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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 tend to find myself sticking to C, D, F, G, A Flat Major and their relative minors, because I compose from the keyboard and these keys I find most easily mastered.
Not Bb major then?

Jeremy David Hiebert said:
I tend to find myself sticking to C, D, F, G, A Flat Major and their relative minors, because I compose from the keyboard and these keys I find most easily mastered.
when i say my favorite key is Cm... i should add that Eb, as the relative major key, makes me like that a lot too, out of association i guess...

A lot of times when i voice the simple melody I make in 1,4,5... If I like sound in C and D, I will then go to G so i can use both...

Its really fascinating when you make up a simple melody, and make a basic 145 out of it... then going "shopping" for a key... many of them sound good, and several sound vastly different... I suppose thats the excitement my wife gets shopping for shoes, I suppose, i dunno. As a guy, merely havign something to put on my feet makes me ecstatic, and if they wear out, I get more.

Now that I pick keys out, and they are all so vastly different sounding... *shrugs* maybe I could enjoy shoppign for shoes more, I dunno...

I dont know HOW a band would pick a key for a melody... I'm one man and i sometimes will sit for an hour, wavering on the choices... i cant pitcture 2 let alone 4 or 5 people agreeing on the key...
SEDstar said:
when i say my favorite key is Cm... i should add that Eb, as the relative major key, makes me like that a lot too, out of association i guess...

A lot of times when i voice the simple melody I make in 1,4,5... If I like sound in C and D, I will then go to G so i can use both...

Its really fascinating when you make up a simple melody, and make a basic 145 out of it... then going "shopping" for a key... many of them sound good, and several sound vastly different... I suppose thats the excitement my wife gets shopping for shoes, I suppose, i dunno. As a guy, merely havign something to put on my feet makes me ecstatic, and if they wear out, I get more.

Now that I pick keys out, and they are all so vastly different sounding... *shrugs* maybe I could enjoy shoppign for shoes more, I dunno...

I dont know HOW a band would pick a key for a melody... I'm one man and i sometimes will sit for an hour, wavering on the choices... i cant pitcture 2 let alone 4 or 5 people agreeing on the key...
Maybe I'm just being like an adolescent "rebel" in this, but I consciously avoid I-IV-Vs, ii-V-Is, I-vi-IV-Vs, etc. On the positive side, I'd rarely write that unanalytically anyway--that would rarely be what would sound good to me somewhere when I'm composing, but if I do sneak one in, once I analyze what I'm doing, I'll change it in some way, at least with heavily modified chords if not unusual substitutions. But I'm a guy who naturally likes dissonance. ;-)
Streaker, I absolutely LOVE
dissonance. I'm always searching for possibilities where I can apply more dissonance to my music. However, I also like a balance, whereby consonance keeps it in check.
Have you ever heard the music of James Macmillan, Streaker? I'm pretty sure you'd love his music, if what I've learnt about you is true. This is a short article about him. Unfortunately, I can't find my CD at the moment, but when I do, I'll throw it up for you to have a listen. It's the "Confession of Isobel Gowdie" by James MacMillan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNPolWpX9no&feature=related



Streaker Ofinsky said:
SEDstar said:
when i say my favorite key is Cm... i should add that Eb, as the relative major key, makes me like that a lot too, out of association i guess...

A lot of times when i voice the simple melody I make in 1,4,5... If I like sound in C and D, I will then go to G so i can use both...

Its really fascinating when you make up a simple melody, and make a basic 145 out of it... then going "shopping" for a key... many of them sound good, and several sound vastly different... I suppose thats the excitement my wife gets shopping for shoes, I suppose, i dunno. As a guy, merely havign something to put on my feet makes me ecstatic, and if they wear out, I get more.

Now that I pick keys out, and they are all so vastly different sounding... *shrugs* maybe I could enjoy shoppign for shoes more, I dunno...

I dont know HOW a band would pick a key for a melody... I'm one man and i sometimes will sit for an hour, wavering on the choices... i cant pitcture 2 let alone 4 or 5 people agreeing on the key...
Maybe I'm just being like an adolescent "rebel" in this, but I consciously avoid I-IV-Vs, ii-V-Is, I-vi-IV-Vs, etc. On the positive side, I'd rarely write that unanalytically anyway--that would rarely be what would sound good to me somewhere when I'm composing, but if I do sneak one in, once I analyze what I'm doing, I'll change it in some way, at least with heavily modified chords if not unusual substitutions. But I'm a guy who naturally likes dissonance. ;-)


Chris Alpiar said:
Pretty sure Ive covered them all ;-)

While some put consideration to the instrument (voice, harpsichord, etc) for key choice, I hear a very difference in degree of effectiveness in certain keys. For instance C# minor is much more effective than C# major; A works great both ways, but A minor is a little more sad than C# minor, and Eb minor never seems to work well in its intent. My favorit minor keys are B, A, D. C#, F#. My favorite major keys are A, E, Ab, Gb.

But I so so so rarely write anything strictly diatonic, not since school 20 years ago, or on a very rare occasion. Diatonic harmony is just too weak and bland for my ears, which is why I rarely listen to classical radio as 90% of those composers make me want to stab my eye with a fork for the watered down blandness :-)

wow that's quite a bold statement - "blandness". There's more to it than tonal limitations, though. There's development for example, which is the hallmark of classical symphonic music and of course counterpoint which is taken to an art form by some of the classical greats. There's also the masterful command of instrumentation; who else can score for orchestra like Tchaikovsky, and have a command of the less straightforward instruments too, like the harp.

And watered down from what ? That harmonic vocabularly was what was relevant in their day and age. Mozart didn't listen to John Coltrane and decide to block out all the modal elements.
".....which is why I rarely listen to classical radio as 90% of those composers make me want to stab my eye with a fork for the watered down blandness :-)"

Ouch, that rather saddens me Chris. I sort of write music like that and I thought you liked it......ahem.

Chris Alpiar said:
Pretty sure Ive covered them all ;-)

While some put consideration to the instrument (voice, harpsichord, etc) for key choice, I hear a very difference in degree of effectiveness in certain keys. For instance C# minor is much more effective than C# major; A works great both ways, but A minor is a little more sad than C# minor, and Eb minor never seems to work well in its intent. My favorit minor keys are B, A, D. C#, F#. My favorite major keys are A, E, Ab, Gb.

But I so so so rarely write anything strictly diatonic, not since school 20 years ago, or on a very rare occasion. Diatonic harmony is just too weak and bland for my ears, which is why I rarely listen to classical radio as 90% of those composers make me want to stab my eye with a fork for the watered down blandness :-)
Adrian, nice to see quotes written out again. However, it would be nice to hear what you have to say.

Adrian Allan said:


Chris Alpiar said:
Pretty sure Ive covered them all ;-)

While some put consideration to the instrument (voice, harpsichord, etc) for key choice, I hear a very difference in degree of effectiveness in certain keys. For instance C# minor is much more effective than C# major; A works great both ways, but A minor is a little more sad than C# minor, and Eb minor never seems to work well in its intent. My favorit minor keys are B, A, D. C#, F#. My favorite major keys are A, E, Ab, Gb.

But I so so so rarely write anything strictly diatonic, not since school 20 years ago, or on a very rare occasion. Diatonic harmony is just too weak and bland for my ears, which is why I rarely listen to classical radio as 90% of those composers make me want to stab my eye with a fork for the watered down blandness :-)
I did - eventually

The single malt I'm on made me press the submit key prematurely
How about very clever modulation which sounds very natural too, but is still diatonic ? eg. diminished chords relating distant keys. I like that sort of stuff because it can be quite unexpected and not at all boring, but still retain a (shifting) sense of key.

Or maybe I'm confusing Diatonic with "tonal" - I must look up these definitions.

Yeah, I think by diatonic you mean just sticking in that key without accidentals at all - so we're not even talking Mozart, but far less ambitious

A definition
based on the standard major or minor scales consisting of 5 tones and 2 semitones without modulation by accidentals
Yeah, I know what you mean. Glenfiddich's REALLY bad for that one.

Adrian Allan said:
I did - eventually

The single malt I'm on made me press the submit key prematurely
''Tonal'' means major and minor.

"Diatonic" just means a seven note scale basis, including major, minor, modal and synthetic. Just as:

All tonal music is diatonic, but not all diatonic music is tonal.
All wholetone music is hexatonic, but not all hexatonic music is wholetone.
All symmetrical 8-tone music is octatonic, but not all octatonic music is symmetrical.
All blues/heavy rock guitar solos are pentatonic, but not all pentatonic scales refer to blues/heavy rock (actually, that's not true at all, but it's a great example).
All twelve-tone music is dodecatonic, but not all dodecatonic music is twelve-tone (what??????).
All science-fiction music is nonatonic, but not all nonatonic music is scientifically fictional (now you're really being stupid).
All Xenakis' music is enneakaidecatonic, but all enneakaidecatonic music is written by Xenakis (right, I'm calling my solicitor).


Adrian Allan said:
How about very clever modulation which sounds very natural too, but is still diatonic ? eg. diminished chords relating distant keys. I like that sort of stuff because it can be quite unexpected and not at all boring, but still retain a (shifting) sense of key.

Or maybe I'm confusing Diatonic with "tonal" - I must look up these definitions.

Yeah, I think by diatonic you mean just sticking in that key without accidentals at all - so we're not even talking Mozart, but far less ambitious

A definition
based on the standard major or minor scales consisting of 5 tones and 2 semitones without modulation by accidentals

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