Converting From One Instrument To Another

Mike Stangeland

Changing a tune from one instrument to another can be done fairly easily; you just have to pay attention to the octave the tune is in when converting. For instance, if the tune is on guitar and you convert it to mandolin the low notes in the tune may disappear off the bottom of the scale because the mandolin only goes down to a low G. In this case you need to first transpose the tune up one octave. If the tune is limited to one octave you can generally convert it to any instrument easily, 2 or 3 octaves it becomes tricky.

Here's how I do it:

  1. Choose a tune and re-name it so if you mess it up you can go back and start over with a clean file. I generally change it from "Blackberry Blossom - mando" to "Blackberry Blossom - (new instrument name)"
  2. With the re-named tune on screen choose the "instrument name" in the upper right corner. (Or in menu: SCORE > INSTRUMENT). A window "module/tuning" window will appear. Choose MODULE then ADD MODULE.
  3. Now you have a second module that you can convert to the new instrument tuning. First you'll need to transfer the tune to the new module. Place your cursor on module 1, hold down the CONTROL KEY and press "A". The entire tune will be highlighted. Choose EDIT then COPY. Next choose MODULE 2. Place your cursor in the top left corner of the first measure. Choose EDIT then PASTE.
  4. Now that you have the tune on both 1 and 2 modules you can convert 2 to the another instrument and quickly replace it if you mess up. Next look at the octaves a tune covers, if it's a guitar tune and you're converting it to mandolin see if the low notes go below a low G. If so first transpose the entire song up one octave by highlighting the entire tune (CONTROL A) then choosing SCORE > TRANSPOSE and choose +12, and include all measures. Now you tune will all be on the upper 4 strings of the guitar and can be converted to higher register instruments.
  5. With your module 2 on screen choose the "instrument name" (SCORE > INSTRUMENT) in the upper right corner. Choose TUNING then (very important) place a dot in the FINGERS choice under IMPACT. Now use the pulldown menu to choose the instrument you want to convert to.
  6. Once you've converted and checked the score for accuracy you can choose module 1 and delete it. Once you do this process a few times you'll have it.........

Note: Converting from one instrument to another will almost never result in a clean file. Many things that you do on one instrument will not be possible on another. The new file at best will be a good guideline that will allow you to develop a break tailored to the instrument.