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What key is this piece in? #2816724 02/17/19 06:53 PM
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maire Offline OP
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[img]https://www.junearmstrong.com/books-1/paint-box/dusty-blue/[/img]

I am teaching it for an exam. I understand it is based on a blues scale but what is the correct answer to "What key is this piece in?"

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Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816733 02/17/19 07:13 PM
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Nice little piece, and decent posture on the part of the player, at least compared to what we've been discussing on another thread (that Mixed Schools one).

I hesitate to name a key and be wrong. I only note that the bass line might suggest I, IV, I, V, I, V, IV, I chords if it were in G.


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Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816735 02/17/19 07:14 PM
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Hi maire - are you teaching it as a parent? The answer is actually in the first video in the link you provided at 1:11. You might also want to teach your student about 12 bar blues so that your student will have a good handle on it and not just have to answer by rote. The progression is very simple and tells you everything. When we get the formal education (ABRSM, RCM etc.) they tend to skip over those things.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816744 02/17/19 07:46 PM
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maire Offline OP
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No I'm teaching but I've only learned classical major and minor keys. It has a tonality of G but there is no sharp in the key signature. I've looked it up and it is "G blues" apparently. That is actually the composer playing it. So if asked the key of the piece - it is not "major" do they say "G blues"? It is only grade 2 and no jazz or blues scales are on any syllabus of the examining institution!

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816746 02/17/19 08:10 PM
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Maire, the "classical" background is definitely part of the problem because of what we get taught. The teacher in the video says "in G" without saying major or minor. I've done some extra research since my last post. This explains it a lot more:

http://www.ethanhein.com/wp/2011/the-blues-scale/

Excerpts from there:
[quote]In western music theory terms, the blues scale is practically inexplicable. The Eb in the C blues scale makes it sound minor, but the scale is customarily played on top of major chords. And no traditional western scale has three adjacent chromatic notes, the blues scale’s F, F# and G. ........... The most sensible approach is to think of blues tonality that is separate from major or minor, and that follows its own rules. [/quote ]

I'd say that it is "in G". Hopefully whoever created the exam thought this through. smile

If anyone wants to go beyond piano, I have watched this lesson a few times - where Darol Anger explains the "blues notes" and goes into how (on other instruments) they can be manipulated for emotional expression. https://youtu.be/DJsdW0kw4EA?t=45

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816751 02/17/19 08:22 PM
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I didn't realize this question was also asked in the ABF. Another answer of mine is there.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816794 02/18/19 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by maire
[img]https://www.junearmstrong.com/books-1/paint-box/dusty-blue/[/img]

I am teaching it for an exam. I understand it is based on a blues scale but what is the correct answer to "What key is this piece in?"

Answer: You can't describe blues with traditional keys or key signatures. It doesn't work.
The tonal center in blues changes from I, to IV to V. Each one has it's main chord, and each chord has it's own scale.

G: G A B C D E F G, but also Bb or A# on top, forming what is called a G7 #9

C: C D E F G A Bb C, same idea, also Eb/D#, C7 #9

D: D E F# G A B C D, same idea, also F/E#, D7 #9

The result is kind of a blend of Dorian and Myxolydian, with three different roots.

Sorry I can't give you an easier explanation. Normally F# for such a piece is used in the key signature, because when D is in the base there is F#. But the way the piece is written is not wrong. It can go either way.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816796 02/18/19 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by maire
[img]https://www.junearmstrong.com/books-1/paint-box/dusty-blue/[/img]

I am teaching it for an exam. I understand it is based on a blues scale but what is the correct answer to "What key is this piece in?"

Shorter answer: Whatever answer you give your student, there is a 50/50 chance it will be marked wrong because there are several answers, all correct, all logical. If I HAD to give a student one answer, I'd say G major. But that answer is really not right.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816820 02/18/19 03:36 AM
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Thanks everyone. It is a grade 2 exam - some theory questions will be asked, one of them is the key of the piece. But only a simple answer is required. Hopefully the question will be asked on a different piece but still the student should have an answer prepared. It ends on G and the last series of notes is the G blues scale. But there is no f sharp in the key signature. So just looking for a short but accurate answer.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816842 02/18/19 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by maire
It ends on G and the last series of notes is the G blues scale. But there is no f sharp in the key signature. So just looking for a short but accurate answer.

Don't forget that composers don't always write the key signature that reflect the key of the piece itself, and I'm not just talking about music with a high degree of chromaticism. Even Bach did that.

They may use a key signature that makes the music easier to read, especially in minor keys. Melodic minor ascending has sharpened 6th and 7th degrees of the scale, so to reduce the use of accidentals, the composer may, for instance, use the key signature of G minor (two flats) when writing a piece in C minor (three flats) so that the composer doesn't have to keep inserting naturals for the note A.

Have a look at this score of the famous 'Dorian' Toccata & Fugue:

http://hz.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/a/a5/IMSLP01323-BWV0538.pdf

What key is it in?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816857 02/18/19 07:36 AM
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To add one slight complication - well, more than slight on other instruments.

On piano we don't have a choice of adjusting tuning on the fly. All notes will be in equal temperament or whatever the piano is tuned or mistuned to.

Blues notes on other instruments with more flexibility - brass, strings, etc., will have to move pitch a bit to sound right. I would think that's the purpose of those grace notes - to give a flavor of halfway in between the slots. A guitar will always bend those notes.


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Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816861 02/18/19 07:46 AM
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My answer is G Mixolydian. A grade 2 piano student should not be expected to answer this when they haven't studied modes.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816921 02/18/19 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by maire
Thanks everyone. It is a grade 2 exam - some theory questions will be asked, one of them is the key of the piece. But only a simple answer is required. Hopefully the question will be asked on a different piece but still the student should have an answer prepared. It ends on G and the last series of notes is the G blues scale. But there is no f sharp in the key signature. So just looking for a short but accurate answer.

There IS no short and accurate answer. You are looking for a answer that will pass the test, which is totally different. Guess G major. But it is not a correct answer.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: johnstaf] #2816925 02/18/19 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
My answer is G Mixolydian. A grade 2 piano student should not be expected to answer this when they haven't studied modes.

That's a good answer only for the I chord. IV is C Mixolydian. V is D Mixolydian. I'm sure you know that. There is also the problem of b3 which is mixed in with 3. b3 would make it Dorian, which would be more like the blues idea in minor. Blues tends to be a blend of both major and minor. None of that can be taught or understood on a grade 2 level.

That's the problem with these STUPID tests.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: bennevis] #2816938 02/18/19 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

Have a look at this score of the famous 'Dorian' Toccata & Fugue:

http://hz.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/a/a5/IMSLP01323-BWV0538.pdf

What key is it in?

Here is Bach's famous organ work with scrolling score. Of course this is not in Dorian, so the nickname is about the lack of a key signature. But the odd key signature, by today's standards, is because JS Bach was continuously flipping the 6th and 7th degree up and down, which is where the traditional melodic minor scale came from.

Have you heard this? It's very different, starts quietly, tremendous contrasts...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0TsMvkBeag

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816939 02/18/19 11:54 AM
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There are a lot of F#'s as grace notes falling into the G's, both with the G chord, and the C chord. Are those F#'s being discounted? Or is the only consideration the key signature itself? Whether or not any F#'s were payed is the first thing I listened / looked for.

The composer of the piece who is featured in the OP's link playing and discussing the piece, says it's "in G". I think that if the question were asked in the exam, that would be the answer, "in G". Not major, minor, or Mixolydian - but "in G". I don't think the composer "forgot" to say whether it's major or minor.

The piece itself deftly omits the third almost everywhere. The only time you do have a third is when it moves to the D (V) chord where we get an F instead of F#.

I'd hope that the people designing the exam (or the examiner, if that is at his/her discretion) will have the sense not to ask for the key of this piece.

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816947 02/18/19 12:51 PM
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As a working Blues and Boogie-Woogie musician, recording artist, and teacher, who has played Blues professionally for decades with any number of greats and unknowns, I can tell you with certainty that in the real music world, that piece would be called on the Bandstand as a "G Major" Blues.

The fact that the Blue note (the minor 3rd resolving to the major third) somehow makes the piece "major-minor" is irrelevant and not accurate...the best way of describing that movement is that it is a "passing tone".

A Blues that is considered a "Minor Blues" has the I section (Root Chord focus) as a minor chord, followed by the IV section (sub-dominant section also minor, and the V section (Dominant) as a major, usually a major 7th (dominant seventh).

And just because it resolves to a major does not make it "minor-major". It is minor.

A great example of a Minor Blues that follows that minor - minor - major 7th chord progression is Otis Spann's "Half aint been told". Have a listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iWBDOp9Aqw


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Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2816954 02/18/19 01:26 PM
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Threads go where they will, so........

Interesting organ in Gary's link. I had heard of reversed color keyboards (sharps white, naturals black) but never seen one. Google tells me this was standard in the Baroque period; I didn't know that.

I am aware people use the term mixolydian talking about blues and jazz but I am not a fan. The Greek scale predates the blues by a couple millenia, and the church modes predate blues by a few centuries. The scales do not line up identically, and I object to the anachronism of the term. (But then, I'm not a fan of "perfect" for fourths and fifths for similar reasons, and I lost that argument years ago.)

When our church choir sings anything modal I can pretty well predict they will struggle with intervals. When you live within 4/4 and standard Western major tonalities it can be disconcerting. Phrygian throws them off every time.

Back to the blues piece. When I listened, I heard blues in G. It didn't sound modal. (I'm not as quick looking at the score - too little theory in my background) For an example of mixolydian everybody would know, I found this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_uBTOqlrbA


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Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2817022 02/18/19 04:52 PM
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"It is based on a blues scale with a tonality of G" would that do?

Re: What key is this piece in? [Re: maire] #2817030 02/18/19 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by maire
"It is based on a blues scale with a tonality of G" would that do?

It should. The answer Rocket gave, is the answer I would give. In fact, I have written many things in this style, and one is called: "Blues in G".

It's not a problem of what it is. It's test problem. Tests expect a set answer, and often the answer expected is wrong.

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