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key matters radio 4

The Sandman 23 Sep 10 - 04:50 PM
Gervase 23 Sep 10 - 05:19 PM
Mavis Enderby 23 Sep 10 - 05:20 PM
Howard Jones 24 Sep 10 - 09:32 AM
greg stephens 24 Sep 10 - 10:19 AM
The Sandman 24 Sep 10 - 01:47 PM
The Sandman 25 Sep 10 - 01:12 PM
Acorn4 25 Sep 10 - 04:06 PM
The Sandman 25 Sep 10 - 04:46 PM
GUEST,Johnmc 25 Sep 10 - 07:18 PM
Jack Campin 25 Sep 10 - 07:32 PM
Steve Shaw 25 Sep 10 - 08:17 PM
Howard Jones 26 Sep 10 - 07:36 AM
Jack Campin 26 Sep 10 - 08:13 AM
The Sandman 26 Sep 10 - 08:46 AM
Jack Campin 26 Sep 10 - 09:14 AM
The Sandman 26 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 26 Sep 10 - 10:02 AM
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Subject: key matters radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Sep 10 - 04:50 PM

available on listen again[ key matters F Major] radio4.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Gervase
Date: 23 Sep 10 - 05:19 PM

Been listening to them all so far and loving them - one of those programmes that the BBC does brilliantly.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 23 Sep 10 - 05:20 PM

Link below:

Key Matters Website


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Howard Jones
Date: 24 Sep 10 - 09:32 AM

Fascinating stuff, but from what I've heard so far they haven't really tested any of the propositions.

The approach seems to be, "Here's a happy tune, it's in the key of A major, A major is a happy key". It would be interesting to hear the same piece played in a different key (surely not difficult with digital technology) to demonstrate whether the characteristics they are claiming derive from the key or from the music itself.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Sep 10 - 10:19 AM

I'm with Howard. Nioce programme, lots of nice music, but doesn't really address the key question(as you might say).


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Sep 10 - 01:47 PM

still it was enjoyable listening, now i must catch up with the earlier ones.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Sep 10 - 01:12 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 25 Sep 10 - 04:06 PM

I think this goes back to the introduction of the "tempered scale" on keyboard instruments. Until just before the time of J.S.Bach you couldn't play a keyboard in, for instance, Eb because all the intervals between the notes would sound wrong. The "tempered" tuning meant that, in fact all the intervals are slightly imperfect, but by a minute interval that the human ear can't really distinguish, the whole think being a bit of a compromise.

It does, however, mean that some keys have a different feel about them and are harsher of softer, and classical composers have always used this - otherwise, why write in G sharp when it would be easier to play in C.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Sep 10 - 04:46 PM

correct, acorn 4, I had been thinking along the same lines, because the keys we are refrring to are those used in equal temperament.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 25 Sep 10 - 07:18 PM

And then, of course, when it comes to keyboard there is the way some fingerings
in certain keys would suit the composition - a physical consideration. So the sound may not be the priority for the pianist in this case.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Sep 10 - 07:32 PM

The difference is obvious on most instruments in the form they had in the 18th century, regardless of the scale. Open strings have a distinctive timbre, and there is an obvious-to-anybody difference in timbre between crossfingered and straight notes on pre-Boehm woodwinds. So if you play in E flat the most important notes to the tonality will all be somewhat muted compared to what you get playing in D.

I only heard the first programme - it was interesting to hear a lot of people agree with me that D is yellow. It occurred to me looking at the beach huts in Whitby that they were arranged in a sequence that made tonal sense, given my key/colour associations: C (blue) - G (red) - D (yellow) - A (green), repeated a couple of dozen times. If you had a string of sessions going all along the line of huts, each would relate to the hut next to it either as tonic/dominant or mediant/submediant. (Well, G is really sorta reddish-brown, the Whitby huts were too bright for my associations).


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 25 Sep 10 - 08:17 PM

Beethoven called B minor a "black key."


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Howard Jones
Date: 26 Sep 10 - 07:36 AM

Jack, surely those characteristics differ from instrument to instrument? One of the musicians on the programme commented that A major is a comfortable key to play on on a piano, because the positions of the sharps on the keyboard fall naturally under the fingers. That's not necessarily the case on other instruments.

Are these supposedly different characteristics inherent in the actual keys themselves, or are they skewed towards the piano keyboard, given that many composers worked at the piano?

I can't say I really notice these myself, but as I play diatonic instruments I am accustomed to transposing tunes into keys which are possible for me to play or sing in, so I don't really think about it. I select keys for particular tunes based on how they feel to play and how they sound on my particular instruments.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Sep 10 - 08:13 AM

It just happens that certain keys have common characteristics both on woodwinds and strings. Playing in A, you will use three of the four strings on a violin open, so that'll give you a brighter effect. On a flute, the only crossfingered note in the A scale is G#, so again you get a bright sound. In E flat, the tonic, fourth and fifth are muted by stopping or crossfingering for both instruments. Much the same goes for the oboe.

On a harp, it's the other way round. Harps are usually made in flat keys, with semitonal sharpenings, and you get a beefier sound with unsharpened strings. There was a lot of music in flat keys published in Scotland during the years when the harp was fashionable - roughly 1790-1830 - and fiddlers tend to forget that the title pages usually specify the instruments as "FOR THE HARP, PIANOFORTE, Violin, German Flute, Violoncello..." with the lettering getting steadily smaller down the list. Selling to harpists obviously made commercial sense and the music reflected that. So for that stuff, the key associations had to work differently insofar as they featured at all.

This has nothing to do with temperament.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Sep 10 - 08:46 AM

"It just happens that certain keys have common characteristics both on woodwinds and strings. Playing in A, you will use three of the four strings on a violin open, so that'll give you a brighter effect."
quote jack campin.
if you are going to use open strings on the fiddle, and playing in A as an example of a brighter effect , You could then use the same argument for the key of G on a 5 string banjo[tuning Gdgbd], in which you use five strings open or for a guitar tuned in dgdgbd


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Sep 10 - 09:14 AM

There isn't a big difference between the timbre of a metal-fretted stopped string and an open one. When the string terminates in a sandwich of ebony and skin, as with stopped notes on the fiddle, a lot more energy is lost.

On the banjo it's much easier to play in G compared to most other keys, so you expect the sound of player confidence to come into it.


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM

it is of course quite possible[using lighter string] to tune a 5 string banjo Gcgce, Then the key of C major has all the brightness youhave just attributed to Gand A.
WITHOUT having to use a capo, it is generally possible to play in the key of a flat tuning aflat eflat a flat c eflat, now a flat has all those attributes.
but when the player is playing on a piano tuned in equal temperament, those keys will not have the same attributes as when played on a 5 string banjo.
so to some extent it is reasonable to state that the qualities attributed to certain keys can vary with different instruments


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Subject: RE: key matters radio 4
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 26 Sep 10 - 10:02 AM

I heard one of these programmes. I started by gnashing my teeth and progressed to thinking seriously about hurling the radio against the wall. And/or writing a terse letter to the producers.

They should have asked some folkies about this - as the well-informed comments above attest.

Anyone who has ever used digital tuning, or who plays a range of manually divergent instruments, or who has even just used a capo, will know that keys have no intrinsic mood in themselves. The fall of the hand to the instrument is the 'key' issue.

Pitch matters, the shape of the music within the pitch matters, but the key per se makes no difference. It's all about composition and performance, not key.

You can make A major desperately mournful, or Dm or Bm as chipper and happy as you like.

Yes, if you shift the pitch of the whole piece up, it will get brighter (not necessarily happier though) and if down - a little darker. But this is only a minor effect (sorry).

I'd not heard such pompous twaddle since I last read one of my own mudcat posts

Tom Bliss


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