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Key Signature Question
What is the purpose of this?
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Uzi
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Fairly often I'll see a piece of music that has a key signature of say, Em which has one sharp, the F#.  However, in the score all of the C's have accidentals making them C#.  That would be the same thing as a Bm -- right?  So why don't they just put that C# in the key signature?  Is it because of the chord progressions used by other instruments like the guitar or keyboards?   

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BillyG
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Hmmmm...  aye, it confuses me as well - but I'll have a shot (and await correction from those who know better!).   Here's what I understand from what you say.  The key sig is a single sharp ( F# ) - that would be the key of Gmaj.   The sequence of notes in Gmaj is exactly the same as the sequence of notes making up Eminor - you just "start" in a different place.... right?  

The "problem" comes from your observation of sharpened C's.  Now I'm guessing - because C# is not in the "natural" Em scale - so is this a different "mode" - like a "melodic minor" - I could be completely wrong - but I suspect it is *something* like that?

Bill ( awaiting correction! LOL ) 

Oh - aye - check these links - 

http://method-behind-the-music.....lesandkeys   and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.....inor_scale

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I think it is because music is still mostly scored by human beings, who can choose to do it that way or can choose to make it simpler.  But technically, both methods are correct enough.  You can still play the right notes from the score.

In the strictest sense, you can score any set of notes in any key signature you want.  Just some will be a heck of a lot easier to read than others, but following the score will still give the correct pitches for the melody or whatever.

It would be nice if everyone always did it as simple as possible to read, but there is nothing that forces a composer/arranger/publisher to do that. 

There can be some reasons.  For example, if you are acquainting a student with a new key signature but decide to keep the notes actually being played to ones they are already familiar with, at first.  Or if an instructional text wants to give the student some practice at coping with accidentals while sticking to notes where the student can still play them easily.

Sometimes it can be something as silly as some people considering anything in the key of C major to be "beginner" grade or "lazy", so they notate it in G with an accidental on every single occurrence of the F note.  LOL

But technically, it is a judgement call that is left to the discretion of the person actually writing out the dots.  And maybe their publisher, who may not want to put money into publishing a piece if it is too much of a nightmare to read.

Gotta wonder sometimes, though, what their reason was, when you see situations like you are describing.

Personally, I prefer to make score as easy as possible to read, so long as it can get the same pitches.  But there isn't really a "rule" about that and it is a judgement call, like I said.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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Oh, one other thought, from something your said in the original post, Uzi.

Yeah, since chord names are always supposed to be relative to the key signature, in some cases it might allow for using a more commonly used name for a given chord.  That's why the same exact notes can sometimes be called by a different chord name, depending on the key one is playing in.  Chords names are relative, not absolute. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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RosinedUp
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Uzi said
Fairly often I'll see a piece of music that has a key signature of say, Em which has one sharp, the F#.  However, in the score all of the C's have accidentals making them C#.  That would be the same thing as a Bm -- right?  So why don't they just put that C# in the key signature?  Is it because of the chord progressions used by other instruments like the guitar or keyboards?   

By your previous posts, I know you have an understanding of modes.  Here you've said that the key signature is Em, so presumably the piece comes to rest on E.  If the piece uses exactly the notes of D major, and clearly comes to rest on E, then the piece is clearly Dorian, and is IMO best written as such, with a key signature of two sharps.  But you have asked a good question. 

I've always thought that this kind of writing (usually just transcribing) comes from lack of, lapse of, devaluation of, or denigration of, an understanding of modes.  I usually suppose that the transcriber can recognize by ear, or by the chords, or by the tonic, that the piece isn't major mode, and, being mostly unaware of anything other than major and minor, they shoehorn the piece into notation that indicates Aeolian mode.  They decide it's minor, choose the minor key sig that fits the tonic, and let the accidentals fall where they may.  To me, it's poor writing, but if there is a good reason for it, I expect I would be thrilled to find out.

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Uzi
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Here's an example of what I mean. http://thesession.org/tunes/67

Click on the first Setting: "Sheet Music" button. 

I suspect it may just be an artifact of whatever they are using to transcribe the score.  I just find it sort of annoying, I guess.  I just wasn't sure if there was some really good reason why someone would do that. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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RosinedUp
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I visited that link for The Monaghan, and looked at that version.  Yes, it covers all seven pitches of D major, and only those.  It's hard for me to identify the tonic clearly, if there is one.

I looked at the first four versions there and also listened to one version on youtube.  It seems there is very much variation in the tune.  I plodded through the A part of that sheet you indicated, and I felt that measure 7 (the one containing the first C#) was kind of jarring, about like a modulation.

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BillyG
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@Uzi and @RosinedUp - I see it in context now - so (regardless of other issues!) - yes what's wrong with DMaj - and yes it is only the C# - I see no (musical) difference between describing it as

mona_G.JPGImage Enlarger

or as

mona_D.JPGImage Enlarger

... well there is a visual difference - but nothing else - and that is exactly what you chaps are saying - certainly given my limited sight / general sheet reading ability - faced with the upper one - personally, I would have to stop to think (and wonder WHY the C# specifically carries an accidental - until it dawned on me...) although I guess experienced players would just "take it in their stride".  

Well, that was interesting and thought provoking, Uzi !

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RosinedUp
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MadBill said
I see no (musical) difference between describing it as

If played by a machine, under certain assumptions, the two ought to sound the same, at least under equal temperament. 

There is a musical difference ... one of mode.  It's a conceptual difference that could affect how it is interpreted, and how readily it is understood.  I believe that it's possible to build a machine that would agree with human experts regarding the mode---for very many tunes in the form of recordings. 

Conceptually there is a difference in the two scores, unless one is deaf to modes and oblivious to the concept of modes.

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ratvn
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Gentlemen,

How about E Dorian? That has 2 sharps, F# and C#, and yet the tonic is clear when 'hearing' the tune, but not quite when one looks at the sheet.

It should be written with 2 sharps (as in key of D major), but it is E Dorian (if one prefers to say mode), as the tune does exhibit some typical Dorian characters as in melodic line and chord progression.

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ratvn said
Gentlemen,

How about E Dorian? That has 2 sharps, F# and C#, and yet the tonic is clear when 'hearing' the tune, but not quite when one looks at the sheet.

It should be written with 2 sharps (as in key of D major), but it is E Dorian (if one prefers to say mode), as the tune does exhibit some typical Dorian characters as in melodic line and chord progression.

Whoops, I didn't notice the MIDI file until now. 

@ratvn Upon listening, I agree on all points, except I'm unsure about the chord progression.  Could you say some more about that?

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BillyG
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RosinedUp said

MadBill said
I see no (musical) difference between describing it as

If played by a machine, under certain assumptions, the two ought to sound the same, at least under equal temperament. 

There is a musical difference ... one of mode.  It's a conceptual difference that could affect how it is interpreted, and how readily it is understood.  I believe that it's possible to build a machine that would agree with human experts regarding the mode---for very many tunes in the form of recordings. 

Conceptually there is a difference in the two scores, unless one is deaf to modes and oblivious to the concept of modes.

Ahhh, absolutely - I'd agree with that - in the short fragment pictured - I don't get a handle on the sound and feel of the overall piece - I was imprecise in my wording - in the fragments pictured - were it to be played, I would observe no audible or tonal difference.   In the overall piece, having now listened to several versions, some solo, some accompanied, the tune sounds not to be played in a major scale (in D), nor in its natural minor scale (in Bm).  It "feels" like something else.  And going back to Uzi's link - you'll see the ABC file 

X: 20
T: The Monaghan
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Em
|:BGE F2E|BGE FGA|BGE F2E|AFD FGA|
GBE F2E|BGE FGA|d^cd ABG|FDF AGF:|
|:EGB efg|fed edB|EGB dBG|FDF AGF|
EGB efg|fed edB|d^cd ABG|FDF AGF:|
|:g2e efe|gfg bge|g2e efe|fdf afd|
g2e efe|gfg bge|d^cd ABG|FDF AGF:|
|:EGB edB|dBG AFD|EGB dBG|FDF AGF|
EGB GBd|Beg efg|d^cd ABG|FDF AGF:|]

Which leads to the automatically-created score.  Change the line K: Em to K: EDor - and it gets scored like this -

abc.JPGImage Enlarger

  BUT !  This was just using a free ABC program ( EasyABC ) - and of course having changed the "K" - it doesn't touch the actual notes, and the sequence D C# D (written d^cd) still appears with the sharpened C on the already sharpened C staff space.... so (if using THIS program) the transcriber would have to go back and also manually edit the "d^cd" to "dcd"  aha, I can see why people would have trouble transcribing this sort of thing if done with too little attention to detail.... (and the limitations of the tools being used)....

Interesting discussion... I like things that make me stop and think! Thanks for all the input RU, Dan and ratvn

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Uzi
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I think @BillyG has hit the nail on the head.  I'm guessing that it's simply due to the software used to do the transcribing and if the notes were right, the transcriber figured it was all good. I would imagine that explicitly thinking about modes is not something that most Irish session fiddlers concern themselves with very much. Looking at the rest of the scores on that page, the key signatures are all over the place, but the notes are pretty much all the same and whether we call it Em with C# accidentals, Bm, or D major, probably makes little or no practical difference.  I don't think you would be able to start a pub brawl over it -- at least not until after the 3rd pint.  I'm thinking this may just be a classic example of apophenia.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Uzi said
......  I don't think you would be able to start a pub brawl over it -- at least not until after the 3rd pint.  

  What, only three!  LOL !

 And, thanks for the thought provoking original post !

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Uzi
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I stand corrected -- yet again.  Reading the comments to some of the tunes, it turns out that they argue about modes plenty.  

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Fiddlerman
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The example shows the key clearly already in the first arpeggio and repeats the E minor chord throughout the piece. Note the 8 bar phrases with chord progressions that change first in the 4th bar and again in the 7th bar every single time. That does not mean that if you used the C natural in the progression on the other chords that it would be wrong. It's the chosen resolution for this piece. Correctly written IMAO. :)

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ratvn
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Uzi said
a piece of music that has a key signature of say, Em which has one sharp, the F#.  However, in the score all of the C's have accidentals making them C#.  That would be the same thing as a Bm -- right?  So why don't they just put that C# in the key signature?

MadBill said
The key sig is a single sharp ( F# ) - that would be the key of Gmaj.   The sequence of notes in Gmaj is exactly the same as the sequence of notes making up Eminor - you just "start" in a different place.... right?  

RosinedUp said

being mostly unaware of anything other than major and minor, they shoehorn the piece into notation that indicates Aeolian mode.  They decide it's minor, choose the minor key sig that fits the tonic, and let the accidentals fall where they may

Gentlemen, Uzi, MB, Dan, and RU, you're all correct. The tune starts with Em as E is the tonic, using most of E minor chord progression as you can hear it (should end with E as well, as of most other "same case" tunes, but in this case the final tonic E is omitted, left everything hanging in the air, more about this later), so what else that it would be transcribed to if not in key of E minor, one sharp (same as in G maj). After all, it looks like Em, smells like Em, doesn't taste quite like it, but what else but Em? Then there are C#. Oh, ok, accidentals, but worse, most of the tune notes are from D major scale (same as in Bm), so what now.....?

MadBill said

In the overall piece, having now listened to several versions, some solo, some accompanied, the tune sounds not to be played in a major scale (in D), nor in its natural minor scale (in Bm).  It "feels" like something else.

Yes, of course. It's not in D nor Bm, and yet there are 4 of them involved, G and Em as well. It's E Dorian and for sure "feels" different and "has" different "color" (more about why the color and feel a bit later). Dorian mode has sorta "dual" personality/character, and yet its own is from the combination and omission of those involved scales. While sitting on one scale, it uses another scale/chord progression, hence the confusion trying to transcribe the tune.

So, I will try my best shot at describing these points, and you all should take it with a grain of salt....to be safe, lol.

Let's back track a bit, refreshing a bit about mode from a given major scale (D in this case for the mentioned tune), so our other members can follow, and thank to RU and Uzi for bringing those modes up in previous posts. In D major scale, if a tune ends up at first degree of the scale, it's said to be in Ionian mode, namely D Ionian, commonly known as D Major in this case. Ended at 6th degree is in Aeolian mode, B Aeolian, commonly called B minor, and at 2nd degree is in Dorian mode, as E Dorian.

E Dorian tune uses E as its tonic, somewhat starts with E, ends with E as tonic, using most of E Minor chord progression, just like E Aeolian/minor tune (see the reason for the transcribing to key of E minor, one sharp?). And yet, it sits on the D major scale (using the scale notes) to classify as in Dorian mode for ending at the second degree of the scale.

So here is the question. How to tell if the tune is E Minor or E Dorian since it's so similar, starting the same, ending the same, using almost the same melody/chord progression?

The answer is fairly simple. Let's back track a bit, basic chord progression for melody line (basic chord progression based on the melodic notes). It's I IV V7, chord with root based on the first, 4th and fifth degree of the tune scale. Major and Minor tunes rely on the resolving power of the V7, major 7th chord to pull back to its tonic I chord, V7 to I progression, as to end a phrase or end the tune (hence ending the tune at its tonic). A major component/note of the V7 is the 7th degree/note of the tune scale, and for both Major and Minor it's exactly a half step below the tonic. Appearing "natural" for major (for D major it's C# note, also a part of A7 chord/V7, and F# for G major, a part of D7), but in minor tune, it's raised a half step, accidental, (for B minor it's A# note, a part of F#7, and for E minor it's D#, a part of B7).

So in the tune, it's not in Bm since there is no A#, nor Em as there is no D# either. There is no V7 to I chord progression.

Dorian, just like Aeolian/Minor, uses the IV minor chord for progression (Em to Am), but it's V7 chord is not a Major 7, due to the normal 7th note of the scale (not half step raised to adhere to the major scale in use, no accidental, D major in case of the tune being written), it's actually V minor 7 instead (in some case, they even omit the 7th completely), could be denoted as v7 instead of V7. So for E Dorian, it's v(7) to I chord progression/melodic line, Bm(7) to Em, not like B7 to Em as for E Minor.

The melodic line/progression of Em to Bm(7) and Bm(7) to Em, tonic to v and back, are among ones that give Dorian a different feeling/color than its counter E minor.

The second minor progression/melodic line difference is while minor tune line/note will pull to its natural major chord more easily (in E minor, G chord is the natural major, same as in Bm, D chord is the natural major). E Dorian will pull to its first degree root chord, D major, due to the fact that it sits on the D major scale.

So there are 4 scales in use, key sig of one sharp and two sharp, one sharp as in G major and E minor, two sharps for D and Bm with an E Dorian tune. Key sig of 2 sharp is for transcribing as the tune sitting on the scale, one sharp as the tune used most of its chord progression. Avoidance of A# so the tune can't pull to B minor, and likewise of D# so it can't pull to E minor but remaining as E Dorian.

Hope you're still with me so far as I'm losing it now, lol. About the missing final tonic E for the tune and its starting.

Starting first, right? The tune first 3 notes of G, B and E spelled its tonic E/Em chord as there are no time to beat around the bush (for jig standard format, there are only 8 bars/measures for each part (usually two parts, which repeat twice), which consists of the part melody (about 5-6 bars) and a tag (2-3 bars), in this case for the tune, 6 bars for the melody, and 2 bars for the tag (a repeat lines/section which appears at every end of a part which serves as a transition/switching to other part(s) of the tune), the tonic (and its chord) usually appears right within the first measure/bar of the tune.

Ending? Standard jig, reel tunes are usually 32 bar format, 8 bar for each part, repeat twice, as they are social dance tunes. Since they are fairly short tunes, they're usually played several in a row, a medley style, one after another so people who dance would have time to enjoy. Of course, after one tune, there is a transition phrase to the next tune. The mentioned tune is fairly modern as it has more parts than conventional standard, and by hanging the end right at v7 without going to its tonic I/E note (Bm/7 to Em, v7 to I, as waiting to resolve to Em/tonic) could save an extra transitional phrase/notes because the next tune beginning would spell the tonic right away.

Uzi said
Looking at the rest of the scores on that page, the key signatures are all over the place, but the notes are pretty much all the same and whether we call it Em with C# accidentals, Bm, or D major, probably makes little or no practical difference. 

In a sense, you're correct. But let's look at it at a bit different angle. Most of these tunes, from Irish, Scottish trad/folk, and some others were there before notation existed, passed down from generation to generation (hence there are some problems with using modern notation method to put it in sheet, especially its rhythms), and the most important thing is that they existed before Equal Temperament tuning was born. So obviously, folks back there played these tunes with something else. Best guess would be Pythagorean, its variations or the alike tunings (try one of these tune with Pythagorean, or Extended Pythagorean tuning and you will see it sounded so much better, so much sweeter and makes much more musical sense). So identification of a tune tonic is very important to establish the correct intervals per the tuning in use.

Lol, I tried my best.

Robert

Edit: some correction/addition needed as per member advise.

Minor key recognition, as in Em for this particular tune. Obviously, it should not have the "extra accidental" C# at every occasion. For the half step raised 7th, it's part of harmonic minor, could be use temporarily at cadence of a tune to provide much stronger pull back to the tonic as V7-i versus the weaker v-i progression. Sometimes as just temporary switching to harmonic minor for cadence or part of the tune while the rest could remain at natural minor.

More information of the difference and effect of natural, melodic and harmonic minor could be found here:

http://www.guitar-chords.org.u.....heory.html

Thanks.

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ratvn said 

......Hope you're still with me so far as I'm losing it now, lol......

@Fiddlerman and @ratvn - thank you !  And Robert, I was with you to the very end (....eventually.... while I stopped to picture the different scales and modes!)  

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Uzi
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@ratvn Sounds pretty reasonable except this:

So in the tune, it's not in Bm since there is no A#, nor Em as there is no D# either. 

There is no A# in Bm and no D# in Em.

For example, the Bm (natural minor/Aolian) contains all of the same notes as DMaj:

B C# D E F# G A 

For Em:

E F G# A B C D, which is probably correct (except all the C's in the song are C# i. e. augmented 6th). 

I'm not making any judgements about what the "right" answer is, it's just something I observed and wondered about the reasoning behind it.  

PS:

According to Chordify these are the chords: chordify.net

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Thanks Pierre, Robert, and all for this detailed theory conversation. 

Great Job Robert.

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