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Author Topic: What key is this?  (Read 707 times)

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Bob Ellis

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What key is this?
« on: November 22, 2017, 09:16:32 PM »

I have the dots for a nice little two-time bourrée written by Bernard Blanc called Les Trois Canards (see attachment.) It resolves onto a C and is written with two flats, but every B note is natural, not flat, so the scale employed is C D Eb F G A B C. As written, it seems like Cm Dorian with all the B notes raised a semi-tone to become accidentals. Alternatively, it fits the pattern for a rising scale of C melodic minor, but not the descending scale (I have never really understood why ascending melodic minors are different from descending ones, but that's another issue). Can anyone enlighten me as to the correct name for the key of this tune?
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Howard Mitchell-Borts (Mitch)

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2017, 10:16:59 PM »

I’d say this is C harmonic minor.
It might normally be shown with three flats in the key signature but in this instance there are no A flats in the tune.

Mitch
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playandteach

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 10:49:32 PM »

Just a straight C minor.
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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2017, 10:55:08 PM »

yes - I agree with what Mitch and Pete have said. It's a straightforward C harmonic minor. Normally there would be an additional Ab in the key signature, but I guess the composer/transcriber has left out the Ab because there are no Ab notes in the tune.

Just because there are no Ab notes in the tune doesn't mean you can truncate the key signature, for it has led to the confusion which has resulted in this thread.
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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2017, 11:31:14 PM »

I'm not sure that "harmonic minor" and "melodic minor" are valid names for the key of a tune. Surely they only apply to scales. When you're writing a minor key tune, you can make each occurrence of the 6th and 7th notes of the scale natural or sharp in whatever way seems most musical in context, and it's all valid.

Just because there are no Ab notes in the tune doesn't mean you can truncate the key signature, for it has led to the confusion which has resulted in this thread.

I think it's valid to do that "truncation". What creates confusion is the assumption that a key signature (despite being called that) must uniquely define the key of a tune. Think of it instead as simply an instruction for which notes are to be played sharp or flat by default. If there are no A's in the tune, why bother with an A flat in the key signature? That definition then also makes sense of e.g. Balkan tunes  with  a key sig like B♭  E♭ C♯ - not classical major or minor, but it tells you exactly how to play it.

What I find even stranger is when the key signature is written to match the home note of a tune of a tune, but one note has an accidental in front of it every time. Usually done with modal tunes e.g. A Mixolydian with 3 sharps in the key sig and a natural in front of every G!
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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 11:49:10 PM »

Just because there are no Ab notes in the tune doesn't mean you can truncate the key signature, for it has led to the confusion which has resulted in this thread.

I think it's valid to do that "truncation". What creates confusion is the assumption that a key signature (despite being called that) must uniquely define the key of a tune. Think of it instead as simply an instruction for which notes are to be played sharp or flat by default. If there are no A's in the tune, why bother with an A flat in the key signature? That definition then also makes sense of e.g. Balkan tunes  with  a key sig like B♭  E♭ C♯ - not classical major or minor, but it tells you exactly how to play it.

I understand what you are saying, and I agree that there are cases where an unconventional key signature is appropriate, particularly in non-western or near/middle east music like the Balkan tunes you mention.

However, in the case of the 'Les Trois Canards' tune which Bob is concerned with, I think the tonality of the tune is clearly a standard harmonic minor (try playing or humming it and you should be able to hear this at once). In which case I think we should give it the conventional western classical key signature of 3 flats: Bb, Eb, Ab.
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Bob Ellis

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2017, 12:00:53 AM »

Thanks for the comments guys. I'm too tired to assimilate them now, but will have a look when I get home again tomorrow afternoon.
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Bob Ellis

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2017, 04:04:47 PM »

OK, I understand what you are saying, Steve, about the three flats key signature, but how do you know that any A notes would have been flattened when there aren't any in the tune? My musical knowledge is only a fraction of yours, but, as I understand it, C minor harmonic naturalises the B but leaves the A flattened, whereas C minor melodic naturalises both the A and the B in a rising scale, which is how the tune has been written out in the version I posted. Is C minor melodic ruled out because it has a B flat in the descending scale?
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playandteach

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2017, 05:32:58 PM »

I once ordered a black coffee (seriously) and the waitress said was that without milk or without cream? (Apparently there was a price difference).
I think it's a mistake to call keys by melodic or harmonic. Those are better suited to particular scales. We could look at modes. At the moment, without any As of either description you'd have to decide whether any chords you'd use (F minor for example, or F major, D minor or D diminished).
I'm sure you know that Dorian and Aeolian are both minor modes. They differ by how they have the 6th - Dorian is major 6th, Aeolian is minor 6th (both have flattened 7ths). Of course those are just from the Church modes, there are many others.
For me this is just C minor all day long.
EDIT
Sorry, just noticed this was specifically asked of Steve. Perhaps I should have saved my comments.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2017, 06:03:04 PM by playandteach »
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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2017, 05:54:24 PM »


For me this is just C minor all day long.

The trouble is, there are a bunch of scales that come under the heading of minor (or major,come to that) and they all sound different and call for different harmonies.
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Greg Smith
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playandteach

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2017, 06:02:45 PM »

For me this is just C minor all day long.
The trouble is, there are a bunch of scales that come under the heading of minor (or major,come to that) and they all sound different and call for different harmonies.

Hung for a sheep as a lamb... Bar 7 (or should that be Baaa 7) an F minor chord would work well followed by G  - to C minor in the next bar as a IV, V, I cadence, giving you confirmation of C minor (with your missing Ab). But if you want to spice it up (and have the basses) then a Bb! chord in bar 3, followed by a G chord in bar 4 gives you a false relation from the Bb to the B natural - and gives it a Renaissance feel. I don't mean to make this theory mumbo jumbo, just nice chord options.
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Bob Ellis

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2017, 07:40:01 PM »

If, as somebody suggested, this should be looked at in terms of modes, my limited understanding says that this would make Les Trois Canards a Cm Dorian tune if we regard the non-existent A as natural and a C minor Aeolian if we regard the A as flattened. Whichever it should be, this still doesn't explain to me why all the B notes are natural in this tune, when they should be flattened if the tune is in Cm Dorian or Aeolian.

I was confused when I started this thread: I'm even more so now!
  ::)
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2017, 09:19:29 PM »


I was confused when I started this thread: I'm even more so now![/color]  ::)


So am I. Love to see an answer that addressed this in a definitive way.
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playandteach

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2017, 09:54:31 PM »

If, as somebody suggested, this should be looked at in terms of modes, my limited understanding says that this would make Les Trois Canards a Cm Dorian tune if we regard the non-existent A as natural and a C minor Aeolian if we regard the A as flattened. Whichever it should be, this still doesn't explain to me why all the B notes are natural in this tune, when they should be flattened if the tune is in Cm Dorian or Aeolian.
It's because it isn't in those modes, it is in C minor. I will happily explain why the Bs are natural (raised 7ths) in much minor key music that isn't modal, but only if someone asks. Be careful what you wish for.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2017, 09:57:07 PM by playandteach »
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squeezy

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2017, 10:37:44 PM »

It's in the key it's in because it uses the notes it uses ... that's why it sounds like it does!  I really can't understand why everyone needs to scrabble about expending energy trying to find the appropriate labels!!!  It's detracting from valuable playing time!

/rant over
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playandteach

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2017, 10:56:41 PM »

I am getting to grips with finding my way around an unfamiliar instrument and issues about memory, and asking for help repeatedly on this forum, which comes in freely and with opinions balanced by suggestions and shored up in the main by experience and facts.
I'm wading in on this thread, because it is one of the things I do know more about and am by supporting those who perhaps don't know so much I feel I'm paying back a bit. It's not meant to be showing off, it's just meant to be helpful. I don't mind if people don't agree, or don't get it first time - I'll happily back off or add more info until they do get it, even if they still don't agree.
I'll admit too, that I probably spend too much time posting - but it is something I enjoy. Besides it's too late to play now.
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Bob Ellis

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2017, 11:07:59 PM »

If, as somebody suggested, this should be looked at in terms of modes, my limited understanding says that this would make Les Trois Canards a Cm Dorian tune if we regard the non-existent A as natural and a C minor Aeolian if we regard the A as flattened. Whichever it should be, this still doesn't explain to me why all the B notes are natural in this tune, when they should be flattened if the tune is in Cm Dorian or Aeolian.
It's because it isn't in those modes, it is in C minor. I will happily explain why the Bs are natural (raised 7ths) in much minor key music that isn't modal, but only if someone asks. Be careful what you wish for.
So, in layman's terms, it is in C minor with the B naturals as accidentals?
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playandteach

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2017, 11:16:54 PM »

Without the B naturals it wouldn't be C minor! If it had Bbs it would be modal. Because of the relationship to the major key of Eb it keeps the same 3 flats key signature but we have to preserve the raised 7th for harmonic function. Let me find time to put a video together.
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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2017, 11:37:05 PM »

Without the B naturals it wouldn't be C minor! If it had Bbs it would be modal. Because of the relationship to the major key of Eb it keeps the same 3 flats key signature but we have to preserve the raised 7th for harmonic function. Let me find time to put a video together.

It's in Cm Jim, but not Cm as we know it....

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Re: What key is this?
« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2017, 12:02:12 AM »

Sorry Playandteach ... that was by no means directed at you!

Music is the production of sounds in various combinations ... it is enjoyed by the ears and the brain that makes sense of it.  For me ... all the bits in between get in the way of what is a wonderful thing.  What we need here is a way to describe music with musical examples and less of a reliance on jargon.
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