49 votes
Accepted

Which key signature to pick for this chord progression?

Put it in key A. That's I, and D is IV, while E is V. The slightly awkward G is said to be a borrowed chord, from, in this case, A minor, the parallel key. It's theory, an observation, not a rule, ...
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  • 173k
42 votes

Why are accidentals not just indicated next to the note in sheet music to make sight reading easier?

It is related to "chunking", once you are used to keys, it is easier to quickly understand the single chunk "This piece is in G major" instead of having to see and interpret each of the individual ...
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  • 17.5k
42 votes

Why is more music written in sharp keys than flat keys?

It's an artifact of Spotify's analysis. Notice that this chart shows no songs written in a flat key. Therefore, without a doubt, the chart is simply using "F♯" to mean "F♯ or G♭," "A♯" to mean "A♯ or ...
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39 votes
Accepted

What use is knowing how many sharps or flats a key signature has?

The sharps and flats are always "added" in a particular order. So, if you know how many there should be for a key, you can work out what they are. The mnemonics you refer to can help you to remember ...
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  • 20.9k
37 votes
Accepted

Why did we never simplify key signatures?

Actually, it seems to me that designating the key by a letter instead of the arrangement of sharps or flats is not simplifying the process. Simply stating the intended key by letter and accidental ...
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33 votes

Why are accidentals not additive?

Hmm. Lets take an example of how this would work in practice. Currently, when I see a sharp sign in front of a note (lets say F as an example) I know that the note required is an F sharp. It may be ...
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  • 4,821
33 votes

What does it mean when one flat in the key signature is in parenthesis?

A little-known fact is that the historical basis of minor tonality is the Dorian mode. Consequently, much 18th-century tonal music is written in a key signature that seems to lack one flat sign. ...
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  • 13.6k
29 votes
Accepted

Why is music for strings more likely to be in keys with sharps?

Sharp-keys are in some ways nicer to play than flat ones. The preference for these keys is perhaps most extreme in folk styles: going through two collections of celtic-style fiddle music[978-1-85720-...
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29 votes
Accepted

Why use accidentals instead of a key signature?

There's a blog series on film scoring that I can't seem to find again right now, but in it the blogger (who composes and conducts orchestras for film scores) mentions that key signatures are never ...
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27 votes
Accepted

Are sharp keys "bright" and flat keys "dark"?

It certainly holds some truth, irrespective of tuning system, in the following sense: modulating to a key with more sharps evokes a “bright” sensation; modulating to more flat evokes a &...
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26 votes
Accepted

If A minor doesn't have any accidentals, is it still minor?

The fact that you are in A minor without G# (or F# and G#) means that you are in A natural minor. What defines a scale as minor or major, is the third of the scale, not the accidentals. If you have A ...
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26 votes

Why have I never found any music written in the key of C Sharp Major?

C sharp major has seven sharps, D flat major has five flats. Out of the box, the latter is preferable. The former may be more appropriate when there is more material requiring "flattening" the key ...
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  • 261
25 votes
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Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D: Why do some recordings seem to be in C sharp?

Tuning forks, invented in 1711, standardised tuning. (A student of mine used to call them pitchforks...) Trouble was, there was no standardised pitch for the note,that came much later. So various ...
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  • 173k
25 votes

What is this note?

This is just D doublesharp, which is enharmonic to E. The trick is that key signatures are not additive. In other words, any accidental added to a pitch is considered to be its own construct, not ...
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  • 78.7k
24 votes
Accepted

Is a high A in the key of D flat still flat?

Yes. The key signature of Db has a Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and a Gb. Those notes are flat unless otherwise noted no matter the octave. For any key signature on any staff, you will only ever see the ...
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  • 46.1k
24 votes

Why are some instruments listed 'in F' or 'in B'?

IN orchestral (and other instrumental) music, the notation like "Clarinet in Bb" (or "Klarinette in B") means that the instrument is a "transposing instrument." When the clarinetist plays what his ...
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  • 23k
24 votes
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Can there be C# without F# in signature?

It's possible, but extremely unusual. Béla Bartók was one composer who sometimes wrote things like this. For example the study no.99 in volume IV of his collection of piano studies "Mikrokosmos&...
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  • 15.2k
23 votes

Why are accidentals not just indicated next to the note in sheet music to make sight reading easier?

It wouldn't be easier to read. Firstly, most instruments are not tied into any particular key signature. A simple sequence like someone singing/playing a scale in E major and someone else singing a ...
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  • 231
22 votes
Accepted

Are accidentals in the key signature and measure additive?

No, it is still a B♭ as the accidentals in the key signature and measure are never additive. The flat is just reminding you that the B is flat. This is known as a courtesy accidental and is typically ...
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  • 46.1k
21 votes

Why are different keys necessary / important?

The tonal system is an historical inheritance, but we could not do without it today in the realms of most classical, popular and main stream music, even if we wanted to (and why would we want it?, ...
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  • 4,031
20 votes
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F# major vs Gb major?

Of the 12 major keys, F♯/G♭ is the only one that can be reasonably notated in two ways (for example, C♭ and C♯ are far more awkward than B and D♭). Both F♯ and G♭ are in common use, but G♭ is rather ...
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  • 1,716
20 votes
Accepted

Reasoning for redundant "natural" (but not courtesy accidental)

The harmony of the given chord in the 1st 2 bars is in E (major chord), the accidental in front of g you consider (minor third!) is referring to this Chord of E.
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20 votes

Why is more music written in sharp keys than flat keys?

While there are certainly questions about how all of this data was classified, it's not surprising to me that the most popular keys tend slightly toward the sharp side (G, D, and A), with flat keys ...
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  • 11.9k
19 votes
Accepted

Difference between keys and scales?

[A scale is] just a bunch of notes the composer decided to use in his music. This is correct, or at least it's a valid way to look at it. In western music, the key chosen for a piece implies both a ...
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19 votes

Shifting between bemols (flats) and diesis (sharps)in the key signature

I'm not aware of a name for this phenomenon, it's just a quick way to transpose music based on how the tonal system works out. In short, when you're in a key, look at the key signature. Take the ...
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  • 78.7k
18 votes
Accepted

Why isn't there a key signature with F flat?

Technically, there could be, you just keep extending the pattern. You could even keep extending it to the point where you need to start using double flats, though this is almost never done in practice....
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  • 20.2k
18 votes

How to figure out key from key signature?

Last sharp in the key signature is the leading note (7th) of the major key. Last flat is the 4th. Or last but one is the tonic. So three sharps - F, C and G - is A major. G♯ is the 7th note ...
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17 votes
Accepted

Why are key signatures like E# and B# necessary?

They're just extreme versions of enharmonic scales-that is, scales that exist in an identical sounding key but are spelled differently. It simply has to do with the fact that we have to have as many ...
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17 votes
Accepted

c#-minor Vs E-major for Moonlight Sonata

Both C# minor and E major keys have the same key signature, so there is no difference there. This relationship is called 'relative key'. Each major key has a relative minor one, with the same key ...
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17 votes

Why did we never simplify key signatures?

I believe it's not simplified for some reasons: 1st: Music notation is an orthodox practice which has kept its standardization globally for common understanding. The Boethian notation (alphabet notes ...
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