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How much difference does the Key make?

Don Firth 14 Mar 08 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 14 Mar 08 - 11:28 AM
The Fooles Troupe 14 Mar 08 - 07:10 AM
Don Firth 13 Mar 08 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,frshtrx 13 Mar 08 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,the button in celebration mode 12 Mar 08 - 11:26 PM
GUEST,the button, slightly tipsy 12 Mar 08 - 11:25 PM
GUEST,the button (on a roll in the early hours) 12 Mar 08 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,the button (still elsewhere, the lucky dog) 12 Mar 08 - 11:17 PM
Skivee 12 Mar 08 - 10:46 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Mar 08 - 08:46 PM
RTim 12 Mar 08 - 08:35 PM
GUEST,Rumncoke 12 Mar 08 - 08:16 PM
RTim 12 Mar 08 - 07:50 PM
PoppaGator 12 Mar 08 - 05:59 PM
Jack Campin 12 Mar 08 - 04:49 PM
GUEST,the button (not at work, and not at home eit 12 Mar 08 - 03:30 PM
Jack Campin 12 Mar 08 - 03:03 PM
Jim Lad 12 Mar 08 - 02:44 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Mar 08 - 02:16 PM
Marje 12 Mar 08 - 01:41 PM
Jack Campin 11 Mar 08 - 10:27 PM
Suegorgeous 11 Mar 08 - 10:06 PM
Don Firth 11 Mar 08 - 02:31 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Mar 08 - 02:29 PM
Jack Campin 11 Mar 08 - 07:16 AM
Mr Happy 11 Mar 08 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 10 Mar 08 - 09:44 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 10 Mar 08 - 09:26 PM
Suegorgeous 10 Mar 08 - 09:18 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 10 Mar 08 - 09:12 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 10 Mar 08 - 09:00 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Mar 08 - 08:48 PM
Snuffy 10 Mar 08 - 08:36 PM
Rockhen 10 Mar 08 - 08:34 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Mar 08 - 08:30 PM
Rockhen 10 Mar 08 - 08:25 PM
Suegorgeous 10 Mar 08 - 07:54 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Mar 08 - 07:44 PM
PoppaGator 10 Mar 08 - 05:47 PM
GUEST,JohnB 10 Mar 08 - 05:35 PM
GUEST,highlandman 10 Mar 08 - 02:04 PM
Trevor Thomas 10 Mar 08 - 01:45 PM
Jess A 10 Mar 08 - 01:32 PM
Don Firth 10 Mar 08 - 01:31 PM
RTim 10 Mar 08 - 08:47 AM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Mar 08 - 08:41 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Mar 08 - 08:21 AM
Newport Boy 10 Mar 08 - 08:15 AM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Mar 08 - 08:01 AM
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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 01:19 PM

Yeah, Charlie, there's a pretty good article on modes in Wikipedia (CLICKY). Probably more than you really want to know on the subject.

As to Oscar Wilde's use of the Dorian mode, I think he was just trying to put the best face on things. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 11:28 AM

Don--

I just cut & pasted your last post--what you said about modes and "corrections" was very helpful to me in my present state of "learning(??)."

I don't agree that the Dorian mode is all that common, though. The only person I can think of who ever used it was Oscar Wilde.

(Seriously, now I really am going to have to find the passage where Plato discusses the effects/value/morality of the different modes.)

FreshTricks--

Wonder of wonders, my local library actually has the Sacks book. It sounds fascinating & I'm off to get it as soon as they get around to opening. Thanks for that, too.

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 07:10 AM

"It depends on the capo. I'd dispute whether that is actually generally true."

Incidentally a 'mute' on a violin does not muffle the sound like the alleged capo - it modifies it, but it is still clear, not muddy.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 03:58 PM

Don Firth - got an **actual example** of an early song collector making the mode-correcting mistake you describe? I can't think of one and I think you're fantasizing. (People trying to notate with microtonal accuracy, as you need for the music of India or the Islamic world, is a different matter).

Well, Jack, if I'm fantasizing, then so is Prof.David C. Fowler, a teacher I had at the University of Washington, author of A Literary History of the Popular Ballad and other books. And Cecil J. Sharp himself, who mentioned this several times in his writings. This is also mentioned in books by MacEdward Leach and Evelyn Kendrick Wells. I think those are fairly solid authorities.

As to examples, Dr. Fowler gave a couple in class, but that was some 50 years ago, and I don't recall the specifics. I do recall, however, that one was a particular version of "The Broken Token" ("Pretty Little Miss" or "John Riley"). One collector notated the song from a particular singer in a straight natural minor (A B C D E F G), and mentioned that the singer, "being untrained, of course, had an indifferent sense of musical pitch." Sharp collected the same song a short time later from the same singer, and in Sharp's notation, the scale was A B C D E F# G. The raised sixth (F# rather than F natural) is the defining characteristic of the Dorian mode.

Sharp found a number of such examples of folk songs being sung in modes and compared them with notations made by previous collectors in which the "wrong note" (or notes) had been "corrected," putting the song into a more conventional scale. Sharp stated that he was certain that these "wrong notes" were not wrong at all. He knew enough about modes to be able to recognize them when he encountered them.

Other than straight major and minor (which, incidentally are the Ionian and Aeolian modes, respectively), the two modes one encounters the most in Anglo-American folk music are the Dorian (like the natural minor or Aeolian mode, but with a raised sixth) and the Mixolydian (like the modern major scaleóIonian modeóbut with a flatted seventh). If the song seems to want to end on the dominant chord, it's probably Mixolydian mode. One also encounters pentatonic scales.

And just to be abundantly clear, I'm talking about Anglo-American folk music, not the music of India or the Islamic world.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,frshtrx
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:21 PM

How much difference?
The question implies, decidedly, there is some difference...let's safely say between 0 and 100% difference.
But, difference of what?
...ease of playing with other musicians?
...difference of enjoyment to the listener?
...difference of perception between the original composers's creation and the current performers' rendition?
I'm sure there are others unaccounted for...

Above responses eloquently hammer into each area, in non-defined response.

I say, if you want the listener to best be virtually transported to recall nostalgic circumstances reflective of their original exposure to a song - my personal belief is that it needs to be in the same key for most true "musicophiles", based on the following:
Recommended reading for everyone on the board "Musicophilia" by Oliver Sacks. (this is not spam, I have nothing to do with the publisher, Mr. Sacks, etc...)
The insight this book gave me into music, after already being recognized by my peers as a "musician", not merely a guitarist, made me feel as though I knew very little about music at all.
The Key of Clear Green: Sythesia and Music, chapter 14, brings forth an understanding on the topic rooted in the physical and nuerological effects of particular keys which I found fascinating.
...
when my band's vocalist says...I can't do this song, it's not in my key, there are 2 choices...don't play it, or change the key. Initially I try a change. At that point if it strikes me as inconsistent with the zeigeist of the song, if it makes my skin crawl or hairs stand on my arms, it gets canned. Sometimes it doesn't. Nothing worse than a Chipmunks version of a blues tune. If you play with your soul; listen with your whole body, not just your ears.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,the button in celebration mode
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 11:26 PM

Oh, by the way -- 100.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,the button, slightly tipsy
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 11:25 PM

Apologies for the spelling in that last post, by the way.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,the button (on a roll in the early hours)
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 11:23 PM

While I think about it, how would you annotate Walter Pardon's habit of sliding down from a long note at the end of a line? Would you transcribe it faithfully, or would you put it down to one man's eccentricity and trainscribe it as one long note?

(Anyone who hasn't heard Walter's version of The Trees They Do Grow High should get on Amazon now, and buy a copy of A World Without Horses, but the way).


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,the button (still elsewhere, the lucky dog)
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 11:17 PM

Hi Tim -- next time I'm at home, I'll have a good look through my Marrowbones to see the song I'm thinking of. I could have sworn it was a song annotated in D maj with the Cs consistently flatted, but I'll check it out in case it was a song annotated in G with the Fs consistently flatted or somesuch.

There's been a bit of discussion around that new edition of Marrowbones & the transcriptions -- for instance Martin Carthy's review in the EFDSS magazine, (IIRC), questioned a key signature on the basis that the tune in question was pentatonic rather than being in the key stated.

Thing is, (to my mind at least) it's just the collector coming up against the limitations of the musical notation available (as I said earlier) -- the best s/he can do is hear the tune and write it down to the best of their abilitities given the conventions they're working in.

For instance, one of the versions of "Down by the old riverside" on the Musical Traditions CDs of the Brazil family -- I think the second one. The one by the female singer, anyway (once again, I'm not in the same house as my CDs, let alone my songbooks). There's a note she sings that to musically-trained ears might sound wrong wrong wrong. But she does it consistently, and after a few hearings you accept it as part of the melody. And proper lovely it is too.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Skivee
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 10:46 PM

There's an old gag:
The singer joins the band at practice and asks the band leader what key they would be doing a particular song in.
He says: I thought we would start out in D do the second and third verses in Eb, then do the bridge in D, then throughout the last verse slide up from D to E natural".
She says," It may be kinda tough to get"
He says," Well, how did you do it last night?"


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 08:46 PM

" there is an obvious difference between the tone of a string ringing its full length from the nut and one that's stopped some way up the neck with a capo. You don't need to be a guitarist to hear it. A capo is effectively a mute."

It depends on the capo. I'd dispute whether that is actually generally true.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: RTim
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 08:35 PM

I have checked thru my Marrowbones - ie. new 2007 version with the Gardiner songs and notes edited by fellow Mudcatter - Malcolm Douglas (thank you Malcolm)

I Can find NO Hammond songs in D Major with flattened - ie. natural C’s.
However:-

Limbo H1275 - from James Blooming via Gardiner but tune collected by Mr. Gamblin and then revised later by Mr. J.C. Guyer and Mr. G Leake. Defined as Mixolydian/Ionian with inflection of 7th. - However some C’s are natural, some remain sharp.
Also;
The Rambling Sailor H216 from George Digweed again in Gardiner but tune collected again by Gamblin. Again only some C’s are naturals. (As an aside, I used to work with old Digweed's grandson!)
Also:
The Wonderful Sucking Pig H699 from Alfred Stride of Dibden once more in Gardiner but tune collected by Mr JC Guyer - as Ionian with inflextion on 7th. The natural C’s only occur in the chorus. (again as an aside - The Stride family of Dibden used to run a second-hand shop in the village here I was born)

I have heard it said that Gardiner had to find someone to replace Gamblin because his notations were "suspect."

I have to add that all this means very little to me as a non musician (just a singer!!) but I am learning and it is very interesting - at least I think so!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,Rumncoke
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 08:16 PM

I have tried to understand the theory of music and how to read dots, but I can't quite get it. I know that there are notes of a certain pitch and length and yet it never really translates into a tune.

I know that when I sing 'Sea Fever' I transpose it into a minor key, because I used to have a yacht - and now I don't, even though I live beside the sea.

The key, or perhaps it is the mode, makes all the difference. I don't know how or why, there is simply a right sound for the singer and song together.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: RTim
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 07:50 PM

So - The Button (whereever and whomever you are) - can you remember which song and singer Hammond collected from?
I will look at my Marrowbones tonight and see and if I can find what you speak of.

By the way - thanks everyone for the response thus far on this thread - Great!

Tim Radford
(Who spent a large part of today checking which keys his source singer sang in and which keys I am going to record the same song in!)


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 05:59 PM

Per Jack Campin:
"McGrath - there is an obvious difference between the tone of a string ringing its full length from the nut and one that's stopped some way up the neck with a capo. You don't need to be a guitarist to hear it. A capo is effectively a mute."

I'd argue that the truth lays somewhere in-between, but I'm leaning more towards McGrath's opinion. It's true that a capo may partially mute or muffle the fully ringing tone of a completely open string, but not nearly to the extent that a finger does. If nothing else, an un-fingered string ~ whether open all the way to the nut or just to the capoed fret ~ continues to sound between and through chord changes. A string held down by a fingertip is deadened the moment the finger ceases to fully depress it. Depending upon the player's stylistic intentions, and also his/her level of skill, the time that fingered strings remain firmly held and fully heard may be very short indeed.

I am a guitar player, of some 45+ years standing, and while I can't claim always to hear the difference between an instrument with or without a capo, nor ever to hear the key in which a piece is being played, I can very often hear the chord shapes being used for a given piece.

That is, I can often recognize the set of key-of-C guitar chords, even though I cannot be sure of the absolute pitch. The instrument may or may not be in correct tune, and may or may not be capoed at the first or second fret*, but I can recognize the C/F/G chords by their voicings/inversions, by the bass runs available to the player, and, yes, by the combination of fingered and open strings in each chord.

*If the capo is WAY up the neck, yes, of course, I can recognize that the overall pitch of the instrument is so high that a capo muct be involved.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 04:49 PM

You find something like that in Scottish transcriptions for exactly one tune: Tullochgorum. It's mixolydian but was consistently printed for 200 years in a major key signature with the flattened sevenths added as accidentals. Whereas for every *other* mixolydian tune in the repertoire, every publisher notated it the simple way. I have never found an explanation; would anybody really be tempted to sing it in major if they weren't warned?

I'd forgotten about Simon Fraser, but his changes to traditional tunes went far beyond changing the mode - fantastically Italianate ornamentation and extending the melodies to impossible ranges. His lifetime project seemed to be trying to prove that the Scottish Highlanders could take on anybody in Europe at the game of gratuitous musical complication.He never said he was recording the way specific people played or sang, though, except for his father. And for all we know his father *did* do the tunes that way.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,the button (not at work, and not at home eit
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 03:30 PM

Jack -- one of the things that Hammond did was notate a melody in D major, and then mark all the Cs as flatted. I can't give a songtitle, because I'm not in the same house as my copy of Marrowbones.

While that's accurate in one way (he notated that the singer consistently flatted the C), it suggests that he was trying to transcribe a tune in D major -- but that didn't fit cos the Cs were consistently flatted. But, to his trained ear, it was clear that the tune wasn't in E minor (i.e. the minor key with a sharp F but a flat C), but somewhere inbetween D major and E minor.

Of course, this isn't Hammond's problem -- he's up against the limits of the musical notation he was using.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 03:03 PM

McGrath - there is an obvious difference between the tone of a string ringing its full length from the nut and one that's stopped some way up the neck with a capo. You don't need to be a guitarist to hear it. A capo is effectively a mute.

Don Firth - got an **actual example** of an early song collector making the mode-correcting mistake you describe? I can't think of one and I think you're fantasizing. (People trying to notate with microtonal accuracy, as you need for the music of India or the Islamic world, is a different matter).


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 02:44 PM

I usually try about 4 or 5 different keys for each song but it's not my comfort level that I'm interested in. Too high can sound strained and too low will bore the listener.
When I'm not sure, I record it and listen.
As for the instrument... I have coal miner's fingers and never was trained in an instrument. I can pretty well play in any key but during a 3 or 4 hour gig will stick to playing in G, C. Dm & Am and capo up. I am better able to hear/feel the changes and thus able to concentrate more on my job.
There is absolutely no doubt though that the instruments sound far richer when unshackled.
As for the song... if singing is a way of enhancing the words then the more you can do to beautify the sound, the better. So I would say that choosing the right key for you and singing it as well as you can is the most important thing of all.
If the instrument of your choice is not well suited, there are always other instruments and other opportunities.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 02:16 PM

I think you misunderstood what I was saying, Jack. If you capo up and play the same chord shapes, you have the same open strings, just a bit higher, and you are of course playing in a different key.
.........................
"if you always start on a particular note, you're always singing in the same key. " But of course that note doesn't tell you what the key is, and knowing the key doesn't tell you what the start note is. It's the end note that you use to determine the key (most of the time). The start note can be just about anything, depending on the tune.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Marje
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 01:41 PM

Just to pick up on a few points:
Using a "start note" rather than identifying a key comes to the same thing for a simple melody. if you always start on a particular note, you're always singing in the same key. The difficulties stare when you're singing in harmony with others, as you may have two or more different start notes. Once you know they key and get a chord or arpeggio of that key, everyone can find their start note.

If Dylan insisted on having a harmonica in the correct key rather than tune the guitar to the harmonica, this would be because he needed to have the right key for his voice, which would otherwise have been out of its optimum range (I know he always sounded as if this was the case anyway ..)

It's got nothing to do with "Celtic tonation", which I think is a meaningless term - Riverdance etc were played/ recorded largely in the same tempered tuning as is used for most other Western music, and indeed in a more highly processed and synthetic form than much traditional music. It's fast and metronomic and loud and tuneful - there's nothing remotely mystical about it.

Marje


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:27 PM

McGrath - there is an absolutely obvious difference between playing with a capo and without: Without, there will be open strings,which have a very different sound. I am not a guitarist, can't tell the difference in tone between guitars varying a hundredfold in price, but that one sticks out a mile.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:06 PM

Wow, Don, you've just given me a really cool idea of how to sound like I know what I'm doing really when I sing a wrong note! (not that I ever do, of course) :)


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:31 PM

Often the early song collectors who actually wrote down the tunes (many of them didn't, interested only in "ancient poetry") assumed that the singers were unschooled musicians and if they heard what they thought was a "wrong note," they'd write down what they thought the note should have been. Cecil Sharp was one of the first collectors to write down the notes he actually heard.

Examining the tunes later, he made the discovery that the old ecclesiastical modes from centuries past were still alive and well and living among traditional singers. The singers were not singing "wrong notes," they were singing the notes they intended.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:29 PM

If they sound the same to me, they are the same to me. Especially when they are played on the same fret.

On a fretted instrument it obviously makes a great difference what fingerings are used, so playing in G without a capo is difference from playing in G with a capo on the third fret, using E chord shapes. But whether there is any real difference in the "TONE and COLOR and therefore EMOTION" when it's just a matter of capoing up and playing the same fingering, but in a different key - I'd question whether that is actually true.

It may possibly be for people with perfect pitch, but not for the rest of us anyway.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:16 AM

Have you actually LOOKED at what the "early song collectors" did? It's not that difficult to find published collections of field transcriptions, there is no need to guess.

Unless you are looking at sources from more than 100 years ago, the usual procedure was to notate the song in a standard key (like finalis on G) and also say what the singer's key was.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:39 AM

it's my opinion that its very unlikely that the early song collectors notated their gleanings in the key the singer used.

I base this opinion on experiences of hearing unaccompanied singers peforming in no recognisable 'true key'.

This being particularly noticeable if instrumentalists [in concert pitch] attempt accompaniment


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 09:44 PM

RTim

Your thread question is not as simple as you recently restated it.

IF you are going to do....My motives for asking the original question has to do with the project/CD I am working on at present. I am going to record a large proportion of a particular singers collected repertoise, and there are also going to be instrumental versions of the some of his other songs interleaving the unaccompanied vocals.

KEY is VITAL!!!!

......Unless this a YouTube re-mix....then anything ... who cares... "the masses are asses."

Hystograms can be used in photography, music, art, medical spectography - catscans - FBI/NSA internet profiles - etc.

For a musical analogy: 1.You take a "finger-print" of the vocal
2.You take the instrumental (any)
3.Using the vocalist you "morph" the instrumental to fit

For free usage - checkout "Garage Band"...it is simple and neat and best of all free. Expect about a 20 hour "learning curve."

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Mr. Joe Offer they are offering VERY attractive RE-signing bonuses....you may want to grab a lucrative two year before a change in the administration.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 09:26 PM

McGrath-

Flats and Sharps are NOT the same.

The Well Tempered Harpsicord/Clavichord is an example of the "Great Compromise" that came with keyboard instruments....an approximation....with only one note being "true."

A violinist - (and conductor and music theorist) understands the difference. It is a fascinating history involving the great "Three Bees".

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 09:18 PM

Rockhen - ROFL!!!


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 09:12 PM

Ahhh...

Why DID NOT Dylan have in his kit a correctly keyed harmonica?

Musicians (folk in particular) are freqently like Magicians.

So much lies in the lie of "spontaneous illusion;" it is part of the performance.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Unlike Keith Moon (who might not be relied upon to finish a live set) Dylan anticipated/excepted to have the strength to perform "curtain calls" that is why the acoustic was always available in the wings.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 09:00 PM

Does changing the Key also change the song?

It might not change the TUNE - but it can certainly affect TONE and COLOR and therefore EMOTION.

"Longfellow Seranade" (Neil Diamond) has a brillance in the Key of E (four sharps)

Sure - it could also go into the key of C.

However - there is a COLOR to E that is different than C.

It was probably the novelty of Celtic Tonation (alien/mystic/different to most American ears)that attributed to the hugely popular success of the "Irish Export" Riverdance and Lord of the Dance

The more accomplished the historian, perhaps the more the nuances of exact pitch (slides, slurs, accidentals) were noticed and recorded in notation.

Why do some guitar players use a capo? The emotion is right in another key and they lack the ability to transpose or time to retune.

Notice all the recent "Dylan documentary" ...notice also .... when going "spontanious acoustic" what harp (harmonica) he requests. His sound was distinctly different to the American ear. Frequently in the key of E. Notice also, he has performs the song in only one key, if the wrong pitch of harmonica is tossed on stage, he throws it out and tries another till the pitch to match his practice is found. He could of changed his guitar to match the harmonica (too much work). We all have our own unique comfort zones with tones.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:48 PM

"...your voice can change from day to day..." Can be worth check where your voice on the night is by singing the song unaccompanied into a guitar tuner in the car, and seeing what key you are singing it in. Then adjust your accompaniment to fit. (Thank God for capos.)


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Snuffy
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:36 PM

Getting the start note right is the important thing, and you can be thrown out by the acoustics of the room or the background noise or 1000 other factors. Two or three semitones out is not unusual for me, and it can be five or more! But depending on the tune it may not matter: When the Saints has a range of only a fifth, so if you can sing an octave and a half you can do it in all 12 keys!

Usually I can tell within the first bar or so if it's right or not, and can often "drift" the key down (or up) to the key I want. Unless some bastard decides to jump in with an accompaniment in the key I'm trying to escape from and locks me in!

One place where I sometimes have trouble is when I have learned a song from a single recorded source: I sometimes find that, despite attempts to transpose to "my" key, I have learned the tune in absolute, rather than relative pitch, and will reproduce the key of the source singer rather than my own. For instance, Mrs Costello's version of The Cruel Mother has a range of only a 6th, but I often start it in her key (an octave or two down) and end up singing it right down in my boots, struggling to reach the low notes.

It has also been mentioned above that your voice can change from day to day (or even hour to hour). My "comfortable" range is about an octave and a half from A to the D above the next A. But that A is not 440, it is the lowest note that I can comfortably hit at this moment without sounding growly. So a song that I think of as singing in D may actually be done in C or F tonight and still sound right because that's where my voice is right now.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Rockhen
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:34 PM

yum!


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:30 PM

Such as Kitekat

Could get confusing...


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Rockhen
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:25 PM

Off the thread for a second, sorry...I am IN England...maybe my ""The black notes 'feel' nicer on a piano as they are all smooth and a little like kitkats (which are a chocolate snack ...in case they are native to Britain!)wasn't clear. I merely explained what Kitkats were IN CASE they are not sold elsewhere and people thought they were catfood or something... :-)


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 07:54 PM

Ahhh....the simplicity of statements like Trevor's is music to me ears.... :)


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 07:44 PM

My point was that sharp keys and flat keys are the same keys with different names.

Doesn't matter whether you call it Bflat or Asharp I still won't choose it to play in. Or rather I'd use a capo.

But nothing wrong with playing in F. It's a lovely key to play a guitar in, with my favourite relative minor.

..............

"The black notes 'feel' nicer on a piano as they are all smooth and a little like kitkats (which are a chocolate snack ...in case they are native to Britain!)" No need to explain. KitKats were invented in England. Glad to hear they apparently caught on in America.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 05:47 PM

So ~ that fact that I've always had the most trouble tuning up my guitar's B string indicates that I have a good ear?

Nice to know that...


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 05:35 PM

We never really know/bother what specific key we are singing in.
However, we have a start note and sometimes, for some songs, it takes quite a while to determine that note. Some of this is a "Range" issue, some is not. A difference of a semi-tone sometimes makes a song sound/feel right to us (3 of us Sop Alto Tenor in choral range) I wish I knew why. What the correct start note does though, which I can explain is "I don't get really dirty looks from the Alto"
Would someone who knows these things like to address the differences of major and minor key sounds, cos that does make a difference.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: GUEST,highlandman
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 02:04 PM

Great thread!
As an organist and amateur tuner/builder I get into tuning technology quite heavily. The historical aspect of it -- particularly that equal temperament was a theoretical pipe dream until the dawn of electronic tuning -- is fascinating and worth some googling.
My church's organ is kept in a historical, non-equal temperament, and believe me there is a difference between keys there!
One thing I would point out to my fellow guitarists: keep in mind that the fretted guitar is a bastard instrument, fretted on an approximately equal temperament but usually tuned string-to-string as if it were "just" intonation. That's why some people with sensitive ears futz with their guitars so much. Which is not to say that someone who doesn't tinker with the tuning on stage has a bad ear -- many guitarists learn, through experience, how to quickly "temper" the string-to-string tuning to get away from, for example, the nasty sharp open b-string effect.
Cheers
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 01:45 PM

The original question is about unaccompanied singing?

Why on earth do you even need to know what the key is when you're singing unaccompanied? Just sing it how you want. Just don't start too high/too low if the song contains notes that you might struggle to reach.

You only need to think about keys if you're playing with other people.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Jess A
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 01:32 PM

my 10p worth in relation to the original question - I'd agree with others here that key mainly affects instrumentation and vocal ranges so it varies from one person or band to another and that is what is most important. As a member of a band singing (some of the time) in close unaccompanied harmony I'm constatntly amazed by how moving something by as little as a semitone seems to affect our mutual vocal comfort zone.

as far as collecting from traditional performers is concerned, I struggle to believe that they weren't affected by the same stuff as we are now - so would have picked the key that suited them. And I agree, collectors may not have notated in actual key sung,

Does it matter if it is changed? surely not!
Does changing the Key also change the song? no, I don't think so....

...that said, I used to have a theory while spending time as a student busking on solo fiddle that people in the street gave more money for tunes played in G major than for D major. No idea why - I speculated that culturally maybe people were predisposed to find G major happier. Although it could have been to do with pitch - maybe higher pitched or lower pitched worked better to cut through busy street noise. I never did invest the time to do a proper scientific experiment (I was studying maths & statistics at then time so was thinking about it in quite a geeky way) but I'd have been interested to try it, with the same tune in different keys, to see if in the long term it really did work out that some keys were better money makers. Of course, I would have had to consider other factors like geographical area etc as well otherwise I wouldn't have really been able to generalise my results outside of the towns I normally frequented. But, alas, I never did collect the data and am far too busy these days to spend the time doing the busking.


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 01:31 PM

"Woodwinds and brass instruments are easier to play in flat keys. Strings are easier in sharp keys.

But all flat keys are also sharp keys, just with a different name. I mean B-flat is A sharp and so forth."

That's not the point, Kevin. Let me put it this way:   since a guitar is a stringed instrument, are you happier playing in G, D, A, and E than you are in F, Bb, Eb, or Ab? (And no, no capo allowed.)

It's because of the fingering. Fingerings in sharp keys on the guitar are easier than they are in flat keys. Among other things, once you get into flat keys on the guitar, you have fewer and fewer open strings available and you're lumbered with a lot of barre chords.

The same kind of fingering considerations apply to other stringed instruments. Easier to play in keys with sharps in the key signatures. A similar situation applies to brass and woodwind instruments. The fingerings are easier in keys with flats in the key signatures. It is a characteristic of the mechanics of the particular instruments in question.

The fact that if you wanted to play a Bb or an A# you would play the same fret or press the same key on a clarinet is totally irrelevant to what I am saying.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: RTim
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:47 AM

Anybody got anymore to add particularly about singing unaccompanied - which was the real question to begin with?

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:41 AM

It was my mum's mum's - which we got from here - and now my brother took it 20 years ago and had it repoloished and retuned....


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:21 AM

he stretched your piano......!


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:15 AM

Foolestroupe - I think your piano might need tuning again by now!!

Phil


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Subject: RE: How much difference does the Key make?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:01 AM

"Equal temperament is NOT based on C and can't have anything to do with it."
"Pianos are never really tuned to equal temperament. Look up "stretch tuning", "

Well the piano tuner who visited us in the 1960s claimed it was 'equal', but he did it by hand, counting beats and 'stretching'... and he DID it in C.... :-)



You see the real answer to the original question partly depends on what instrument....


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