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why six flats?

GUEST,leeneia 07 Dec 12 - 01:13 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Dec 12 - 01:24 PM
Will Fly 07 Dec 12 - 01:31 PM
GUEST,999 07 Dec 12 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Dec 12 - 01:50 PM
SteveMansfield 07 Dec 12 - 01:51 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 07 Dec 12 - 01:51 PM
JohnInKansas 07 Dec 12 - 02:13 PM
terrier 07 Dec 12 - 02:24 PM
Nigel Parsons 07 Dec 12 - 02:29 PM
Richard Bridge 07 Dec 12 - 03:01 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 12 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Dec 12 - 04:02 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 12 - 04:06 PM
Newport Boy 07 Dec 12 - 04:59 PM
Jack the Sailor 07 Dec 12 - 04:59 PM
The Sandman 07 Dec 12 - 05:42 PM
Tattie Bogle 07 Dec 12 - 05:43 PM
GUEST,Stim 07 Dec 12 - 05:56 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 12 - 06:01 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Dec 12 - 06:05 PM
Kenny B (inactive) 07 Dec 12 - 06:11 PM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Dec 12 - 06:36 PM
Nick 07 Dec 12 - 06:42 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 12 - 06:47 PM
GUEST 07 Dec 12 - 08:13 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 12 - 08:20 PM
RobbieWilson 07 Dec 12 - 08:29 PM
GUEST 07 Dec 12 - 08:39 PM
Stringsinger 07 Dec 12 - 08:39 PM
Kenny B (inactive) 08 Dec 12 - 08:22 AM
Jack Campin 08 Dec 12 - 11:08 AM
Richard from Liverpool 08 Dec 12 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,leeneia 08 Dec 12 - 01:05 PM
Stringsinger 08 Dec 12 - 04:07 PM
Tattie Bogle 08 Dec 12 - 08:06 PM
Jack Campin 08 Dec 12 - 08:27 PM
Crowhugger 09 Dec 12 - 04:18 PM
Roger the Skiffler 10 Dec 12 - 06:02 AM
Will Fly 10 Dec 12 - 06:11 AM
cooperman 10 Dec 12 - 08:10 AM
Jack Campin 10 Dec 12 - 08:25 AM
Mr Red 10 Dec 12 - 10:31 AM
Howard Jones 10 Dec 12 - 10:33 AM
Stringsinger 10 Dec 12 - 06:46 PM
GUEST,Stim 11 Dec 12 - 11:06 AM
GUEST 11 Dec 12 - 09:33 PM
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Subject: why six flats?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:13 PM

For Advent my church is having a lovely evening service, "Holden Evening Prayer" by Marty Haugen. Our favorite part is a version Psalm 141 in canon form.

Well, we like it, but it's really too high for us.

Is there a musical reason why Haugen put this in 6 flats? It can't be to make it singable because it goes from E-flat to high E-flat, not good at all for us. It's not guitar-friendly, and it took me a long time to pick it out on the piano.

Why?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:24 PM

I suppose he was a bit accidental-prone, leeneia.

sorry! byebye...


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:31 PM

Was it perhaps originally written for boys' voices? Just a thought 'cos I don't know the piece at all.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:34 PM

martyhaugen (at) mac (dot) com

Try emailing the composer with that question.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:50 PM

That's a thought, Will, about the boys' voices. But somehow I don't think that's it. It was published in Chicago and is probably intended for modern congregations.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:51 PM

I'd guess he just liked it in that key!


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:51 PM

The simplest solution to the difficulty of playing in E flat on guitar is to tune down a half-step and play in E fingering. Alternatively, you could capo up one fret and play in D fingering, or capo up three frets and play in C fingering, whichever is more comfortable/intuitive to you.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 02:13 PM

A simple, and likely reason for setting a tune in 6 flats (Gb Major) is that he had fat fingers and preferred to use the black keys that stick up on the piano. (Also observed in some players with unusually short stubby fingers.)

If the piece is old enough to have originated when pianos were commonly tuned to a harmonic scale (before equal temperament became common) the key used did, for some keys, produce a significantly "different sound." There were "traditions" associated with each "key" that assigned various "moods" to the different ones, and this may have been considered important by the composer. In early organ music, some keys were considered "banned by the church(?)" as "evil," so maybe the composer just wanted to make a subtle insult ... .

If the piece is more recent, I'd go with the fat fingered artist guess.

John


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: terrier
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 02:24 PM

Seems to me the obvious solution if the key is too high for the singers is to transpose it into a lower key. Simple job for a musician. Any reason why that can't be done?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 02:29 PM

Just transpose it up a semitone.
The 'rule of seven'. means that you play the same notes as shown, but imagine the key signature shows just one sharp.


"Rule of Seven": transposing by a semitone the number of flats/sharps in the new key signature plus the number of sharps/flats in the original key = 7

Of course, if you've got the fat fingers referred to by JiK then you're more likely to use this rule to transpose from Cmaj up a semitone to C#maj (7 sharps) or down a semitone to Cb(B)maj (7 flats)


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 03:01 PM

Because he didn't like melodeons?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 03:41 PM

Same key as "Take Five". Maybe he meant you to segue from one into the other?

Or is there an obbligato part for alto sax?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 04:02 PM

No, Jack. No sax part. The piece is copyright 1990. The 'Holden' of the title is Holden Village, a retreat center.

Flats are a theme in the service. The other parts are in three flats or two.

Since you mentioned saxophones - do saxes require special music, the way French horns do?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 04:06 PM

Saxes are usually treated as transposing instruments - if you want the music to come out in E flat on an alto sax, you write it in C, and if you want it to come out in E flat on a tenor sax, you write it in F.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 04:59 PM

In my hymn-playing days on an American Organ (>60 years ago) I never played in 3 or 4 sharps. As Nigel says above, you simply read the key as 4 or 3 flats and play the notes written. You have to think a bit about accidentals.

I think I came to this practice because, when I was fingering a 4 or 5 note chord, it was easier to reach all the keys, because the most frequently occurring notes are on the black keys. I don't have short or thick fingers, but it still felt easier.

And, despite equal temperament, I still feel there is a difference in the feel of the same tune between the flats and sharps keys.

One other point, leeneia - If the parts of the service are in 2, 3 & 6 flats, you don't want to tranpose just one of them to a sharp key. I don't pretend to know which keys would best relate, but 'change one, change all' preserves the composer's intention.

Phil


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack the Sailor
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 04:59 PM

No apartment jokes! Impressive!


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 05:42 PM

perhaps he was a member of the six flat society, aka 3d squares, they are a little trendier than old squares.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 05:43 PM

I was going to say the same as JiK: "all on he black notes" - on the piano that is! Agree with others, though: just pick the key that suits your voices.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 05:56 PM

For what it's worth, Irving Berlin always wrote in Gb, though he called it F#. If you don't want to play barre chords, you can capo in any number of places. It is a bright and ephemeral key, owing to the fact that it is so far out from C and that you don't have all those C harmonics and overtones to deal with. It's for people who like to travel light.....


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 06:01 PM

There was a bit more to it than that...

Irving Berlin's piano


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 06:05 PM

Relationship to the tonal centers of other surrounding pieces.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Kenny B (inactive)
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 06:11 PM

From experience of playing hymns on brass instuments many are written in "b" keys

He was probably looking for a simple brass arrangement to cover the closest common keys of D & E which would be Eb to allow brass learners to play the hymns in a simple key of "c" or "Bb"

Just a thought


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 06:36 PM

"Relationship to the tonal centers of other surrounding pieces."

You know, I believe that's it. We congregants are perfectly happy hopping from any key to any other, but Haugen was probably trying to make the service cohesiv.

The reason we don't mind hopping is that there's usually a good bit of speech between musical pieces, but in this service there isn't.

Me, I would have put it in the flat key known as F.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Nick
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 06:42 PM

Perhaps Hark The Herald Angels should have been in a friendlier key too.

If I remember as written it has an E as the top note.

But (as a non hymnish person) it' a cracking tune that is pitched at a range that is just right


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 06:47 PM

Not six flats if you're aiming at brass learners. Two or three.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:13 PM

Am I missing something here: I always thought that flats and sharps were the black notes on a piano and there are only 5 in an octave; b e a d and c . What is the sixth flat?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:20 PM

Cb. Enharmonically the same as B natural.

The piece couldn't be in Eb minor, could it?


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:29 PM

For guitar you put on a capo and play in C. The music wasn't written for guitar, choose between being a guitar purist or a written music purist. If you don't like the pitch, transpose and sing in a pitch that you like.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:39 PM

G♭ major    B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, C♭


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:39 PM

If this piece contained parts for most brass horns, it would be easier for them to read since they are used to playing in flat keys. The exception would be the French horn written a fifth away from concert pitch.

If the piece had a signature of six flats and played in Cb major, if it were in a minor key,
it would be Ab minor, the relative minor of Cb major.

Five sharps would have been more convenient enharmonically for many in the key of B major or G# minor.

Often classical composers don't consider the guitar and rely on piano accompaniments
In this way, they may think in a variety of keys. Obviously, the composer didn't really write for the people who were going to play it unless it's a strictly choral piece with piano.

Oddly enough, Cb major has a sound of its own that is different than say B major.
In the early days of music, strings such as violins played the sharp keys a quarter tone higher than the flat keys by moving their fingers a little higher toward the bridge.
Naturally, the tempered scale changed things a little.

The feel (tonally) of a sharp key is slightly subtly different than a flat key.
Ie: B major or G# minor has a slightly different feel from Cb or Ab minor.

But if the composer actually knew who he was writing for, I don't think he would have done six flats.

Certain keys feel right for composers and this might have to do with the placement of the voices in the chorus.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Kenny B (inactive)
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 08:22 AM

Jack
Piano in 6 flats = Bb instruments in 4 flats
and Eb instruments in 3 flats , we actually agree


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 11:08 AM

If the piece had a signature of six flats and played in Cb major, if it were in a minor key,
it would be Ab minor, the relative minor of Cb major.


Six flats is the key signature of G flat major or (more likely) E flat minor.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 12:30 PM

I often try and sing things in various obscure keys to prevent guitars from being able to easily join in. The composer may have had a similar idea? Just a thought. (Although from my memories of Haugen's oeuvre from my days as a church musician, I would have thought of him as pro-guitar)


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 01:05 PM

http://www.musicianvilla.com/bio-john-villaveces.php

Any church can use the tune. It just needs a guy like you see on the link. That's who played for us last itme.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 04:07 PM

My bad. Six flats is Gb and relative minor key is Eb. I never play in these keys so
sometimes I lose count. The flats are Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Cb which means that this is the key of Gb. The enharmonic key would be F# which contains F#-C#-G#-D#-A#-E#. Six either way so take your pick (that is if you pick in those keys) without a capo.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 08:06 PM

Not that difficult for a guitar player with a capo, Richard from Liverpool! But I have come across guitarists who play in obscure keys (with or without capo - the flash ones without!) "to put the melodeons off" - they reckoned without the fully chromatic ones, e.g. the B/C - that's if the player can find all the notes!


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 08:27 PM

I have a descant recorder made of transparent purple plastic with glittery bits which is a semitone flat of A=440. I don't think it was actually intended to be an A=415 instrument, I think the manufacturer just made a mistake. But it's in tune with itself and it makes playing in G flat just like playing in G on a normal descant.

I also have a C clarinet made to some archaic pitch a semitone above the modern one, so it's a C#/Db clarinet. I think of that as my country music clarinet (given that it always seems to be country singers who like weird capo settings).


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 04:18 PM

I expect you are correct Jack about it being in Eb minor, since leeneia mentions a range of Eb to Eb.

leeneia, Eb-Eb is squarely mid-range for a majority of 1st sopranos, which is a common voicing for choral type or "serious" music. All the above "just transpose it" advice is right on if the original key doesn't work for your people. The cited reasons for using 6 flats are true when they apply but if you can't sing a piece in the that key and you plan to sing it somehow or another, it really doesn't matter why it was put there. Just do whatcha gotta do.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 06:02 AM

I haven't understood a word of this thread but I think it exemplifies the best of the Mudcat- serious question and lots of helpful and erudite advice.
I am not worthy.

RtS


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 06:11 AM

But I have come across guitarists who play in obscure keys (with or without capo - the flash ones without!) "to put the melodeons off".

Mwahaha!

Actually this sneaky trick doesn't work when playing with the melodeon man in our band - if I slip cunningly into, say, Eb, he just picks up his saxophone and carries on regardless...


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: cooperman
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 08:10 AM

Lots of guitar players tune down a half step so E becomes Eb.
It can give a more twangy and ringing sound and makes string bending easier. When listening to a recording, if someone writes the dots down on piano they often say 'wonder why they chose that weird Eb key'. Not forced to be the case here though.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 08:25 AM

The other way round, I've come across a 19th century transcription of a fiddle tune in G# minor (five sharps). It's a lot more playable a semitone down (a fairly typical mid-18th-century G minor reel), and older versions of the tune have it that way, so why?...

What I figured had happened was that the transcriber was using a piano that was a semitone flat, as often happened to old pianos (you couldn't bring them up to pitch or they'd explode) and the violinist he was notating the tune from stayed at concert pitch.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Mr Red
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 10:31 AM

if Einstein had been known as a musician he would have said:

E= Fb


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 10:33 AM

I read in Patrick Moore's obituary that Einstein played violin and Moore once accompanied him playing something by Saint-Saens.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 10 Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Actually E= Fb is different considering each in relation to the music idea of each key.
Fb would be used in the key of Cb whereas E would be in the more accessible keys such as G or C or A.

Using a capo means that you are technically physically playing in standard guitar keys
although the sound may come out in the key of the other instruments.

The capo won't help with a lot of modulations in a song.

The tessitura or the working range of a piece for a singer might be Eb to Eb
but this doesn't mean that the song has to be in Eb major, Eb minor,Gb major or any other key; the range depends on the musical context. For example if you sang a blues in the key of C major, Eb might be a high blues note or a low one, the flatted third of C. Jazz musicians have written charts like this, rarely, but they do exist.

Music is a language and is written as well as "spoken" so context is everything.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 11 Dec 12 - 11:06 AM

Perhaps a bit late, but the significant pieces of the entire piece, which is basically an entire service set to music, are found here.Clips of the Holden Evening Prayer
The Psalm 141 is, as Mr. Campin propounds, actually in Eb minor. This, most likely has to do with the fact that the "Thanksgiving Prayer" before it is in Eb, and the "Magnificat" after is in Ab.

As to being guitar friendly, it isn't hard to work out an accompaniment to it on the guitar. Put the capo on the six fret, and use the Am fingering for Eb minor, the C fingering for F#, the G major fingering for Db, and the D minor fingering for Ab minor.If there's a Bb minor, use the Em fingering, and you're done.


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Subject: RE: why six flats?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Dec 12 - 09:33 PM

It depends on which direction one is going.


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