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Topic: ORCH: Flats

  1. #1

    ORCH: Flats

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    Hi, after what happened with the last theory question I thought I would post here and see what happens... [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

    This is a very simple question so please don\'t shoot me down in flames.

    I know how many sharps are in a given piece of music and the relative minor of each major scale.

    When do you determine that a scale should be in flats? (This is where my dumb question comes in)

    Why would you say this a C# scale, the song is in C# compared to its in D flat?

    Thanks, Scott.

  2. #2

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    Hi Scott!
    Don\'t worry, there\'s no diffrence between c sharp Maj and D flat Maj in the well temperated mode. They are called \"enharmonic\". Sometimes it is easier to write and read in the enharmonic mode. It is more a matter of orthograph. I would choose the easiest to read (in your exemple c sharp maj has 7 alterations and d flat 5, so I\'d go for b flat). In a piano piece of Schubert I saw him change to the enharmonic mode in the middle of a composition, because it was getting too complicated to read.
    Vincenzio in the Renaissance buit up a quatertone harpsichord to recreate a difference betwwen flat and sharp, which was used probably in the greek modes. Also there is a difference for a violin player: sharp is a bit higher than flat. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]
    Hope this clears up a bit this mystere,

  3. #3

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    My experience has been one of subconscious influence. The orchestra sees a sharp key, C#, and the players unconsciously leans towards a brighter sound. If it\'s transcribed into Db, then the players will lean towards a darker tone. The \'leaning\' is very minute and barely heard except in some instruments (brass and strings noticeably). I\'m a brass player and I write in flats if I can, but I\'ve heard most string players and keyboardists prefer sharps. What you want to write it in is what it literally boils down to.

  4. #4

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    Thank you Guys for your replies they were very, very interesting!


  5. #5

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    Scott, if you\'re writing for keyboard instrument then this doesn\'t matter lot. Other than you\'re sending a message to the performer that if in C# then it\'s more sharp/brighter mode but in Db the player should think more softer.

    However, in other instruments this can make difference for example for strings because their tuning is another than the temperament we are used on the keyboard instruments in modern temperament.
    C# scale is more sharper/brighter than Db scale on the strings. It has also do with what I said before that you\'re sending the performer a message of how he should play the piece by using either C# or Db.

    So you need to think carefully of how you think the piece. Is it soft/tender etc. or is it sharp/bright etc.?

    Hope this helps.

  6. #6

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    I don\'t understand what you are saying about the strings... Aren\'t they tuned the same as any other modern instrument? (A5=440, A4=220, etc.)
    If they were tuned differently for different scales wouldn\'t they be out of tune with other instruments in the orchestra?

    I\'m assuming that you are talking about modern strings... I know that in early music different tunings are often used.

  7. #7

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    D.DiAnda, the thing is that for example strings are tuned in perfect 5ths BUT keyboard instruments we divide the octave into 12 equal intervals so the \"perfect 5ths\" are slightly false.

    It\'s not the tuning which affect the difference between C# and Db (because they are enharmonic) but the string player can make C# slightly sharper not by tuning it softer/sharper but position the finger slightly lower/higher.

    This is also question about state of mind, if I would play something in C# I would automatically adjust my articulation, phrasing etc. to more sharper/brighter/joyful style but if it would be Db then I would make it more softer.

    Hope this makes sense.

  8. #8

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    Ok, I understand what you\'re saying [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]
    I can see a key sig. of C# instead of Db having some subtle psychological influence that might cause performers to approach a piece slightly differently and, in the case of strings, to play a tiny bit sharper...
    I was just confused about the tuning of the instruments. I guess I assumed that violins, for example, would just tune their strings to the standard GDAE and not in perfect fifths with each other. I\'ve never really understood non-fretted strings though [img]graemlins/tounge_images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    When deciding whether to use C# or Db as a key sig., another consideration that just came to mind is how the peice might modulate in different sections. If it goes into a section with a new tonality that clearly would make more sense using sharps, then it might be good to start the peice in C# so that the transition to the new key might not be so awkward.

  9. #9

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    Originally posted by D.DiAnda:

    When deciding whether to use C# or Db as a key sig., another consideration that just came to mind is how the peice might modulate in different sections. If it goes into a section with a new tonality that clearly would make more sense using sharps, then it might be good to start the peice in C# so that the transition to the new key might not be so awkward.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">The answer is actually quite simple and in keeping with what others have already said. Modulations to the sharp side would indeed sound brighter even though you move into flat keys in doing so. Generally these would be accomplished with double sharps unless you modulated so far that it became too cumbersone. In which case use flats, it\'s easier to read. This is a judgement call as to when that happens. In reality double sharps are best used sparingly.

    Modulations from Db to the flat side are a bit easier as you have a little wiggle room before needing to use double flats.

    But the real judgement comes in the choice of key. I don\'t generally think of C# as a bright joyful key, perhaps because even the best players need to invest some brain power in negotiating the sharps. Why not write it in D major, a key with a well established joyousness in music history, very similar register and much easier to play than C#?

    Steve Chandler

  10. #10

    Re: ORCH: Flats

    I know this is a bit older topic, but I was reading through some of the older stuff and couldn\'t resist responding.

    There is no difference between C# and Db! That\'s my story and I\'m sticking to it. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    I\'ve heard all the crap about brighter and tuned differently. Bologna I say. That doesn\'t make any sense mathmatically. I agree that some people think of sharps as brighter...and that might theoretically incline them to play it brighter. But if a conductor knows the score, he\'ll tell them to knock it off if it isn\'t appropriate to the piece.

    And the whole tempered scale thing doesn\'t have anything to do with enharmonic sharps or flats. Think about it. A perfect 5th is mathmatically a perfect 5th. C# to G# or Db to Ab...it\'s still mathmatically a perfect fifth. The difference in tempering or not is whether its a mathmatical perfect 5th according to the harmonic series or a mathmaticaly perfect 5th according to equal temperment.

    If (and I emphasize \'if\') a C# is slightly higher than a Db, then it\'s relative perfect 5th must mathmatically be slightly higher than its enharmonic perfect 5th as well. The mathmatics of the harmonic series don\'t change because you label a pitch a sharp instead of a flat.

    I think the most valid way of thinking is as has already been expressed -- that you should write for the ease of reading.

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