Fiddling With Transposition Loops

Here’s a powerful practice strategy called “Transposition Loops.”ย Take a small musical chunk, transpose it, and then alternate between the original and the transposed piece.

Say you’re trying to learn the first quarter of Shady Grove

  • D0-0-0-0-0-0-1-0-G3-1
  • This is in the key of D Dorian.

Once you get the basic idea, then try to start it on a different string

  • A0-0-0-0-0-0-1-0-D3-1
  • It’s now in the key of A dorian.

Put those two pieces together to make a Transposition Loop:

D0-0-0-0-0-0-1-0-G3-1 | A0-0-0-0-0-0-1-0-D3-1

You can create transposition loops with smaller or bigger chunks from a tune. This is useful because sometimes the most crucial thing to practice is a smaller piece.

For example, using the same Shady Grove example, you could take this smaller chunk: D1-0-G3-1, and play that transposition loop:

  • D1-0-G3-1 | A1-0-D3-1

This part is the crucial practice piece to focus on, or โ€œThe hardest part of the hardest part.โ€

Why practice with transposition loops?

  • Transposition loops help you to remember the tune
  • Transposition loops help you work out technical problems
  • You’re helping your fingers map out the fingerboard.
    • For example, the third finger has a slightly different placement on each string. The angle is different and it will feel different.
    • Transposition loops help your fingers to unconsciously figure this out.
  • Transposition loops will expand your musical mind
    • You’ll be able to more easily transpose tunes.
      • This is especially useful for playing with singers who might transpose a song to a difficult scale.
    • This practice will make you a more creative musician

Advanced Transposition Loops

You can also use transposition loops to practice things with different fingerings.ย This is more challenging.

Let’s use the same example of Shady Grove. Only this time, start it on D1.


It’s now in the key of E dorian (instead of A dorian).

Transposition loop: D0-0-0-0-0-0-1-0-G3-1 | D1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-0-G2

Practice loops

A Transposition loop is an example of what I call a “practice loop”. The basic idea is to alternate between two complementary things. Some other examples:

Usually a practice loop involves alternating between something easy and something more challenging. The easier thing is grounding. It allows you to relax and reset. In this case, the scale is the easier thing and the tune is the more challenging thing.

Here’s a more general lesson on Practice Loops.

In summation…

  • To make a transposition loop, take a small musical chunk, transpose it, and then alternate between the original and the transposed piece.
  • This helps you to work out technical problems, train your ear and learn things more deeply.ย 

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