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'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys

10 Nov 05 - 04:13 AM (#1601238)
Subject: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: GUEST,Dazbo

Currently on Melodeon.Net there is a discussion about whether there are right or wrong keys to play a tune in.

The argument seems to boil down to a number of points:

1) when Just temperament was used the key did matter as the different keys were perceived to be 'heroic' or 'melancholic' etc.

2) the almost universal use of equal temperament in modern, western, music means that the different feel of the the keys has been eroded by the straight-jacket of equal temperament

3) even with equal temperament (or earlier attempts to have a way of tuning to play in all keys) has not affected the difference in the feel of the keys

So do you think there are right or wrong keys to play a tune in? Is it more down to personal preference rather than any quality attributed to a particular key? Do different temperaments affect the feel of a key differently?

Darren


10 Nov 05 - 04:46 AM (#1601254)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: The Fooles Troupe

You've said it mostly all mate - there have been previous threads on this here, which you have just neatly summarised.


10 Nov 05 - 04:54 AM (#1601260)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: GUEST

Obviously I still can't search here properly as I looked for previous threads but didn't find any relevent ones.

Darren


10 Nov 05 - 05:07 AM (#1601266)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: paddymac

Nice encapsulation, Dazbo. Thanks. I think it is true that many tunes seem to "lay better" in some keys than others, but it is a matter of a very subjective sense. Choice of key also depends on the instrument(s) on which the tune is to be played. That, I think, is true from the perspective of both the player and the listener. And then, there are always the matters of tradition, convention, idiom, and the like to be considered. I guess there clearly is no simple answer beyond "what feels good to you."


10 Nov 05 - 05:34 AM (#1601272)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: greg stephens

Consideration of who you are going to play with is crucial. If you're playing with a fiddler, and you want to play the Merry Blacksmith, said fiddler will have always played it in D, and will always play it in D. If you start it off in G or Bflat or something, the fiddler will sulk. There goes the pleasnat atmosphere of the session.


10 Nov 05 - 05:41 AM (#1601274)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: GUEST

Greg, I know exactly how that feels being a DG melodeon player and the fiddlers start playing all their European tunes in D minor etc. Still it gives me a chance to go to the bar!


10 Nov 05 - 08:50 AM (#1601367)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Leadfingers

There are 'conventional' keys for most Traditional tunes played at sessions , and , of course , 'written' tunes should be played in the key they were writtne in - James Hill , for example , wrote a lot of fiddle tunes in Bflat (Flash Sod) .
However , there is nothing to stop any one playing any tune in any key , provided they do not expect EVERYONE to be comfortable with their choice at a session / tune swop !


10 Nov 05 - 09:40 AM (#1601403)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Janie

Some one dear to me, who also happens to be an old-time fiddle tune nazi, insists that if you style yourself as a traditional fiddle player you must fiddle in the traditional key for the tune--else you ain't bein' trad.

J.


10 Nov 05 - 09:41 AM (#1601406)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Paco Rabanne

H sharp is a wrong key.


10 Nov 05 - 09:46 AM (#1601413)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: greg stephens

Bear in mind, though, that a study of old fiddlers tune books, or early recordings, can reveal that the "standard" key for a well-known tune is often not universal at all.


10 Nov 05 - 09:50 AM (#1601418)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: greg stephens

I should have included an example. Take the Sailor's (or College )Hornpipe, one of the most widely known fiddle tunes. This regularly appears in D, G, C and Bflat (and possinbly other keys that I havent come across as well). Fiddlers can always try starting this in Bflat if you can, at sessions. You can then enjoy the spectacle of the D/G box players frantically waggling their fingers as they search for non-existent notes.


10 Nov 05 - 12:39 PM (#1601554)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: GUEST,barnetfolkbabe

I think that it comes down to concensus with the group of people you meet in sessions regularly... after all, this is where you are going to be playing the tunes.

Of course, if you're doing a performance with a band then you can play in whatever key you like - I once did thhe Lark in the Morning in F because it fitted so well as a break in a song.


10 Nov 05 - 01:11 PM (#1601567)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Jon W.

Of course if there is a singer, you have to respect his or her vocal range.   That goes without saying. So I won't say it.


10 Nov 05 - 08:45 PM (#1601874)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: M.Ted

One would think that, on Melodeon Net at least, there would be a consensus that any key that the Melodeon can't play is the wrong key, but people do surprise you--


11 Nov 05 - 11:39 AM (#1602381)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Leadfingers

As a 'Flash' whistle player who can busk along in a lot of keys on one whistle , I would like to mention that there are equally 'Flash' melodeon players who manage A Major .C Major and such on a basic D/G Box .


11 Nov 05 - 12:09 PM (#1602406)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: dermod in salisbury

Jon.W hits the mark then bounces off it again. Key choice is essential for a singer and therefore it does not go without saying. Does the melody suit a 'doh' note in the middle of the voice range, or towards the top or bottom. Get the answer and a good singer may not be able to sing your song without altering the key. The same applies to instruments but with a couple of extra related issues.   How easily does that key fall under the fingers for a particular instrument? Does it allow a string player to ring open strings? If it does, the sound will be more lively and robust and better for dance music. If does not, the fingers have to work harder to get expression and this will show in a more controlled type of sound. In a lot of folk music, the fiddler will not be a happy bunny if you are not in D or G or A. But in jazz, the sax, trumpet and clarinet players will be equally unhappy if the tune is not in concert pitch B-flat, E-flat, or F. Seasoned professional musicians will be less fussed.


11 Nov 05 - 09:33 PM (#1602789)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: dick greenhaus

One point:
Unlike a piano, or accordian or concertina, a guitar (or banjo) is strung so that when you transpose, you play different inversions of the chords (unless you're a jazz guitarist who plays all the chords up the neck). Different keys have different characters.


12 Nov 05 - 07:03 AM (#1602960)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Bob Bolton

G'day Leadfingers,

Sometimes those can be, paradoxically, lazy "melodeon" players!

During the '80s and '90s I played in bands where I played an A/D/G button accordion for almost all dance brackets ... but different groups I organise these days have different "home" keys, so I have been playing, at various times and places, with A/D/G, G/C/F ... and, lattery, a custom-made (for someone else) D/G/C button accordion - as well as G/C and D/G 2-rowers.

However, I really have more fun playing 2-row boxes ... so I have, this last week, gone through several of the common dance sets (for which I can't just nominate new keys, since many of the groups I organise are meant to fit in with others) ... and, indeed, carefully plotted out the devious means to play several "A" and "C" tunes on (respectively) the "D" and "G" rows of my D/G Hohner Erica. This means I can go to gigs with just one or two small squeezeboxes, instead of lugging along one (or more) 3-rowers.

I've been telling button accordion players, for some years now, that they should be able to handle folk tunes in the keys on either side of the nominal keys of their instruments ... so now I need to put my fingers where my mouth has been ... but I prefer to think that I'm just being successfully lazy ... and playing everything on my favourite little (A)/D/G/(C) Erica!

Regards,

Bob


12 Nov 05 - 08:13 AM (#1602981)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: PennyBlack

flamencoTed,

"H sharp is a wrong key"


what's wrong with C?


13 Nov 05 - 02:07 AM (#1603572)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: GUEST,Bill the Collie

D is sad.


13 Nov 05 - 07:40 PM (#1604132)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: McGrath of Harlow

dick greenhaus, different inversions give a different effect. That's where the magic capo comes into its own. With some tunes I love using d minor shapes, when actually playing in e minor or a minor, for example.


14 Nov 05 - 07:47 AM (#1604492)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Wilfried Schaum

When young I learned: the more crosses the merrier, the more bs the sadder. But damn me if I can hear the difference between F sharp major and G flat major.


15 Nov 05 - 08:08 AM (#1605411)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: David C. Carter

B demented is the answer.


15 Nov 05 - 08:57 AM (#1605435)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: David C. Carter

B demented is the answer.


15 Nov 05 - 09:59 AM (#1605456)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Billy Weeks

If a piece of music is recorded in, say Fmajor and I speed up the recording so that the keynote sounds like G, am I hearing it in a different key or (as might appear from some firm statements in this thread) in a non-existent key?


15 Nov 05 - 10:05 AM (#1605461)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: treewind

You're hearing it in G.
What makes you think any different?

It won't sound the same as the original instument played in G, but only in the sense of tone colour and, of course, speed.

Anahata


15 Nov 05 - 10:20 AM (#1605481)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Billy Weeks

I don't, in fact, think any different - but what it seemed to me that some cats were saying was that each key has its own recognisable identity, so G should be distinguishable from F in characteristics other than pure pitch. If this is so, then I must be hearing it in a non-existent key for that particular instrument. But look, I wish I'd never asked!


15 Nov 05 - 10:26 AM (#1605486)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: number 6

" I played the wrong, wrong notes"
.......Thelonius Monk

sIx


15 Nov 05 - 09:50 PM (#1606038)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: McGrath of Harlow

Instruments played in different keys have different characteristics - that includes the voice. Some notes are stronger or easier to produce, for a particular instrument, some are weaker or more difficult to produce. (And some are impossible, because they are too high or too low, in some octaves). The difference doesn't lie in the key itself, but in the instrument.


16 Nov 05 - 03:19 PM (#1606665)
Subject: RE: 'Right' and 'Wrong' Keys
From: Little Musgrave

Ah, D minor, the saddest of all keys.....