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#1150978 - 01/22/08 10:05 AM black keys vs white keys
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Just wondering if any one else's ear prefers the sound of black keys to the white keys...and if so...why?

rada
www.pianopassions.com

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#1150979 - 01/22/08 11:17 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
Why would there be a difference? They are all just notes.

Maybe a better question would be what scale degrees you prefer. I've always liked the minor 6th, very mysterious. Try playing the 1st, 3rd, 5th, then minor 6th of any scale, then do it in reverse, then repeat a couple times. Sounds like music you should hear in space.

Also I'd say my hands tend to prefer the black keys, I find them much easier to hit accurately than the white ones.

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#1150980 - 01/22/08 03:47 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1325
Black-keys provide a lot more tactile feedback for me than white keys, and a mixture of black and white is easier to visualize.

A few things worth mentioning, though:

Having the fifth finger on a black key and the rest of the fingers on white keys is quite awkward, and extremely challenging in fast arpeggios (Check Chopin's C major etude op. 10 no. 1).

Just about everything that is classically influenced is modulating so much that the arbitrary choice of key in the beginning can become irrelevant, especially in romantic, impressionist, and modernist pieces.

As far as the "sound" of the key is concerned, that too has become largely irrelevant because of equal-temperament. All the keys have been homogenized with less than perfect intervals in order to allow for all keys to work without sounding out of tune. This is fine for heavily modulating repertoire for the keyboard, but it has also removed the tonal characteristics of the individual keys.

In meantone temperament I believe that more sharps in a key designated a brighter sound while more flats in a key designated a darker sound.

-Colin

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#1150981 - 01/23/08 08:35 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
mickmontreal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 23
Loc: Montreal
I agree with both of you!

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#1150982 - 01/23/08 10:29 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
askena Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 57
Loc: los angeles
If the keys did not sound different, then everything would be in the key of C right? Don't different keys (not piano keys, I mean musical keys) sound different, even though the intervals and relationships are the same?

I think different wavelengths give off different impressions.

You might find this website interesting, related to the phenomenon of synesthesia:

http://www.concretethestudio.com/colorofsound/keys/

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#1150983 - 01/24/08 10:09 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
For piano music, you could say that the choice of one key over another is fairly arbitrary (except that some keys are considered technically easier to play, at least for certain songs).

But most other instruments (and keyboards that are not tuned to Equal Temperament) have certain keys that they are best suited for, with others being difficult or impossible to play.

With equal temperament the only real difference between keys is that one is higher or lower pitched than the other.

When most people hum songs that they've heard (people without perfect pitch), they are probably not humming it in its original key. It does not matter because they have the intervals right.

A lot of people seem to feel that different keys on the piano give them different "feelings", but with Equal Temperament, it is a placebo, not reality.

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#1150984 - 01/27/08 09:12 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Kage Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/07
Posts: 74
I quite like music that contains a minor set of chords, so the black notes are obviously used in them. Sound very moody \:\)

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#1150985 - 01/28/08 01:24 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
Not in A Minor. And there are plenty of major keys that use mostly black keys.

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#1150986 - 01/28/08 02:01 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
There are different keys because there are different ranges of singing voice and there are preferred keys and ranges for other instruments. It is common for pieces intended for vocal accompaniment to be published in a number of keys to suit the singer's range.

The black and white keys of a piano reflect the diatonic nature of keys and also facilitate in finding your way around on the keyboard. Imagine if all the keys were white!

Music is all about the relative harmonies between notes, which is dependent on intervals, regardless of location in the gamut.

Don
Kansas City

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#1150987 - 01/29/08 11:18 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
I guess I didn't get my thought across correctly....the black keys actually sound more resonant to my ear than the white keys.....just wondering if anyone else shares that experience?

rada

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#1150988 - 01/29/08 11:32 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
They're just another note. Painting a key black doesn't change its "resonance".

Don
Kansas City

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#1150989 - 01/29/08 03:58 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5834
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by rada:
I guess I didn't get my thought across correctly....the black keys actually sound more resonant to my ear than the white keys.....just wondering if anyone else shares that experience?

rada [/b]
rada, I think I know what you're talking about, and I'll stick my neck out \:\) .

I don't have perfect pitch, but if you were to play either a chord of F# major or F major I can tell you which it is. They sound different to me - your "more resonant" comes close to what I hear. Now why is this? If the piano is tuned absolutely in equal temperament and I don't have perfect pitch, I shouldn't be able to tell. My (fairly ignorant) supposition is that pianos are not tuned absolutely to an exact equal temperament, and that F and F# chords are ever so slightly different. It's only on pianos that I have this ability to differentiate, not other instruments, by the way.
And as a sort of answer to your question, I prefer the sound of the F# chord \:\) .
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1150990 - 01/29/08 06:22 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Nicky Forte Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/27/08
Posts: 9
Loc: Ferndale, Washington
I've always wondered what it would be like if there weren't any black keys at all. If there were just 88 white keys. xD >> That would be weird.

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#1150991 - 01/29/08 06:53 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
Maybe it's just your piano? Nothing is totally exact.

If there were just white keys, it would be a lot more difficult to know where your hands actually are on the piano, with or without looking.

But it'd be super easy to transpose a song. And chromatic glissandos....

I'd go with a Janko Keyboard tho.

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#1150992 - 02/01/08 11:25 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Yes,Yammy....I can always tell when someone is playing a black key on the piano and I don't hear that pitch the same in any other timbre...and to me there is nothing more boring than listening to a piece in the key of 'C'....

rada

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#1150993 - 02/03/08 02:38 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Piano-pianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 50
Loc: Rome, Italy
I like Eb minor, Bb minor, Ab minor keys, and so on, more than C major or F major keys but it depends also by the piece.
If a piece in C major has a melody more beautiful than one in Db flat I like more the first one.
I think I generally like more the black keys because I have heard them less than the white keys.
However each key has its absolute mood, feeling and the black keys have a darker, deeper and more mellow mood.
Instead the withe keys have a clear and brighter feeling.

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#1150994 - 02/03/08 04:19 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Well although I have been playing the piano since 7 years old, I have never thought of this matter.

Surely it is down to the sounds with semitones in the music being played. You can write some simple songs without the need for the semitones but they are very bland in my view. This is in the area of learning, as I did by ear, and you soon see the need for a semitone.

Most music of any serious value to the sound senses, needs all the nuances possible and I personally just love improvising as you do in jazz and experimenting with harmonic variations as they have great depth of value sound-wise.

In fact I'm quite surprised at the topic in the first place, but it shows how much we rely on the semitones.

Also please remember the music we hear is usually made up of collective sounds that resonate sometime later than when played, as we hear the broad sound of many notes and scales and chords and 'blue notes'that make up the music, in it's composed intention.

To single out the tone and pitch between tone and semitone is rather missing the point of a musical scale IMO. As I see it, the pitch of a semitone is as pure as the next note, which is then a semitone to the previous note chromatically, right?

Please feel free to correct any stupid comment I have made as I'm not a trained pianist technically but have pitch that is quite accurate, so I'm told.

Alan (swingal)

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#1150995 - 02/07/08 11:17 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
For those who can't make up their mind playing Black or White keys would probably like this piece played by one of my students, titled, obviously: Black and White, a beautiful piece written by Richard Starer:

http://download.yousendit.com/0EFB03FB7474CFC2
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#1150996 - 02/08/08 10:47 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Very cute!....and what I am saying is I hear right hand is playing the black keys and the left the white...unless of course...the hands were crossed!

rada

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#1150997 - 02/15/08 11:29 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
I don't really prefer the sound of either. Even though pianos do have equal temperament, I still think each key has a unique quality simply because it is higher or lower. I know that intervals actually are slightly more dissonant with lower notes, even fourths and fifths. Of course, you could always play in the high registers and avoid that sort of dissonance (thus eroding the true differences between the keys...not that you'd want to...), but I imagine it brings out different overtones depending on what key you are playing in.

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#1150998 - 02/15/08 02:19 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
It's becoming increasingly apparent here that the original poster is not referring to black key *signatures*, but simply the individual black notes themselves!

This is utterly ridiculous! F# is just another note, like C. There's nothing about being an accidental that makes a note sound inherrently different. Besides, it's only black on a piano keyboard. What would make it different on a violin or on a clarinet? Temperament has nothing to do with this; temperament only has meaning in regard to pitches relative to other pitches.

A tenor saxophone is tuned to Bb...does that make Bb sound "better"?

Don
Kansas City

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#1150999 - 02/15/08 09:22 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
7yritch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/08
Posts: 89
Loc: Huntsville, Alabama, USA
Maybe it's not the individual notes, but the progression. Maybe there aren't any offensive intervals, or sequences, if you only play the black keys.
_________________________
Charles R. Walter, Model 1500 (Renner action), Satin Ebony

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#1151000 - 02/16/08 07:25 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
k1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/06
Posts: 34
Well, maybe this theory?

That usually the white plays are more often played, and in a sense give a slightly different touch and tone when played.
As for the black keys, you can see that on some pianos, they are much stiffer. Perhaps this would explain the difference?

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#1151001 - 02/16/08 04:17 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Jared88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 56
Loc: Cincinnati
 Quote:
Originally posted by Zom:
I don't really prefer the sound of either. Even though pianos do have equal temperament, I still think each key has a unique quality simply because it is higher or lower. I know that intervals actually are slightly more dissonant with lower notes, even fourths and fifths. Of course, you could always play in the high registers and avoid that sort of dissonance (thus eroding the true differences between the keys...not that you'd want to...), but I imagine it brings out different overtones depending on what key you are playing in. [/b]
Listen to Zom, he knows his theory. And yes even with equal temperament every key certainly does possess a unique feel. If you happen to believe that this is a "placebo effect" or that "Song 1" in C feels the same as "Song 1" in D...thats fine you're more than entitled to. Some have more sensitive ears than others though.

And I can tell you hands down (and I'm sure many others would agree) that A flat major is an extremely special key for the piano and both it and its relative minor key (f minor) are probably, if not, the most passionate keys for piano compositions.

But don't take my word for it...Chopin enjoyed the key of A flat major enough to write 24 piano pieces in it...making it his most used key.

Beethoven used A flat major as the key of the slow movement during EVERY one of his C minor works, with the exception of one...his third piano concerto, I think he used E flat or E major instead.

Many of Schubert's works are also in the key of A flat major.


A black keys sound differs from a white keys in terms of pitch, and only pitch. But key signatures with sharps and flats are definitely easier to play versus all white key signatures because of the anatomy of our hands. It was either Chopin or Liszt(please correct) who referred to C major as the hardest key to play and therefore was the last key learned by their pupils.
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88 keys + 10 fingers + 2 hands + the score > 1 set of eyes








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#1151002 - 02/17/08 09:27 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
 Quote:
Originally posted by rada:
I guess I didn't get my thought across correctly....the black keys actually sound more resonant to my ear than the white keys.....just wondering if anyone else shares that experience?

rada [/b]
I’m sure if you would pluck the strings inside your piano, you wouldn’t be able to tell if a black key or white key was assigned to it.

Best, John
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1151003 - 02/20/08 03:59 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
bluecheese Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 4
 Quote:
I guess I didn't get my thought across correctly....the black keys actually sound more resonant to my ear than the white keys.....just wondering if anyone else shares that experience?

rada
Whoa...this is really weird. I hear the same thing too. I have perfect pitch, and it seems like the notes have different textures. Don't know if it's a fluke though...heh.

And yes, I do like the sound of black keys better than white.

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#1151004 - 02/20/08 04:31 AM Re: black keys vs white keys
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Maybe you guys just like the pentatonic scale.

John
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1151005 - 02/20/08 01:00 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
bukopaudan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/03/06
Posts: 506
Loc: USA
I like the way the black keys add to the sounds of the white keys. It can make them deep or mellow, sad or happy, it can make them contemplative or even excited. I love them both and I think they both compliment each other, but black keys could be the death of me, though they are a bit easier to reach and play. =D
_________________________
"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable." -Leonard Bernstein

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#1151006 - 02/20/08 01:08 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11166
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
I like the way the black keys add to the sounds of the white keys. It can make them deep or mellow, sad or happy, it can make them contemplative or even excited.
Do you mean when they are the middle note in a chord, so that they affect mood by turning a major into a minor, or when a chord becomes augmented or diminished, again affecting mood?

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#1151007 - 02/20/08 01:54 PM Re: black keys vs white keys
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Funny! - And the strings inside the piano don't even have a clue if they're being struck by a hammer via a white key or black key. Better they don’t know. If they did, they would all be howling for black keys.
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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