#1
ok so i was wondering what is meant when ppl refer to instruments as being of a specific key. I play guitar, bass, drums, flute/piccolo, piano and saxophone... and ive noticed all of these instruments are 'suited' to a specific key.... (except drums obv)

for example, i play Eb alto saxophone

what does the Eb mean? usually when i compose songs involving multiple instruments, i just use the same note for each instrument, like if im doing a harmony part, its A on sax, A on piano...

so can any1 explain why diff instruments have like keys associated with them?

this is like the one theory question i rlly just havent learned yet

thx
Quote by britneyspears69
I got my first guitar recently and people are telling me to get pickups. I don't get it. What do they do? Do they help you when you drop your pick?
#2
Eb is the open tuning I think?

Eb = E flat.
I don't remember where I was,
When I realized life was a game.
The more seriously I took things,
The harder the rules became.
#3
Equal temperament refers to the propensity of fixed-pitch instruments (Piano = Each string is one specific frequency. Guitar = Each fret is one specific frequency. As opposed to variable-pitch instruments, like those with sound chambers and those that aren't fretted. With one of those, your ombreture [think that's the word] effects the pitch, so it's rare that the same exact frequency will be hit twice.) to "divide" the octave into twelve equal steps. A A# B C C# D D# E F G G# A. Each one is an equal distance from the other one, right? One fret on guitar, one key on keyboard... well, in traditional music they're not. Through math you can see that a perfect fourth from B is actually slightly different from E, though you play it as that in terms of scales or chords.

Basically, a keyed instrument is able to play the notes in that key perfectly. Those are the only ones that are absolutely 100% in tune (assuming the instrument is tuned correctly). All other keys are slightly (but equally) out of tune, which is why some people interpret different keys as sounding different.

"It's in D.... Minor. Which I generally find is the saddest of all keys, people just weep instantly when they hear it."
My Gear
Ibanez RG7321
Ibanez RG520QS
'78 Ibanez Les Paul copy
Schecter Hellraiser Tempest
Fender Telecaster
Vantage Semihollow
Line6 AX2 212 combo modeling amplifier
#4
Im not sure why its done this way, but something like a trumpet which is a Bb instrument will play their base not of C, but in reality it is a Bb
#5
it's a way of organizing instuments to play the same set of 7 notes (usually). as u know there are flats and sharps u end up with 12 different pitches... im not that great leave it to Hammer and Sickle. hes better educated than i am. spinal tap ftw =)
I sure could use a vacation from this bullshit three-ring circus sideshow world.


Ibanez RG2 EX1 (Black)
Line 6 Spider II 75w
Sekova Mandolin
Team Custom Traditional 4 string bass
Yamaha E403 keyboard
My Last.fm
Myspace
#6
It means that when you play what you consider C on your Sax, you are actually playing Eb. It is done this way so the musical notation can be easy, but the sax can sound like it's in Eb rather than C. You can still play in any key, but the composer has to be aware that if he writes C on an Eb Sax player's music, he'll actually hear an Eb.
#7
^Those are transposing instruments, I believe.
My Gear
Ibanez RG7321
Ibanez RG520QS
'78 Ibanez Les Paul copy
Schecter Hellraiser Tempest
Fender Telecaster
Vantage Semihollow
Line6 AX2 212 combo modeling amplifier
#8
Quote by HammerAndSickle
^Those are transposing instruments, I believe.
I'm not familiar with that term, but I answered the question. Equal tempered tuning does not apply here; every modern instrument uses it and I don't know of any exceptions. The tuning is what makes A# and Bb the same rather than a few hertz different.

An Eb sax has that same property. The only thing is that when an Eb sax plays what is written in sax music as C, the note heard is Eb. This is done for reasons described earlier.
#9
Quote by bangoodcharlote
I'm not familiar with that term, but I answered the question. Equal tempered tuning does not apply here; every modern instrument uses it and I don't know of any exceptions. The tuning is what makes A# and Bb the same rather than a few hertz different.

An Eb sax has that same property. The only thing is that when an Eb sax plays what is written in sax music as C, the note heard is Eb. This is done for reasons described earlier.


I thought it was done due to ease of playing different instruments in the same family. The fingering on a soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, etc... are all the same as each other when reading the same music, only it will sound higher or lower.
#10
The "default" key is C, which means that an Eb instrument sounds a minor third(distance between C and Eb) higher than written. So if you're writing something in the key of C and you need a part for and you're writing something for an alto sax or whatever, you'd write their part in A major.
#11
Quote by grampastumpy
The "default" key is C, which means that an Eb instrument sounds a minor third(distance between C and Eb) higher than written. So if you're writing something in the key of C and you need a part for and you're writing something for an alto sax or whatever, you'd write their part in A major.


That is correct. The reasoning behind this is just to ease notation when playing different pitch classes of instruments.
#12
Quote by isaac_bandits
That is correct. The reasoning behind this is just to ease notation when playing different pitch classes of instruments.

Yeah, and to the best of my knowledge the reason instruments are pitched differently are for general ease. For instance, a concert C major scale, pretty much the most basic one there is, is actually tough to finger or whatever on a Bb clarinet or something. A "C major" scale(concert Bb) is relatively simple and, if pitched differently, you have no accidentals to consider.

EDIT: Lulz, I just regurgitated what you said with more words.
Last edited by grampastumpy at Mar 16, 2008,
#13
Quote by isaac_bandits
I thought it was done due to ease of playing different instruments in the same family. The fingering on a soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, etc... are all the same as each other when reading the same music, only it will sound higher or lower.
That's kind of what I said, just not as well.
#14
Quote by grampastumpy
Yeah, and to the best of my knowledge the reason instruments are pitched differently are for general ease. For instance, a concert C major scale, pretty much the most basic one there is, is actually tough to finger or whatever on a Bb clarinet or something. A "C major" scale(concert Bb) is relatively simple and, if pitched differently, you have no accidentals to consider.

EDIT: Lulz, I just regurgitated what you said with more words.


That is true, but these instruments are usually expected to play other keys as well. It is good though because A soprano sax using the same fingering as an alto sax will sound a fifth higher than the alto, while reading the same notation, and calling the notes the same things. This makes it very easy to switch from one sax to another.
#15
Quote by isaac_bandits
That is true, but these instruments are usually expected to play other keys as well. It is good though because A soprano sax using the same fingering as an alto sax will sound a fifth higher than the alto, while reading the same notation, and calling the notes the same things. This makes it very easy to switch from one sax to another.
I know, but it makes learning the instrument easier to have them pitched like that. I think.
#16
Quote by grampastumpy
I know, but it makes learning the instrument easier to have them pitched like that. I think.


Well not really. If they were all pitched X semitones lower (as in larger body etc...), so that they were all pitched in C, it would be no harder, but because originally they were made in those sizes, they are still made in those sizes.
#17
Quote by isaac_bandits
Well not really. If they were all pitched X semitones lower (as in larger body etc...), so that they were all pitched in C, it would be no harder, but because originally they were made in those sizes, they are still made in those sizes.
Well not to have them pitched like that, but like...the way they're pitched, it's easiest to consider it in whatever key they are because at the pitch it is, fingerings are convenient for whatever scale.
#18
Quote by grampastumpy
Well not to have them pitched like that, but like...the way they're pitched, it's easiest to consider it in whatever key they are because at the pitch it is, fingerings are convenient for whatever scale.


I know that. But it would have been ideal to have all Saxophones pitched in C or F, rather than Bb or Eb, as transposing would be simplified.
#19
Quote by isaac_bandits
I know that. But it would have been ideal to have all Saxophones pitched in C or F, rather than Bb or Eb, as transposing would be simplified.
I know, it REALLY would've. But as it stands, too bad(which I know you know, I'm just trying to save myself here).