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72

The keys are only identical on equal-tempered instruments, but that's most modern western instruments like pianos. Wind instruments other than the trombone are built to be (mostly) equal tempered [EDIT: I might be simplifying too much here, see David's comment below], but the players can bend pitches somewhat. The trombone, all non-fretted string instruments,...


45

First, a key is only really a basis. You can have an F# in a piece written in C Major without having the piece "switch" keys. Second, keys are defined arbitrarily. Sure there is theory about what sounds good and that sort of thing, but at the end of the day it's just a group of notes that's just as valid as any other group of notes. This is made clear by ...


41

Music has nearly infinite potential for subtlety, and yes, drums might seem more simple on the surface, but after a few years in music school you'll be tuning drum heads every time you sit down at a snare drum, have a mallet collection that weighs 30 pounds, and enjoy discussing the relative merits of different origin rosewood on your marimba. Most people ...


35

A drum solo is a song without a key.


34

Your teacher is referring to the Doctrine of Ethos which was for the Greeks, a belief that listening to a certain type of music influenced your mood or character as a person. Throughout the centuries, this belief has taken various forms - from the key of Eb used in marches for nobility, D major being joyous, C minor being introspective, D minor being "the ...


34

It is common to use notes that are not in the scale to add color. It's called chromaticism, from the ancient Greek word for color. Think how composers use a G# instead of a G in A minor, for example as a part of an E chord. A semitone creates more tension and the tendency of G# to resolve to (go to) A is more powerful. This is called a chromatic approach ...


33

(It's going to be tough to explain all of this in a single answer. If you're interested in this, I strongly recommend finding a music theory text, either online or in hard copy. But I'll do my best to address it all here!) When it comes to major and minor keys, the best way to determine tonality, in my opinion, is to determine the location of half steps. (...


30

As someone who writes music, I have this to add: I usually come up with ideas for songs by improvising on a piano until I come up with a phrase that I really like. Way back when I started improvising, I came up with some ideas in certain keys (mostly based on what was easy for me to play at the time), and over time, the emotions in those songs became ...


28

This is an excellent and important question. In a minor key, all 4 possible combinations of 6th and 7th scale degree are used, and each combination corresponds to a scale: b6, b7: natural minor (aeolian) b6, 7: harmonic minor (creates a dominant V chord with a leading tone to the root of the key, so it was 'invented' for harmonic reasons) 6, 7: melodic ...


28

There's a few factors at play here: Let's assume that we have a magical piece of software, which can listen to audio and tell us exactly what notes are being played. Even given this software, determining key is not a trivial problem. Sure, there are simple cases, but even humans disagree over many songs. A computer has no chance. Take Sweet Home Alabama. ...


27

No. A key* is not just a set of notes, it tells you the tonal center** of a piece and the expected harmony and melody of the piece. If that was the case we wouldn't even distinguish between major and minor as they have the same set of notes as do all 7 modes of the diatonic scale. How you use your harmony and melody will define the key and tonal center by ...


26

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 used for film scores - all accidentals are explicitly written in. The reason is that when a film score is recorded, the musicians are seeing it for the first time ...


25

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[978-1-85720-202-1],[1-871931-04-5], I found the distribution to be this crass: ♭♭ : 5 ♭  : 5 ♮  : 7 ♯  : 57 ♯♯ : 70 ♯♯♯: 9 In particular D major is really a great ...


25

When you say "Why are the key signatures in the major key like this", you are misusing the words "key signature", so let's start by explaining that. A key is a combination of: a choice of root note a choice of which set of notes are available to be played In traditional Western music -- the musical tradition in which "major" and "minor" makes sense -- a ...


25

There's no such thing as a 100% sure identification of what 'the key' of a song is if you aren't taking notation as your reference - sometimes different people hear the same song as being in different keys. But if you have MIDI files, you have most of the same information that someone listening to a song would do - i.e. you have all the notes - so yes, you ...


24

There are two concepts and ideas that happen in music which, when combined, explain why this happens. The first is that the way certain instruments are constructed affects what sounds they can produce. The E♭ alto saxophone, the B♭ clarinet, and the horn in F each can easily play in the key designated. Typically, when learning to play these ...


23

I'm not sure why you'd have any reason to question why it's real ... it's not really related to G Major though, no more than C# major is related to C Major. It's enharmonically equivalent to A♭ major, just like C# Major = D♭ Major or F# Major = G♭ Major. As for pieces involving it, Wikipedia mentions some. In general, keys with double-...


23

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 “dark” sensation. This is somewhat tangible: raising accidentals are likely to be perceived as “uplifting”. (Except when they're not; ...


23

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 signature than otherwise. Now major is a rather sharp mode, so it's not quite unlikely. For example, a "proper" fully diminuished chord in C sharp features C-...


23

Colloquially, we don't say pieces are "in the chromatic scale," no. We can say that a piece is in C major, or even just in C (not specifying major or minor), but not that something is in the chromatic scale. One reason this might be so is due to the inherent hierarchy of tonality. If a piece is in C (like your example), arguably the two most important ...


23

No, not all songs have to be in a major or minor scale. All that it takes to prove this is to find one example that goes against the rule: This melody, which has both C♯ and C♮, cannot belong to a single major scale. (It also has both F♯ and F♮.) Most compositions, however, do have what we call a tonic. This is a pitch center, a "home base" of sorts, to ...


22

When you play in D minor, the scale -- that is your "palette" of notes -- is: D, E, F, G, A, B♭, and C You'll find it's not possible to play a D major chord using those notes. D major contains an F♯. The simplest way to find the chord you want is to identify its root note, then play a triad starting on that note, using only the notes in the scale. So if ...


22

I would actually consider this to be ♭III - IV - I in B major, with the ♭III borrowed from the parallel minor key. In fact, with the ♭III chord, it's somewhat similar in character to one of the "Fellowship of the Ring" themes: I - ♭III - I (in your key, that would be Bmaj - Dmaj - Bmaj). It's the first three chords here. Soundtracks aside, this type of ...


22

The Locrian mode does not need any reason to exist, it simply does. It would seem stranger that we would give names to all of the other note collections built from the degrees of the Major scale, yet leave the seventh degree out. The confusion here seems to be one about functional harmony. The idea of a tonic is part of functional harmony, but the idea of a ...


22

Your confusion is understandable because you have the choice of using one, or a combination, of three minor scales: the natural minor, the harmonic minor or the melodic minor. In using a D# you have strayed from the natural minor scale to the melodic minor scale, and this scale has worked for you. The natural minor scale flattens the 3rd, 6th and 7th ...


21

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?, anyone who decides to play all their life entirely in one key is perfectly free to do so :-) Now, seriously, there are many reasons why we absolutely need ...


19

Seeing the spectrum analysis and frequency of notes alone typically are not enough to figure out the key. You could sometimes get it right for simpler songs, but any type of blues or chromaticism will completely screw with it. Scales used also don't tell you much about the key especially when talking about modes. The reason why is the idea of a key has a ...


19

The example you gave, Shostakovich's Gadfly suite, gives you quite a lot of the answer: music is often written for several instruments at once, only one of which is a violin. The Bb clarinet is no doubt thinking "whew, this score's key signature no longer looks so crazy". Maybe Shostakovich associated his initial idea for that Romance so strongly with D ...


19

how do I determine which key they are in? A) Recognise that those notes are the start of the overture to Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro, but two semitones higher. B) Note that that piece is in D major. C) Infer that the notes in the question are therefore in E major. :-) More seriously, I don't think you can say definitively just from the notes.  They ...


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