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Topic: A flat, A or G?

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  1. #1

    A flat, A or G?

    Can anyone help please? One of the things I tackled a few years back when I first got GPO was a piano concerto. I thought I was being clever using the key of A flat! I had no idea a couple of years on there would be the prospect of a live performance! I don’t think the pianist is too worried about the key, especially as this isn’t an over demanding work. But what about the poor woodwind and brass? Is A flat ok - or would I be better off moving this up or down a semitone to G or A? The line up is pic, flute, Cor Ang / oboe, B flat clar, bassoon, French horn, B flat trump, tromb, tuba, perc, strings.

    Any advice would be gladly received please.

    Regards, Graham

  2. #2

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    To be honest the keys described shouldn't be an issue with reasonable players unless, say, there were really technical passages in a clarinet part that started to fall over a break (just an example).
    But I'm from the school that says you write what you imagine within obvious technical limits like range and let the professionals (the musicians) deal with the practical issues. I know I'll get shot down by the academics but I think that's where the burden of responsibilities lies. I've tried really hard over the years but I've found it almost impossible to write anything that you'd want to listen to (i.e. not just plain SILLY) that was unplayable by a half decent player.
    The most important aspect of the key you end up is the COLOUR that it gives your music. The higher keys will give you brightness and lucidity (if you don't revoice the arrangement in any way) the lower might be more sonorous and warmer. The great thing is you can pretty much check out the effect by transposing your orchestra and soloist by the click of a mouse.
    You're the composer, you call the shots, you decide, and the musicians won't even know there's been an issue over it.
    I simply don't believe you can spend your time whilst composing worrying about if the second oboe will like this or that line, fine, make sure they've got somewhere to breath - but you'll still be amazed how a reasonable player can even get round stuff like that.
    Graham, I wish you all luck with it, and thanks for the opportunity to have a little rant this beautiful spring morning rather than getting on with some work..

    regards


    Barrie

  3. #3

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    Quote Originally Posted by BarrieB
    Graham, I wish you all luck with it, and thanks for the opportunity to have a little rant this beautiful spring morning rather than getting on with some work..
    Thanks Barrie, I value your thoughts on this. And as you've mentioned it, it's glorious here too. Can't beat spring, best time of the year!

    I experimented moving the score up and down - and it's amazing how a small shift in pitch alters the colour of the piece. I'd rather leave it in A flat as originally intended. So unless I'm persuaded otherwise, that's what I'll do.

    Regards, Graham

  4. #4

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    There ya go!

    You were right all along! There was a reason you wrote it in A flat.

    Yup! I'd give a fair old amount to be on the M4/5 (or A303) and on my way down on a day like today!

    I've been meaning to find time to listen to your stuff - if Joaz likes it, it's got to be good.. I will check out the Bude thread..

    wbw


    Barrie

  5. #5

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    Quote Originally Posted by BarrieB
    I've been meaning to find time to listen to your stuff - if Joaz likes it, it's got to be good.. I will check out the Bude thread..
    Thanks Barrie. Let me know what you think! I wish I was in Bude right now!

    The piano concerto is on www.myspace.com/grahamkeitch I haven't put this in the Listening Room yet as there are a few compositional improvements I'd like to make.

    Regards, Graham

  6. #6

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    I'm right up against a dealine right now - that's why I'm footling about on NSS - but will listen later!

    best

    BB

  7. #7

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    It should be easier for most of the wind instruments to play in A-flat. A-flat is a more common key for high school bands than G, or particularly, A. Trumpet and clarinet, for instance, would be playing in B-flat - an even simpler key. If you transposed to A, they'd be playing in B.
    juan

  8. #8

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    Quote Originally Posted by juan
    It should be easier for most of the wind instruments to play in A-flat. A-flat is a more common key for high school bands than G, or particularly, A. Trumpet and clarinet, for instance, would be playing in B-flat - an even simpler key. If you transposed to A, they'd be playing in B.
    juan
    Graham does say it's an undemanding work, and there's no mention of the level being high school band. High school bands CAN have alarmingly good players.
    Personally I think even the high school kids will eventually thank you for exposure to some sharps - they'll find them in the real world - seems a shame to always write in 'safe' keys.

    regards

    Barrie

  9. #9

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    A general rule of thumb is that wind players (especially clar & brass) prefer keys with flats while string players prefer sharps. But as others have said, three of either shouldn't be an issue.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  10. #10

    Re: A flat, A or G?

    Actually, a lot of us keyboard players (although I also played violin and viola and guitar) prefer flats - there must be something psychological in this? Anyone fancy positing a theory?
    Is subtraction easier than addition?
    Discuss..

    BB

    I really respect Jamies' work and opinions so this isn't a slur, but frankly who cares what any individual player prefers? (unless, of course, you're writing for beginners). That way madness lies when writing for orchestra. Unless I've been missing something I'm not aware that, say - just for example, Beethoven, Elgar and Copeland studiously avoided writing in A major to avoid upsetting clarinetists by having five sharps in the key sig. The decision on keys should be a compositional one - for 'colour' or practical reasons like vocal or soloist ranges imho.
    Sorry, off on one today

    BB

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