#1
Whats the difference in say G Major and A Major i know different notes but whats deeper then that. What goes into picking to key to play in whats the characteristics of the keys of why exactly you pick it? Do they each have a different sound like modes do or what?
#2
For me, I tend to play in keys that allow me to use open strings because it opens up my playing.

I do feel like sharp keys tend to make the guitar resonate a little more, especially on my acoustic. But maybe that is just me. A friend of mine who plays cello says that certain keys make his cello resonate more as well. Probably has something to do with the way these instruments are tuned.
#3
All keys sound identical. Different instruments will take different keys differently because of how they sit in their range. Singers are the biggest example of this. They'll pick whatever key that works best because their voice is so affected by range. There's also a convenience which is why a lot of guitar music is in E A D for the open strings whereas jazz is more often in F Bb Eb because of the horns' fingerings.
#4
Well, there is no real big difference other than the pitch. People pick keys depending on the range of instruments involved, frequency response of equipment, the tone they're going for, the style they're playing, limitations of singers etc. Like ouchies said, sometimes particular pitches or frequencies resonate particularly well with an instrument.

I'm assuming you know the difference between parallel and relative keys.
#5
It depends who is answering the question. It is not a settled discussion.

Some people will tell you that because the relationships between the notes are the same even though the keys centres are different they are the same.

Other people will tell you that different keys sound different. That although they have the same relative structure they each have a slightly different feel and that taking a piece of music and transposing it to a different key has a slightly different feel to it.

Personally, I am of the second opinion.
#6
Where the inversions you want are, and what degrees the open strings happen to be. If you want to play a ii7 it will sound a bit different timbre-wise if you play it rooted on the 'A' string on the B near the nut, or on the F. The strings will have different tension and different sustain etc. My favourite location to play on, is up around the 5th-10th fret kind of area, for some reason, so I might want my tonic chord to be Em, or Am, depending on what place I want to be for which sorts of inversions I want for whatever piece. It's not a huge deal to me, and I do use the whole fretboard, but it is a difference. A bit in terms of sound and also just what the shapes and patterns are for what you're playing. Apart from that, basically only to accommodate a voice or instrument.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Nov 7, 2014,
#7
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
All keys sound identical. Different instruments will take different keys differently because of how they sit in their range. Singers are the biggest example of this. They'll pick whatever key that works best because their voice is so affected by range. There's also a convenience which is why a lot of guitar music is in E A D for the open strings whereas jazz is more often in F Bb Eb because of the horns' fingerings.

this is how it is for me. I mean I've got my acoustic tuned to C Standard because it suits my singing register better, and I can always capo up if I need to. But I mean that's only for guitar. Piano it really doesn't matter, except maybe I prefer playing in Bb more than Db you know, so it's just familiarity and preference really, and yeah what suits the instrument better.
#9
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Piano players love Db. I guess it's how the diatonic pitches fall under the fingers.


I don't think this is universally true really. None of the Oscar Peterson songs I ever learned were in that key, and that is definitely not my favourite key. That key uses all the black keys.

This can be cool for some things, but it's definitely not my favourite key. Idk why, but I really like F for some reason. One thing about the white keys is you can slide down them, so that can be cool for stuff in C, or F or G with 0 or 1 black key.

There are upsides and downsides for a lot of keys, definitely for piano, the layout/ergonomics of the keys makes a much bigger difference for selecting a key, but I've not heard of Db being a common favourite key, and for sure it is not one of my favourites. Pretty far down that list for me.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Nov 7, 2014,
#10
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Piano players love Db. I guess it's how the diatonic pitches fall under the fingers.


I wouldn't label myself as a Piano player, but Db is terrible to play. Ab is my favorite.
#11
Quote by Will Lane
I wouldn't label myself as a Piano player, but Db is terrible to play. Ab is my favorite.


Ya, Ab is still 4 of the 5 black keys, but I still find it quite nice for some reason.
#12
Unless you have a perfect pitch, it shouldn't matter that much.

But I think there are slight differences between keys. Sometimes a song sounds better when it's played a bit higher or lower. I don't notice a difference between A and Bb. But if the same song is played a sixth higher, there is a difference. The sound does change a bit. It sounds brighter. Also, some chords played low may sound a bit muddy and playing them higher makes them clearer. Sometimes you want to use a certain voicing but in a certain key it sounds too muddy and if you play it an octave higher it just sounds too high. And that's when playing it in a different key makes sense. But it depends on the instrument.

But yeah, basically you choose the key to fit the singer's vocal range. And if there is no singer, you may want to pick a key that is easy to play for the instruments you are using. If there are only guitars, you may not want to write the song in Eb minor (unless the guitar tunes a half step down) because guitarists like open string keys (E, A, D, G or B). If there are brass instruments, you may not want to write the song in E major because brass instruments don't like sharp keys. F major or Eb major would be a better idea.

But yeah, when I write songs, I may hear a note and start from the pitch I hear. Sometimes I just play something on a guitar and it starts the song. And that also defines the key. I just start it from somewhere and that's it. I don't overthink it (because I don't see a point in that). And if there is a riff, it is usually easiest to play in a certain key. So I may use that key.
#13
I thought that maybe I was going crazy, but I asked a piano player and he confirmed that Db is one of the easiest keys to play in. So I win. He also likes Ab and E.
#16
i remember one of my teachers telling the sharp tonalities tend to feel brighter, opposite for tonalities with a lot of flatted notes
#18
Quote by SuperKid
i remember one of my teachers telling the sharp tonalities tend to feel brighter, opposite for tonalities with a lot of flatted notes

But what about F# major and Gb major? Gb major has lots of flats, F# major has lots of sharps. So does it sound bright or not? Oh and it's the same with Cb and B, and C# and Db. I would say that's just BS.

But yeah, seeing sharps may make you think "bright" so it may affect your playing or something. That may be a reason for that.

Also, what if somebody is tuned to Eb? Then his E major is actually Eb major. So will it sound bright or not?

My point is, 440Hz = A is not a fact. It's just one of the tuning systems (and there are things like Bb, Eb, F, Db, whatever instruments that have a different A note - they are called "transposing instruments"). We have just decided that A is 440Hz. But what if we used some other tuning system? Would sharp keys still feel bright? "Sharp keys" only exist because of notation.

As I said, the way the key looks on paper may affect the way people play it. For example on strings you can change the intonation really easily (because there are no frets). And maybe when they see flats, the play the notes a bit flat or something. Just my guess (if we assume your teacher is right about his statement, which I doubt).
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Nov 8, 2014,
#19
In terms of pitch, unless you have perfect pitch, ever key is the same. Anyone stating otherwise, must be referring to music made from alternate tuning systems, and not equal temperament.

Timbre, physical configuration, accommodating instruments and stuff like that is pertinent for equal temperament.

I also noticed that on guitar I tend to like the keys that line up nicely with the dots for some reason. So G, A, C, D is not bad, E is not bad etc... Not a big deal, but I do tend to prefer those I think, for A string or E string roots.
#20
Quote by MaggaraMarine

As I said, the way the key looks on paper may affect the way people play it. For example on strings you can change the intonation really easily (because there are no frets). And maybe when they see flats, the play the notes a bit flat or something. Just my guess (if we assume your teacher is right about his statement, which I doubt).

personally, i don't hear a difference between keys so I agree with you. Maybe he started associating things and seeing patterns after learning a huge repertoire, playing countless gigs, etc
#21
No difference, but sometimes something sounds better in a lower or higher pitch. It changes the timbres a little. And playing the same thing twice in different keys causes it to sound fresher again later in the song (I'm not talking only about the last chorus whole step up thing)
#22
I think there are subtle differences. For example if you are in Drop D Tuning and you play a song that's supposed to be in Drop C, you miss out on a lot of the low frequencies and can really change the feel of the song.
There's something about those low notes particularly. Maybe its evolutionary leftovers from a time when we had to distinguish between a lion and a really big lion.
#23
^ Yeah a lion playing in drop C is one you really need to have a healthy respect for.
#24
Harmonically things stay the same, but in actual sound output, then yes things differ. Sometimes a lot sometimes a little.

It's a fact, just take a sound in a DAW and go down in pitch, and see the frequency shape change on a spectrum analyzer. It depends on the listener if he's caught by this or not.

Some find hearing the pitch difference is all that matters, others are more affected by timbre changes.

No need to make this harder then needed just for the sake of arguing.
Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Nov 9, 2014,
#25
Quote by mattousley
What goes into picking to key to play in whats the characteristics of the keys of why exactly you pick it?

Um...I think you mean why do people pick certain keys. It's actually mostly arbitrary. "I like how this progression in A minor sounds" or "This melody in G major is cool".

Do they each have a different sound like modes do or what?

No. Not really. All major keys have similar tonal characteristics, and all minor keys have similar tonal characteristics. Of course, they sound different, but they're not really that different.
#26
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
(a) Um...I think you mean why do people pick certain keys. It's actually mostly arbitrary. "I like how this progression in A minor sounds" or "This melody in G major is cool".


(b) No. Not really. All major keys have similar tonal characteristics, and all minor keys have similar tonal characteristics. Of course, they sound different, but they're not really that different.


(a) Sort of depends on your definition of arbitrary (don't worry, I know what you mean and agree with you). I'd guess most often it either comes down to how easy it is to play on the instrument it's intended to be played on, the instrument's range, and/or the vocalist's range. Sometimes with heavier guitar stuff it'll be tuned down to make it sound heavier, though. And that does seem to make at least a bit of a difference.

(b) Yeah. If you don't have perfect pitch and someone plays something to you you're probably only really going to be able to tell if it's major or minor, not what exact specific key it is.

(Though as I said above, the actual key can affect how it sounds almost subconsciously, like heavier metal tones being tuned down to sound more br00tal.)
#27
^ Yeah. Somebody with a perfect pitch could tell "this song is in the key of C major" without trying it first on an instrument. This doesn't mean people without perfect pitch couldn't hear any differences between different keys. As I said earlier, I'm sure everybody can hear a difference between different octaves. And if you can hear a difference between different octaves, why couldn't you hear the difference between different keys, at least keys that are pretty far away from each other? For example if you transpose the song a major sixth up, I'm sure it will sound a bit different. Of course the melody wouldn't change. But you would notice that it is played higher than usually.
#29
Quote by Dave_Mc
(a) Sort of depends on your definition of arbitrary (don't worry, I know what you mean and agree with you). I'd guess most often it either comes down to how easy it is to play on the instrument it's intended to be played on, the instrument's range, and/or the vocalist's range. Sometimes with heavier guitar stuff it'll be tuned down to make it sound heavier, though. And that does seem to make at least a bit of a difference.

Well, yeah. A lot of metal or hard rock, for instance, is in whatever key the lowest string is tuned to. This is simply because they use the E5 or D5 or whatever-5 powerchord as a lot of the basis for their "main riff". Or maybe the key is whatever the 2nd lowest string is, so maybe A or G or whatever. It makes it easier to use that open string for palm muting and such.

(b) Yeah. If you don't have perfect pitch and someone plays something to you you're probably only really going to be able to tell if it's major or minor, not what exact specific key it is.

Yeah, at least at first hearing. I don't have perfect pitch, but I can listen and eventually figure out the "home note". It takes me a fair bit, though.
#30
yeah.

and yeah i dunno if i could figure out the "home note" without some reference. if it's a guitar piece I might be able to suspect it's downtuned or whatever, but I couldn't say for sure "That's in E" etc.