My question concerns this short piece of music: http://czteryrefy.pl/data/dskgrtx/teksty/nuty/pressgang.html The key signature has 3 flat signs. But there is no actual A♭ sound in the song because all the A♭ have an accidental ♮. My questions:

  • What is the key of this song? Is it c-minor? Is it a mode?
  • Could this song's notation be simplified by having only 2 flats as its key signature and no accidentals?

3 Answers 3


Seems to me to be in some sort of C minor - C Dorian sounds about right, with the harmonies of Cm and Bb. So, the writer felt it to be in Cm, with the appropriate 3b, but if it is in C Dorian, there only needs to be the 2b - Bb and Eb, obviating the need to keep naturalising (?) that Ab.

Although, there's Fm featuring, which wouldn't happen in C Dorian. But this could be similar to the old melodic minor, with extra notes available, almost at whim!!

EDIT: in the version I listened to, the second line goes to Eb, the relative major of the suspected Cm.


I would call it, as @Viktor Hofer and @Tim have stated a C minor/Dorian - I'm inclined to consider it a (natural) C minor, however - since, as far as the chord progressions are concerned they are all used in both keys.

Also, I would not be bothered by the existence of both an F minor chord and some A naturals, since:

Every time an A flat appears, it is not an actual note of the pieces harmony but either a transitive or a flourishing note, so, always playing it as A natural, is probably more of a stylistic element of the piece, that does not affect its key, rather than any sort of key changing.

Also, this is underlined by the fact that all A's appear in weak parts of the measure - actually in the last beat.

  • What are you quoting there? Also, what A-sharps?
    – sehe
    Feb 9, 2018 at 13:10
  • I meant A-naturals, but I had in mind something else and I mis-typed sharp instead of natural. Actually, I used the quationg box to highlight what I thought to be the main part of my answer, it is not an exact quote - even so, I've read similar thoughts in some harmony/theory/counterpoint books; for instance the one writen fron Th. Dubois. Feb 9, 2018 at 13:13

If you study the piece you will notice that it tends to resolve to C. It also ends with a C therefore it seems to be written in C-Minor.

If you omit the third accidental the key signature would change to either Bb-Major or G-Minor which wouldn't outline the tension towards the C in the piece.

Looking at the Diatonic Harmony you can see that the chord progression varies between (1) Tonic, (2) Subtonic, (3) Subdominant and (4) Dominat with some non diatonic variations of the Dominant.

By using modality, you could also name it C Dorian to get rid off the third accidental.

  • 1
    B-major or G-minor I think.
    – yo'
    Feb 9, 2018 at 10:43
  • @yo' - think B=Bb. Like Germany, H is B, while B is our Bb.
    – Tim
    Feb 9, 2018 at 10:52
  • 1
    @Tim Well, to (English) B-major, the parallel minor is G#-minor and not Ab-minor anyway...
    – yo'
    Feb 9, 2018 at 13:02
  • @yo' - it's the relative minor, and where's mention of (English) B major, or Abm? And a piece using mainly Cm diatonic notes would hardly have G#minor diatonic notes in it.
    – Tim
    Feb 9, 2018 at 13:15
  • @Tim music.stackexchange.com/revisions/66701/2 There's obviously some confusion about what one or both of us mean and say. I think we can agree that Viktor uses the German notation, and should have really written Bb as this is an English-speaking site :-) (btw, I'm of course aware of the German notation, we -- unfortuantely -- adopted it in Czech). I really thought that you comment saying the post means English B. Sorry for this.
    – yo'
    Feb 9, 2018 at 13:16

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