strathspey Archive: Key Signature (was specific instruments)

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Key Signature (was specific instruments)

Message 35593 · Fyreladdie · 19 Jun 2003 16:20:21 · Top

The key signatures can often push a specific instrument to its limits. In
some tunes the key signature may demand a fiddler or flutist to play at the far
reaches of their high end. The same can be said for the lower end of the
register. accuracy and tone quality may suffer in those keys.
The great Scott Skinner was an accomplished fiddler and liked to
challenge himself with various "uncomfortable" keys. Not all musicians can play at
that level. As a musician who has written tunes for Scottish dancing, I consider
the key when composing. Certain instruments can't play below middle C. I gear
the tune to the instrument, which happens to be fiddle, in most cases.
I would like to leave this subject with a quote from Alasdair Fraser.
"There is no such thing as the right key signature." As a game, musicians often
jam together playing familiar tunes in different keys. It's a good exercise and
lets you find which key "feels right." Happy dancing, in whatever key you
prefer.

Bob Mc Murtry
San Francisco Branch
Felton, CA 95018

Key Signature (was specific instruments)

Message 35598 · Helen P. · 20 Jun 2003 08:53:26 · Top

Bob Mc Murtry made some good comments.

Fingering may be much easier in some keys. For example, less experienced
fiddlers often gripe about playing in the key signature of Eb. Tone quality
can be affected by the more difficult fingering, too.

Also, the sound of an open string is different from a string where the
fiddler has a finger pressed down. G, D, A, and E are the usual tunings for
the four fiddle strings.* So the key signatures of G, D, A, and E can use
those strings as open; and thus may have a clearer, more ringing sound than
other keys.

* Different tuning patterns may be used for certain effects, or styles of
music.

Other instruments have different strengths and weaknesses. Even playing the
same type of instrument with a different range (e.g., soprano recorder
versus alto recorder) may be much harder.

The easiest thing to do is to have a player of your desired instrument give
the tune a test drive and offer comments to you.

-- Helen (MD USA)

Key Signature (was specific instruments)

Message 35599 · Wouter Joubert · 20 Jun 2003 10:45:21 · Top

Thank you all for your enlightening contributions to my question. I
love fiddle and piano or flute and piano combinations to dance to and
mostly have that in mind when I write music. Playing only the piano and
having an affinity for the Flat Keyes, I used them when composing. I
now know better and will change the keys to something less daunting.

Wouter Joubert
Pretoria
South Africa

Key Signature (was specific instruments)

Message 35602 · Bryan McAlister · 20 Jun 2003 20:06:40 · Top

In article
<51D60A24EB41EA49B0C5E60C54ACEE860127F2@smiicorym002.TSHWANE.GOV.ZA>,
Wouter Joubert <WouterJ@TSHWANE.GOV.ZA> writes
>Thank you all for your enlightening contributions to my question. I
>love fiddle and piano or flute and piano combinations to dance to and
>mostly have that in mind when I write music. Playing only the piano and
>having an affinity for the Flat Keyes, I used them when composing. I
>now know better and will change the keys to something less daunting.
>
>Wouter Joubert
>Pretoria
>South Africa
Please dot assume that all flat keys are dreadful for the fiddle. B flat
for instance is often a good key and I have written tunes for E flat
which are not horrendously difficult. Some of the sharp keys are also
awkward.

What can be more relevant is the way succeeding notes lie on the fiddle
relative to the strings as sometimes the change of the bow from string
to string can make playing a section of a tune difficult. While a good
orchestral player can cope with just about anything by changing position
on the fiddle they may not be able to make the music sound Scottish.
Browsing through succeeding copies of the RSCDS books gives the
impression that this has not always been appreciated by various Music
Advisors. Sometimes a change of key would make a world of difference to
the playability of a tune. I dot think this is as much of a problem for
keyboard instruments.
For example try Mr Dolph Morris (Cape Town Wedding) in D and IMHO it is
easier and sounds better. Or try Jeans Reel in G instead of F (as
recorded by Natalie McMaster) and a whole chunk of position changing in
the 3rd section disappears. In both cases there is increased natural
resonance from the fiddle from the open D and G strings. This natural
resonance of specific tones is a characteristic of fiddle and guitar
which accordions and pianos (with their damped strings) dot have. It
should also be remembered that in times past the Guitar was a vastly
popular instrument in Scotland, particularly among ladies and many of
the traditional tunes sound great on it, especially strathspeys.

Keep in mind that an easy tune gets played by lots more people and every
one will be able to devote more brain power to making the music sound
good if they are not trying to cope with fingerboard gymnastics.
--
Bryan McAlister B Arch RIBA ARIAS
Web page www.bryanmac.demon.co.uk
Email bryan@bryanmac.demon.co.uk
Mobile: 07732 600160 Fax: 0870 052 7625

Key Signature (was specific instruments)

Message 35603 · SMiskoe · 21 Jun 2003 04:02:39 · Top

Bryan is correct that the same tune in a different key can make a difference
to an instrument. Dolph Morris was written by an accordion player and it lies
happily on the keyboard. I love the tune in F and personally feel that
lowering it to D would change the voice too much. The fiddler I work with does
admit that the tune doesn't do much for him but he cheerfully plays it anyway.
Lowering it to D would also put it out of the lower range of the flute who
doesn't go below Bb.
There are regional differences in keys, too. Fisher's Hornpipe is found in
Cole's 1000 Fiddle tunes in the Key of F and most of the older musicians I know
in NH and Vermont will play it in F, grumbling if some young upstart tries to
play it in D. I know that the key of E frightens some folks and they would
rather play Calliope House in D than in E. It works but you miss the tone of
the high notes. The tune was written by Dave Richardson from the Boys of the
Lough. I recently was playing with a contra dance friend from the mid-west and
his music collection lists Calliope House as Trad and had it in D.
Cheers,
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH USA

Your favorite webmaster

Message 35604 · Martin.Sheffield · 22 Jun 2003 15:30:54 · Top

... is alive and well (in spite of several near collisions with low flying
roof beams and high flying thermometers) and will shortly be returning to
Frankfurt to resume duties keeping us all in order.

Martin, surrounded by some wonderful dancers, in Grenoble, France.

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