5

WikiPedia has an article about E-sharp minor scale (that is a scale relative to G-sharp major) there is no article of E-sharp major, instead it redirects to F major that is a scale using flats instead of sharps. I want to know if the E-sharp major scale is fake? PS. I am asking specifficaly this scale.

  • There is enough scope in keys by purely using # or b in the key sig. There's little point taking things further so one needs to use x or bb. Technically it exists, but mostly in the minds of masochists. Why stop there? Let's play the scale of key Ex - or start being sensible and realistic! – Tim Dec 23 '19 at 9:02
  • 10
    Having just read the article, it specifically says "Its parallel major, E-sharp major, is usually replaced by F major, due to the presence of 4 double-sharps in the E-sharp major scale causing it to be one of the more impractical key signatures in music to use." – Doktor Mayhem Dec 23 '19 at 13:35
  • I think you're confusing notation and tone. E# major sounds just like F major, but the notes of the scale are different, being E#-F doublesharp-G doublesharp-A#-B#-C doublesharp-D doublesharp-E#. Why in the world anyone would want to write something in E# major escapes me, but that's not to say that you can't do it! :-) – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '19 at 20:11
  • 3
    'Fake' is a poorly chosen term. 'Redundant' would be more like it. – Marquis of Lorne Dec 24 '19 at 21:31
20

Let's see:

E sharp scale image

Doesn't look fake to me. But sort of cumbersome to read. E major has 4 sharps, so it's not surprising E sharp major has 4 double sharps and the other notes sharped.

In general, going to the enharmonically equivalent key implies a jump by net 12 sharps/flats (2 for each whole step in the scale, 1 for each half step). F major has -1 sharps (well, 1 flat), so E sharp major has a net of 11, namely 3 single and 4 double ones.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    The rightmost sharp in sharp signatures is always the leading tone, so why not here? If you wanted to retain F♯ as first accidental, you'd have both F♯ and F𝄪 in your accidental row, making for a confusing total (basically, you'd have to count double accidentals only once and would have to disregard the first one when playing). – user65267 Dec 22 '19 at 22:52
  • 3
    @awelotta: For the record, this answer has Lilypond's default order for rendering the sharps in a key signature. However, on the very few occasions where I've actually seen an engraved key signature with a double sharp, I'm pretty sure I've always seen the double-sharp(s) listed first, so that the sharps follow the typical ordering/placement, just with double-sharps replacing single ones as needed. – Athanasius Dec 22 '19 at 23:30
  • 2
    @awelotta: Okay, I take that back. Now I've found an actual engraved example showing the manner of this answer too. Seems both are possible. – Athanasius Dec 22 '19 at 23:37
  • 2
  • 1
    If I had to read the above example, I'd mentally put one flat, and transcribe everything up one step - that bottom line note then becomes a bottom space note. – Tim Dec 23 '19 at 10:27
19

It's not fake, it's theoretical.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoretical_key

There is a theoretical difference between E sharp major and F major because they are spelled differently and reside in different places on the circle (spiral?) of fifths. In practical terms, they are identical because they are enharmonically equivalent, thanks to equal temperament.

| improve this answer | |
  • No, they're not. Every note in E# major is different than the notes in F major. The notes of the F major scale are F-G-A-B flat-C-D-E-F. The notes of the E# major scale are E#-F doublesharp-G doublesharp-A#-B#-C doublesharp-D doublesharp-E#. Don't confuse tone with notation, or vice versa, for this way lies madness! Hurry, before it's gone!!! :-) – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '19 at 20:12
  • 1
    @BobJarvis-ReinstateMonica I assume you were being humorous, but I have edited my answer slightly to hopefully avoid any such genuine confusion along those lines. – ibonyun Dec 26 '19 at 19:47
8

It exists but probably isn't included as an article because, whereas a scale like Db minor is a flat note with no "simpler" spelling*, E# is enharmonic to F which is a white key and arguably simpler / more common to read. Db minor also has double accidentals.

Basically, E# refers to the same pitch as F, and there's not much reason to use E# as the root of your scale in the first place, so there's no article for E# minor.

As a sidenote, E# and F don't necessarily refer to the same pitch. For example, in the tuning system 19TET, E# is enharmonic to Fb instead, which then lies halfway between E and F.

*typically Db minor is replaced with C# minor because C# minor, being the relative minor of E major, has a much simpler key signature without any double accidentals. But if a piece is in Db major and borrows chords / notes from the parallel minor, then Db minor would theoretically be used.

| improve this answer | |
4

As other answers point out, E# minor exists in theory, but is in used vanishingly rarely (if ever) in practice. But this provokes the followup question: if E# minor so rare as to be “purely theoretical”, why is G# major (with the same key signature) less rare in practice?

In isolation, G# major is just as impractical: for the primary key of a work, one would almost always write it as Ab major instead. But G# major is closely related to several minor keys which have fewer sharps in their key signature — most closely, C# minor and G# minor. These keys do appear often in practice (since their enharmonic equivalents, Db minor and Ab minor, have more flats than these have sharps). So if a piece is primarily in C# minor and modulates to its dominant major, it’s often more readable to write the section in G# major than to switch between sharp spellings and flat spellings within the piece.

Generally, major keys have closely related minor keys with more flats/fewer sharps, while minor keys have closely related major keys with more sharps/fewer flats, so extremely sharp key spellings occur more often as major keys, while extremely flat key spellings occur more often as minor keys. On the sharp end, E# minor and A# minor are rarer than G# major and C# major respectively, as mentioned in the question. On the flat end, Fb major and Cb major are rarer than Db minor and Ab minor, because (for instance) these minors can appear secondarily in a piece with primary key Ab major.

| improve this answer | |
  • Modulation doesn't typically involve a change of key signature. And switching between flats and sharps for different movements is certainly common (moonlight sonata, for example). Do you have an example of a piece that uses G# major for this reason? – phoog Dec 25 '19 at 15:44
3

Yes, an e-sharp minor scale exists, but you’re not gonna find many examples of one in music. If you do, we can go yell at the editor.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    The same is true of G# major, frankly. Welcome. – phoog Dec 23 '19 at 9:44
  • 2
    @phoog yes, though it's actually not unlikely for a guitarist to describe a piece in G♯ major or even D♯ major. But A♯ or E♯, probably not. – leftaroundabout Dec 23 '19 at 10:25
  • @phoog: see my answer for why G# major isn’t quite as rare. – PLL Dec 25 '19 at 15:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.