I'm working on an arrangement of a song and my theory knowledge is mainly as a vocalist, so I'm a bit stuck on what would be the best option for a pianist to read/play on this certain bit of music:

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The transition from Db to B/Db... I'm trying to figure out if I should be spelling that chord to best reflect the key signature, or to best reflect the chord itself.

I'm leaning toward spelling it as pictured below. I know if I name the chord B it should be spelled as a B (not B Eb Gb), but with the Db key signature do the sharps make it confusing? There's already so many flats in the this key would it drive a pianist crazy, or would it make sense because of the movement of the chords? It seems silly to me to spell it as a Cb chord just to keep all the accidentals the same. Also, is it confusing having the B chord with a "Db" bass note? Obviously, there is no Db in a B chord, but taking into account the movement (or lack thereof) of the bass line I can't bring myself to write it as a C# to match the B chord scale.

I feel like these might be stupid questions, but I'm new to arranging for musicians and just need to know I'm making the most clear and sensible notation choices for a pianist to be able to sight-read-- and I know sometimes the theoretically-correct choice isn't always the easiest to understand.

  • There is something very wrong with your F+7/B chord. The accidentals in the right hand don't even line up with the notes! A keyboard player wouldn't have a clue what that notation is supposed to mean without doing a double (or triple) take to stop and work it out - and why there is a sharp in an F+7 chord is another unsolved mystery!
    – user19146
    Oct 17, 2017 at 17:25
  • 1
    @alephzero - no mystery. F+ itself will need to include a #5, thus C#. It isn't the 7th that is augmented ! F=7 should work out as F A C# Eb. Here with a B bass. Hence F+7/B
    – Tim
    Oct 17, 2017 at 17:49
  • @Tim fair enough, but the score as written leaves me guessing whether it's supposed to be A natural and C#, or C natural and E#. The accidentals seem to be a left-over from a version with B natural an D# - which would be more plausible as Cb and Eb, as in the next bars, except Eb doesn't need an accidental anyway ... so who knows what the composer really meant here???
    – user19146
    Oct 18, 2017 at 2:13
  • @alephzero - looking very carefully, the natural sign is lower under the stave than the #, so must apply to the lower note, I guess.
    – Tim
    Oct 18, 2017 at 6:26
  • And, of course, the chord symbol helps!
    – Laurence
    Nov 25, 2017 at 12:52

1 Answer 1


A Cb chord works better. The reader will already have his flat hat on, so seeing Cb will be no big surprise, unlike a B chord - especially marked with a Db bass note!

The key sig is Db, so moving to a VII chord should involve Cb rather than B. Writing it all in C# major is a non starter. However, as a vocalist, is it of paramount importance to have it in Gb, rather than a far simpler C or D, both of which most piano players would probably prefer? And it wouldn't affect the vocal range much!

If you did that, a tone key change instead of a semitone would possibly help. If not, then start in Bb, go to C ?

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer Tim! The key sig is Db (unless you know something I don't!). I have thought about arranging the song in C or D, but towards the end it modulates a half-step, so I'd still end up in Db/C# territory starting in C-- and starting in D and modulating to D#/Eb is a bit risky for my range (taking into account how high the melody goes). The song is "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" by Stevie Wonder if that is of any use. :P
    – DB428
    Oct 17, 2017 at 16:57
  • @DB428 - thanks - what a schoolboy error! Corrected; now standing in the corner with a pointy hat on.
    – Tim
    Oct 17, 2017 at 17:06
  • I'm considering starting the piece in C after all. The song will end pretty soon after the modulation (there's maybe 24 bars of music afterward). Would it be okay to modulate to Db? Since I'm going up a semitone-- and as I understand, generally, upward movement should be sharped-- it should technically go to C# right? But I know that is just AWFUL for any musician. Haha. Would it be wrong if I modulated to Db instead? Or should I just try to modulate a whole tone as you suggested? You've been so helpful! Thank you! :)
    – DB428
    Oct 17, 2017 at 19:22
  • For simplicity, i'd be going C > D.
    – Tim
    Oct 17, 2017 at 20:00
  • C to Db is fine. There's no rule that an upward key shift has to be notated in sharps. It's not about being 'easy'. It's about what keys suit your voice best.
    – Laurence
    Nov 25, 2017 at 12:56

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