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English Accidental Keys


alex_holden
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Apologies for such a newbie question. I'm learning English Concertina as my first musical instrument and trying to gain a better understanding of the accidental buttons and playing in keys other than C major/A minor.

 

On a piano keyboard, many of the white keys have a black key on either side of them - they could be said to have both a flat and a sharp adjacent to them. On the EC keyboard, there is only one accidental adjacent to each natural. Sometimes it is a sharp, sometimes it is a flat. My question is, what is the logic behind whether a particular accidental is flat or sharp?

 

For example, the accidental next to A is A flat. If, for the sake of argument, I wanted to play a tune in the key of B major, I would need an A sharp. I guess the answer is to use the nearest B flat key instead. Or am I missing something?

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On a piano keyboard, many of the white keys have a black key on either side of them - they could be said to have both a flat and a sharp adjacent to them. On the EC keyboard, there is only one accidental adjacent to each natural. Sometimes it is a sharp, sometimes it is a flat. My question is, what is the logic behind whether a particular accidental is flat or sharp?

The "logic" is that, because in that particular arrangement there is a place for only one of the two possible accidentals, the "most common"* accidental is the one to put there, with the further and more severe constraint being that no accidental be entirely left out.

 

* "Most common" means most commonly occurring over a broad range of music. The choices may not be "most common" within particular genres, such as jazz that leans heavily toward key signatures with many flats.

Note, though, that on the English concertina there are as many "black" keys as "white", so two notes in each octave (assuming a tempered scale) are duplicated... Ab and G#, Eb and D#. So of the accidentals "by name" (or "by position") as you know them from the piano, the only ones missing are Db, Gb, and A#. They must -- and can -- be found in the positions of their alternate names... C#, F#, and Bb. I don't think this is really very different in concept from what one does on the piano for such notes as B# and Fb. They're there; they're even adjacent; but they're not on black (at the back) keys.

 

Note also that with G# and D# on separate keys from Ab and Eb, they can actually be tuned differently, for certain kinds of non-"tempered" scales. That was more common in Wheatstone's day than it is today, but it's not even possible on a piano.

For example, the accidental next to A is A flat. If, for the sake of argument, I wanted to play a tune in the key of B major, I would need an A sharp. I guess the answer is to use the nearest B flat key instead. Or am I missing something?

Nope. You didn't miss it, you "hit" it, dead on. ;)

 

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the English. :)

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You even avoided all the stuff about "but if you are not tuned equal tempered…." :P

 

Did he?

 

Note also that with G# and D# on separate keys from Ab and Eb, they can actually be tuned differently, for certain kinds of non-"tempered" scales.

:ph34r:

 

Lovely explanation Jim.

I second this judgement all the same... :)

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You even avoided all the stuff about "but if you are not tuned equal tempered…." :P

 

Did he?

 

Note also that with G# and D# on separate keys from Ab and Eb, they can actually be tuned differently, for certain kinds of non-"tempered" scales.

:ph34r:

 

:(

Edited by cboody
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You even avoided all the stuff about "but if you are not tuned equal tempered…." :P

 

Did he?

 

Note also that with G# and D# on separate keys from Ab and Eb, they can actually be tuned differently, for certain kinds of non-"tempered" scales.

 

'Tis true I mentioned the potential.

What I avoided was treating it as more important than the layout itself.

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