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Topic: Your Key Signature...

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  1. #1

    Your Key Signature...

    All of Y'all,

    The key of your musical composition is more important than you may imagine. There are variations in sound from one key to another, of course.

    Here are two short key demo pieces of music that I just wrote to illustrate the above. Both are the same music with the exception of the key:

    Key Demo 01 - G minor

    Key Demo 02 - B minor

    Instrumentation: GPO Violins I, Violins II, Violas, Cellos and Basses

    In the G minor example, the basses and cellos are rather "grunty" and the upper strings are not "screechy". (I rather like the "grunty" sound, but...)

    The B minor demo, a major third higher, eliminates the lower strings low frequency "rumble" but the upper strings are somewhat uncomfortable to the ears. (I don't like the penetrating high-frequency sound.)

    The in-between key of A minor would probably be a better choice for this particular piece of music.

    What are your thoughts?

    Regards,

    Larry
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  2. #2

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    I'd have to agree with you that I prefer the "grunty" sound of the strings over the "screechy" of the B minor. I really like this sound for a piece that is meant to portray something heavy and/or powerful. But since the low strings don't really lose much of this effect from the change to B minor, while the high strings change pretty drasticaly, I'm sure A minor would not take too much away from the heavy/strong sound to the low strings while taking a bit of the edge off their "grunt."
    Or, perhaps you could choose Ab minor, and be really evil to the performers!
    Michael Obermeyer, Jr.
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  3. #3

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    Quote Originally Posted by sanyarem View Post
    I'd have to agree with you that I prefer the "grunty" sound of the strings over the "screechy" of the B minor. I really like this sound for a piece that is meant to portray something heavy and/or powerful. But since the low strings don't really lose much of this effect from the change to B minor, while the high strings change pretty drasticaly, I'm sure A minor would not take too much away from the heavy/strong sound to the low strings while taking a bit of the edge off their "grunt."
    Or, perhaps you could choose Ab minor, and be really evil to the performers!
    I think that you are putting too much emphasis on these particular keys. The point of my post is the difference in effect that can be achieved by the use of different keys.

    (Ab minor...relative to the key of Cb Major. That's a lot of flats! )

    Thanks a lot for your response.

    Regards,

    Larry
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  4. #4
    Senior Member sosmus's Avatar
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    Re: Your Key Signature...

    Larry:
    What a neat idea. I've heard purists argue that certain keys are more of this then that and have different characteristics. String players like sharp keys, and brass players like flat keys. I've also heard players (and singers) that insist in playing in the cracks. I would say that the G minor version is darker because its lower. Duh. Depending on what your motive is (no pun intended,) keys are a "relative" matter. For practical reasons, I might go with A minor because it gives a good strong dominant low E on a string bass, but I kinda like the high string sounds of B minor. So the final decision rests solely in your hands and ears. I'm so glad I could help you in this research.
    Steve

  5. #5

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    With today's digital way of doing things, it's easy to change key. Such wasn't the case when you and I were working in the pen-and-manuscript-paper era.

    Thanks for your input, Mr. Steve.

    My best,

    Larry
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  6. #6

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    I'm with you 100% on the importance of key, Larry.
    This is too oft overlooked by writers, chosen at
    chance or convenience or whimsy.

    Especially so in orchestral (and string) writing --
    where you land in the playable ranges of the
    instruments, a note or two higher or lower, can
    completely change the color of a piece.

    In this case, I like the B minor; it advantages
    (to me, anyway) more of the coloristic characters
    of the strings.

    Best,



    David
    -----
    David Sosnowski
    www.DavidSosnowski.com

  7. #7

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    Thanks very much for your input, Mr. David. I always appreciate your comments.

    My best,

    Larry
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  8. #8

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    Hi Larry,

    First off let me comment on the piece itself; yet another demonstration of your mastery of this style! I loved your repeated harmonic progression that started about two-thirds in. Compositionally, eminently enjoyable as usual!

    As for key... to my ear, even a half-step shift in either direction can completely change the mental/emotional impact of a piece, and this experiment is a perfect example of that. To my ear, the B-minor is more dramatic and impactful, but I'm sure the same would be said about the G-minor by many sets of other ears. There does come a point, of course, at which a shift in key just "doesn't work", but you've demonstrated clearly the importance of selecting a key that conveys most of what your own compositional ear is demanding.

    Thanks for taking the time to post this quite interesting topic-starter, Larry.

    Danny

  9. #9

    Re: Your Key Signature...

    Thanks very much for your message, Mr. Danny.

    These short bits are not "permanent" works. They were quickly written to demonstrate the subject of my posting only.

    You have contributed greatly to this forum and we all appreciate you.

    My best,

    Larry
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Re: Your Key Signature...

    Hey Old Timer!

    Key has a lot to do with mood apart from anything else. It sets up mood and I'm not just talking about minor or major.

    On a personal note - I just can't get along with C major or A minor for some reason.

    Major keys I like are Eb, Ab and Bb - minor F minor and C sharp minor. Don't ask me why because I don't know.

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