I play Renaissance tenor recorder. I usually stick to Renaissance music, but like Rutter's "What Sweeter Music", that is in 6 flats!
Why write in 6 flats when 1 sharp would do? Can I play this in 1 sharp if I'm careful of accidentals?
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My answer mainly adds notation which I worked up from the beginning of the example song What Sweeter Music.
If the letter and mode of the tonic stay the same (
G♭ major to
G major) and the music is all diatonic, then yes you can just read the staff "as is" and imagine the key signature was different...
When accidentals are used things get complicated, but maybe manageable. Naturals become sharps, double flats become flats. I tweaked the tune to get accidentals...
...that doesn't seem too bad, because the location of accidentals isn't changing and all four get some kind of accidental.
Things get funny with a mode change. Keep the same letter
G but change to two flats for minor.
If the harmonic structure isn't involving the dominant, it seems it doesn't need any accidentals in minor...
...the harmonic structure is basically tonic to subdominant, no dominant, so no accidentals are needed.
If there is a dominant implied, then being able to raise the leading tone on the fly in minor is necessary...
...notice how the leading tone
G♭ major needs to take a sharp in
G minor. There is no accidental in major, no visual clue, so you need good awareness of the leading tone in minor to know where it goes.
The secondary dominant case - the one with
E♭ - is surprising in minor. In the other cases the harmonic structure remained essentially the same, but in minor the harmony potentially can change.
The secondary dominant moved to the submediant, in minor you could just remove the accidental and it still moves to the submediant nicely...
That works because you don't need a dominant chord to make that move to the submediant, it's just optional coloring. But, if you did want to maintain the sound of a dominant chord, things get funny. In major the step between
B♭ A♭ is a whole step and in minor it becomes a half step
B♭ A♮ changing your options to form a dominant. I tried it not as a secondary dominant, but as a plain dominant and "deceptive" move to the submediant...
Probably the case of diatonic music and keeping the same mode is the only practical one for actual sight reading.
Depending on your purpose you could add some hand written accidentals in your sheet music to aid the key change. But you will probably be the only one who could read it.
Possibly you could flip the question. Why not take music in
G - of which there is tons - and try reading it with either a
G♭ major or
G minor key signature? Instead of trying to make six flats easier, it becomes a way to practice less familiar keys, and it's a transposing challenge. Probably won't work on recorder, but for other instruments, certainly piano, it would work.
G♭ major lies nicely under the fingers on a keyboard instrument - a lot of self-taught 'pub pianists' play everything in G♭ or D♭, there are fewer 'wrong notes' playing on the black keys!
Rutter probably chose the key because it was 'just right' for the voices though.
But, sure, transpose the piece to G if you like. The first page at least is easily found online, I've looked and it seems pretty diatonic. If it doesn't get too much more complicated later, imagining a G major key signature and changing naturals to sharps should be OK. Or write it out in G.
As long as you're playing it all by yourself, of course :-) No point in you playing in G if everyone else is playing in G♭.
One big consideration, not mentioned in other answers yet, is tuning.
On an instrument suited to playing in equal temperament or close to it — e.g. a conventionally tuned modern piano — transposing won’t make make a big difference to the character of a piece.
But on an instrument whose tuning is further from equal-temperament — e.g. a renaissance recorder — transposing will make a big difference, especially transposing between harmonically distant keys, like from G-flat to G. I don’t know renaissance recorders specifically, but on most early wind instruments, G will have a fairly neutral character (being fairly close to the key of the instrument) while G flat (being further away) will sound more distinctive — often decidedly peculiar.
So the question is: is this distinctive G-flat character intended? If Rutter (or a good arranger) specifically chose to put the piece in G-flat for the recorder, then the choice was presumably intentional and the character was what they wanted. So you can transpose it, but in this case you’ll lose a bit of the flavour of the piece. On the other hand, if it was originally written in G-flat for other instruments (e.g. modern piano and voices), then it’s probably better for you to transpose it to G — this will be closer in character to what was intended than the unusual tuning of the renaissance recorder’s G-flat.
It's quite possible to 'change key' just by changing the key signature. Obviously the piece will come out with different notes, i.e. in a different key, but it's fine to imagine a different key signature - providing it's solo, or others can do likewise.
Seeing 3 flats, and imagining 4 sharps moves from key E♭ to key E, seeing 4 flats and imagining 3 sharps moves from key A♭ to key A.
So, seeing 6 flats but imagining 1 sharp moves from G♭ to G.
Any accidentals in the piece might cause slight problems, just change naturals to sharps, but in the main, the diatonic notes will just be a semitone above what's written. And if it's to accompany voices, that semitone shouldn't be too onerous.
You could, but why? To further exaggerate your point, why have the concept of keys at all? All you would need to do is is have C Major and A Minor, and then from there add the accidentals you need to make the piece sound in a certain key
Well, the key signature is there to avoid having to do that. Instead of having a piece in C# Major be written as C Major with a butt-load of accidentals everywhere, you neatly summarize at the beginning of the staff and take them into account as you play
In your case, you could play the song as if it was in G Major, but you're not doing yourself any favors, both on a readability standpoint and a learning one. You could choose to transpose the song into G Major, but that's an entirely separate point