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key signatures and midi
#1378587 02/20/10 12:48 AM
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I need a good solid understanding of what a key signature is for my fledgling midi sequencer.
I've read wikipedia, searched this forum, read the midi spec.
But still have some questions.

So a key signature specs the key and the scale, right?
The key is the note that the melody typically wants to "come home to".
And the scale will typically be major (wwhwwwh) or minor (whwwhww).
Am I right so far?

midi files store the keysig as
- # of sharps or # of flats (7..0..-7)
- major or minor (0,1)

So I'm guessing standard midi files can only spec minor or major scale.

There are a ton of other possible scales, though, right?

pentatonic, the modes, chromatic...
Not always 7 notes in ALL scales, right?
For the non major,minor scales, you can't just spec the #sharps/flats, right??

Ideally, if I want to do key signatures "right", I'd need a
way to spec any scale...
The way I'm thinkin' to do that so far is spec which of the
12 notes are in it.
So major would be *_*_**_*_*_*
so minor would be *_**_*_**_*_
(these would be predefined strings -
MAJ would be mapped to the weird 12 character string already for ya)

So keysig actually gives me one of the 12 halfsteps that's
the music's tonal center.
AND the named set of 12 halfsteps that are in the scale.

Piano roll notation is my preferred notation.
[Linked Image]

So I plan on showing the whole keyboard as usual.
Then hilighting the tonal center note (somehow?)
And hilighting the notes that are IN the scale (showing them lighter or SOMEthing?)

Can anybody who has messed with the weirder keysigs before
tell me if I'm on the right track here?

I think I get to ignore whether the keysig is in sharps or flats
due to my choice of pianoroll notation laugh
The hilights will show the key,scale and the notes will just show up
on the key you play.

I've noticed that there seems to be "cheating" going on in some
renditions... Keysignature tells you the notes to always sharp/flat,
but DOESN'T tell you what the key REALLY is.
Also, you have to guess from the 3rd note of the scale if the scale is minor or major...

Pianoroll notation (chromatic scale notation) makes all that a no brainer I think.

Anyways, your opinions on this will help me make some software for piano practice that "doesn't suck" laugh


http://PianoCheetah.app - my weird piano practice program
Re: key signatures and midi
Stephen Hazel #1378600 02/20/10 01:13 AM
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Keep your fingers crossed for someone who knows midi!


"Nie Dam Sie!"
Re: key signatures and midi
Philip Lu #1378611 02/20/10 01:43 AM
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I already know midi fine.

I'm just curious about how you show (for example) a D pentatonic keysig...?

Or a F# dorian or F chromatic ??

Are there such things? How'd ya notate em via standard sheet music?


http://PianoCheetah.app - my weird piano practice program
Re: key signatures and midi
Stephen Hazel #1378919 02/20/10 02:50 PM
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I know what you mean, but I think it would be pretty hard for most players to adapt to non-standard key signatures for different modes. It's probably best to choose the "best fit" standard key signature and then insert accidentals where needed.

This reminds me of a situation where the key signature actually does match a modal passage perfectly but still doesn't get the job done. I'm thinking of the Chopin mazurka (I think it's 24/2) that's in C major and contains an exotic little episode in Lydian mode with F as the tonic. The key signature (or lack of one) is exactly correct for that passage, due to the raised fourth of the Lydian mode, but in spite of that most editions include natural signs as accidentals before the B's in the passage, lest the player automatically assume the passage is supposed to be in F major. (I played B-flats despite the accidentals the first couple times I read through it!)

Re: key signatures and midi
Stephen Hazel #1378936 02/20/10 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Hazel
I already know midi fine.

I'm just curious about how you show (for example) a D pentatonic keysig...?

Or a F# dorian or F chromatic ??

Are there such things? How'd ya notate em via standard sheet music?


You might want to start a new thread and leave out the word midi. You might get a better answer.

Re: key signatures and midi
Damon #1379156 02/20/10 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Damon

You might want to start a new thread and leave out the word midi. You might get a better answer.



Yeahhhhh, that might not be a bad idea.

People round here seem to avoid midi like the plague.
I don't get that.

Ah well, I'll come back later smile


http://PianoCheetah.app - my weird piano practice program
Re: key signatures and midi
Stephen Hazel #1379158 02/20/10 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Hazel
I already know midi fine.

I'm just curious about how you show (for example) a D pentatonic keysig...?

Or a F# dorian or F chromatic ??

Are there such things? How'd ya notate em via standard sheet music?


It depends. Most of the time, the score is simply in the closest major or minor key. C dorian or phrygian would simply be notated in C minor (with the A natural or Db handled with accidentals.) A mixolydian or lydian would simply be notated as A Major, with the G-natural or D# handled with accidentals. (Mixolydian, Ionian and Lydian are "major" modes. Dorian, Aeolian and Phrygian are "minor" modes. Locrian is minor, but largely theoretical and almost never used.)

Occasionally, composers will write the mode. C dorian would use a Bb major key signature. In my experience, this seems less common.

This begs the philosophical question:

MIDI is a specification for performance instruction, not notation. I think the problem you're facing is fairly common. How does one adapt MIDI for the purposes of notation... This is why notation and DAW packages are considered separate entities. Each tends to have features of the other, but neither does both well.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: key signatures and midi
Stephen Hazel #1379162 02/20/10 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Hazel
Originally Posted by Damon

You might want to start a new thread and leave out the word midi. You might get a better answer.



Yeahhhhh, that might not be a bad idea.

People round here seem to avoid midi like the plague.
I don't get that.

Ah well, I'll come back later smile


I use to really be into midi but abandoned it about 15 years ago. I'm sorry I don't have an answer to your question, but I'd bet more knowledgeable folk will answer a post if it doesn't involve midi, or you could try the non-classical section.

Re: key signatures and midi
Kreisler #1379187 02/20/10 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Most of the time, the score is simply in the closest major or minor key.


Ok, so that gets your fingers to the right keys.

But a key signature is SUPPOSED to give you the KEY and the scale, right?
Key that the music comes home to and scale that the melody uses.

If I'm given f# major, I can use wwhwwwh to pick the right #/b's easy.

When you're just picking the sharps and flats to get the job done,
you're not spec'ing the key very well, right?

Or is the keysig's MAIN job just to get to the right sharps/flats and the key, well, you just figure that out on your own from getting a good handle on the music.

This SEEMS to defeat the point of a keysig to me...

But I'm still learning this stuff.
I've read up on all the music theory posts I can find.
But coming at this from a computer programmer's frame of reference where all rules are NAILED DOWN, umm, music ain't too easy to nail down smile

So what IS the keysig's main job.
To spec key and scale? Or to just get you the right #/b set?

I'm not so much worried about adapting midi for notation.
I'm more worried about the REASONs notation is how it is.

So far it seeeems like the key can get sacrificed for the sake of the scale.


http://PianoCheetah.app - my weird piano practice program
Re: key signatures and midi
Stephen Hazel #1379466 02/21/10 10:01 AM
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Key signatures were invented to cover the tonal major/minor system. They were never intended to cover modal and other scales.

Not all music was meant to be notated using the same system. Music notation evolved to meet the needs of tonal music and later adapted to atonal music. It was an evolutionary process; nobody sat down (like a programmer would) and invented a system that would cover all possibilities.

Composers have played with the idea, too. In Hindemith's viola sonata, Op. 11#4, he writes a key signature containing F# and G# - he "specs" the scale to be used, but the piece isn't really in a key.

It's like the difference between English and Esperanto. Programmers would love Esperanto, because it's a constructed language that has a consistent grammatical and pronunciation scheme. English is a cobbled-together version of Latin, Germanic, and other languages. Rich in possibilities, but horribly inconsistent in terms of pronunciation and grammar.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed
Re: key signatures and midi
Kreisler #1379467 02/21/10 10:05 AM
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This is rubbish i advice to you learn standart notation.

Last edited by Batuhan; 02/21/10 10:06 AM.

Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.

Re: key signatures and midi
Batuhan #1379562 02/21/10 12:43 PM
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Thanks for your explanation, Kreisler.

An "English-ism" of music smile

Much appreciated.


http://PianoCheetah.app - my weird piano practice program

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