pro, Chord Pro may also be selected as the output format when Roman numerals is selected as the new key.

Advanced Form

An optional Advanced Form gives the user greater control over the transpose process. The advanced form includes all the inputs that are on the standard form, plus Font Size & Color Control for formatted (non-text) output.

The advanced form also includes six check mark selections. Two of these selections affect Nashville Numbers only, one affects both Nashville Numbers and Roman Numerals, and one of them affects Roman Numeral notation output. Another enables Page Breaks, and the last one lets the user select a blank background for formatted output (rather than the standard rough yellow background like this page has).

Font Size & Color Control

The advanced form allows the user to select the font size for the lyrics and chords. The smallest selectable size is 8, and the largest is 20. The default is 12.

The advanced form also allows the user to select the chord and lyric colors independently. Eight different colors are available. The default lyric color is black, and the default chord color is red. Note that Font Size and Color Control apply to formatted output selections only; text output is not affected by these selections.

Key Change Control

In some arrangements, the key changes one or more times as the song progresses from start to finish. This does not present any problems when dealing with absolute chord notation only, but it does raise some issues with relative notation, such as the Nashville Number System. With NNS, it is generally desirable to simply note the key change, and then number the chords based on the new key. When transposing from absolute to relative, or vice-versa, it is necessary to know when the key changes, in what direction, and by how much.

To handle these issues, two new 3-character control codes in the source text for a song are recognized. The codes are >>n and <<n, where n is a number from 1 to 9.   >>n specifies that the key is raised by n half steps (frets), and <<n specifies that the key is lowered by n half steps. For example, >>2 specifies that the key is raised 2 half steps at the point where it appears in the song source text.

These new control codes are processed much like chords, so they must be on a chord line (or a line by themselves) for the two-line format, and they must be enclosed in square brackets (or parenthesis) for the Chord Pro format. Note that these control codes are not needed to specify a key change if you are transposing between two absolute keys, or if both the old key and the new key are relative notation; i.e., NNS input and NNS or roman numeral output.

Page Break Control

To obtain a clean printout of the transposed song, it is sometimes desirable to specify where a page break (new page) occurs. This can be done by inserting a line in the source text that has the 4-character code {np} in it at the point in the song where you want to start a new page. If a line includes this code, all other characters on the line are ignored.

It is undesirable to have this line included in the output, unless you are creating new source text that will be used later as input. To handle the various cases, the Output Format selection and the Enable Page Breaks check box are translated per this table to determine whether a {np} line will cause a form feed to occur, and whether the {np} line will be copied to the output. Note that Enable Page Breaks is selected by default. Note also that page break control is available for both formatted and text output selections.


Enable Page Breaks Text Output Form Feed Copy {np} Line

Is an off-line executable version of this software available?

No, it is available only on-line via a Web browser.

Who do I send questions or comments to?

You may send questions or comments to John at:  
If you are inquiring about a transpose problem, please include the song text that you are trying to transpose.

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