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themightylloyd

from modes to sheet music

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okay, so i'm gonna be in this "best of broadway" performance thing the local arts coundil is putting on. playing bass of course. So this lady brings a two inch thick stack of sheet music to me to learn in a month. problem is, i'm not an expert on sheet music.

 

question...

 

does a composer always put in a key signature, or do they just put it in there when they feel like being friendly? (in other words, if i don't see a key signature can i assume it's in C?)

 

also, i talked to this lady i work with about sharps and flats, and she told me that a sharp and a flat only applies to the note when it's in the key signature, or if it's next to the note on the staff. I seem to recall reading that if it's next to the note on the staff, it applies to the rest of that measure. do i have that right?

 

and one more... if there is no key signature, and through the whole song i haven't come across a single G, why in the world would i come across a G that's specifically marked as natural?

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A lot of this would depend on the education of the composer, but assuming that he's educated in such things (which is a good assumption, as if you're going to write music on staff, it suggests that you've had a formal training), then these would be my answers.

 

First, a composer will always nominate a key. If there's nothing to indicate a key, that's because you're in C/Am.

 

Once a key has been selected, then the notes of the key will be effected as per the key unless otherwise nominated. So, if you're in the key of G (one sharp, F#), then every time you saee an F, it's actually an F#. The only time that isn't the case is when (a) an F appears with a natural sign next to it and (b) any other Fs in that bar. Once you move onto the next bar, you're back to F# again. Similarly, if you're in C, and you hit a bar where they indicate that the F is an F# by placing the # sign next to it, then that's only for that bar, and if they place a natural F after that in the same bar, then you're back to normal. When notes are played outside the key that's written, they're called "accidentals".

 

Not sure about your last question - I'd have to see the music to understand why they did that. Are you sure there isn't a G# earlier in the bar, but in a different octave? Remember, once you indicate the accidental in the bar (let's say we've made F into F#), then every F becomes an F# in that bar, regardless of the octave.

 

Oh, one other thing to remember. You can change keys in the middle of a piece. They'll indicate this with a new key signature at the beginning of a bar, and if you were going back to C, you'd actually have a natural sign to negate any sharps or flats from the previous key! So, if we were in D (F# and C#), and we changed keys to C, there'd be a natural sign on F and C at the beginning of the bar where the new key started. Confused yet?!! :D

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okay, that all made sense. i also think i might know what the problem with the G is. the music i was given just happens to be piano music, so i'm attached to a treble cleff too. do the sharps and flats in the treble cleff effect the bass cleff in the same way? (i really, really, really hope not. that would mean i'd have to learn the treble cleff too :( )

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Originally posted by themightylloyd

okay, that all made sense. i also think i might know what the problem with the G is. the music i was given just happens to be piano music, so i'm attached to a treble cleff too. do the sharps and flats in the treble cleff effect the bass cleff in the same way? (i really, really, really hope not. that would mean i'd have to learn the treble cleff too
:(
)

 

Well, the bad news is yes, it can effect it, but the good news is that, if you think about it, it's quite logical, and the better news is that you don't need to learn the treble clef, although some familiarity with it ain't a bad thing.

 

Say you take two parts of music for the same song, one in trble clef (say it's a guitar part), and one in bass clef (for us). Obviously, both will have key signatures, but also obviously is that the key will be the same (well, 99% of the time - I'm sure someone like Frank Zappa may've done differently!). What I'm saying is that if the bass is in the key og G, you can be pretty ceratin the guitar will be as well.

 

Now, if you were given piano music, then that would be multi-staff - meaning there'd be a treble clef and a bass clef. The key signature would definately be indicated on both, not just one.

 

Hold on - I see what you're getting at!! :eek: Yes, if the music was piano music, and the line moved from the treble clef to the bass clef in the same bar, and an accidental was indicated in the treble clef, then yes, it would also effect the bass clef. That's because you're talking about the same instrument, despite the fact that you're using the two clefs. But I wouldn't worry too much about that - properly scored music for bass would rarely require you to use treble clef - it's only in situations like this where you're playing the piano's bass part. Tell the conductor to give you a proper bass part - you're hardly an expert, I think it's a little unfair for the conductor to expect you to know these things.

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Okay, now I don't want you to read this until you've got your head around the last post! OKAY!!! :D Because what I'm about to write is a little confusing.

 

There is a situation where, ON PAPER, two instruments (in fact, more than two) will be playing in different keys at the same time in the same song. It occurs when you play with brass and woodwind instruments. I don't know how familiar you are with these instruments, but have you ever heard things like "an Eb Saxophone", or "a Bb Saxophone", stuff like that? I don't know why it is, but a lot (nearly all) brass and woodwind instruments are written in a different key to what they're actually played in. For instance, most trumpets are in the key of Bb. What that means is this. The trumpet player will be given a piece of music that indicates they are in the key of C. However, the bassplayer and (more importantly) the pianist will be given music that's in the key of Bb. What the trumpet player plays is actually in Bb, like the rest of us, but to him, it's written in C! I don't know why this is, but it's just some weird quirk that you have to just accept. So, the trumpet player actually plays one tone lower than what is written on the paper. And that's how they're taught - they are taught that, what to us is a Bb, for them is written as a C, and the know that note as a C. And, as I said, it's the same for nearly all woodwind and brass instruments.

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Originally posted by bassaussie

Okay, now I don't want you to read this until you've got your head around the last post! OKAY!!!
:D
Because what I'm about to write is a little confusing.


There is a situation where, ON PAPER, two instruments (in fact, more than two) will be playing in different keys at the same time in the same song. It occurs when you play with brass and woodwind instruments. I don't know how familiar you are with these instruments, but have you ever heard things like "an Eb Saxophone", or "a Bb Saxophone", stuff like that? I don't know why it is, but a lot (nearly all) brass and woodwind instruments are written in a different key to what they're actually played in. For instance, most trumpets are in the key of Bb. What that means is this. The trumpet player will be given a piece of music that indicates they are in the key of C. However, the bassplayer and (more importantly) the pianist will be given music that's in the key of Bb. What the trumpet player plays is actually in Bb, like the rest of us, but to him, it's written in C! I don't know why this is, but it's just some weird quirk that you have to just accept. So, the trumpet player actually plays one tone lower than what is written on the paper. And that's how they're taught - they are taught that, what to us is a Bb, for them is written as a C, and the know that note as a C. And, as I said, it's the same for nearly all woodwind and brass instruments.

 

And the reason, this way the player can take an instrument in a different key and play it the exact same way he or she would for the other key. For example, if you are using a 'C' tin whistle you will learn it on a normal treble clef - but if you then got onto a 'Bb' tin whistle you would get sheet music written a tone lower.

 

(Tin whistles are availabe in about 6 keys, you don't want to learn 6 different variations of the clef when you can just change the tuning on the sheet music).

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Originally posted by moody



And the reason, this way the player can take an instrument in a different key and play it the exact same way he or she would for the other key. For example, if you are using a 'C' tin whistle you will learn it on a normal treble clef - but if you then got onto a 'Bb' tin whistle you would get sheet music written a tone lower.


(Tin whistles are availabe in about 6 keys, you don't want to learn 6 different variations of the clef when you can just change the tuning on the sheet music).

 

Thanks mate. Like I said, I wasn't really sure why it was like this, but you're explanation makes it pretty obvious why.

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Originally posted by bassaussie

Okay, now I don't want you to read this until you've got your head around the last post! OKAY!!!
:D
Because what I'm about to write is a little confusing.


There is a situation where, ON PAPER, two instruments (in fact, more than two) will be playing in different keys at the same time in the same song. It occurs when you play with brass and woodwind instruments. I don't know how familiar you are with these instruments, but have you ever heard things like "an Eb Saxophone", or "a Bb Saxophone", stuff like that? I don't know why it is, but a lot (nearly all) brass and woodwind instruments are written in a different key to what they're actually played in. For instance, most trumpets are in the key of Bb. What that means is this. The trumpet player will be given a piece of music that indicates they are in the key of C. However, the bassplayer and (more importantly) the pianist will be given music that's in the key of Bb. What the trumpet player plays is actually in Bb, like the rest of us, but to him, it's written in C! I don't know why this is, but it's just some weird quirk that you have to just accept. So,

the trumpet player actually plays one tone lower than what is written on the paper. And that's how they're taught - they are taught that, what to us is a Bb, for them is written as a C, and the know that note as a C. And, as I said, it's the same for nearly all woodwind and brass instruments.

 

 

uh-oh, i bet this applies to flute too. that explains a few things

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Originally posted by themightylloyd




uh-oh, i bet this applies to flute too. that explains a few things

 

Absolutely. Flute is a woodwind instrument - same family as saxophone, oboe, clarinet etc.

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Originally posted by bassaussie



Absolutely. Flute is a woodwind instrument - same family as saxophone, oboe, clarinet etc.

 

we were trying to teach a flute player a couple of our songs the other night, and we couldn't get them to sound right. if only we had known.... :rolleyes:

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Originally posted by themightylloyd



we were trying to teach a flute player a couple of our songs the other night, and we couldn't get them to sound right. if only we had known....
:rolleyes:

 

I think flute is a Bb instrument - either that, or it's Eb.

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Originally posted by themightylloyd

i think she said it was a Bb. the whole time she kept saying "what if i play a sharp instead of a natural?" and we kept saying, "no, that wouldn't be right"

 

Ah ... there you have it!! She obviously knew what was going on, but didn't quite know how to explain it. It's a weird concept, but as Moody explained, there's a very simple and practical reason for it.

 

Anyway, my wife's made lunch! I'll talk to you later.

 

Cheers, Mark.

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