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WHAT KEY AM I IN?

Jeep man 18 May 02 - 06:20 PM
53 18 May 02 - 06:22 PM
Jeep man 18 May 02 - 06:55 PM
Jon Freeman 18 May 02 - 07:21 PM
53 18 May 02 - 09:43 PM
DancingMom 18 May 02 - 10:52 PM
Mark Ross 18 May 02 - 10:57 PM
Mudlark 18 May 02 - 11:10 PM
Sorcha 18 May 02 - 11:12 PM
khandu 18 May 02 - 11:38 PM
pavane 19 May 02 - 05:21 AM
GUEST 19 May 02 - 05:42 AM
pavane 19 May 02 - 07:27 AM
Blues=Life 19 May 02 - 08:22 AM
DMcG 19 May 02 - 09:35 AM
Sorcha 19 May 02 - 09:49 AM
DMcG 19 May 02 - 09:56 AM
Sorcha 19 May 02 - 09:57 AM
pavane 19 May 02 - 12:50 PM
GUEST 19 May 02 - 12:55 PM
53 19 May 02 - 01:14 PM
GUEST 19 May 02 - 01:17 PM
GUEST,Jim 19 May 02 - 01:47 PM
GUEST 19 May 02 - 03:59 PM
C-flat 19 May 02 - 05:14 PM
GUEST,Bullfrog Jones (on the road) 19 May 02 - 06:47 PM
GUEST 19 May 02 - 06:59 PM
Bullfrog Jones 20 May 02 - 01:36 PM
greg stephens 20 May 02 - 02:08 PM
Mooh 20 May 02 - 02:16 PM
Grab 20 May 02 - 05:24 PM
greg stephens 20 May 02 - 06:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 May 02 - 06:14 PM
GUEST,Bullfrog Jones (on the road) 20 May 02 - 07:59 PM
GUEST 20 May 02 - 08:04 PM
wysiwyg 20 May 02 - 10:36 PM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 20 May 02 - 10:58 PM
M.Ted 21 May 02 - 01:14 AM
C-flat 21 May 02 - 02:24 AM
GUEST,ozmacca 21 May 02 - 02:35 AM
greg stephens 21 May 02 - 02:44 AM
Pied Piper 21 May 02 - 06:58 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 May 02 - 07:42 AM
GUEST,provocateur 21 May 02 - 07:54 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 May 02 - 08:03 AM
GUEST,Foe 21 May 02 - 08:06 AM
Dave Bryant 21 May 02 - 10:48 AM
M.Ted 21 May 02 - 07:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 May 02 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,Guest A.N.Other 21 May 02 - 08:28 PM
M.Ted 21 May 02 - 11:26 PM
Ebbie 22 May 02 - 12:26 AM
GUEST,Foe 22 May 02 - 11:31 AM
Ebbie 22 May 02 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,Pavane 22 May 02 - 12:41 PM
M.Ted 22 May 02 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,Foe 22 May 02 - 03:06 PM
DonD 22 May 02 - 04:17 PM
M.Ted 22 May 02 - 04:58 PM
Don Firth 22 May 02 - 05:07 PM
GUEST 22 May 02 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,Pavane 23 May 02 - 02:24 AM
GUEST,Marion 23 May 02 - 12:58 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 02 - 01:22 PM
GUEST,Bent Whistler 23 May 02 - 02:51 PM
M.Ted 23 May 02 - 03:32 PM
Don Firth 23 May 02 - 03:48 PM
Dave4Guild 23 May 02 - 03:52 PM
Dave4Guild 23 May 02 - 03:57 PM
Don Firth 23 May 02 - 04:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 02 - 04:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 02 - 04:15 PM
Don Firth 23 May 02 - 04:18 PM
Don Firth 23 May 02 - 04:37 PM
M.Ted 23 May 02 - 05:05 PM
GUEST,Jim 23 May 02 - 05:26 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 02 - 06:04 PM
GUEST 23 May 02 - 06:08 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 02 - 07:11 PM
GUEST 23 May 02 - 07:20 PM
Pied Piper 24 May 02 - 07:59 AM
GUEST 24 May 02 - 08:10 AM
Don Firth 24 May 02 - 12:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 May 02 - 12:38 PM
Dave4Guild 24 May 02 - 06:36 PM
Burke 24 May 02 - 07:21 PM
M.Ted 24 May 02 - 11:58 PM
GUEST,Al 25 May 02 - 01:11 AM
DMcG 25 May 02 - 11:37 AM
Don Firth 25 May 02 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,Bullfrog Jones (on the road) 26 May 02 - 03:34 PM
pavane 26 May 02 - 05:46 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 May 02 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,E-NUF 26 May 02 - 07:15 PM
Marion 27 May 02 - 03:46 PM
Marion 27 May 02 - 03:54 PM
Don Firth 27 May 02 - 05:00 PM
Pied Piper 28 May 02 - 11:14 AM
Don Firth 28 May 02 - 01:17 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 May 02 - 03:22 PM
M.Ted 28 May 02 - 05:00 PM
Pied Piper 29 May 02 - 09:41 AM
M.Ted 29 May 02 - 04:40 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 May 02 - 06:11 PM
GUEST 30 May 02 - 07:12 AM
Marion 30 May 02 - 09:32 AM
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Subject: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Jeep man
Date: 18 May 02 - 06:20 PM

As you folks know, I am musically challanged and have a hard time figuring out chords,etc. Question; If I capo my guitar on the 4th fret and play out of Eminor, what key am I actually in? Jim


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: 53
Date: 18 May 02 - 06:22 PM

Key of B and your Eminor becomes a G#minor.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Jeep man
Date: 18 May 02 - 06:55 PM

Thanks 53. Now I can be ignorant with confidence. Jim


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 18 May 02 - 07:21 PM

Well Bob may or may not be right... Your Em has certainly become G#m but more info would be needed to determine the key of the song.

I'd have thought if the chord you are focusing on is the minor chord, the song is most likely a song in a minor key and it's more likely the key is G#minor...

If root chord of what you were playing was a G shape capoed up 4, Bob's answer would be correct.

Jon


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: 53
Date: 18 May 02 - 09:43 PM

Good answer Jon.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: DancingMom
Date: 18 May 02 - 10:52 PM

So, if you capo or play a bar chord at each fret up the board, each would be a whole step higher? (Just learning myself.)Thanks, great question. Sharon


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 18 May 02 - 10:57 PM

It's a half-step for each fret higher you go.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Mudlark
Date: 18 May 02 - 11:10 PM

I am even more music theory challenged than Jeep man...I would like to know how to determine what key I'm in WITHOUT withOUT the capo, just for starters. If chord pattern 1-4-5, is the "key" the first chord? In 3 chord songs this may be simple, but some songs seem to start "in the middle," chord pattern-wise...Sweet Georgia Brown comes to mind, which I start in E7, but it seems to me it's in the key of G. Maybe the starting G is implied?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Sorcha
Date: 18 May 02 - 11:12 PM

Usually, not always, the key is the last chord of a song--also called the tonic.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: khandu
Date: 18 May 02 - 11:38 PM

And, yes, some starting chords are implied, such as the G in John Hurts "Salty Dog Blues". I am not too familiar with "Sweet Georgia Brown", so I cannot comment on it.

khandu


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: pavane
Date: 19 May 02 - 05:21 AM

Don't forget that many songs starting and ending on minor chords are actually 'Modal' rather than minor key. Well known examples include Scarborough Fair.

The technicalities of the so-called 'Greek' modes are explained elsewhere, but the main rule to remember is you shouldn't in general use the 7th chord. (Play G, not G7, etc)


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 02 - 05:42 AM

For the dorian mode, Pavane is right. For the mixolydian mode you most definately should play the flattened 7th


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: pavane
Date: 19 May 02 - 07:27 AM

Agreed that not all modes are the same, but Dorian and Aeolian are the most common. (I did say 'in general')


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Blues=Life
Date: 19 May 02 - 08:22 AM

When I play my harmonica, I have an easy way to check what key I need to play in. I lean over, whisper in the guitar players ear, and say, "What the hell key should I play?" See? Easy as can be.

Blues


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: DMcG
Date: 19 May 02 - 09:35 AM

The Greek modes may well be explained elsewhere, but can someone point me at 'em? Folk music I have from the early seventies (eg EFDS Publication 'The Foggy Dew') helpfully classifies every tune as Ionian, Mixolydian, Aelian or whatever. Doesn't mean a thing to me, folks, especially as (mainly) a singer.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Sorcha
Date: 19 May 02 - 09:49 AM

Here ya go--Modes for Mudcatters


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: DMcG
Date: 19 May 02 - 09:56 AM

That link took me to the wrong place - but a search for that title gave me what I wanted. Thanks, Sorcha


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Sorcha
Date: 19 May 02 - 09:57 AM

oops. not quite awake yet. I highlighted but forgot to click copy.........doh. Want me to try again?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: pavane
Date: 19 May 02 - 12:50 PM

As a singer, you don't really need to know much about them anyway, just sing the notes. It's the accompanist who needs to know.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 02 - 12:55 PM

It's the accompanist who needs to know.

I don't think, in most case, even s/he has to know.

It's a bit like saying you need to know the 'formal rules' of sentence construction to speak eloquently


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: 53
Date: 19 May 02 - 01:14 PM

As a general rule , the first chord of the song usually represents the key. I'm not to good at figuring out the minor keys since the minors are a relative to the major key. A B C D E F G are the most used major keys. See I can learn something new every day.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 02 - 01:17 PM

A B C D E F G are the most used major keys

ROTFLMAO

You're too funny Bob!

Clarinent players and Brass Bands probably wouldn't agree :-)


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 19 May 02 - 01:47 PM

Bob actually (inavdertaitly) raises quite an interesting question:

What are the most commonly used keys?

For folk, and most guitar based stuff, D must be the most common with G and C close by.

E is used a lot for guitar blues, A is pretty common to. F not so often, although Dm obviously is.

I'd guess that Bb is more common than B, and Eb fairly well used too.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 02 - 03:59 PM

I'd say D,G then A as the top three, after that I wouldn't be sure.

I'd agree that Bb is more common that B


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: C-flat
Date: 19 May 02 - 05:14 PM

I once played in a blues band which was going O.K. but then we decided to bring in a horn section. All our songs needed to be changed to sharps or flats to accomodate the horns and really "letting go" in E-flat took some doing. No wonder so many blues players de-tune a semi-tone! That said, those horn players could make the hair stand up on the back of my neck when they kicked in!


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Bullfrog Jones (on the road)
Date: 19 May 02 - 06:47 PM

If you're not sure of the key, find the last note of the song (assuming it resolves to the tonic) --- that'll give you the key.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 02 - 06:59 PM

Bullfrog,

Your advice, assuming it resolves to the tonic

whilst accuarate is about as useful as a lead balloon.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Bullfrog Jones
Date: 20 May 02 - 01:36 PM

Whereas your contribution tells us what exactly, GUEST? That (A) you can't spell, and (B) you've got nothing useful or positive to add.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 May 02 - 02:08 PM

I'll post a more tactful version of GUEST's response to you, Bullfrog.The trouble is with your statement "assuming it resolves on the tonic" assumes a technical knowledge of the theory of music, enough to understand "resolve" and "tonic". And if you know that, I think you won't be needing to ask how to figure out what key a tune is in. I think that's what sarky guest meant, anyway!


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Mooh
Date: 20 May 02 - 02:16 PM

I can remember my father (a choirmaster from my childhood) who would put the church choir in key before attempting a piece of music by having us sing the scale, then having us sing the interval from the root to the starting note. He could then demonstrate that we could learn to reverse the procedure by singing something new and then find the related scale. This became quite easy with major scales and some of us caught on to minor scales the same way too. Naming the key of the scale was immaterial to the choir, but comparing the root of the scale sung to a note on an instrument was teachable to kids. Making it a friendly game for kids made it fun.

An hour with a decent teacher of your instrument and a notebook would answer all your questions as to what key you are using, and it would be worth the expense. Failing that, find a chord reference organised by key and a book called "The Mini Guitar Grimoire" by Adam Kadmon, or "Scales And Modes In The Beginning" by Ron Middlebrook.

Honestly, fifty bucks or so will pay off bigtime.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Grab
Date: 20 May 02 - 05:24 PM

53, there's many many exceptions to the "first chord tell the key" theory ("Yellow submarine" is just one). But the number of exceptions to the "last chord tells the key" (at least in trad folk tunes) can be counted on the fingers of one foot.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 May 02 - 06:03 PM

Drowsy Maggie, Miss McLeod's Reel The Morning Dew The High Reel The Fermoy Lasses Kilfenora Jig(debatable) Drops of brandy...there's a few extremely well known folk tunes whose last chords don't define the key of the piece. The list is endless.Obviously the majority of tunes end in the "home key" but it's by no means a universal rule.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 May 02 - 06:14 PM

The last note works most times, though there are exceptions - but you still have to listen to how the tune sounds, to be sure if it's minor or major or in some kind of mode.

If there's a guitar player who goes in for full chords and doesn't have a funny tuning, that's handy for spotting the key. Or, with some electronic tuners, you can spot the last note while you're up at the bar, with the idea of casually coming in with the right chord as if you had perfect pitch.

The basic rule though is, if you aren't certain, play softly and listen to yourself (stick your ear against the instrument) before you play loud enough for anyone else to hear.

D, G, occasionally A, plus a minor and e minor - that will get you most places in an Irish session. And C as well, if the tunes turn English. And then, of course, there are the times when the key changes between the tunes in a set. (When that happens inside tunes, that's not traditional, and you don't want to join in with that stuff, and they don't want you to either most likely.) There are rules and conventions here, but they vary.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Bullfrog Jones (on the road)
Date: 20 May 02 - 07:59 PM

Absolutely right Greg, but I only put in that caveat because if I hadn't some smartarse like GUEST would have popped up with 'yeah, but what if it doesn't resolve?'. The basic point remains true that you're better off listening to the last note of the song. (And if Jeep man or anyone else wants to ask what 'resolve' and 'tonic' mean, they're in the right place to find out!)


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 02 - 08:04 PM

yeah, but what if it doesn't resolve?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 20 May 02 - 10:36 PM

In autoharp, LOTS of stuff is in F.

~S~


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 20 May 02 - 10:58 PM

Whats a key?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 May 02 - 01:14 AM

And this is supposed to be a music forum!!--I think I'm going to have to start taking some serious anti-depressants--not that phony Zoloft stuff, but some real ones with a little kick--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: C-flat
Date: 21 May 02 - 02:24 AM

As an old entertainer friend of mine used to say at the start of a song "Pick a key and let yourself in!" or "Do you sing in F or do you just Effing sing!"


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,ozmacca
Date: 21 May 02 - 02:35 AM

And they wonder why I chose bodhran?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 May 02 - 02:44 AM

Plenty of fiddle tunes change key at the start of the second half, McGrath from Harlow. Are you saying they are not traditional? Of course, it all depends on what you mean by traditional: I've never seen a horse playing a fiddle.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 21 May 02 - 06:58 AM

Being a piper I quite often get asked by musicians what key my pipes are in. I think I should have phrased that last sentence differently "other musicians". It's quite hard to give a simple answer. The drone note and tonic for a lot of tunes is Bb but the pipe scale has a flattened 7th making an Eb major scale. To make things more complicated tunes may have tonics on Eb, F, or C. I think the problem arises because music from all around the world including a lot of British folk music is not built using Major or Minor scales. Major and Minor are just 2 possible ways to divide up the space between an octave in a musically meaningful way, there are many many more. What I'm saying basically is there's no point in trying to force all music into the 2 or 3 scales used in western art music. The story gets even more interesting when we look at Just verses tempered scales but I think I'll leave that to another time (you'll be glad to hear). All the best PP.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 May 02 - 07:42 AM

I think of the second half in the fiddle tunes Greg mentioned as being essentially a new tune, and you quite expect a key change there. Or to put it a different way, you can get to think of two tunes you are used to playing in a set as being two parts of the same tune, and the same applies there.

What I meant were the songs where there's a key change part way through, so the same tune is played in a new key for dramatic effect, and that isn't traditional. (No quarrel with it - I've got one song where I keep going up a semi-tone every verse and chorus; but I wouldn't want anyone who didn't know it trying to busk it with me.)

That question John of Hull asked "What is a key" is not that easy to answer in simple terms. I was asked that the other day by someone who plays the guitar reasonably enough, and I was floundering.

In order to understand the answer you really a need a bit of theory, and if you know that theory you know what a key is anyway. But most people get to play and use keys and change keys without understanding that stuff. It's like explaining the parts of speech to someone who speaks the language - not that easy to explain and not that easy to understand the explanation.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,provocateur
Date: 21 May 02 - 07:54 AM

McGrath ...

What about "The Pinch Of Snuff"?

Explain that one away...

(Sorry ... it's just that there's always an exception to every rule!)


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 May 02 - 08:03 AM

There aren't any rules here, except rules of thumb; and they aren't rules.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Foe
Date: 21 May 02 - 08:06 AM

I just figured out why certain keys (like Am) are the relative minor to a major key (like C). Go to a Piano and play only the white keys up and down starting at middle C. You've played a C major scale. (have someone show you where middle C is). Then move your finger to the left two white keys. Next white key to the left is B, skip the black key (Bb/A#) and the next white key is A. Now play a scale only on the white keys from this A up to the next A and back and you will be playing an Am scale. Same with Key of G. You have to sharp one note, the F to F# (instead of playing the F white key you move up to the black key, F#), and this gives you the same relationship of half steps to whole steps between notes so you get a G major scale playing all white keys on the piano except for the F which is now an F#. Now move down to the white key that is E (the relative minor to G major) and play the same scale as you did with the G major scale except start on E and end on E. You've played an E minor scale. That's why certain minor keys are the relative minor to certain major keys.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 21 May 02 - 10:48 AM

I think Jeep Man is probably talking about playing for singing. If so then he probably needs to know so that he can tell someone else what he's playing in. If he learns the twelve semitones of the scale (really all that entails is knowing that there is only one semitone between B-C and E-F) then he can just count his way up the frets. In this case it would be a case of saying to himself - Em, Fm, F#m, Gm, G#m.

Playing tunes is a bit different, but basically most dance music is likely to be in the fiddle keys of D, G, or somtimes A (or the related minor keys of Bm, Em, - can't actally think of any in f#m), plus the odd one in Am. Hint - if you've got standard G/D melodeons playing (unless you've got Andy Cutting or Tony Hall types) you won't get much outside of G, Em, D, Bm, Am. If you can tell the difference between a major and minor chord, then a quick bit of trial and error will find the key - you shouldn't need a capo (except perhaps for Bm).

Another tip - if there's a "Stange" chord in the tune (Statten Island is good example) try using the chord a full tone below the tonic (ie C for the key of D and F for the key of G) you'll be right at least 50% of the time.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 May 02 - 07:50 PM

"Key" roughly, any way, is the name of the main note in a piece of music--(it is often also called the " tone center`) and, by implication, the other notes that go along with it, which, pretty much, would be the scale--

When I say main note, I mean the note that melodic phrases tend move toward, away from, and around--Some melodies will use it at the end of every phrase--while some melodies will move all around it and never quite get to it until the last possible moment--

Many of you confuse the chord with the key--understandable, since, especially if you are being modal, you can often play an entire folk melody over a chord based on the tone center, but, in order to figure out the key, it is best to consider only the melody notes, because chords can often include notes that are note even in the scale--

A lot of tunes include key changes--Sweet Georgia Brown, moves through three keys in the "A" melody alone--

If you were all classically trained, this would be a no brainer, because you would just count the sharps or flats in the key signature, and you wouldn't have to understand anything--but, since you are folk musicians, and not slaves to the written line, a little understanding is necessary--Truth is, folkies need theory, because they need to understand what is happening in order to play the music in the first place--you can play classical music without knowing any theory at all!!!!


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 May 02 - 08:14 PM

I think you've just demonstrated my point, M.Ted. And GUEST,Foe, I think you have neatly demonstrated how in practice a lot us do actually learn - whatever theory we may eventually pick-up comes out of doing things without any theory as to why they are the right things to do.

I'm sure there are a lot of people who actually find it easier to start with the theory. Only trouble is sometimes they are inclned to think that the rest of us really work that way as well, and that we're just pretending. There are clearly sveral very different wiring systems people can have in their brains.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Guest A.N.Other
Date: 21 May 02 - 08:28 PM

If you have the right key you can sing in any flat.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 May 02 - 11:26 PM

The problem comes when you are caught singing in the wrong flat---


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Ebbie
Date: 22 May 02 - 12:26 AM

LOL, M. Ted. This is a bit of a scramble!

Guest Foe, I'm sure you're right in explaining why a certain minor chord goes with a particular major key but for me- and maybe for the questioner above- an easier way to think of it is that each key has a minor that is commonly attached to it- and that is the 6th note of each. In other words, in your C key above, count C 1, D 2, E 3, F 4, G 5, A 6... 'A minor' is what you're looking for. In the key of A: A 1, B 2, C 3, D 4, E 5, F# 6... 'F# minor'.

G 1, A 2, B 3, C 4, D 5, E 6...'E minor'

F 1, G 2, A 3, B 4, C 5, D 6...'D minor'

And so on and so on, et cetera, et cetera...


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Foe
Date: 22 May 02 - 11:31 AM

Folk tale: Once a banjo player was asked what the notes were on the banjo fretboard. He replied, "Hell, there ain't no notes on the banjo, you just play it"


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Ebbie
Date: 22 May 02 - 11:38 AM

I have a friend who has a marvelous 'ear'. Rather puzzled, she said one day, Why do you have to know what key it's in? Don't you just go to that chord?

We said, Oh, right...


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Pavane
Date: 22 May 02 - 12:41 PM

Guest Foe, You aren't exactly in Am playing all the white notes starting on A, you are in the Aeolian Mode on A. It is quite similar to the minor, as is the Dorian (white notes starting on D).

To get either the Melodic Minor or the Harmonic minor, you have to add some black notes.

One reason that Am and C are related is that they use the common notes CE for their tonic chords, ACE (Am) and CEG (C major), making it easy to move from one to the other.

And counting the number of sharps and flats in the key signature will not tell you which key or mode you are in. Each Greek mode on the white notes (There are 7 of them) will share the same key signature as C major and A minor, making a total of 9 possibilities. And this also goes for every other key signature, as the modes can also be transposed to any start note.

Bit of a nightmare for someome one who writes music software. It is sometimes possible to establish the key by examining the frequency graph of all notes played, but that also doesn't always work. E.g. sometimes the tonic is NOT the most frequently occurring note.

How do I know this? Since most MIDI files do NOT contain the key information (they don't need it), one of my programs tries to work it out as above. It usually works, but not always.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 May 02 - 02:43 PM

For most of the run of the conventional sheet music that people play, reading the key signature will tell you what key you are in--although this is only true because it is the convention to write it and name it that way--passing key changes are reflected by using accidentals rather than by a change in the key signature--

As is typical of mudcat music discussions, this one is not specific about what sort of music is being discussed, so any "rules" can be blown out of the water with an example from any kind of music in the world that doesn't follow those rules---

Pavane's point about modes is either irrelevant or quite important--depending on what sort of music you are dealing with--those of us who have studied formal music theory know that technically, modal music came before keys were introduced, so that they are different animals--how and why they are different is a fearful path that it is better for everyone but composers and people who write music software to avoid--

Foe, Pavane was, perhaps a little unfair to you, since the scale you did manage to find is the natural minor--but classical composers tended to use a melodic minor scale which had different intervals ascending and descending--and he probably felt that since you didn't know this, it was probably a little early for you to begin giving lessons in music theory--

And, Master Pavane, will those of us with Mac's ever be able to try any of your most interesting programs?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Foe
Date: 22 May 02 - 03:06 PM

Most of what I learned about music was from a sight singing course in High School that everyone in Chorus had to take to make life easier for the coral director. We looked at the sharps and flats in the signature and that told us where "DO" (as in DO RE MI)was on the musical staff. No sharps or flats and "DO" was C. But if the signature had no sharps or flats and the melody started down on "LA" (A) and ended there we found ourselves singing in A minor. Try it. Sing DO TI LA descending and then sing LA TI DO RE etc up to LA and then back down to LA and I hear a minor scale. (Which type of minor scale - DUH)


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: DonD
Date: 22 May 02 - 04:17 PM

Was it on another thread, or in my granddaughter's riddle boo that I read: "Why do singers break into song? They don't have the key!"


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 May 02 - 04:58 PM

If read what I said, carefully, and you will find that I did say that that was a minor scale--a natural minor scale--not the only one, and not the most favored--you will undoubtably be surprised to know that those of us who studied instrumental music have been working our way through the scales, major, minor, and other, since we first opened our cases, and will continue to do it for the forseeable future--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 May 02 - 05:07 PM

There is a big difference between "being classically trained" and knowing music theory. There are hoards of people out there who have taken years of piano lessons, violin lessons, clarinet lessons, or what have you, who can read music as easily as most people can read a newspaper, and who can play some very difficult music. Some of them even play in symphony orchestras and appear on concert stages. Assuming that they haven't memorized the piece, if you were to take the sheet music away from them, they'd be lost. They can't improvise because they don't know what to do. Because they don't know music theory from Shinola. And why not? Because many people have taken private lessons all their lives from teachers who didn't know music theory either. And believe me, teachers like that are in the majority. They've always played by rote from the written music without really knowing what it's all about. Or that there is a better—and easier—way to learn that will really put them in command of what they're doing.

Music theory answers such questions as "What is a scale? How does a major scale differ from a minor scale? What is their relationship? What is a mode? What is a chord? How can you construct chords? What's the difference between a major chord and a minor chord? How do they relate? What chords can I use [not must I use] to accompany this song?" Yes, and "What key am I in?" Music theory is not a list of rules and prohibitions. Quite the contrary. It shows you possibilities that you may never discover on your own. It's a logical and cohesive system that provides quick and easy answers to many of the questions that appear in these threads. And many of these questions are really very elementary. "What's the relationship between major and minor scales?" is something that's explained in the first dozen pages of any halfway decent book on music theory. (By the way, understanding modes and how they were and are used is far simpler than most people assume.)

If you play much, you'll learn this stuff as you go along. Can't help it. You can dope out a lot of it by yourself, and it's a real kick when you finally figure something out. But sometimes going through a good book on music theory guitar in hand leads to glorious light-bulbs popping all over the place. The difficult and incomprehensible suddenly becomes ridiculously easy. Exploring is fun, but sometimes you just can't find what you're looking for. So you pull out a map and suddenly, "Aha! So that's where it is!!"

Nobody imposed this on us as a duty, and we are free to learn any way we want. The main thing is to enjoy the exploration, whether we chose to go armed with a map or not.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 May 02 - 05:19 PM

Well said Don!


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Pavane
Date: 23 May 02 - 02:24 AM

M Ted I am sorry that for historical reasons, my programs are written in a language (originally in QuickBasic for DOS, now Visual Basic) which is not supported on the MAC.

To port them would require a massive rewriting effort, as well as learning a new language and operating system. In view of the HUGE number of registrations received on Windows systems (2, at the last count, for the latest version of HARMONY, after at least 800 downloads), it doesn't appear that there is much point.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 23 May 02 - 12:58 PM

Hi M.Ted. I found your last two posts very interesting because they discussed the different kinds of minor scales; I've been trying to sort this out. Every reference I seek out describes the intervals found in natural, melodic, and harmonic minors, but I haven't been able to find anything (by reading, or by asking people) about how they are used.

Are there general rules as to who uses which kind of minor scale and when? You say that classical composers typically use melodic minors. What about natural and harmonic? Do the names melodic and harmonic have any significance, i.e., you would use one to play melodies and the other to play harmonies?

Another thing I wonder about melodic minor is how you know if you'd use the ascending or descending forms, assuming you're playing the melody that's going up and down all the time rather than a long scale-like run.

Let me rephrase the question: if you had your guitar and I asked you to play me an Am scale, what exactly would you play? Or would you say that the request was meaningless and that you needed to know which Am scale I meant?

I did ask this same question on Mudcat a year ago, but the resulting discussion was about modes. I'm not talking about modes, or pentatonic or other gapped scales, but the 7 tone minor scales described in classical textbooks.

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 02 - 01:22 PM

Well, you may not use the natural minor scale more than the others, M Ted, but I think you'll find that in a lot of folk music circles it's probably the more commonly used minor scale.

The value of theory is that it can help people make sense of what they do, and fit things together, and so make better music. But it should never ever limit what we do - and it is treated like that sometimes, so that certain ways of harmonising, for example, are ruled out as improper.

The people who wrote West Gallery music for example, were always getting sneered at on those kinds of grounds. I think the only things that matters ever are, first, does the way it sounds fit with what the music is trying to do, and second, is what it's trying to do worth doing.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Bent Whistler
Date: 23 May 02 - 02:51 PM

Wow.

I'm an over-40 very new musician (in fact, 2 months ago I wouldn't have used that term) who started by picking up a bodhran and a year later stepped on my wife's penny whistle, thereby inheriting it (hence the pen name). Went from no keys to fixed key. Ignored sharps and flats on sheet music and never played along with anyone to be in or out of key with. (Hell, I didn't know what a key was - the whistle just came that way.)

Well, a year ago my family got me a small hammered dulcimer (12/11). This is such a perfect instrument to learn basic chord structure due to the string layout making it all visual.

Now I've been torturing my guitar/mandolin/bass playing brothers turning family get togethers into sessions where I try to get them to figure out what the chord progression is so I can attempt to play along (they usually haven't thought about what the chords are for years on most songs).

I came to this thread because just this week the concept of 'key' finally clicked. My brothers would tell me what key they were in (and I'd just quietly drone on that major chord). New after spending half an hour with a music dictionary (and pestering my multi-instrumentalist daughter into reading key signatures for me!) I think I've got the concept down - the key is the set of notes (specifically sharps and flats) that sound good together.

Last weekend I bought a small notebook and copied out the basic keys and their corresponding scale. Next time my brother tell me the key, I at least know the right sharps and flats while I try to figure out the chords. Meanwhile I keep on droning along...

Bent


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 May 02 - 03:32 PM

Read my post carefully, Kevin--I was speaking of "classical" composers---given that however, you must understand that many folk melodies(particularly of the British Isles sort) are modal, and so, at least for musicological purposes, that would be considered an Aeolian mode, rather than a natural minor scale--

Beyond that, though, if your chordal acompaniment goes from Am to E7, you are using a melodic minor--

Marion, the answer to the question that you asked only makes sense when you are asking it about a particular piece or type of music--pick out the melody to Greensleeves, and you will see that in one motion, it uses the flatted seventh, in another, it uses the natural seventh(melodic minor). Do the same with "The Star of the County Down", and you will see that the natural seventh is not used at all(like a natural minor, Aeolian mode, but probably an even earlier "gapped" scale)--

The composers of each melody chose their scales to create a particular melodic quality partly based on his or her taste, but also because, in the time and place that they were writing, that was how you did it--

As to what Am scale I would play, I would explain the differences, and play you each--my personal favorite is the harmonic minor, because it has that big jump from the flatted sixth to the natural seventh--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 May 02 - 03:48 PM

The reason that modes come into any discussion of the differences between the various minor scales is that the two most commonly used scales, major and minor, are modes—Ionian and Aeolian respectively. The reason that they are the most common is that composers within recent centuries have found them to be the most versatile.

The problem that composers found with the Aeolian mode (natural minor) that led to invent the melodic and harmonic minor scales centers around the fact that the Aeolian mode lacks a leading tone.

A leading tone is a note a half-step below the key note. After playing around in a particular scale for a moment or two, the tonality of that scale gets established in your ear. Then, if you stop playing on the leading tone, it creates a "drop the other shoe" effect. Your ear wants to hear that key note. That's called resolution. This happens automatically in the Ionian mode (major scale) because the seventh degree of the scale is a half-step below the key note (for example, B in the key of C). But not in the Aeolian or most of the other modes.

Where composers especially wanted a strong resolution was at the very end of a piece of music (or at the end of a verse). You will note that almost all songs end with a dominant chord (often a dominant seventh chord) moving to the tonic chord (e.g., G7 to C). The B in the G7 chord moves to the C in the C chord (on guitar, 2nd string open to 2nd string 1st fret), thus producing the desire resolution. The ear is satisfied. That's called an "authentic cadence."

But if you are playing a song that's in Am (natural), the chords available to you are Am, Dm, and Em, with C, F, and G usable. The dominant chord is Em (alternately, G). The note below the key note (A) is G, a whole step down. There is some pull for resolution, but it's nowhere near as strong as it would be if the note were G#. So to create that pull, composers went out of the scale so they could use an E or E7, both of which contain a G#. In most instances it worked very nicely. Then, to sort of make it official, they invented the "harmonic minor scale" (a chord is a function of harmony rather than melody), which, based on A as the key note, is A B C D E F G# A.

But that put an interval of a step and a half between F and G# — an augmented second, the same sound as a minor third — which gives the scale a characteristic Middle Eastern sound. To alleviate that, they raised the F to an F# to smooth out the gap. But as it happens when you start tinkering with something that ain't really busted, they had to keep tinkering. When they descended the scale, the first five notes you hear are the same as the A major scale, and it establishes a major tonality in the ear. So to alleviate that, they decided that the "melodic minor" scale would go up with the raised notes (A B C D E F# G# A) and come down with the same notes as the natural minor (A G F E D C B A). Got it?

Contrasted to the natural minor which has been hanging around for many centuries, perhaps millenia, the harmonic and melodic minor scales are sort of ad hoc inventions, and relatively recent at that.

So what's the practical application of all this? If you are singing a song in Am, check the song to see if it has any G#s or F#s in it. If it doesn't, you're in natural minor. You would probably use Em as your dominant, but substituting G often produces more desirable results. Sounds modal, which is appropriate for many folk songs and ballads. Is modal, as a matter of fact. Don't worry about the lack of a leading tone. People managed to live without it until a few centuries ago. Try an E or E7 just for kicks. It may clank really badly, but if it sounds good, you might want to use it. I sing a couple of songs where I use Em at one point in the verse, G at another, and E7 at the end. No rule other than "which sounds best?"

Incidentally, if your song in Am has an F# in it, but the G is natural, you're in Dorian mode. The available chords there are Am, D (not Dm), and E, with C, G, and Bm usable. Example:— Joan Baez's version of John Riley. If it looks like a major scale except the seventh note (what would be the leading tone) is flatted (e.g., it looks like the key of C, but it has a Bb instead of B), then you're in Mixolydian mode. Use C, F, and G, with Am, Dm, and Em available, but start it and end it on a G chord. Example:— Joan Baez's version of The Great Selchie.

Music theory gives you a good idea of what's possible. The ultimate test is how does it sound?

Now that I've totally bewildered the hell out of everybody, including myself, I'm gonna go fix myself some lunch.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Dave4Guild
Date: 23 May 02 - 03:52 PM

Am I wrong in thinking that we're getting a bit "swamped" (am I allowed to use that phrase, now?) with all this discussion about modes and scales, and ascending and descending melodic/harmonic minors, etc.? If this thread is for the assistance of jeepman, it seems to have taken on a life of its own! Folk Music, it seems to me, whatever the technicalities of the more pedantic definitions, is about the learning of songs and music by ear ( an Aural tradition ). Therefore an understanding of musical theory is totally unnecessary for the enjoyment of and performance of, Folk Music. That is not to say that the theory of harmony isn't interesting, or that understanding it may not improve one's ability to shall we say, arrange songs or tunes. To get to the heart of the matter shall we say that most tunes with which we are familiar are sung(played) on a series of notes which are called a scale, and probably the commonest one is a major scale which most people will be familiar with as doh ray me etc.. Whichever note this particular tune takes as its "tonic" is said to be "the key" it's in; its tonic note being the starting note for the series of notes for this scale. The 3 chord trick refers to the fact that this run of notes can be harmonised (Accompanied by) three chords based in turn on the note doh, the note fa, and the note soh, of the scale we were first thinking about! For convenience(and to help us do facile things such as playing in tune together!), each note is given a name and this name refers to a specific pitch determined by the frequency of vibration necessary to produce that note, eg "A" is 444 Hz (cycles per second) I don't suppose this garbled nonsense makes much sense, but here's a tip. If you're playing along with someone in say the key of C, and you're playing C, and the chord changes,(not the key) change to G, while keeping strict time. If this is the wrong chord, keep playing IN TIME for a regular number of beats, and change to F. This often works and makes it sound as if you are putting in a passing chord, and that you have a superior knowledge of Harmony to the main player! If it doesn't work, Shut Up!


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Dave4Guild
Date: 23 May 02 - 03:57 PM

Am I wrong in thinking that we're getting a bit "swamped" (am I allowed to use that phrase, now?) with all this discussion about modes and scales, and ascending and descending melodic/harmonic minors, etc.? If this thread is for the assistance of jeepman, it seems to have taken on a life of its own! Folk Music, it seems to me, whatever the technicalities of the more pedantic definitions, is about the learning of songs and music by ear ( an Aural tradition ). Therefore an understanding of musical theory is totally unnecessary for the enjoyment of and performance of, Folk Music. That is not to say that the theory of harmony isn't interesting, or that understanding it may not improve one's ability to shall we say, arrange songs or tunes. To get to the heart of the matter shall we say that most tunes with which we are familiar are sung(played) on a series of notes which are called a scale, and probably the commonest one is a major scale which most people will be familiar with as doh ray me etc.. Whichever note this particular tune takes as its "tonic" is said to be "the key" it's in; its tonic note being the starting note for the series of notes for this scale. The 3 chord trick refers to the fact that this run of notes can be harmonised (Accompanied by) three chords based in turn on the note doh, the note fa, and the note soh, of the scale we were first thinking about! For convenience(and to help us do facile things such as playing in tune together!), each note is given a name and this name refers to a specific pitch determined by the frequency of vibration necessary to produce that note, eg "A" is 444 Hz (cycles per second) I don't suppose this garbled nonsense makes much sense, but here's a tip. If you're playing along with someone in say the key of C, and you're playing C, and the chord changes,(not the key) change to G, while keeping strict time. If this is the wrong chord, keep playing IN TIME for a regular number of beats, and change to F. This often works and makes it sound as if you are putting in a passing chord, and that you have a superior knowledge of Harmony to the main player! If that doesn't work, Shut Up!


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 May 02 - 04:03 PM

Incidentally, all of this tinkering and inventing of scales didn't happen at some official "composer's conference" held in Vienna in 1658 or anything like that. All this stuff evolved over many decades, perhaps a couple of centuries. Classical composers have their own version of "the folk process."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 02 - 04:07 PM

A minor to E7? Very unlikely. Unless it was a tune I was faking to sound East European - which can be quite fun.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 02 - 04:15 PM

But, since we're talking about chords and that, here's a question, and it's not technical.

When I'm writing the chords for a song, I've got the habit of using upper case letters (A,B,C) for the major chords, and lower case (a,b.c) for the minor chords. It seems obvious, and has the advantage of making it a bit easier to fit in a succession of changing chords against the words of a song, if need be, than it would be if I had to put Am etc. Anyway, I'm lazy.

So the question is, does anyone else do it that way? I'm sure I must have come across it somewhere before I started doing it.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 May 02 - 04:18 PM

All very good, Dave, but the same kind of questions keep coming up in thread after thread. All of this (in this particular thread) is in aid of answering the question "What key am I in?" If the answer is too simple, it merely raises more questions. A good, complete answer is liable to get a bit techical. To some this is fascinating and enlightening. To others, it's highly tedious. Nevertheless, one does try to answer the questions as they come up.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 May 02 - 04:37 PM

Actually< Kevin, I could probably come up with a pretty long list of songs that use Am and E7. A very common chord combination, and it doesn't necessarily sound East European or Middle Eastern. Henry Martin for openers.

Yeah, I've seen upper case letters for major chords and lower case for minors quite a bit. The only possible glitch I can think of is if someone's eyesight is fuzzy enough that they can't tell the difference. Another similar system that's used in classical music analysis is upper and lower case Roman numerals (I, IV, V for major, i, iv, v for minor). The idea of this is to show the relationship of the chords within the key, but without pinning it down to a specific key. Works for any key you want to play something in.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 May 02 - 05:05 PM

Or if you were playing the aforementioned Greensleeves--Kevin--Songs that start on an Am and move to an E7 are not that uncommon--Johnny I Hardly Knew You come to mind immediately--or are you such a purist that you forsake diatonic melodies?

Damn you Don!;-) You owe everyone an apology for posting all that!! You have hijacked the ship and taken it irretrevably into the nether realms--And I am only kind of kidding--I understood what you were saying, but those that don't know what you are talking about already will choke on it all(as Dave4Guild has pointed out)--Even still, I am biting my tongue, knowing that my nitpicky additions will make an even worse muck of this than it is, and, sadly, always seems doomed to be--

The only conclusion I can come to is that it isn't possible to provide good answers to music theory questions informally--in order to come to a real understanding you have to do a detailed analysis of specific pieces of music, and you can't gloss over things. because the gaps always get thrown back at you--

Still, all we can do is try--

And, to that goal, my little contribution is that the shift that Don is talking about, which becomes possible with the addition of the leading tone, is the shift from tonic harmony to dominant harmony, and it is the use of this shift that makes a melody diatonic instead of modal--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 23 May 02 - 05:26 PM

McGrath,

I've seen the upper case/major, lower case/minor used quite a lot too.

All I would say is to make it clear what you're doing at the top of the piece (assuming you want others to play it)

There are loads of naming conventions, most of which make sense by themselves. The difficulty is knowing which one the author is using!

Jim


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 02 - 06:04 PM

I wasn't saying the melodic minor scale is never used, just that the natural minor is probably more common in the kind of music played in sessions. (After all, why would it be called the natural minor scale if it was the odd one to use?)


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 May 02 - 06:08 PM

McGrath, it's called the 'natural' minor because of the way it relates to the modes. 'Natural' has nothing to do with the amount it's used


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 02 - 07:11 PM

Sounds natural enough to me. Any time I play a minor scale, that's the scale I'll play, unless I'm making a point of playing some other kind of scale.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 May 02 - 07:20 PM

McGrath,

The way you use 'literal' meanings when they suit your arguement, and semantic excuses when they don't is becoming a little tiresome.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 24 May 02 - 07:59 AM

To broaden out this thread even more, Dave4Guild said "A= 444 Hz". In Europe "A" used to be 440 Hz, and I thought US "A" was 445 Hz, and that a compromise figure of 442.5 Hz had been decieded upon by instrument manufactures. Can any one clarify the situation? It might seem like nit picking but for fixed pitched instruments a gap of 5 Hz at "A" could be a problem.All the best PP.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 24 May 02 - 08:10 AM

The concert A that most countries refer to has been set at 440Hz.

However, in many countries such as Japan and Germany, the concert A is now 442Hz-445Hz.

This is to raise the intensity and excite the emotions.

These days the A is so sharp that on recordings it is sometimes difficult to tell whether it is tuned to A or Bb.

In my opinion this is commercial method rather than anything else and in the long run does not make a big difference to the music itself. I personally tune my violin to 440Hz.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 May 02 - 12:16 PM

440 is what I go with. Many owners of fine old instruments such as million dollar violins are not real happy with this kind of escalation. These instruments were made for tensions somewhat under modern pitch standards. Sure, cranking the strings up often makes the instrument sound brighter, but how much can you do this before the instrument turns into a pretzel? And then, of course, there are the fixed-pitch instruments such as woodwinds and brasses. What does one do? Just toss an expensive clarinet and buy a new one?

Constantly raising the standard is a bad idea. Fix it and leave it there! 440=A is good.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 May 02 - 12:38 PM

Electronic tuners always seem to have 440Hz as default, wity the option of adjusting it, which would be handy if you were playing with a fixed pitch instrument set to something slightly different and you knew what it was.

The other reason some session players tune higher may be it's a way of keeping out musical gatecrashers. But only if they have ears that can tell the difference; and it doesn't work for bodhrans.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Dave4Guild
Date: 24 May 02 - 06:36 PM

Sorry, every-one, I meant to type 440Hz, but my typing is terrible. I keep playing chords! If I'm ever going to be dominant on this keyboard I'm going to have to have a tonic, so I'll have my (major) seventh cup of coffee before I'll resolve myself into the plagal cadence of slumbertime. Goodnight and may your god bless you.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Burke
Date: 24 May 02 - 07:21 PM

Interesting the way the term modal is tossed around like it means something.

More correctly a lot of folk tunes do not use the 7 traditional diatonic pitches. Many use only 5 or 6 pitches. Tunes using 5 are called pentatonic (Amazing Grace) & this is very common. These tunes have a sound not quite major, not quite minor, so modal is what they end up being called.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 May 02 - 11:58 PM

Modal does mean something, Burke--and the use of the seven scale pitches can be either modal or diatonic--depending--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Al
Date: 25 May 02 - 01:11 AM

Ask the banjo player what tuning he or she is in. That will tell you the key. Al


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: DMcG
Date: 25 May 02 - 11:37 AM

Oh blimey, I thought I'd just about got a handle on this when M.Ted throws in the use of the seven scale pitches can be either modal or diatonic--depending-- . Can I go into a nice, quiet padded room somewhere?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 25 May 02 - 02:19 PM

No sweat, DMcG. Modes are diatonic. Diatonic means using only the seven notes of the scale, as contrasted with chromatic. Chromatic scales contain all twelve notes within the octave (all the piano keys, black and white — or all the frets as opposed to certain selected ones). Chromatic scales are used some in modern music, but never, or almost never, in folk music.

If a piece of music uses the notes A, B, C, E, F, and G, for example, then it's both natural minor and Aeolian mode. Same scale, different labels. Whichever you chose to call it, it's diatonic. Also—there's no law that says a given piece of music has to use all the notes available within a particular scale. If a piece of music uses only five notes, is it pentatonic (any of several possible five note scales), or is it (insert name of any mode or diatonic scale here) with two of the available notes left out? It can be either, depending on how you look at it. Same scale, different labels.

By the way, minor tonic and the related dominant seventh chords may not occur all that often in certain types of music, but in music in general (pop, rock, classical, and lots and lots of folk songs and tunes), it's one of the most common chord combinations, i.e., Am & E7, Em & B7, Dm & A7, etc., etc.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,Bullfrog Jones (on the road)
Date: 26 May 02 - 03:34 PM

Hope you're taking this all in, Jeep Man -- there's gonna be a test at the end!

BJ


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: pavane
Date: 26 May 02 - 05:46 PM

I'm sorry I mentioned modes in the first place! And I THINK my concertina has been retuned to modern pitch, but you never know..


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 May 02 - 06:00 PM

Of course this business of 12 tones in an octave isn't the only way of doing it. In other traditions, such as Arabic, the octave is divided into 24 quartertones.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST,E-NUF
Date: 26 May 02 - 07:15 PM

and dont forget about the 100 or so other countries and various planets throughout the solar system and myriads of galaxies...


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Marion
Date: 27 May 02 - 03:46 PM

Don Firth, I loved your post. Very interesting and clear - no descent into the nether realms at this time. You should be out there writing theory textbooks. Do you mind if I ask, how do you know this stuff? I've asked the same question of a few people who have degrees in classical music performance, and they had no idea.

M.Ted, thanks a lot for your answer as well. I wonder if you can expand on this at all: "The composers of each melody chose their scales to create a particular melodic quality partly based on his or her taste, but also because, in the time and place that they were writing, that was how you did it-- "

I would have thought that your two examples, Greensleeves and Star of the County Down, are the same kind of tune (i.e, Anglo-Celtic folk) - so since they use different minor scales, maybe it isn't possible to generalize what kind of tune uses what kind of minor. But you say, that time and place are a factor as well as creative decisions; are there any general rules that can be stated as to what minors are associated with what times and places? Your dialogue with McGrath seems to be suggesting that folk is usually natural minor and classical melodic minor, but that seems too simplistic to be true. Maybe because of the evolution that Don described, older tunes tend to be natural minor and newer tunes melodic minor?

Do you have any commonly known examples of songs in harmonic minor?

Thanks a lot gentlemen,

Marion


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Marion
Date: 27 May 02 - 03:54 PM

Jeepman, are you still reading this thread? Jon answered your specific question (what is an Em capoed up 4 frets); would you be interested in an explanation of how to figure out what chords are when capoed up, so you can figure it out yourself next time?

Marion


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 May 02 - 05:00 PM

Marion, to answer your question (thanks for the nice words, by the way), and so folks know where I'm coming from:—

When I first started singing folk songs and playing the guitar at age 22, my musical knowledge was absolutely zilch! I had taken about six months' voice lessons a year or so before, but I couldn't read music and I didn't know one chord from another. I had to learn songs from other people or from records, and I had to have other people show me what chords to play. When I was 24, I started taking classic guitar lessons. That's when I started to learn to read music (I'm still a lousy sight-reader). This allowed me to pick out the tunes in song books. But I still had to have people show me what chords to play, unless the song book had the chords in it or the song was really simple.

I wanted to make a career for myself singing folk songs, like Burl Ives or Richard Dyer-Bennet, so bad I could taste it. this was in the early Fifties, actually before the Kingston Trio and the sudden proliferation of folk singers, so at the time it was not too dumb and idea. But how could I do this when I was musically illiterate and blundering around in the darkness of my own ignorance? I hurled myself into the deep end and enrolled in the University of Washington School of Music. There, along with freshman theory and the many other courses, I had to take "remedial sight-reading." Everybody knew more than I did, so I had to really hump just to keep up. But gradually I got it. I think a lot of it really stuck because I had to work so hard for it. From there, I went on to the Cornish school of the Arts, and later studied music theory and composition with a private teacher.

But it was more than worth it. What I learned was not a bunch of rules and restrictions. What I learned was a wide range of possibilities that I never knew existed. And although I never became one of the "biggies," I did manage to make a halfway decent and thoroughly enjoyable living singing in coffeehouses, concerts, festivals, and a bit of television—and teaching. Knowledge is freedom!

This is one of the reasons I tend to jump in when people ask questions like the ones I used to ask.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 28 May 02 - 11:14 AM

Don just a little correction "Diatonic" actualy refers to the fact that the scale is made up of 2 types of interval; the Tone and the Semi-tone. All the best PP.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Don Firth
Date: 28 May 02 - 01:17 PM

Right, Pied Piper. That's an important distinction and I should have made that clear.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 May 02 - 03:22 PM

Now I'd never realised thta. So would a scale which includes a jump of three semi-tones as well be called "triatonic"?


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 28 May 02 - 05:00 PM

Marion,

I am having trouble figuring out what you are looking for--

Particularly, I am stuck on this comment-- "so since they use different minor scales, maybe it isn't possible to generalize what kind of tune uses what kind of minor"--I am a bit lost as to what you are looking for--what are the different kinds of tunes you are talking about? And what kind of a generalization are you trying to make?

Generally, a melody uses whatever scale or combination of scales it's composer decides to use(remembering that "anonymous" and "The Folk Process" and "Traditional" are all composers, too)---all you need to do is either look at the music or pick it out on an instrument(piano is best) to figure what it is--

People who play folk music work with a very mixed bag of melodies, and it is hard to make any generalizations at all--as you noted, it would be easy to think that the two examples I gave are a lot a like, but one is a classical minor melody(moving from tonic to dominant then resolving to tonic), and the other is a modal melody, (which does not modulate to dominant harmony at all)---

It is also helpful to remember that the composer can change the scale that a melody uses, as well--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 29 May 02 - 09:41 AM

Many tunes from the Northhumbrian and border tradition positively enjoy not finishing on the tonic note; this gives an exciting and sometimes poignant tension to the tune. A good example is "over the hills and far away" which if played in the key of D finishes on E. All the best PP.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: M.Ted
Date: 29 May 02 - 04:40 PM

I've played a lot of Balkan stuff--and they, too, are fond of melodies that end, unresolved--in the dominant harmony--sometimes even on the leading tone(on melody I've just been fooling with ends on b in a c minor scale)--Singers and melody instrumentalists can work out their parts reasonably well, but those of us stuck with finding chordal accompaniments are often a bit challenged--


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 May 02 - 06:11 PM

True enough, there are times when the last note won't give you the key, and you just have to hurriedly chase around the frets. If there's a fiddler playing the chances are it's going to turn out to be an open string key (GDAE or gdae).

Asking doesn't always help - some of the best fiddle players never seem to be able to say what key they are playing in; it just isn't the way they think about tunes.

The other thing is, even in tunes where the last note doesn't give you the key, as often as not the last time the tune gets payed it will end on the key note. A bit late to find out maybe, but you can try and remember for the next time; so you make a point of asking what the name of that tune was.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 May 02 - 07:12 AM

M Ted That is the essence of the problem. It doesn't matter if a MELODY finishes on any note. It is only when you want to add harmony that you don't get the final cadence to complete the accomaniment, and it sounds unfinished.


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Subject: RE: WHAT KEY AM I IN?
From: Marion
Date: 30 May 02 - 09:32 AM

Here's Part 2; I've written more to you there M.Ted.

Who'd have thought from the initial question that this would turn into more than 100 posts of musical discussion?

Marion


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