The Difference Between E Flat & B Flat Instruments, etc.

You may wonder what it means when an instrument is, for example, a B flat instrument? Well ... not every instrument plays the same sound. The C on a piano is not the same as the C on a trumpet. That's because instruments are made in different keys. You have to convert their notes (transpose) to play the same sound/pitch.

The phrase Concert B flat means the pitch or sound produced if you play a B flat on an instrument that is in the key of C, such as a piano or a guitar. A Concert C is the C on a piano or guitar. A Concert F is the F on a piano or guitar.

Think of an instrument in the key of B flat such as a euphonium or a cornet. If you play a C major scale on that B flat instrument, it will sound the same as the B Flat scale on a piano or other C instrument. Therefore you are playing CONCERT B flat scale. Using the same reasoning, if you play a C major scale on an E flat instrument, you will be playing the Concert E flat scale.

Here's a different way to look at it. Think of a piano which is an instrument in the key of C. Play a B flat scale on the piano and you will be playing a Concert B flat scale.

If you want a B flat instrument and a C instrument to play together, one of them has to transpose their note so they are playing the same sound (pitch). The B flat euphonium is 1 full tone (2 half tones) lower than a C instrument such as a piano. Therefore the euphonium will need to play one full tone (2 half tones) higher to play the same note. That's because the euphonium is a B flat instrument and B flat is 2 half tones lower than C. The euphonium must play a D (2 half tones higher) to match the piano's C. Or ... the piano could play 2 half tones lower to match the euphonium.

Similarly, if an instrument is in the key of E flat, such as the alto horn or soprano cornet, then since an E flat cornet is 5 half tones higher than a B flat cornet, the E flat instrument needs to play 5 half tones lower to match the sound of the B flat instrument. Thus the E flat cornet would play a G to get the same sound as a B flat instrument playing C.

I'm sure there is a more precise definition but this works well for me.