#1
When it comes to composing, (instrumental purposes) what makes you decide to be in that key?
#2
If you're singing, choose the key that best suits your singers voice. This is so the singing melody doesn't get too high or too low for your singer.

If you're writing for another monophonic instrument, pick the key that the instrument is in (IE, Bb or Eb for Sax's/trumpets/trombones, C for Clarinets).

If you're writing for stringed instruments and instruments with a big range, Pick a key that would cause that instrument to play on the higher end of their instrument (but not too high). You'd barely see a violinist play only his bass notes.

If you're writing electronic, pick the key that your original noodlings are in.
#3
Since I mainly compose for Guitar/Ukulele, I try to write in a key I haven't used lately. I can always adjust with a capo to fit my voice later on.
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#4
To demonofthenight:
^ Monophonic only means the instrument can only play single notes at a time.
A trumpet and trombone and clarinet can play in any key. The fact that they can only play single notes does not mean they are set in a certain key.

I cant say for a sax as I do not know. Although saxes in orchestra played with me in various keys so im not sure thats correct either.
#5
Quote by /-\liceNChains
To demonofthenight:
^ Monophonic only means the instrument can only play single notes at a time.
Well I've never heard a single trumpet, voice or sax play more than one note at a time. Yep, monophonic is what I meant.
Quote by /-\liceNChains
A trumpet and trombone and clarinet can play in any key. The fact that they can only play single notes does not mean they are set in a certain key.
I know, but most monophonic instruments can play one key better than all other keys. It just so happens that tenor sax's are easier to play in Bbmajor. Yes, I know sax's can play all twelve notes over 2 octaves.
But when a guy is writing for saxs specifically he writes most of his stuff in Eb or Bb or F or Ab, or some other key which is similar.

You have to make your stuff as easy to play as possible.

For some reason, most polyphonic instruments (guitar, piano and so on) can play most keys as easily as any other key (although Eb is hard to play in for some guitarists).
#6
If composing with guitar, bass and drums, its best to stick to a key that complements the singer's voice. Bb is a good key for male singers with an average baritone voice (which is the majority of adult men). Naturally, the more flexible your singer, the more keys are open to you.
#7
Quote by demonofthenight
Well I've never heard a single trumpet, voice or sax play more than one note at a time. Yep, monophonic is what I meant.
I know, but most monophonic instruments can play one key better than all other keys. It just so happens that tenor sax's are easier to play in Bbmajor. Yes, I know sax's can play all twelve notes over 2 octaves.
But when a guy is writing for saxs specifically he writes most of his stuff in Eb or Bb or F or Ab, or some other key which is similar.

You have to make your stuff as easy to play as possible.

For some reason, most polyphonic instruments (guitar, piano and so on) can play most keys as easily as any other key (although Eb is hard to play in for some guitarists).

You really want to make your stuff sound the best. You do of course need to make sure that the person playing it can play it but think about it, is every piece written for piano in C major?

Also, if you are writing for groups of instruments, eg. an orchestra, then you cannot always suit everyone.

Your rules aren't bad but I would call them guidelines, because you definitely don't have to, for example, write clarinet pieces in C major.

And about your thing about using the higher notes of a voilin ect. - this wouldn't really affect key choice. And if you were thinking about pitches there is no reason why you can't utilize low notes when playing the violin, and there is no reason why you have to play high notes. Generally, the lower the string the nicer the tone is on a violin, so if whoever is playing it cannot play in very high positions then low notes would be a good idea.
#8
Many prominents (scriabin, rimsky-korsakov, others) assert that different keys have colours.

I agree and reading about scriabin's colours was sort of a "wait, not everybody hears like this?" thing.


So you can choose that way.
#9
Well I just noodle for ideas. Sometimes I shift key's for practical use. For instance if I wanna use open strings.

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#10
for metal you probably want to use the key of your lowest string for pedal tones and ease of use with the low e/ whatever it is in your tuning.

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#11
Quote by metallicafan616
for metal you probably want to use the key of your lowest string for pedal tones and ease of use with the low e/ whatever it is in your tuning.
That's ridiculous. Mindless E string rape is stupid and doesn't sound good. I'm not saying that one should never write in E, but to base ones entire method of songwriting on the lowest string on the guitar is asinine.
#12
Quote by bangoodcharlote
That's ridiculous. Mindless E string rape is stupid and doesn't sound good. I'm not saying that one should never write in E, but to base ones entire method of songwriting on the lowest string on the guitar is asinine.


It is however typical of the metal genre. (and actually it can sound pretty cool)
btw he said "key of the lowest string", which isn't necessarily E. nowadays its often D or C.
Like it or not "mindless E string rape" is a staple of the metal genre.


to answer the TS's question:

are generally right in the key that I'm hearing it in. depending on the situation ( instrumentation considerations, vocal range......ect) I may adjust the key.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Dec 15, 2008,
#14
Quote by bangoodcharlote
It's not as pervasive as some would like you to believe.


I wouldn't want to make you believe anything in particular. it's a simple fact that " mindless E String rape" is very very pervasive in metal music.

I think you're just being defensive about it because you're into metal. I happen to like alot of metal as well, but I can't deny the fact that a hell of a lot of it revolves around a muted open string. that's an integral part of the style. that doesn't mean that a lot of those players aren't capable of doing more ( most are and show it), it's just that that's part of the style and they tend conform to it. Personally, I don't see it as a negative thing. it's just a stylistic trait.

it would be interesting to take a look at every single Metallica song, and get some sort of statistic on how many of the songs utilize "open E string rapage". My personal guess is that it would be 80% or more. Then consider how many bands are influenced by Metallica. They took the muted open E string rapage concept to the extreme, and thanks to them so does practically every other modern metal band.

Because of this I think Metallicafan's comment is completely valid.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Dec 15, 2008,
#15
I try and mix up the keys I write songs, i've even noticed that i've had too many songs in A minor, or E minor.. and purposly changed the key of a song or two

Bands that stick to one key, or even two keys start to sound the simular in every song after a while, imo
#16
Quote by Peaceful Rocker
I try and mix up the keys I write songs

Bands that stick to one key start to sound the same every song
Agreed. Whenever I make mix CDs to stick in my car, I make sure no two consecutive songs are in the same key or at least the ending of the first end and the beginning of the second.
#17
What if a composer wrote a guitar only piece that would also be playable on other major scales - why would the composer choose that specific key whereas there are many other key options to go by? Does it all basically come down to personal preference in sound and positioning of notes?
#20
Thanks guys, sorry for my ignorance I'm slowly getting there.
#21
Quote by Nick_
Many prominents (scriabin, rimsky-korsakov, others) assert that different keys have colours.

I agree and reading about scriabin's colours was sort of a "wait, not everybody hears like this?" thing.


So you can choose that way.


Though there seems to be no consensus as to what colors to associate with what key.

I do believe different keys can bring different moods, but much more in unequal temperaments.
#22
I honestly can't tell the mood difference between different keys. If that's the case, what if I transposed my song 243 cents downwards instead of 200 cents (2 semitones) or 300 cents (3 semitones), will I get a radically new sound? I doubt it.

This myth that different keys had different moods and sounds came from the time when music was based around vocals, which have always been sung in just intonation. Back then most organs/harpsichords (the instruments people used to write) were tuned to just intonation with respect to the C major scale. This meant some keys sounded really off (I would imagine C# would).

Pick your key so it's easiest to play for most instruments. I doubt it's a coincidence that most of my bands jazz songs are arranged in Bb. After that, it really doesn't matter.
#23
When you have perfect pitch or semi-perfect pitch (I have the latter, as do many), you can hear the difference between keys. It matters to me if I write in B or D or F# (it's not coincidence that those notes make a Bm triad, though it means nothing aside from that).

Edit: I'll have to discuss this with someone in the psych department, but do you guys think synesthesia could yield de facto perfect pitch? I clearly remember watching a video in class about a guy who ate chicken and ice cream every night because those flavors tasted like green and white and he was a big NY Jets fan or something. Could you hear C as red and then figure out the other notes from that?
Last edited by bangoodcharlote at Dec 15, 2008,
#24
Quote by bangoodcharlote
When you have perfect pitch or semi-perfect pitch (I have the latter, as do many), you can hear the difference between keys. It matters to me if I write in B or D or F# (it's not coincidence that those notes make a Bm triad, though it means nothing aside from that).

Edit: I'll have to discuss this with someone in the psych department, but do you guys think synesthesia could yield de facto perfect pitch? I clearly remember watching a video in class about a guy who ate chicken and ice cream every night because those flavors tasted like green and white and he was a big NY Jets fan or something. Could you hear C as red and then figure out the other notes from that?
I can hear the difference and I can usually pick a key from a song just by listening to it, but I can't hear C major as jolly and D minor as somber. It just doesn't come to me.

And yeah, the way alot of pefect pitch guys distinguish notes is that each individual note has a colour or a feeling. Well the way I do it is I just guess and somehow I get the notes right 90% of the time. Good enough for me.
Honestly, people who don't think they have semi-perfect pitch, just get someone (or the computer, there's programs on the internet) to play a random note and see how many you can guess right. You'd be suprised.

I've tried to force my mind in thinking in synesthesia, but so far I can only decern whole melodies as colours. Like that temple song in zelda sounds dark orange to me. Or alot of jazz songs sound light purple, green and tomato red to me. This is more of an aesthetics thing than an ability, surely.

I'd probably only get true synesthesia if I became brain damaged some how (A really bad hit in the head? Stroke? No idea, I suck at psychology truth be told) or took alot of acid/shrooms (more than I'd want to take). Both of which I don't particularily want to do.

Yeah, we're getting off topic here...
#25
Quote by bangoodcharlote
When you have perfect pitch or semi-perfect pitch (I have the latter, as do many), you can hear the difference between keys. It matters to me if I write in B or D or F# (it's not coincidence that those notes make a Bm triad, though it means nothing aside from that).

Edit: I'll have to discuss this with someone in the psych department, but do you guys think synesthesia could yield de facto perfect pitch? I clearly remember watching a video in class about a guy who ate chicken and ice cream every night because those flavors tasted like green and white and he was a big NY Jets fan or something. Could you hear C as red and then figure out the other notes from that?


As to what you said about synesthesia, you probably are right. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was reputed to have Synesthesia, and he did associate each and every key with a specific colour.


As to a key having a certain mood or feeling, however, I do believe it has more to do with tuning than anything else. Post-Classical music, through the Romantic period to the modern day uses an equal tempered tuning system that effectively abolished those moods in keys. But before that when musicians used certain well tempered tuning systems different moods were associated with different keys; especially in the Baroque period. And different musicians had different ways to tune their instruments for certain keys to evoke certain moods. Unfortunately our modern ears aren't accustomed to this and those subtle differences in tuning might not have the effect, however we do definitely detect those differences. Which is why the major third between the g string and b string sound better when slightly flat. I.e. in just intonation, a real authentic third. My point, play around with tuning. At random at first but as soon you start picking out subtle differences use them and stick to them. You might not make d minor the saddest key but you certainly will be able to make a d minor sound significantly different to say, an a minor. -shrug- Just some food for thought, I guess.
#26
I didn't realize I was mildly synaesthetic for a long time; it seemed perfectly normal. It's not really a direct association (note = colour) but a fray of the boundaries between my senses - to me there's an overlap between elements of what I see (movement and colour) and sounds. I get it with language as well, more spoken, but written too (varies by author. Cormac McCarthy is almost overwhelming)


I don't think I'd be able to use it for absolute pitch; if I try to focus in it disappears and becomes again plain. My pitch is mostly based on my vocal range - I know where I am by feel.


Reading about Scriabin really made sense to me and I'd already come to some of the conclusions of key / colour that he had. Your mileage may vary and the usual disclaimers.
#27
Quote by Nick_
I didn't realize I was mildly synaesthetic for a long time; it seemed perfectly normal. It's not really a direct association (note = colour) but a fray of the boundaries between my senses - to me there's an overlap between elements of what I see (movement and colour) and sounds. I get it with language as well, more spoken, but written too (varies by author. Cormac McCarthy is almost overwhelming)


I don't think I'd be able to use it for absolute pitch; if I try to focus in it disappears and becomes again plain. My pitch is mostly based on my vocal range - I know where I am by feel.


Reading about Scriabin really made sense to me and I'd already come to some of the conclusions of key / colour that he had. Your mileage may vary and the usual disclaimers.



Remember, there is a huge difference between Synesthesia and simple association? You can associate a color to a key, or a mood to a song, or, again, key, but that's just cultural and personal experience influencing an intuitive process. Synesthesia, you can see colors. In front of you, around you. I guess it's different for most people. When you say it varies by author I'm tempted to think it might be simple association, but then again, I'm no expert, and I'm sure it's possible? Seems a bit too complex for something as bestial as synesthesia, though. Do you actually see colors? Can you explain and recreate the exact shade of it to a certain degree of accuracy?
#28
I don't know about recreate, but I'm fairly sure you do see colors because of a taste or a sound. I find it hard to believe that if you always see red or green or yellow or, well I won't throw a crazy girl color at you and I'll just leave it at the colors of traffic lights, but if you consistantly saw certain notes as certain colors, I find it hard to believe that you couldn't do this. It's kind of hard to confuse red and green.
#29
Quote by bangoodcharlote
I don't know about recreate, but I'm fairly sure you do see colors because of a taste or a sound. I find it hard to believe that if you always see red or green or yellow or, well I won't throw a crazy girl color at you and I'll just leave it at the colors of traffic lights, but if you consistantly saw certain notes as certain colors, I find it hard to believe that you couldn't do this. It's kind of hard to confuse red and green.



Oh believe my, Synesthetics can recreate a color to a very very exact shade. Listening to a note over and over again or whatever form sense yields to your synesthesia you get to be very familiar shade and exact color. I know a synesthetic who doesn't not have perfect pitch, per say, but she can color in what she hears very accurately. What's even more amazing is that her shade changes, somewhat if a note is out of tune. -shrug- I have strong synesthesia myself, for something incredibly useless though. =( Man, would sure be cool if I could 'see' some Debussy's music.
#31
Quote by bangoodcharlote
I meant recreating it without an outside stimulus.



Again, it is very possible. The same way you could probably recreate the shade of anything you see 241343 times a day.
#32
Is there a difference? To me there's just not really a difference between them all; I don't often have intense, "direct" associations but it's more like there exists entities, each of which can be uniquely represented by colour, sound, movement, word, everything; and when I get one, I get the rest as well.

I've never been diagnosed with anything, all I know is from what I've read (after realizing that it wasn't usual, still a useless self-diagnosis) and the fact that too often when I try to explain how I experienced something (recently: a contemporary dance piece performed in silence) most people get very, very confused.
#33
Quote by Nick_
I didn't realize I was mildly synaesthetic for a long time; it seemed perfectly normal. It's not really a direct association (note = colour) but a fray of the boundaries between my senses - to me there's an overlap between elements of what I see (movement and colour) and sounds. I get it with language as well, more spoken, but written too (varies by author. Cormac McCarthy is almost overwhelming)


I don't think I'd be able to use it for absolute pitch; if I try to focus in it disappears and becomes again plain. My pitch is mostly based on my vocal range - I know where I am by feel.


Reading about Scriabin really made sense to me and I'd already come to some of the conclusions of key / colour that he had. Your mileage may vary and the usual disclaimers.
I envy you. It must be like tripping mildly for your whole life. Might be a bit distracting, but it's surely a fun ability.
#34
Quote by Nick_
Is there a difference? To me there's just not really a difference between them all; I don't often have intense, "direct" associations but it's more like there exists entities, each of which can be uniquely represented by colour, sound, movement, word, everything; and when I get one, I get the rest as well.

I've never been diagnosed with anything, all I know is from what I've read (after realizing that it wasn't usual, still a useless self-diagnosis) and the fact that too often when I try to explain how I experienced something (recently: a contemporary dance piece performed in silence) most people get very, very confused.



Nick, you're just very creative and you look at things differently. Cliched phrasing, but that is what probably most apts describe your situation. Look, synesthesia is strong, it is very strong. IT can be stronger sometimes, but it is always strong. I can describe Mozart's 29th using shades of pink, and certain Frenchman can describe certain wine using the smell and texture of leather shoes. I do not mean to be presumptuous in any way, but perhaps you simply lack the vocabulary to express what your mind truly perceives? A person who doesn't know what a conjunct or disjunct melody would probably describe the two as being smooth as velvet, or very rough -insert boring metaphore here-. It's just a way expressing one sense using a different sense. Believe me far more worthwhile than synesthesia. Think of it this way, if you're synesthetic, you'd see colors or whatever but you'd have no way of recreating it. But if you can feel music enough to visualize it, you can visualize it enough to make music. Synesthesia is irrational and works at a very primitive level that is honestly of no use other than perhaps amuse yourself at the various anomalies you encounter.
#35
ok ... I can live that way, it doesn't really matter what it's called to me.

My original point was that the key / colour thing made sense to me and should maybe not be ignored as a good way to choose key. Maybe we should return to it?
#36
BGC, earlier you were saying my idea was wrong, but i didn't once mention mindless e string rape. i meant to use that because its the lowest key you can play and would make things lot easier to write heavy

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost