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#1152315 - 08/14/07 08:24 PM Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
I was wondering if the character of keys - e.g. G or D being bright keys, whilst say Db or Ab are dark is a function of the equal temperment tuning?

Anyone know?

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#1152316 - 08/14/07 08:31 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
Frank III Offline
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Registered: 11/10/03
Posts: 310
Loc: Spring Lake, MI
Wouldn't equal temperament, by definition, make the "character" of different key signatures sound the same? There's more at hand here - whether it's just perception, black keys versus white keys, non-equal temperament, or something else.
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#1152317 - 08/14/07 09:00 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
I am not sure about this, I don't know the maths, but equal temprement is a compromise - things are evened out so that one can play in any key using the same two tones - ET is not a perfect, its a compromise so different keys are not the same - mathematically - least thats my take (!)

Zero

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#1152318 - 08/14/07 09:25 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
There are numerous threads on this - do a search and you'll see some interesting debates. While I don't know if its due to equal temperament or not, I do agree with you that different keys have different "flavors". There are many others that disagree on that point, but I stick with that assertion...
_________________________
What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

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#1152319 - 08/14/07 10:25 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
While ET (the equally tempered scale) does make all semitones equidistant to each other, and therefore basically homogenizes all the keys, there still can be qualitative differences between keys as a result of the different ranges that they can occur in. By that, I mean a specific absolute pitch can have a very different psychoacoustic effect than another, especially in the context of a musical piece (i.e., as the tonic). For example, a musical piece transposed lower or higher than the original can have a fairly profound effect on the feel of the piece. We encountered this phenomenon earlier this year while discussing some theoretical aspects of a Vaughn Williams piece, The Vagabond:

Three compositional theory questions

The two versions we looked at were a major 3rd apart, with the higher one being quite a bit brighter than the lower (which sounded a bit gloomy). Forum member, btb's remarks on this are quite apt (and amusing).

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#1152320 - 08/14/07 11:43 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
Harmosis you got me thinknig again. Another aspect of our hard wiring in our brains - and our ears is hard wired to optimise for the mid range of the human voice - but this doesn't explain why C# minor is so chocolaty to me, it does not explain why Bb is navy blue, and B major bright blue - we could do a poll on the colours of keys - maybe I will make another posting ;\)

Of course their are other association's we make according to culture

Zero

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#1152321 - 08/15/07 02:54 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
_________________________
What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

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#1152322 - 08/15/07 08:45 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
Jimmo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 67
Loc: United Kingdom
Yes, it's hard to describe the experience of something without using a synaesthetic metaphor. Ramachandran did the 2003 Reith lectures and talked a little about this phenomenon too (in a non-musical context).

What he did point out was that pretty much everybody is synaesthetic to some degree. I certainly concur that different keys have a different feeling - and interestingly there seems to be some commonality across the population for certain keys.
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#1152323 - 08/15/07 05:51 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
Its the aural character of the keys that I am thinking of.... if you were to write a bright jingle would it be in Db or G? (assuming no voicing problems)?
Ive just been playing in C and then Db these keys have very different aural characters to my ears, but they are only a semitone different... hm my voice theory looks shaky (above)

Zero

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#1152324 - 08/22/07 05:20 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
jwjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/07
Posts: 278
Loc: New York
For the jingle, I guess it would depend on the product. Db seems like a more juvenile key than G, which to me has a more serious feel.
Maybe we should take a cue from wine-afficionados and start describing keys as "sober, half-bodied, fruity, juicy, mellow, dark in color; suggested pairings are red meat and cheese"
As far as Db minor and G minor, I find Db minor to be kind of heartbreaking, and G minor to be kind of film-noir.
But that's how I feel at the moment.
F minor is the epitome of cool.
_________________________
working on:
Goldberg Variations

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#1152325 - 08/23/07 07:03 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
I was waitching TV (instead of practicing TTTut)

I saw this thing where a guy had a large cake, he took this to a hundred or so people, then asked them to guess the weight. Although many were far out in their guesses, when the average of guesses was calculated they were near enough spot on.
I was wondering if anyone knoew the name of this effect, and whether it has been used iwth scales, to ask the character of scales.

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#1152326 - 08/24/07 08:37 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
two left hands Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/07
Posts: 2
Loc: Alicante, Spain
The cake question is simply a statistical average, with a standard deviation thrown in for good measure. If you applied the same to the question of key colours, every key would end up beige!

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#1152327 - 09/08/07 05:57 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
superlocrian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 69
Loc: Dallas, TX
Sorry, don't have time to read the whole thread, but I deny that "bright" and "dark" have a direct relationship to flats and sharps in a key signature. Here's a question. Can anyone here perceive an audible difference between a piece in C# major and the same piece "transposed" to Db major?

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#1152328 - 09/08/07 10:42 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
Hi Super,
I did not mean to imply that flat keys are darker, just using some examples G seems of F both seem brighter to me than Db or C# - as they are both enharmonically the same - if we are talking in equal temprament then I should think the sound is the same given that the peice has no accidentals

Not sure if two left hands remark about statistical averages answers my question either...

Maybe its a complex question which involves

1] The way we cognate speech sounds - high pitch meaning feminine or excitable (no I dont mean womean are excitable!)
2] Something to do with the compromises, in cent terms of euqla temprament

Zero

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#1152329 - 09/09/07 03:24 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
superlocrian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 69
Loc: Dallas, TX
Hey Zero. Sorry I haven't been around much. School is back in session and I'm back into regular routines. Seems as if you and Harmosis have had some wonderful discussions. Wish I could have contributed. I'll stop in occasionally.

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#1152330 - 09/09/07 07:11 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
Hi SuperLocrian,
Yes and I value Harmosis's perceptive criticisms, I was yesterday thinking about this brightness and darkeness of keys and, continuing our discussion, it seems to me that G is aurally the brightest key, then if you think about the cycle of fifths, using G as the "12 oclock" then at five minutes to ,and five past, you find C and D, then at ten past/before you get F and A etc using this approach you get - to my ears a motion from brightness to darkness, where a PAIR of keys, of equal status, descend into darkness.

In other words 5 minutes past/to ten past/to, 15 minutes past/to with Db/C# at 6 oclock.

Just brainstorming here...!

It is also interesting to me that G is the key with the f# in it, which brings me back to thoughts about the Lydian chromatic concept - If we create a cycle of fifths based on the Lydian scale G Ionian wuld be the C Lydian.

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#1152331 - 09/10/07 01:43 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
superlocrian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 69
Loc: Dallas, TX
Not sure that I agree that G is the "brightest" key. But hey, who am I to tell you that your perception is incorrect. Perception is an individual experience and therefore can not be wrong. It is what it is.

Okay, so you're sitting around thinking about "key clocks" in your head. Are you sure you're not turning into a Theory geek?

Just razzin' ya of course! I am currently reading an ancient Greek Theory treatise by Aristoxenus. Waaay better than watching TV! (except for the Cowboys or Mavericks, but of course that goes without saying, even though I'm saying it).

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#1152332 - 09/10/07 08:10 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 225
Loc: UK
Yes I am a theory geek, you wait until I get going, there are some VERY interesting concepts I am developing!

Zero

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#1152333 - 11/05/07 12:18 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
lovebach Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/05/07
Posts: 160
Loc: Indiana
 Quote:
Originally posted by ZeroZero:
I was wondering if the character of keys - e.g. G or D being bright keys, whilst say Db or Ab are dark is a function of the equal temperment tuning?

Anyone know? [/b]
That is a deep question. In the non-deep light though, if a piano was tuned to perfect equal temperment, some notes would still sound rather "dinny". It's fine to tune that way, but then after that tuning has been completed, it's important to tweak any individual notes to bring out the full resonance of the piano. Each piano, being a wooden instrument, has it's own resonance. ET sounds one way on one piano, and a slightly different way on another. It takes a well trained and artful tuner/tech to really make an instrument sound it's personal best.

On the deep side now. I have no idea what causes this lightness and darkness of some keys. This is outside of ET though, my opinion. I think that a piano is just a reflection of our own inner condition. There's a lot of moodiness there to work with--both light and dark. Fundementally, it is an "instrument". A proper instrument could be anything that communicates that inner condition. It's not about the instrument itself, but the thing communicated. In this case the instrument is a piano, but it could just as easily be a pen and paper, or a painting, or a car, or a thought, anything can be an instrument upon which the condition within can be expressed without.
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lovebach

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#1152334 - 11/05/07 11:27 AM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2737
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Every instrument is different (assuming acoustic instruments). Thus the question of darkness or lightness associated with keys has to do with an interaction between register of the music (the "key" factor) and the resonances of the instrument and it's environment (assuming equal temperament). Just moving a piano within a room will make it sound different thus the sound of various keys will change as well. We've all heard the effect of modulating up in popular music, the heightened sound is the result of the register change in a relative manner. It's the same effect that has caused standard pitch to rise over the centuries.

As a composer another factor is the relative difficulty of playing in various keys. In this regard D and E major might sound relatively bright, because the thumb is whacking down all those tonics. Flat keys will sound darker because the tonic is on a black key and thus it's harder to play loudly.

Of course these effects are unaffected by equal temperament. The moment temperament becomes in any way unequal then you do have a different color to each key. But since the standard tuning is equal temperament anything else (at a keyboard) is nonstandard. Strings and wind instruments provide their own variations on the temperament theme.

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#1152335 - 11/05/07 12:19 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
vanityx3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/06
Posts: 269
I'm not sure if the character of keys has something to do with ET or not. I'm thinking it has somethign more to do with our brains and how we hear the sounds. Maybe.

I truly believe that each key does have it's own flavor or character though. I'd state my proof of this as being, I think my composers and just musicians in general all have their favorite key(s) to write in, or play. So with that being said, it seems to me that this speaks of their being characters to keys.
For me personally I like Flat keys, I rarely like playing in the key of G on piano (unless I substitute all the G chords for Eminor chords).
G is much to bright a key for me, I like something a little more dark and haunting.

---
I think it is interesting what was said about being the brightest key, because of C lydian being the same notes but starting on C.
_________________________
well I'm 20 years old, and I'm teaching myself piano.

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#1152336 - 11/07/07 01:29 PM Re: Question about keys (a deep one)
Dan101 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 45
Loc: Canada
Many musicians, including myself, feel a certain brightness with respect to particular keys. However, as a composer, I see different keys as colors.

Having said that, the main concern with a composer is the effectiveness of his or her composition. As for the key choice, I see this as being determined either consciously or subconsciously. Thanks for posting this interesting topic of conversation.
_________________________
Daniel E. Friedman, co-owner of www.pianolessons101.com
You CAN learn to play the piano in a fun and positive way.

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