Re: Why do some instruments transpose?
Posted by Tevye on 10/30/2019, 12:13 pm, in reply to "Why do some instruments transpose?"
All of the answers below are correct. Woodwinds transpose for the ease of the player. Brasses because of the history of natural horns and interchangeable crooks (and again for the ease of the player). But then you get to tuba, and that reasoning gets thrown out the window. Tuba players are just expected to learn different fingerings depending on what horn they're playing.
One other consideration is written ranges. If you notated a tenor sax, for example, in concert pitch, you would read a ton of ledger lines or have to switch clefs all the time. Bari sax players would have to learn bass clef. Same with Bb/Eb/bass clarinet. By transposing the written notation, the music stays mostly in the staff. Of course flute and tuba players just laugh at that idea.
At this point, we do it this way because we've always done it this way. Even if there was a movement to transition everyone to reading concert pitch, you would have to deal with decades (centuries?) of printed sheet music that's already written in the traditional transpositions. Of course, if you go back too far, you start to find transpositions that we no longer use...Eb horns, Db piccolos, trumpets in D...