50 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, ...
Tim's user avatar
  • 192k
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 ...
Dave's user avatar
  • 17.8k
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 ...
Tanner Swett's user avatar
37 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 ...
JimM's user avatar
  • 5,051
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 ...
skinny peacock's user avatar
32 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. ...
phoog's user avatar
  • 22.2k
30 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 ...
Todd Wilcox's user avatar
  • 56.6k
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 &...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
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 ...
user27675's user avatar
  • 261
25 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Tim's user avatar
  • 192k
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 ...
Richard's user avatar
  • 84.3k
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 ...
ttw's user avatar
  • 25.2k
24 votes
Accepted

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&...
PiedPiper's user avatar
  • 20.9k
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 ...
user34859's user avatar
  • 231
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?, ...
José David's user avatar
  • 4,244
21 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.
Albrecht Hügli's user avatar
21 votes
Accepted

Is it okay to change the key signature in the middle of a bar?

It's not common to change key signature in the middle of a bar - my edition of Behind Bars says "change a key signature after a barline", with no qualifications, suggesting that's the usual ...
James Uffindell-Birt's user avatar
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 ...
Athanasius's user avatar
  • 12.6k
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 ...
Richard's user avatar
  • 84.3k
19 votes

How to notate a non-standard hexatonic key

If you want it to be read and played, use an open key signature and accidentals. If you want it to be analysed and discussed, maybe concoct a non-standard key signature.
Laurence's user avatar
  • 92.1k
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 ...
Laurence's user avatar
  • 92.1k
18 votes
Accepted

Why does music from the Classical era rarely use keys beyond 3 sharps/flats?

The primary reason was the widespread use of some type of meantone tuning. Unlike the currently popular equal temperament, different keys had chords that are somewhat out of tune. There were ...
ttw's user avatar
  • 25.2k
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 ...
Shevliaskovic's user avatar
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 ...
Emerson's user avatar
  • 335
17 votes

Can there be C# without F# in signature?

You can do this, but imagine yourself in the performer's seat. If you hand out sheet music whose key signature is unfamiliar it will immediately raise questions: Is this a misprint? What key am I ...
Brian THOMAS's user avatar
  • 11.6k
17 votes
Accepted

Sharps used in Super Mario theme

You are right, this piece is in the key of C major. There are countless songs written in C major, or any other major key that don’t use any notes outside the major scale or any chords outside the 7 ...
John Belzaguy's user avatar
16 votes
Accepted

Is it possible to have sharp/flat notes in a music piece composed in the key of "A minor"?

Music can, and often will, have notes in it that exist outside of the scale of the current key. We call these outside pitches chromatic, and it's these chromatic pitches in the Paganini that led to ...
Richard's user avatar
  • 84.3k
16 votes

"Wrong" key signature for a score in F dorian?

Upon listening to it, F minor is the tonic chord. It does have Dorian characteristics like you say, namely a major IV chord and melodic D naturals. Is that good enough reason to write it in a key ...
John Belzaguy's user avatar
16 votes

Why is french horn not written a 5th above the rest of the orchestra when it is supposed to be?

Traditionally horns have always been written with no key signature. When horns were introduced into the orchestra they had no valves, and had a very limited set of notes. To change key extra tubing, ...
PiedPiper's user avatar
  • 20.9k

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