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Author Topic: Which key?  (Read 1975 times)

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Winston Smith

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Which key?
« on: February 11, 2018, 08:42:02 PM »

I don't read music, and play (if that's not too bold an assessment) 1-row melodeons by ear. After reading several threads on here recently, mentioning playing in different keys on the same instrument, I'm realising that my ignorance is (again) getting the better of me.
How can I tell which key I'm playing in? Obviously, if I'm playing a G instrument I'll be playing in G, but perhaps not all the time? It feels as if I'm sometimes playing in a different key, but how would I tell? And, which key might it be?
I'm stumped! Please help, but be gentle?
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Anahata

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 09:15:04 PM »

The quick-and-dirty answer is that the keynote is the note the tune ends on, or (occasionally) 'feels like' it should have ended on. On a G instrument, that's G, and on a typical one-row, thats 3rd button push.

It's most likely that a "minor sounding" tune on your G box is being played in A minor.  A simple well known example is What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor. Pedants might say A Dorian but it doesn't matter: it'ss still a sort of minor.

There's also a common type of tune that you would be playing in D on G box, where your home note (i.e. key note) is D, which is 5th button push. I can't think of a really obvious example right now.

Some players manage to find tunes which don't use all of the notes of the scale, so that they can use other keys, like the one whose scale starts on C (4th button pull on a G box), or E minor (home note is 6th button pull).

All of thes 'other' keys don't work so well with the basses or chords on a one row box.

I'm trying hard to avoid mentioning modes, because that's likely to result in the discussion getting unnecessarily technical.
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 10:16:05 PM »

As mentioned if you end on "that note" it's probably the key although some tunes end on the fourth away so in G it (could) end on D say second or fifth button depending on what octave you play in.

Keys available on G box
G and it's minor Em easiest keys because you have all the notes.

C and it's minor Am your missing a note or sometimes not (as Anahata mentioned modes) and also sometimes the missing note is not in the tune.
D and it's minor Bm your missing a note again same thing.

another way to tell is to see if most of the notes are being played on the push then most likely in G
Or if you are playing a lot of the notes on the pull could be the other keys ( lots of variables though)
Also basses might give you if they sound good then you could be in G, if they sometimes sound good you might be in D , if they don't go well, you could be in C, (again just a guide not the law)
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Clive Williams

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2018, 11:57:29 AM »

I work it out from the basses I find that work against the thing, and usually the chord the thing ends on. Em, G and D are easy to spot; to check for the difference between A and Am, try it with and without thirds. If it sounds ok without thirds, but awful with, it's Am but sounds ok either way, A major.

That probably doesn't help though if you want to know the key so you can figure out the chords...

Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2018, 12:11:06 PM »

I work it out from the basses I find that work against the thing, and usually the chord the thing ends on. Em, G and D are easy to spot; to check for the difference between A and Am, try it with and without thirds. If it sounds ok without thirds, but awful with, it's Am but sounds ok either way, A major.

That probably doesn't help though if you want to know the key so you can figure out the chords...

Not sure if that works on a two bass one row, though.
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 01:43:00 PM »

The last note, usually. Mmmmmmm! Food for thought there, then.

I am aware of the bass end sounding discordant sometimes, I then just don't play on the left at that point. But then, on occasion, I find that I struggle to find anywhere where the bass end can be used for more than just a couple of stabs!

Thanks very much for your insights, I'm sure they will be helpful as I struggle along.
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2018, 02:12:15 PM »

I am similar to you in my complete lack of music theory but am told by those who know that some of the Irish polkas I play on a D 1 row are in A. To me they just sound a bit different to the rest but they do come as a surprise to guitar players who know it is a D box! So far as basses are concerned I don't bother much with them on Irish tunes, just the odd honk for emphasis, like the regulators on pipes. Why worry if you are making the sound you want, let the other players in the session sort it out  >:E
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Jesse Smith

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2018, 03:04:22 PM »

The bass on a one-row is going to sound discordant at times. You've only got two chords, and sometimes they are in the wrong direction (and unlike a two row you never have the option of switching rows to get the right direction for the right chord). To me, this is just part of the distinctive sound of a one-row melodeon.
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Winston Smith

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2018, 03:16:46 PM »

Sorry Jesse, but I don't think that intentionally playing discordantly is the right way to go about it, unless it's for "modern" stuff which is supposed to sound awful anyway!  Surely there's a right and wrong here, even to the musically untutored?
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george garside

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2018, 04:25:47 PM »

I work it out from the basses I find that work against the thing, and usually the chord the thing ends on. Em, G and D are easy to spot; to check for the difference between A and Am, try it with and without thirds. If it sounds ok without thirds, but awful with, it's Am but sounds ok either way, A major.

That probably doesn't help though if you want to know the key so you can figure out the chords...

Not sure if that works on a two bass one row, though.



with 2 bass on a one row the only thing you can do is play them when they sound 0k and don't when they don't.  The choice can either be made for a whole tune or just for the relevant  bits of a particular tune. You can sometimes 'get away' with the bass by tapping very lightly just to maintain a rhythm

george

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2018, 04:51:33 PM »

Sorry Jesse, but I don't think that intentionally playing discordantly is the right way to go about it, unless it's for "modern" stuff which is supposed to sound awful anyway!  Surely there's a right and wrong here, even to the musically untutored?
The bass on a one-row is going to sound discordant at times. You've only got two chords, and sometimes they are in the wrong direction (and unlike a two row you never have the option of switching rows to get the right direction for the right chord). To me, this is just part of the distinctive sound of a one-row melodeon.

I agree with Jesse.
Edward - it's not a case of intentionally playing discordantly and trying to sounding 'modern'. It's much more a case of accepting the limitations of the one-row (especially four-stop) box and taking what comes when you play it. It will sound OK because of the richness of the LMMH right-hand voices and the growliness of the left-hand basses and chords masks any obvious discords. As I believe Anahata (of this parish) wrote some time ago, the basses/chords of a one-row four-stop give you 'grunt' and 'different grunt'. If you think of it almost as a percussion accompaniment then you perhaps don't need to worry too much.

If you are still not sure, just listen to recordings of some of the great one-row English players - Oscar Woods immediately comes to mind. His playing was definitely traditional in sound and was sometimes discordant on the left-hand, but you don't notice it sounding 'bad' because of the richness I mentioned earlier.

There's a clip of Oscar's playing on this CD preview page (choose Oscar Woods from the list).
https://www.musicscotland.com/cd/melodeon-players-from-east-anglia-2cd.html
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Winston Smith

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2018, 09:10:42 PM »

I've got to agree with the venerable Mr Garside, and don't intentionally play when they sound wrong. But as relative novice, I do often forget and, being carried away in the moment, push on regardless; only realising my mistake when I hear it. 

Thanks for contributing, Steve. Not recently, but a while ago I spent time listening to your superb 1-row playing, but I didn't hear any discords. It may well be that they're lost in the mix, as you say, but it still feels quite wrong to me to play them.

Anyway, I think I'll mess about with that aspect of my playing, and just see what transpires. For now, I'm pleased enough that I now have half an idea of how to know what key I am actually playing in.

Thanks all for your guidance.                                     
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Ebor_fiddler

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2018, 01:28:07 AM »

You will get more limitations of course with your G one row, than with your C 1040, which has three basses (Yes - I've just checked mine - that's right, C, G and F both ways). Your method of avoiding discords sounds sound
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2018, 08:45:08 AM »

...I didn't hear any discords. It may well be that they're lost in the mix...

I'd be interested to hear the opinion(s) of those who are far more musically qualified than myself
regarding the 'status' of discords. I am, as I have probably stated here before, a musical numptie.

Do discords have a place? I can think of one short, simple tune, in which I play (very quickly) a
discord. In the context of the surrounding tune, it sounds OK, but if I play it 'stand-alone' and
increase the duration of the 'chord', it sounds bl**dy awful. So, what's the story regarding discords?

Thank you.

Roger
« Last Edit: February 25, 2018, 10:37:58 AM by lachenal74693 »
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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2018, 01:43:40 PM »

I'm not sure whether this will be helpful but here goes. On a one row in D, the two bass/chords are D major and A major. If you play a simple tune in D maj, and play bass or chords on the left hand, there won't be any "dischords". Every pushed note is part of the D major chord and most pulled notes are part of the A major chord, with the addition of F#, which is the sixth of A and not "dissonant."
HOWEVER, the chords may not be the best choices from an accompaniment perspective.
As you start playing tunes in E minor (dorian) and B minor (aeolian), the two chords will again not be "dissonant" but they will almost always be the "wrong" harmonic accompaniment to the minor tunes.

I noticed in Quebec that one-row players are split as to whether they habitually play the left hand regardless of the key of the tune.

Winston Smith

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2018, 02:01:12 PM »

"habitually play the left hand regardless of the key"

That's what I'd like to avoid! I'm contemplating doing away with the chords on the left of my 4-stop, and replacing them with extra notes (or an extra note like 1040). This wouldn't involve anything permanent, let me assure certain members who might get their nicks in a twist at the suggestion, lol!
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2018, 02:09:28 PM »

"habitually play the left hand regardless of the key"

That's what I'd like to avoid! I'm contemplating doing away with the chords on the left of my 4-stop, and replacing them with extra notes (or an extra note like 1040). This wouldn't involve anything permanent, let me assure certain members who might get their nicks in a twist at the suggestion, lol!

What would the additional notes be?
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2018, 02:16:02 PM »

How would I know? (I would work it out eventually, though.) The extra "pull" note would certainly be the equivalent of the unisonoric button on a 1040; as for a "push" note, I'd be open to helpful suggestions.
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Anahata

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Re: Which key?
« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2018, 02:37:22 PM »

If it's a G box (as suggested in your original post) the obvious choices would be a pull C and a push D.

Then you have these bass available to fit each note of the scale:
RH note  Bass
G            G or C
A            D
B            G
C            C or D for a D7
D            G or D
E            C
F#          D

Another school of thought would favour a pull A for A minor tunes.
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Re: Which key?
« Reply #19 on: February 25, 2018, 02:48:09 PM »

fwiw, on your 1040 in C those are F major chords. On a 114 in G they would be C notes. Can sort of see where you're going, but I would have thought you would lose a helluva lot more than you would gain.

Have to say, I wonder why do that, rather than invest in a G 1040 (assuming they exist), or something. I really like the way 114G  chords sound when they're kept fairly clipped. I think it would lose something without them.

Is this the result of playing the 1040 using bass notes only?

Mind you, I won't judge, easy enouth to reverse. There are those who think my Saltarelle layout is strange (low octaves in G and D).  (:). I love it.


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