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Playing An Instrument In A Different Key


Marcus
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Good afternoon all. I wondered if all of you who play the anglo do so as if it were a C/G instrument. I learnt the fingerings etc on a Wheatstone C/G layout instrument and transfer that directly to my G/D - is this the correct way to do it? Or do I need to relearn where all my notes are?

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It really depends on whether it matters (to you or to others) what key you're playing in.

 

If you play with other musicians (in a band, in a session) and each tune is played in a particular key, then you'll have to learn all the tunes you know again with completely different fingerings in order to continue to play them in the same key.

 

If you play as song accompaniment for yourself, you'll either have to learn the tunes again (new fingerings for your old key, so you can continue to sing them in the same old key, which is probably the key your voice is most happy with) or sing the songs in another key (so you don't have to learn new fingerings, but that may not be easy or possible for your voice).

 

But if you're a solo performer or are just playing for yourself, then it may not matter at all that you'll be playing all your tunes in a different key on your new instrument.

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But if you're a solo performer or are just playing for yourself, then it may not matter at all that you'll be playing all your tunes in a different key on your new instrument.

 

I agree with most of what wayman said, and I don't even necessarily disagree even with this that I've quoted, but...

A significant difference in pitch (e.g., between C and G) can make a difference in the emotional "feeling" that at least some folks get from a tune or song. You might even find yourself unconsciously playing at a different tempo or volume or varying some other subtle aspect when you change the key.

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I have a C/G and a G/D - I cheat in that because I know the notes/chords on a G/D (I have a D/G melodeon background) better than a C/G, if a tune had to to be in C - I would transpose it to G in order to play it on the C row on the C/G. Hope that makes sense :-) Pretty sure this will be frowned upon, but it makes life easy. In other words, I always use the same fingering on both concertinas.

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Hi Marcus - if you were just going to play everything on the one key system (e.g. C/G) then learning other keys would be the right thing to do - however, as you already have two key systems (which cover the common keys), I really see little advantage in this and it would be adding an unnecessary level of complexity. Later downstream it may be worth revisiting - but if you are anything like me, then mastering a tune in the home key is a sufficient enough challenge :-)

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Hmmm. Interesting. I do the same thing.

 

My main instrument is a G/D. When I play the C/G or another key of Anglo, I think of the chords and pitch names as if I was playing the G/D, that is... transposed. Actually, I rarely think about the names of pitches, chords and keys at all, but sometimes it's required. If I have to play a Playford English country tune for a dance, and I'm reading it off the page, I might get out my pencil and transpose just the chords, leaving the melody alone. I never play these dances without fiddle and piano in the band, so if I were to only play the chords for the first time through, well, that would be just fine.

 

For instance, "Love and a Bottle (1713) in Gm with two flats. I'll write those G minor chords as Em, think of them that way and play my Bb/F. That way, I'm able to play any key concertina and keep all those hard earned patterns and relationships that I need to play the instrument. I don't write down the transpositions for the melodies because I'll play them pretty much by ear, using the written music only as a guide.

 

Sounds complicated, but really it's a simplification that lets me play in most keys and still sound as diatonic player should, using all the eccentric qualities that make the Anglo sound so cool and bypass the limitations.

 

So Marcus, if you want to play your G/D as if it were a C/G go ahead. You aren't playing sessions or dances or in a band, so you can play those tunes in any key you want.

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Hmmm. Interesting. I do the same thing.

 

My main instrument is a G/D. When I play the C/G or another key of Anglo, I think of the chords and pitch names as if I was playing the G/D, that is... transposed.

Hi Jody,

 

approving first that this is perfectly comprehensible I find nevertheless a certain wit in it, as you appear to perform sort of a double transposing from the angle of any player of the ebony and ivory keys (i.e. from C (/G) to G (/D) by using a transposing instrument, and then to the home key(s) of instrument you're actually playing (which means, back to - non-.transposing - C/G, if it's that)... B)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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Hi Wolf, I guess that's it. Really in performance practice for myself, I'm not transposing at all, with all that that mental exercise implies, but rather finding a musical mechanics that allows me to play from the heart as if I were freely singing with the concertina. At least that's my goal. When I achieve that, then the music flows nicely, regardless of the key.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Hi Wolf, I guess that's it. Really in practice, I'm not transposing at all, with all that mental exercise implies, but rather finding a musical mechanics that allows me to play from the heart as if I were freely singing with the concertina. At least that's my goal.

 

I'm perfectly aware of that Jody, and the results are speaking for themselves... :)

 

Besides, the trick of notating just different chords is what I do in case my wife is joining me with her (as usual, transposing) sax too - transpose the melody right in my head but feel sort of relieved by reading the proper chord names...

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For those of us blessed/cursed with absolute pitch (I hesitate to call it perfect pitch), playing a transposing instrument involves constant mental transposition back to concert pitch.

 

Playing E flat tuba as a treble clef transposing instrument (i.e. C major treble clef = Eb bass) isn't too bad as the notes are at least on the same staves. It's merely a case of adding three flats. Others are harder - I never liked playing Euphonium from a transposing score as it involved transposing everything down a major 9th, which gets a bit tedious after a while, although it's good for the transposition-at-sight skills.

 

All this is by way of saying that I have no choice but to play C/G and G/D thinking of the pitch with its real name for each instrument.

 

Absolute pitch is a very useful thing in some circumstances - particularly for transcription - but makes other things more difficult than they might otherwise need to be.

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Hi Stuart,

 

as you seem to say you're one of those blessed/cursed with absolute pitch, how do you deal with different pitch levels (i.e. "old pitch", "modern pitch"), as long as they don't let fall the notes into the same system at just a different position (i.e. with the pitch being 1/2 tone or a multiple of that "away").

 

Or - maybe the same question put more basically - how do you deal with instruments which are out of pitch, but in pitch with themselves?

 

Or, what about different temperaments?

 

What would you say, is there an aspect of convention in locating the absolute pitch? Must necessarily be so I'd guess...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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Hi Marcus - in answer to your original question

 

"I wondered if all of you who play the anglo do so as if it were a C/G instrument. I learnt the fingerings etc on a Wheatstone C/G layout instrument and transfer that directly to my G/D - is this the correct way to do it?"

 

- good approach and makes life easy, that is provided, if playing with others you can cover the key in question - in your case - C/G/D. If not you will need to learn the correct notes.

 

On your 2nd point

 

" I like the sound of the G/D but the pitch of it makes playing tunes I know sound odd."

 

 

I find some tunes just seem to fit one key better than another.

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(apologies for the thread drift)

 

Absolute pitch is just a particular form of very strong aural memory, Wolf. Microtones etc. are fine in a microtonal context (set as they usually are against an equal temperament framework), and I've trained my ear to have a "Baroque pitch" setting which I can adjust to quickly so that "almost D flat" gets interpreted as a D.

 

If an instrument "falls in the cracks" but is consistent with itself, the effect of the tuning is mostly determined by the complexity of what I'm trying to do - e.g. playing rhythm guitar it doesn't really bother me too much, whereas playing Stockhausen or Elliott Carter on a piano that's a quarter-tone out is extremely disorientating. My ear will be constantly attempting to resolve to the nearest "known" pitch.

 

I've experimented with other temperaments - e.g. in the context of Arabic maqqam scales - and as with microtonal Western classical music, that doesn't seem to be discomfiting.

Edited by StuartEstell
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Good afternoon all. I wondered if all of you who play the anglo do so as if it were a C/G instrument. I learnt the fingerings etc on a Wheatstone C/G layout instrument and transfer that directly to my G/D - is this the correct way to do it? Or do I need to relearn where all my notes are?

 

Hi

 

To answer your question directly, I think you do need to adapt some of your tunes or learn new ones to take the advantage of having a G/D. I now play 90% G/D. For me playing Irish style on a C/G puts too much reliance on my less dextrous hand. You only play 5 or 6 of the 15 buttons on the right. If you change to playing G tunes mainly on the right you will play most buttons on the right side, and be able to play harmony or chords on left. Tunes like Soldier's Joy, in D, which I found almost impossible on a C/G, I now start on left with a draw D then continue pulling on the G row to keep as much of tune on right.

 

Graham

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