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key signatures!


(@megalomaniac)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 48
Topic starter  

for the summer as a goal,
i've decided i want to learn how to sightread!
but i was stumped when i came across one signature that had a c# g# and e# ( f )
when i was searching for the correct key, i couldnt come across any that fit it perfectly
is this normal or should i just continue on towards the closest key and just modify it so i play those notes rather then what's in that closest key to it?


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(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

No - it's wrong. The key signature with 3 sharps is F# - C# - G# in that order (left to right).


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Fretsource is right, but there's a little more to the story.

The idea of a "key signature" implies you're in a "key". Most of the time this means some major or minor scale... the rest of the time it almost always means you're in some key-related scale (like a Dorian scale) with accidentals that match up with some major scale. We have only 12 sounds in Western music that can be a "key note" or tonic, which gives us 15 key signatures (the keys of Db, Gb, and Cb can also be written as C#, F#, and B, which is why we have more key signatures than key 'sounds').

Starting in the 20th century, some composers began experimenting with combinations of sharps and flats outside of the standard set. For example, you might write a piece using the A harmonic minor scale, and decide to put the G# note in the key signature. You could write D harmonic minor using Bb and C#. Or you could use a C whole tone scale, and have F#, G#, and A#.

These aren't exactly wrong - they're just not the standard way of doing things. Most theory books won't even touch on these possibilites, because they're so rare, but the ones that do will often call them "accidental signatures" to indicate they're not really "key" signatures. But you can find pieces like Bartok's "Mikrokosmos" that use these off-the-wall notations, and you won't find many folks who'd say Bartok didn't know what he was doing.

But in this case we're not looking at a non-standard signature... and that's because E# is enharmonic to F, so there's no reason to use the E#. You could have an accidental signature that has C#, G#, E# and F#, or one that has C#, G# and Eb - but you won't find one that has both E# and F natural.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@megalomaniac)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 48
Topic starter  

thanks you guys,
so fretsource, i relooked the piece over and your right, i thought it was something else instead of that,
right now i feel quite oblivious to anything haha
= )

and noteboat!
what i got out of that last post was that sometimes in music but rarely, there can be a signature that falls outside of another signature as it doesnt quite fit in?
so you went on a little about this, but i believe you said something about this aswell, so a key signature can be a certain mode, or scale if it could work?
for example, the lydian mode, it's 'formula' (i dont know what else to call it at the moment) is 1,2,3,#4,5,6,7
could that mean that if a piece has a sharpened fourth then it could be in the key of this lydian mode in say F?
hypothetically speaking

thanks!


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Yes, but all the modes are "related" to major scales... so if you're in C Lydian, you have F#. F# = the key signature of G major. All the modes are going to end up with the same key signatures as major scales, so they're all standard.

With the harmonic minor scale it gets dicey. Tradition is to use the relative major key signature, and raise the 7th with accidentals wherever it occurs. But there's nothing that'll prevent you from using Bb and C# for the D harmonic minor in the key signature... it's just that musicians won't automatically say "ah, this is in D minor" when they see the score.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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