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I was thinking this morning - is there a key I haven't written anything in?

I came up with A-major. I don't think I have ever written anything in this key.

Also it made me think of why we chose certain keys when we write: what is it to do with? I have certainly written a few pieces in A-minor. With orchestral I tend to write in C/D so you can use all the lovely low stuff to its full capacity.

There is also, I suppose, a certain flavour (or flavor to americans) (or flava to teenagers) of each key and I wonder if in the inception of a composition that is the instinctual response of the composer to match the initial idea to its most effective (or opportunistic) key for overall impact.



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I dont think their a I have at least attempted to write in. Most of my music isnt really tonal centered per-say, I tend to play with keys and tonal centers a lot in my composition. As far as key signatures, however, Im sure there are a few I avoided, especially due to my writing style and when dealing with transposing instruments. In most of my pieces, if I place a key signature it would be as if I was lying since I dont stay in that key for long. Plus for me, it would be a note spelling nightmare if I place a key in the key signature.
Definitely since I mostly start by using D minor (My guitars are tuned in DGCFAD) and D# minor alot when using keyboards since that is the first key I learned for improvising and I keep getting to it automatically.
Yes, I have never written anything in the key of my car, not on it... :-)

We cannot explain why - maybe it's influence of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters - but we usually feel B minor very sad key, F major pastoral, C major optimistic and encouraging atonality. The most intriguing thing is enharmonic equality. Probably, in spite of the tempered scale, we have images of more than 12 semitones in our sub-conscience. C sharp and D flat are very different things depending on context.
Andrew Gleibman said:
Yes, I have never written anything on the key of my car, not in it... :-)

We cannot explain why - maybe it's influence of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters - but we usually feel B minor very sad key, F major pastoral, C major optimistic and close to atonality. The most intriguing thing is engarmonic equality. Probably, in spite of the tempered scale, we have images of more than 12 semitones in our subconscience. C sharp and D flat are very different things depending on context.

Yes - well put. Beethoven's 9th just wouldn't sound the same in E. Though it is also true to say that this would make it too high to sing (just - except the most superb choir) - but this also speaks of a link to instrumental practicality.

I predominantly compose on an Apple Mac now but, perhaps egotistically, never use notes that a real orchestra couldn't play.
I think for many of us with just relative pitch, it doesn't matter too much which key we write in, except when considering the range of certain instruments in the orchestra, as you say. However, my sister has perfect pitch and she tells me that each key has a certain character that she can't explain (a bit like trying to explain colours to a blind person). I can believe that, but to me with just a good grasping of tonal relative pitch, I cannot "picture" it.

I personally prefer to use the keys with flats in the signature for minor keys and keys with sharps in the signature with major keys. Somehow, doing it the other way around feels as if one is crossing the grain a bit (although I did once write a piano piece in F# minor, some years ago).

But I can honestly say that apart from in brief modulations, I have never set out to compose in the keys of C# major, F# major, Eb minor or Gb minor. Just too large a key signature for my liking, involving all sorts of weird spelling where accidentals are concerned, such as double sharps and double flats.
Have you got perfect pitch, Andrew? I really find that fascinating. I wish I had it. I suspect Jeff has probably got it as well.

Andrew Gleibman said:
Yes, I have never written anything in the key of my car, not on it... :-)

We cannot explain why - maybe it's influence of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters - but we usually feel B minor very sad key, F major pastoral, C major optimistic and encouraging atonality. The most intriguing thing is enharmonic equality. Probably, in spite of the tempered scale, we have images of more than 12 semitones in our sub-conscience. C sharp and D flat are very different things depending on context.
Naughty, naughty. I'm sure Jack meant E minor.

Jeff Cattie said:
Yes - well put. Beethoven's 9th just wouldn't sound the same in E

Oh God, no... could you imagine the first movement in a major key??? lol That would put the theme of the Ode to Joy in E Phrygian!

Jack Pickett said:
Andrew Gleibman said:
Yes, I have never written anything on the key of my car, not in it... :-)

We cannot explain why - maybe it's influence of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters - but we usually feel B minor very sad key, F major pastoral, C major optimistic and close to atonality. The most intriguing thing is engarmonic equality. Probably, in spite of the tempered scale, we have images of more than 12 semitones in our subconscience. C sharp and D flat are very different things depending on context.

Yes - well put. Beethoven's 9th just wouldn't sound the same in E. Though it is also true to say that this would make it too high to sing (just - except the most superb choir) - but this also speaks of a link to instrumental practicality.

I predominantly compose on an Apple Mac now but, perhaps egotistically, never use notes that a real orchestra couldn't play.
This is not necessarily related to pitch. We simply do a simple logic with key vs. accidental signatures and subconsciously link our emotions to this logic.

Let us do the following simple experiment. Imagine (or write) a natural Re minor scale with A sharp instead of B flat,

What we have? Concerning pitches, it is the same Re minor scale. However, note B is absent, while note A is written twice. So, the concept of a scale, or ladder with single steps and no omissions, is violated. In melodies we can do or hear similar violations for stressing some ideas or emotions. The ladder with no omissions involves calm and confident feelings, and musicians can have specific emotions related to sharp and flat signs. This can be very individual, e.g., listening to the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 6th we can imagine that some B flat and E flat signs are small birds (Beethoven wrote about nightingales).

Simon Godden said:
Have you got perfect pitch, Andrew? I really find that fascinating. I wish I had it. I suspect Jeff has probably got it as well.

Andrew Gleibman said:
Yes, I have never written anything in the key of my car, not on it... :-)

We cannot explain why - maybe it's influence of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters - but we usually feel B minor very sad key, F major pastoral, C major optimistic and encouraging atonality. The most intriguing thing is enharmonic equality. Probably, in spite of the tempered scale, we have images of more than 12 semitones in our sub-conscience. C sharp and D flat are very different things depending on context.
Andrew, when I asked if you had 'perfect pitch', I was talking about a natural ability in some people to be able to either sing or recognise a note without hearing any other notes to compare it to. In the US, I believe they call it "absolute ear".

When I hear musicians describe keys as 'bright', 'dark', 'optimistic' or 'pastoral', that is what I presume because to anybody with just relative pitch (most musicians), all keys sound the same on their own (not major versus minor obviously). That's why we need to hear a note that we know of before we can recognise the note that his heard thereafter. For example, if somebody plays me an Eb on the piano, to me it could be any note in the chromatic scale and if told it was a C#, I would have no qualms about believing them, unless I'd already heard a Bb beforehand.

Andrew Gleibman said:
This is not necessarily related to pitch. We simply do a simple logic with key vs. accidental signatures and subconsciously link our emotions to this logic.

Let us do the following simple experiment. Imagine (or write) a natural Re minor scale with A sharp instead of B flat,

What we have? Concerning pitches, it is the same Re minor scale. However, note B is absent, while note A is written twice. So, the concept of a scale, or ladder with single steps and no omissions, is violated. In melodies we can do or hear similar violations for stressing some ideas or emotions. The ladder with no omissions involves calm and confident feelings, and musicians can have specific emotions related to sharp and flat signs. This can be very individual, e.g., listening to the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 6th we can imagine that some B flat and E flat signs are small birds (Beethoven wrote about nightingales).

Simon Godden said:
Have you got perfect pitch, Andrew? I really find that fascinating. I wish I had it. I suspect Jeff has probably got it as well.

Andrew Gleibman said:
Yes, I have never written anything in the key of my car, not on it... :-)

We cannot explain why - maybe it's influence of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters - but we usually feel B minor very sad key, F major pastoral, C major optimistic and encouraging atonality. The most intriguing thing is enharmonic equality. Probably, in spite of the tempered scale, we have images of more than 12 semitones in our sub-conscience. C sharp and D flat are very different things depending on context.
Well, if it's important, I have it, but often err because many instruments / records / singers are not tuned to the absolute standard, and I constantly have to "stretch" my ear to recognize what notes are played. This is very painful process, and if I do not succeed I cannot continue listening to what I do not understand as a sequence of notes.
I don't think so. I am simply spoiled by hearing much of Scriabin & Shostakovich from the teenage times, but I do enjoy playing Bach or Mozart or Beethoven very much (still more than listening). I simply feel that modern harmonic music is often trivial or even grey in their shadows.

Ray Kemp said:
Andrew Gleibman said:
Well, if it's important, I have it, but often err because many instruments / records / singers are not tuned to the absolute standard, and I constantly have to "stretch" my ear to recognize what notes are played. This is very painful process, and if I do not succeed I cannot continue listening to what I do not understand as a sequence of notes.

Andrew

May I take from what you said, having perfect pitch often hinders your enjoyment of western harmonic musical performance?

Or, would that be down to musicians unable to keep in relative tune with each other?

PS nearly forgot my question is obviously also dependant on which pitch we are listening to. middle A @440hz or 442hz etc etc
Have you actually heard the difference between 440 hz and 442 hz, it's barely distinguishable to the human ear (or is to mine anyway). Anyone with perfect pitch would probably just call it A.

I have heard though, stories about people with perfect pitch, finding a performance painful if the orchestra (although all perfectly tuned together) is a quarter or third tone out.

Ray Kemp said:
Andrew Gleibman said:
Well, if it's important, I have it, but often err because many instruments / records / singers are not tuned to the absolute standard, and I constantly have to "stretch" my ear to recognize what notes are played. This is very painful process, and if I do not succeed I cannot continue listening to what I do not understand as a sequence of notes.

Andrew

May I take from what you said, having perfect pitch often hinders your enjoyment of western harmonic musical performance?

Or, would that be down to musicians unable to keep in relative tune with each other?

PS nearly forgot my question is obviously also dependant on which pitch we are listening to. middle A @440hz or 442hz etc etc

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