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Irish music : why is it in D and G ?

GUEST,tom 03 Sep 05 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,sharon g 03 Sep 05 - 11:52 AM
Stewart 03 Sep 05 - 01:50 PM
MudGuard 03 Sep 05 - 03:01 PM
GUEST,Sooz sans cookie 03 Sep 05 - 03:22 PM
scouse 03 Sep 05 - 03:34 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Sep 05 - 04:07 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Sep 05 - 04:17 PM
The Borchester Echo 03 Sep 05 - 04:46 PM
Little Robyn 03 Sep 05 - 04:52 PM
Tootler 03 Sep 05 - 06:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Sep 05 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 03 Sep 05 - 10:54 PM
Pauline L 04 Sep 05 - 01:35 AM
Bloke in the Corner 04 Sep 05 - 11:41 AM
Pauline L 04 Sep 05 - 02:44 PM
Stewart 04 Sep 05 - 03:10 PM
Grab 04 Sep 05 - 03:30 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 04 Sep 05 - 04:02 PM
Noreen 04 Sep 05 - 04:40 PM
Tim theTwangler 04 Sep 05 - 05:16 PM
Gedpipes 04 Sep 05 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 04 Sep 05 - 07:24 PM
Mark Cohen 04 Sep 05 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,Joe 05 Sep 05 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,tom 05 Sep 05 - 12:25 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Sep 05 - 12:36 PM
Pauline L 05 Sep 05 - 06:29 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 05 Sep 05 - 07:25 PM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Sep 05 - 08:52 AM
mooman 06 Sep 05 - 08:58 AM
greg stephens 06 Sep 05 - 11:49 AM
Kaleea 06 Sep 05 - 05:41 PM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Sep 05 - 06:31 PM
Blackcatter 06 Sep 05 - 11:50 PM
The Borchester Echo 07 Sep 05 - 04:03 AM
AggieD 07 Sep 05 - 06:25 AM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Sep 05 - 06:45 AM
GUEST,Dazbo 07 Sep 05 - 06:59 AM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Sep 05 - 07:42 AM
The Borchester Echo 07 Sep 05 - 07:45 AM
GUEST,Joe 07 Sep 05 - 08:17 AM
manitas_at_work 07 Sep 05 - 08:25 AM
The Borchester Echo 07 Sep 05 - 08:27 AM
Snuffy 07 Sep 05 - 08:42 AM
GUEST 07 Sep 05 - 08:45 AM
Peter T. 07 Sep 05 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Dazbo 07 Sep 05 - 09:32 AM
GUEST 07 Sep 05 - 10:31 AM
greg stephens 07 Sep 05 - 12:44 PM
Paul Burke 08 Sep 05 - 05:06 AM
GUEST,Joe 08 Sep 05 - 05:33 AM
s&r 08 Sep 05 - 05:41 AM
The Borchester Echo 08 Sep 05 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,Paranoid Android 08 Sep 05 - 06:32 AM
Lowden Jameswright 08 Sep 05 - 06:34 AM
The Borchester Echo 08 Sep 05 - 06:41 AM
Lowden Jameswright 08 Sep 05 - 07:04 AM
greg stephens 08 Sep 05 - 07:04 AM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Sep 05 - 07:45 AM
Paul Burke 08 Sep 05 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,leeneia 08 Sep 05 - 03:35 PM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Sep 05 - 09:32 PM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Sep 05 - 09:35 PM
GUEST,Eleanor C 08 Sep 05 - 09:36 PM
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s&r 09 Sep 05 - 05:11 AM
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Subject: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,tom
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 11:50 AM

Anyone know why Irish music is nearly always written in D and G ?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,sharon g
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 11:52 AM

One reason: the uillean pipes are most able to play in these keys and their related minors- they are also easy keys on the fiddle and easiest keys for a "D" tin whistle- all of which have been part of Irish traditional music for a long time.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Stewart
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 01:50 PM

Other scales are used, but they are based on the keys of D and G major. There are 8 scales that form the basis of most Irish dance music:

Scales based on Dmajor:
-----------------------
D major/D Ionian: D E F# G A B C# d
E Dorian:            E F# G A B C# d e
A Mixolydian:                  A B C# d e f# g a
B Natural minor/Aeolian:          B C# d e f# g a b

Scales based on Gmajor:
-----------------------
G major/G Ionian: G A B C D E F# g
A Dorian:            A B C D E F# g a
D Mixolydian:                D E F# g a b c d
E Natural minor/Aeolian:         E F# g a b c d e

S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: MudGuard
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 03:01 PM

One reason: the uillean pipes are most able to play in these keys and their related minors- they are also easy keys on the fiddle and easiest keys for a "D" tin whistle- all of which have been part of Irish traditional music for a long time.

Hm - which is "actio" and which is "reactio"?

Is the widespread use of the "D" whistle the reason for many tunes in "D"
or
are the many tunes in "D" the reason for the widespread use of the "D" whistle?
(similar question for uillean pipes)

(I am absolutely no expert in this, just asking ...)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Sooz sans cookie
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 03:22 PM

Fiddles are made to play in D - the notes are the same distance appart on each string. G involves changing only one note position ( C natural instead of C sharp) and C means changing two positions. I haven't explained that very well but a parallel is the piano which plays naturally in C and as you change key you need to use the black notes - one for G, two for D etc.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: scouse
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 03:34 PM

Most of the Guitarist play in DADGAG these days.So moving the Capo they can cover most Keys.........As Aye, Phil


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 04:07 PM

I tallied the keys of the first 60 songs in O'Neill's Music of Ireland.

G -      21
D       14
B-flat - 12
C         7
F         3
E-flat    2
A         2

I suspect that dance music might vary less. (Someone else can count if they want.) But when it comes to lyrical pieces, it isn't true that it only comes in G and D.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 04:17 PM

Make that "the first 61 songs".


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 04:46 PM

Fiddles are made to play in D

Nobody told mine that, fortunately. It plays in whatever key I tell it to.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 04:52 PM

That's because you have educated fingers!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Tootler
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 06:52 PM

It's D and G in England too, but it seems to be A and D in Scotland.

Go back in time, however, and you find a much wider variety of key signatures used. Far enough back and you are more likely to find flats than sharps in the key signature. Playford's Dancing Master is a good example.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 07:00 PM

a parallel is the piano which plays naturally in C and as you change key you need to use the black notes - that distinction between black and white notes is peculiar to keyboard instruments and the like. It doesn't really apply to fiddles or indeed fretted instruments.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 10:54 PM

WELL DONE!!!!!

Thank YOU - Mr. Stewart - you are worthy of your family's plaids.

It is a simple matter of majors and minors.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Pauline L
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 01:35 AM

Fiddles are made to play in D - the notes are the same distance apart on each string.

Not true. However, fiddles sound especially good when played in G, D, or A because of the resonances with the open strings (G, D, A, and E). Most of the famous violin concerti are written in D. In general, fiddlers prefer the keys of D and G. Scottish and Shetland fiddlers also like the key of A because you can play double stops (drones) with the A and E strings, and the music sounds so good and LOUD. This is very useful when fiddlers want to be heard even though bagpipes are being played nearby. Another reason is that it's cheaper to pay one fiddler to play double stops than to pay two fiddlers.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Bloke in the Corner
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 11:41 AM

I reckon the tunes were mostly written by people who wanted to make it easy for others - perhaps not particularly good musicians - to play them, so it was more accessible to playing in every little village/church hall/pub, so that folks could dance to them. After all, they were mostly written as dances, and, from watching 'Go west along the road' on the now-defunct Tara channel, local people were always playing and dancing to them. So, simplicity for accessibility is my opinion.
Thank God! It's hard enough playing in those keys, without E flat, z sharp minor etc.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Pauline L
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 02:44 PM

Yes, but it's not just simplicity. The fiddle sounds especially good in those keys.

I have heard that if you find a fiddle tune in B flat, you know it must be very good or fiddlers wouldn't play it.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Stewart
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 03:10 PM

Sometimes the 'flat keys' - F, B flat, E flat (1, 2, and 3 flats respectively) sound good on the fiddle, particularly in slow moody tunes such as slow airs. And they are no harder to play than D and G IMO. The worst key to play on the fiddle IMO is E major where you can't play the open D string, but have to sharp it with the first finger. Why do singers who play guitar like to capo up two frets and play in D chording which then comes out in E?

S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Grab
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 03:30 PM

Good point MudGuard. Difficult to tell cause and effect - but since fiddles have been such a standard item for British Isles music for such a long time, any pieces in other keys before that will likely have faded away. And of course, until comparatively recently the pitch of notes was pretty arbitrary - without pitch pipes or electronic tuners, I guess it'd be tuning up/down to someone's flute/pipe/whistle, whatever pitch that happened to be in. "D" or "G" or whatever then becomes just a choice of fingering shapes rather than pitch, same as with a capo on a guitar.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 04:02 PM

Sooz, your theory holds good across one octave, but not two. In fact the fiddle is much less orientated to any specific key(s) than several other instruments. And I don't think Pauline's theory is convincing either. There's not much double-stopping in Irish traditional! (Certainly not comparied with bluegrass, or the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.) Making life easy for fiddlers might, however, be one reason why this music is so determinedly rooted in "first position".

Uillean pipes came on the scene relatively late. so I'd be surprised if they were a major influence on what keys were used. Maybe their cruder precursors were a factor, but flutes - whether side- or end-blown) might have been a more likely influence.

MudGuard, I take your point about what came first. My money would be on the intruments influencing the key pitches. rather than the other way round. Otherwise why is a broader range of keys not used?)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Noreen
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 04:40 PM

> written in D and G ?
and
> tallied the keys of the first 60 songs (meaning tunes) in O'Neill's Music of Ireland.

Who knows what key these tunes were written in? Captain O'Neill collected the tunes as they were played and wrote them down- that doesn't mean they were originally composed or played in those keys.

For example, Carolan's tunes will have been written to be played on a harp- unlikely to be in the same keys as they are played in on today's instruments.

Most people here are answering a different question: Why are so many Irish tunes played in D and G?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 05:16 PM

I know very little of the musicology of any music type but wasnt the music from olden days in Ireland played on Harps.
Maybe one of you educated types could tell me if that has any bearing on the quetion?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Gedpipes
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 07:16 PM

You want to try and play with a Northumbrian piper!


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 07:24 PM

Sorry, Tim - original Irish music was not from harps.



It was from vocal-chords, (the only musical instrument created by God.)



Sincerely,

Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 07:49 PM

Not true. God also created the banjo...but only as a joke.

Aloha,
Mark

(Ducking and covering, just like in the old days...)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Joe
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 12:12 PM

"Fiddles are made to play in D"

Nobody told mine that, fortunately. It plays in whatever key I tell it to. (Countess Richard)

"That's because you have educated fingers!"
(Robyn)

......and a bloody big ego!


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,tom
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 12:25 PM

Well thanks everyone;I'll read through the replies now that I've got a bit of time. I'm always amazed by the knowledge of mudcatters .


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 12:36 PM

it stands for Dublin and Guinness


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Pauline L
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 06:29 PM

Peter K (Fionn) said

And I don't think Pauline's theory is convincing either. There's not much double-stopping in Irish traditional!

That's not what I said. Here are my words. Read them more carefully.

However, fiddles sound especially good when played in G, D, or A because of the resonances with the open strings (G, D, A, and E)... In general, fiddlers prefer the keys of D and G. Scottish and Shetland fiddlers also like the key of A because you can play double stops (drones) with the A and E strings, and the music sounds so good and LOUD.

Someone else said

And of course, until comparatively recently the pitch of notes was pretty arbitrary - without pitch pipes or electronic tuners, I guess it'd be tuning up/down to someone's flute/pipe/whistle, whatever pitch that happened to be in. "D" or "G" or whatever then becomes just a choice of fingering shapes rather than pitch, same as with a capo on a guitar.

On the contrary, in the 18th century, traditional music from the British Isles, as well as music which we now call "classical," used a pitch somewhat lower than 440 as the standard A. The A of the 18th century was more like the G# today. The frequency of the standard has been creeping up because some people prefer the brighter sound. The trend continues among many musicians today.

The pitch of fiddle strings can not be varied a great deal, unlike the situation of guitars with capos. Some traditional fiddle tunes can be played to good effect with wildcat tuning, for example, AEAE instead of GDAE. However, fiddle strings are susceptible to snapping if they're too tight and to being unplayable if they're too slack. Many fiddlers who use wildcat tuning use a separate fiddle which they keep tuned that way.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 07:25 PM

Och, Pauline I wouldn't call AEAE wildcat tuning. It is called high bass tuning and is very common with Cape Breton and Scottish fiddle styles. The most used key in Cape Breton is A so high bass tuning really enhances the sound. Years ago before amplification two fiddlers in unison would play the same tune , one using the two higher strings and the other using the two bass. This would give a lot of extra volume for dancing, and it also sounded great.
                        Sandy


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Sep 05 - 08:52 AM

"Re: > tallied the keys of the first 60 songs (meaning tunes)
in O'Neill's Music of Ireland."

My reply: I went to high school, and I know the difference between a song and a tune. When I said "song" I meant "song". If you prefer, you can call it a lyric, a ballad, a ditty, an air or a love song.

"Who knows what key these tunes were written in?"

It doesn't matter what key they were written in. Since they were songs, the key depends on the voice of the singer or on the instrument they were played upon.

Some of the pieces could have been composed by people who couldn't tell you what key they were in. The composer had a tune in his head and words to speak, and on different days he might have sung it in different keys.

Others were no doubt written by people with plenty of musical knowledge. It isn't true that everybody in Ireland did everything by ear.

Today, the habit of using D and G is convenient for many people. How could you have jams if people memorized their favorite tunes in a dozen different keys?

Clearly, D and G are also useful for certain instruments - D flute, D whistle, guitar, and fiddle. (When I want my friends to do a tune that's in C, I usually change it to D for them.)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: mooman
Date: 06 Sep 05 - 08:58 AM

They don't have to be!

I have many in my repertoire in keys like F, C and Bb, especially some slower tunes. They are not particularly difficult to play on the mandolin or violin families and no particular problem to back on guitar.

As Noreen says, many of the older ones weren't necessarily written in the keys they are played in today.

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 06 Sep 05 - 11:49 AM

The villain in this piece may well be the melodeon(or diatonic button accordion), which swept through the world carrying all before it in the late 1800's. While fiddles played easiest in D, G and A, at least with a bit of practise you can play in other keys as well. But once someone in the pub turns up with a one row, or two row diatonic box, you're scuppered. Coupled with the simple whistles and flutes, with the 6=holes closed note as a D, and the influence to stick to a handful of keys is very powerful. Examine a few fiddlers tunebooks of 1800-1850( a fair few flat key tunes included) with fiddlers' books today(hardly any flat keys), and the point becomes obvious.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Kaleea
Date: 06 Sep 05 - 05:41 PM

I've often heard this asked & discussed, & when I started playing in the Ceili bands (as a teen), asked the same question & got Irish pipes/button accordian type answers for the most part.    If you're not an egghead like me, just skip my following meanderings.   Yet. . .
Info on how the Irish Harps were tuned can be found in "Ancient Music of Ireland by Edward Bunting, Arranged for Piano" (believed to be for piano instead of harp because the piano was more popular by then & he thought he could sell more books).
Edward Bunting was hired (as a teen) to notate/transcribe the tunes performed in the great meeting of Harpers in Belfast 1792 when the last Belfast Harp Festival of the old time traditional itinerant harpers performed. & according to Bunting were "all the best of the old class of harpers-a race of men nearly extinct." [There was at least one woman harper there, too.] The book also includes an "Account of the Old Melodies of Ireland." The keys are all over the place-probably since the over 150 tunes were arranged for piano. Keys include: A, Bb, C, D, E, Eb, F, G, Am, Cm, Dm, Em, Fm, F#m, Gm.
Known dates of tunes are given as far back as 1599, but most say, "date unknown, ancient, very ancient or very very ancient. (wow!)
   
    OK, the tuning of the traditional 30 string harp used by the old Harpers:
           (from the bass up)
basses:
C,D,E,G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,G,A,B,C

trebles:
D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D

sometimes they tuned with G# in the bass; F# in the trebles when the melody called for it; very rarely a C# in the trebles.

The Irish Harp had no F# between E & G in the bass, probably because it had no concord in their scale for that tone, either major or minor.


There were basically only 2 major keys, G one #, and C natural which were perfect. Harpers also made use of two ancient diatonic minor keys Em (one #) & Am natural minor--these were considered imperfect scales. Also, D natural minor which was considered more imperfect, but many liked the sounc of that scale. G mixolydian scale is found with no sharps or flats, thus the G major key, & so on with a few other of the "church modes" or ancient scales. If you omit certain notes of a major key scale from the melody, you can have a tune sounding in a major key even though the scale is lacking a couple of notes as in our modern version of that key.
So I can see where the G & sometimes D or even sorta A keys came from, & there wasn't much of anything going on with "flat" keys like the Scottish bagpipes as we now know them.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm an egghead.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Sep 05 - 06:31 PM

Well done Kaleea!


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 06 Sep 05 - 11:50 PM

Speaking as a whistle player - while I have whistles in A, Bb, C, D, E, Eb, F & G, it's a lot easier if people I play with stick to a couple or 3 keys. In fact, it's easy to have just my D and G whistles ready at all times. That way I can play in D, G or C (the C is the 2nd major key of the G whistle).

Speaking as a singer - I want the song played in a key that's within my range for the notes it has. I'm all over the scale when it comes to that, though my range is large enough that a most songs work well within at least a 3 key range.

Then, of course, it gets fun when my friend with the guitar knows how to play a song in a certain key, needs to use a capo to modify it for his voice and then has to modify it a bit differently so that I can sing harmony. At that point, it becomes a nice thing to have whistles in 8 different keys.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 04:03 AM

Hello Guest: Joe. Do I know you? If you've ever picked up a violin you would quickly have noticed that the fingering is the simplest thing in the world and you learn it in the first hour of Day 1. It's getting a listenable sound out the the bowing that's just a bit harder. It's no more problematical to play in one key over another once you have identified the various places where the appropriate notes are found, particularly if you ignore the grey-beards swigging out of pewter tankards who spout the weird notion that it's somehow untraditional and contrary to f*lk police law to move your left hand up out of the first playing position.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: AggieD
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 06:25 AM

I'm no techie or egghead, but when I told my choirmaster, who is also a seriously good musician, conductor & adjudicator, that I played melodeon that is tuned to the keys of G & D, his immediate response was that G is called 'the peoples key', as it is the most commonly & easily used key.

Also the orchestra of course tunes to the oboe in G, is this purely coincidental, or do one of you clever bods know a technical reason?

Angela


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 06:45 AM

The oboe is used, I was informed when learning music, because (supposedly) it keeps its pitch the best of all instruments. Not being an oboe player, I don't know if it also the most difficult to adjust the pitch of instantly like a string instrument - I suspect that may have something to do with it.

As to why the note G, I could guess "Traditional", but it would just be that.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 06:59 AM

Speculating: I would think it is mainly due to the instruments used. For instance diatonic instruments like melodeons are severly limited in which keys they can play. This is not a new phenonomen as most old instruments were limited in their playable keys. This was made more complicated by the use of unequal temperament (which has lingered longer in traditional music than classical or popular music). Fiddlers could play in any key because they can infinitely adjust each note to match the temperament used, other instruments could only cope with a few keys around their 'natural' key; to venture into the outer reaches of sharps and flats was to become more and more out of tune.

So the introduction of the fiddle and later on the introduction of equal temperament lead to the tunes being played in a myriad of keys. I would suspect that as these instruments became more sophisticated to enable all keys to be played in they became more and more expensive; so the people who played the traditional music in the hamlets and villages could not afford them so they bought cheap instruments like tin whistles or melodeons or made their own. These instruments were either incapable of playing in more than a couple of keys or, due to lack of instruction were played in the key(s) that were easiest to play in like D on a fiddle. (Yes, I know that there is not intrinsically harder to play F# Major than to play C providing you've got the time, patience, knowledge and inclination to learn these uncommon fingerings). Then through iteration the tunes began to be played in only a couple of, common, keys that the majority of the musicians were happiest to play in.

Why D and G? Certainly I think that it could be down to the melodeon But D/G melodeons have not been that commonly used in Ireland (and only since about the 1950's in England), most one-rows were in C and from early on in the 20th centuary the chromatic boxes (CC#; BC; C#D etc) were common in Scotland and Ireland so theoretically could be used for all the 12 major keys and their relative minors. Interestingly, I think if you look at the keys used around Western Europe for traditional music they seem to be in, more or less, the same few keys F, C, G, and D.

Is this plausable?

Dazbo


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 07:42 AM

The 'key of C' - irrespective of pitch - was the 'original key' in Western Church Music - that's what the staff notation grew up for!

The keys of F & G are Built from C - F upwards%% and G downwards%% - the 7ths were flattened.

Now as to where the key of D fits in all this, it IS built upwards from G...

%%(plagal modes and all that stuff!)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 07:45 AM

Is this plausible?

Oh yes, Darren. I've always thought the melodeon was responsible for most of the world's ills . . .;-)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Joe
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 08:17 AM

No Countess - I'm happy to report we don't know each other, but your comment re the melodeon further confirms my conclusion that you have a superior and condescending attitude that sits uncomfortably within this forum. I have picked up a violin in my time (and a number of other instruments too - can even get a few tunes out of them; unlikely though to be up to your standard...grin).


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 08:25 AM

The melodeon is in D and G because those were the most popular keys in the British Isles. On the Continent C/F and A/D are popular.

It may be that D and G are more common because a one foot whistle ( or flute) plays more or less in D but I think it more likely that the violin is the main influence.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 08:27 AM

If you don't know me, how can you claim to know so much about me? Dazbo does know me and we often trade melodeon jokes. It's called 'being mates'. Possibly you haven't got any and have decided to visit this forum to see if you can find some. I really don't think remarks about what 'sits uncomfortably' or not within it are appropriate from someone who is not even a member. We are here to talk about music, not to be assaulted by inane, off-topic inanities from faceless morons.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Snuffy
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 08:42 AM

We are here ... not to be assaulted by inane, off-topic inanities from faceless morons.

We already have plenty of members who can (and do) do that!!! :-)


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 08:45 AM

On topic - I thought that maybe the point being made was that the fiddle was easier to play in D (and G naturally) and didn't warrant a comment like "Nobody told mine that, fortunately. It plays in whatever key I tell it to" which I felt was a tad sarcastic.

As a teacher I try not to tell students things like "the fingering is the simplest thing in the world and you learn it in the first hour of Day 1" or

"the bowing is just a bit harder" or

"it's no more problematical to play in one key over another once you have identified the various places where the appropriate notes are found".. just in case they might get disheartened when they haven't mastered the instrument in the first 6 weeks of playing.

Sorry, Countess, if I offend your aristocratic sensibilities.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Peter T.
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 09:01 AM

I suspect the real reason has to do with the modes in which the music is played, and the influence of traditional pentatonics clashing with the major scale. Flatting the F# in G gives you C, and flattening the C# in D gives you G. Easy to play, but still gives you that "Celtoid" sound to modern ears. Really old music is hardly transposable into modern keys at all.
yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 09:32 AM

Manitas "The melodeon is in D and G because those were the most popular keys in the British Isles"

I've thought it strange that the keys of D and G are so popular in England but the first DG melodeons didn't appear in England until the early 1950's and had (if I remember it right) were specially made by Hohner. If the keys of D and G were so popular why did it take so long to get them made?

Countess R: nice to hear from you again and you'll be pleased to note that I've decided there are not enough melodeons in the world and I'm after another - a nice little Italian number !sigh!.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 10:31 AM

and strangely anglo concertinas are hardly ever in GD, even the 20 keyed two rows!


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 12:44 PM

I think my post was the first to raise melodeons as the possible villain of the piece. I should point out that I very specifically did not identify D/G melodeons as the culprit, that would be far too simplistic. I would blame the one-rows (C or D), and the C#D two-row, for example. That particular two row, for example, can obviously be played in any key, but D and G are infinitely easier than most of the ther keys (as on the fiddle, whatever the multi-keyed Countess Richard says).
As to how and why a C one-row melodeon can reinforce the key of D on the fiddle, it takes a bit of figuring out, but it is true. See what happened in Louisiana, for example.
    On the general influence of the box on Irish music, perhaps Michael Coleman, Ireland's greatest fiddler, should have the last word. He was asked for a coontibution to the funeral expenses of a great accordion player. He asked what people were giving, and was told that most people had come up with ten bob. He said "Here's a pound, bury two of the bastards".


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 05:06 AM

I think it's odd that you're all trying to work out why traditional musicians don't change key very often. The answer is pretty obvious.

(1) It's traditional music. It's played that way because its part of the tradition. The musicians are (traditionally) less formally educated in music, and fiddlers in particular stick to 1st position. It doesn't seem to have hurt the music much.

(2) It's social music. That means that including people in the music is one of the priorities. If you start playing in keys which are 'difficult' on an instrument, you exclude those musicians. There was a fashion in some fiddlers' circles to tune up to E flat (note they didn't change playing position). They said it made the sound brighter, but I suspect this was also done to shut out loud box players.

(3) It's poor people's music. Many players would be limited to cheaper instruments- whistles(*) and old 6 hole flutes (often with dodgy semitone keys) after the Boehm system had largely taken over in the professional arena. As new instruments (banjo, button box, bouzouki) came along, this consideration constrained them to some extent to the conventions already existing.

(4) The overall sound is also part of the music. Hence the strident instruments like saxophone and clarinet haven't made much impact. Otherwise the key might well have changed to B flat/ E flat.

(5) I don't think there was much tradition of brass playing in Ireland, that could also have steered the music towards the flat keys.

(*) Though the most commonly available whistle in the 60s, the Clarke, was in C. They didn't do a D until much later.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Joe
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 05:33 AM

Sound points Paul - not sure though how the Countess might react to them!


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: s&r
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 05:41 AM

Doesn't the oboe sound "A" as a tuning pitch?

Stu


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 06:20 AM

My remark that my fiddle plays in whatever key I tell it to was in response to someone's assertion that "violins are made to play in D", which they are not. It is a matter of fact, not sarcasm, that going through the process of getting to know your instrument to the extent of discovering that each string does a little more than sounding just three more tones (give or take a couple of accidentals . . . ooh difficult!) before you hit the next open string enables you to play relatively easily in any key. Which you'll need for vocal accompaniment. You're surely not going to tell people that they can't sing in a key that you can't find the notes for, are you?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Paranoid Android
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 06:32 AM

Why did Tcaikovsky write his Piano Concerto in B flat minor when in is so much easier to play in A minor ? Was he just making difficult or is there a valid musical reason?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 06:34 AM

I can't imagine anyone playing a violin not being aware that it can be played in any key. As a guitarist learning to play the octave mandolin, I'm well aware it can be played in any key (obviously) but have to admit I'm having to work hard to get beyond beginner level stuff in G and D. Any advice cr?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 06:41 AM

No magic solutions, Mr Jameswright. Just playing scales . . .


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 07:04 AM

Yeh - I'm doing that already. I know there are no magic solutions, and also know where the scale notes are in all keys so I'll just keep the old fingers (and brain) working hard.
Thanks for the advice


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 07:04 AM

Countess Richard says:
   " You're surely not going to tell people that they can't sing in a key that you can't find the notes for, are you?"

    Well, interestingly enough, that is precisely what a lot of great folk musicians have always done. As an obvious example, take cajun and Creole music in Louisiana. This was largely based on what could be played on a one-row diatonic melodeon(accordion) in C, with a fiddle tuned down a tone( so the fiddle was effectively playing in the D positions to get in with the accordion in C0. So the whole music was confined to what you could play on the white notes on the piano. In 95% of the music, this meant playing in C, or in G(with a flat seventh on the accordion, though the fiddle could play a sharp seventh if wanted). This(to bring it in lne with ur D/G discussion), was the equivalent to only playing in D or A, with very occasional tunes in the G position(eg Heehaw Breakdown). Some bands, by the way, actually had one-rows in D, which made the singers sing even higher than usual, and in that case the fiddlers didnt have to tune flat.
   And the singers had to put up with this lack of variety in keys..If they wanted to sing Jolie Blonde in Bflat, no way. G or nothing.(Obviously there were the occasional string bands with no accordion, but what I am describing was the dominant music). And very fabulous it was, and is.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 07:45 AM

Oboes give the starting pitch for an orchestra in A

Look some more yourself


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 10:58 AM

Why did Tchaikovsky write his Piano Concerto in B flat minor when in is so much easier to play in A minor

Because of even temperament. Prior to the tail end of the 17th century, instruments were tuned to the natural temperament system in which the full notes of the scale are in a simple ratio relationship with each other. But that only works for one key. The further you get from the key that set the white notes, the weirder it sounded. Some organs, for example, had split keys that sounded slightly different notes, to accommodate key changes.

Even temperament was introduced to overcome this. It is a compromise tuning, in which each octave is split into 12 divisions, each frequency being the 12th root of two times the last one. You have to have a good ear to tell the difference in the mostly-white-note keys, but it also makes the largely-black-note keys sound much better. It was this development that led to Bach's chromatic explorations.

Some golden- eared musicians claim that each key has its own character, and this may well be true, though I suspect that the variation in character depends on the particular instrument as much as the actual key. Perhaps also it's due to some people having a stronger sense of actual frequency (perfect pitch), which may be related to that whatjemecall it where people experience sensations in crossover form (you know, when people 'taste' yellow etc.).


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 03:35 PM

Paul, I don't understand "each octave is split into 12 divisions, each frequency being the 12th root of two times the last one." Would you explain that further?
-------
I have two friends who are talented pianists. They had differing opinions about equal temperament. One, "A", said that equal temperament means that all keys sound the same. B said that they don't.

So B stepped into the kitchen, and A played the same musical phrase on the piano in different keys. B could tell when it was played on white keys and when on black keys. She says that the black keys chime more. I agree.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 09:32 PM

It depends on how the pianos were tuned.

A 'Modern Tuner' may use a tuner box tuned to the equal temperament '12th root' 12 tone system.

I have read 'Piano Tuning Handbooks' of the old school which specified that certain notes were tuned to specified pitch forks, and then the other notes were tuned to 'beat frequencies'. This was from the days when those 'electronic tuner boxes' were not even thought of.

A piano tuner 'touching up' an instrument in a house will usually just 'bend back' the worst notes out of tune to the the original tuning of the instrument itself, unless you want to spend more money for his time to reset the whole instrument, even change the 'reference pitch' of the whole instrument. I have a friend whose very old piano is in tune to itself, but nearly a full semitone in pitch lower than my piano accordion (which is set to A=442, not unusual for an Italian manufactured piano accordion). my ears aren't good enough to tell if it is not tuned exactly to 12th root tempered tuning.

So the instrument may be actually tuned to one of the old 'tempered tunings', and not exactly 12th root tempered tuning.

Those with high 'pitch sensitivity' can tell what the key is and of course if they 'already know' that some keys have different 'attached emotions'...


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 09:35 PM

"that whatjemecall it where people experience sensations in crossover form (you know, when people 'taste' yellow etc.). "

Synesthesia, I believe it is called.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST,Eleanor C
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 09:36 PM

I've been looking at tunings with regard to hurdy gurdies. Western european ones seem to be tuned to play in C,G and D, Eastern european ones in A,E and B; do Eastern european fiddlers play in a different tuning or is it to fit in with clarinets or something?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 04:33 AM

I don't understand "each octave is split into 12 divisions, each frequency being the 12th root of two times the last one." Would you explain that further?

In the natural scale, the ratio between C and D is 9/8 = 1.125, and the ratio between D and E is 10/9 = 1.111..

So if you play in D on an instrument tuned to a natural scale of C, the E is rather flat. And so on up the scale.

In the even tempered scale, the frequency of every note is the 12th root of 2 (about 1.05946- call it 's' for semitone) times the note below. There are two semitones from C to D, so that's s times s = 1.1225, which is a little less than the natural scale. But the interval from D to E is just the same, so you can play in D with equally good (or bad) results as in C.

Here are some frequencies in natural and even- tempered scales to show you the difference (based on A=440Hz)

    Natural (C)          Even      
                                    

C    264.0               261.6      
D    297.0               293.7               
E    330.0               329.6                              
F    352.0               349.2         
G    396.0               392.0         
A    440.0               440.0         
B    495.0               493.9         
C    528.0               523.2


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: s&r
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 05:11 AM

I don't know the term 'natural'. The frequencies you give are those I know as the just scale, which is a modification of the Pythagorean scale.

Piano tuning is a bit of a black art: the low strings are tuned flat, and the high ones sharp - this is because the low strings don't vibrate as a simple string (they're too stiff) and the harmonics are sharper than they should be. Without stretched tuning the beats between high notes and the harmonics of low notes are most unpleasant.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 06:32 AM

There are lots of names for various tuning sthat have been used: here's more than you'll ever want to know about it..

What is interesting is the variation in pitch as a whole. At least a semitone either way. Though how you can get pitch from old string instruments or flutes with slides I'm not sure.


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: s&r
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 07:06 AM

What a nice site - I've bookmarked it. It's well researched and current. It seems to be ongoing since some articles are not ye available.

I was taught in physics (don't necessarily believe it) that C as the 'natural' key was 256 Hz because that was a power of 2 and easily subdivided, and that C is produced by a 32ft organ pipe which can be similarly subdivided. This was before we adopted metric, which cocks up the ideas somewhat

Stu


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: s&r
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 07:08 AM

I have a 'physics 'C'tuning fork which is dangerous in a musical household

Stu


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 10:01 AM

Paul
I see how the even tempered scale develops (with frequencies of ascending semitones increasing in a geometric series of 2^(1/12) but the 'natural scale'? You say

"In the natural scale, the ratio between C and D is 9/8 = 1.125, and the ratio between D and E is 10/9 = 1.111 " The full list of ratios between middle C and C an octave up is:

9/8
10/9
16/15
9/8
10/9
9/8
16/15

What's the logic or pattern here?!


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 10:15 AM

This is all Greek to me, but when I play blues in C on an F harmonica it sounds fine to me, but when I play blues in E on an A harmonica it don't sound (to me) quite right. Does your science have an explanation for this, or do I need to re-visit Sonny Boy tracks to re-learn my art?


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Subject: RE: Irish music : why is it in D and G ?
From: s&r
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 10:23 AM

It's one of many attempts to produce a scale whose notes are in tune in more than one key. It's produced by a series of arithmetical manoeuvres using whole numbers - the smaller the ratio between two numbers the more consonant they are.

C E G has a ratio of 4 5 6, so does F A C and G B D The keys of C F G work well with this scale, but other keys are progressively more dissonant.

The logic is that it's pretty close to Pythagoras without using ratios like 256/243. It's a compromise, as are all tuning systems.

Stu


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