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#1467492 - 07/03/10 08:38 AM What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing?
Samuel1993 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 351
Loc: United Kingdom
Hello everyone,

Say if you're writing in the key of A minor, and went from a C to a chord of G#, C, and F, would you notate the G# as that or an Ab, surely an Ab because it's a smaller interval?
What's the rule with this?

Regards
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Currently working on...
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op.66
Mozart - Piano Sonata in E flat K.282
Liszt - Romance in E minor "O pourquoi donc" S.196

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#1467500 - 07/03/10 09:17 AM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Samuel1993]
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas
If that is an inversion of F minor, you would note it with Ab because you have lowered the 3rd of F a half step.

If however it is functioning as something else, it depends. You should provide more context to get a definitive answer.
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#1467699 - 07/03/10 04:28 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Studio Joe]
JonnyJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 149
Loc: New Zealand
Despite it being F minor..for simplification you should stick with G# cuz there are no Ab in an A minor key.
The above post is right if you are skipping keys like an indecisive jazz player.

... the grammar books might say otherwise....but i d'ont care smile
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#1468169 - 07/04/10 02:12 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: JonnyJohn]
Chris G Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/09
Posts: 737
Loc: Portland, Oregon
I'm with Studio Joe on this one. Many players will recognize common chords such as Fm and it will be easier to read if you notate it as Ab, C, F. You could alternatively write it as G#, B#, E# and make it an E# minor, but F minor sounds much more like a chord you might encounter in the key of A minor.

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#1468240 - 07/04/10 04:08 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Samuel1993]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: Samuel1993
Hello everyone,

Say if you're writing in the key of A minor, and went from a C to a chord of G#, C, and F, would you notate the G# as that or an Ab, surely an Ab because it's a smaller interval?
What's the rule with this?

Regards


Not quite sure what you're asking Sam.

When you say you "went from a C to a chord of G#, C, and F", do you mean you went from a C chord to the chord of G#,C, and F? If that's the case, then I'd use "Ab" for an Fm chord.

Not sure what you mean here either:
"would you notate the G# as that or an Ab, surely an Ab because it's a smaller interval". Why would it be a smaller interval?

John smile
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Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1468262 - 07/04/10 04:56 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Johnny-Boy]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11183
Loc: Canada
Quote:
"would you notate the G# as that or an Ab, surely an Ab because it's a smaller interval". Why would it be a smaller interval?


I think he means that G# to C counts 4 notes = a diminished fourth (4), while Ab to C counts 3 notes = a major third (3).

Sam, G# C, and Ab C, are the same interval, but they have different names becase of how they are written in notation. You press the same keys and get the same sound. G# C is a diminished 4th, while Ab C is a major 3rd. They are enharmonic equivalents which means they are the same but have different names. One is not smaller than another.

It helps to distinguish between what an interval is called, and what it is. What an interval is called depends on how it is written down. G# to C involves four notes, G,A,B,C so it is some kind of fourth. Ab C involves three notes, A,B,C so it is some kind of third. Then you consider the sharp or flat and end up with diminished 4, and major 3. So much for naming.

What an interval actually is: it is the distance between two pitches. What we usually call major 3 has a particular quality regardless of which two notes you play that are a major 3 apart. Whether you press the black key for Ab, or the black key for G#, it's still the same piano key giving the same pitch. Combined with C, you still get that particular quality of that interval.

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#1468288 - 07/04/10 05:47 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: keystring]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Ab, unless you've got some kind of odd voice leading where a G# would be easier to read.

Context matters. And you're probably not in A minor if you're following a C chord with CFAb... (The key signature might say A minor, but you're in a different place, or at least using borrowed chords, in which case Ab is definitely correct.)
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"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1468321 - 07/04/10 07:48 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Kreisler]
JonnyJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 149
Loc: New Zealand
Hmmm,
The most likely scenario a composer would end up with a F minor chord in an A minor key would be if the bass note was going stepwise downwards like a common progression.

I.e F major inversion with A bass
Then later down a semi-tone to G sharp.....not Ab, because it's just passing by...still in A-minor...unless you change keys.

But it's up to you to notate...it's just more intuitive to keep your sharps and flats in the same keys unless you are changing keys.

But that's just me..I don't read books
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#1471121 - 07/09/10 12:05 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Samuel1993]
photowriters Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/06/08
Posts: 180
Loc: Kansas City
Originally Posted By: Samuel1993
Say if you're writing in the key of A minor, and went from a C to a chord of G#, C, and F, would you notate the G# as that or an Ab, surely an Ab because it's a smaller interval?
What's the rule with this?

The basic rule with chords is the notation should spell a chord. The simplest example would be a C-chord. That is spelled C-E-G. Even though the actual pitches would be identical, it would be incorrect to write B#-E-G because there is no chordal triad that is spelled with a B, an E, and a G regardless of the presence or absence of accidentals on any note.
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Regards,

Bob

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#1471168 - 07/09/10 12:56 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing [Re: photowriters]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Also, wouldn't it be G# because that is not a modification of the original key signature of A?

I was taught that it is more correct to keep the tonic of the original root chord unchanged, so in this case to change the A into A flat changes that, because the key of the piece is A, whereas G# is not such a change, even though G# and Ab are the same note.

Am I right or wrong?
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#1471277 - 07/09/10 03:41 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing [Re: rocket88]
JonnyJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 149
Loc: New Zealand
you are right if you believe you are
lol!
I saw some listz composition....geez...often he could've just write a B major chord "B D# F#" but instead he writes it as Cb D# blah blah blah lol....which just makes me think...if you could learn a piece by ear it would save sooo much confusion from learning from a sheetmusic.
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#1471325 - 07/09/10 04:56 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing [Re: JonnyJohn]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Um...where in Liszt have you seen Cb D#?

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#1471525 - 07/10/10 01:54 AM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing [Re: Kreisler]
JonnyJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 149
Loc: New Zealand
That's a very good question
*lights up cigar and puts feet up on table*
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#1472063 - 07/10/10 11:50 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: JonnyJohn]
Jared Hoeft Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/05/10
Posts: 174
Loc: Hutchinson, Minnesota, United ...
Originally Posted By: JonnyJohn
Despite it being F minor..for simplification you should stick with G# cuz there are no Ab in an A minor key.


I hate to point out the obvious, but there's no G sharp in A minor either :P lol. I would stick with A flat since the F minor triad in second inversion is most accurately spelled C-F-Ab

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#1472462 - 07/11/10 05:56 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Jared Hoeft]
JonnyJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 149
Loc: New Zealand
That's a very sharp observation agent Jared
I have papers to backup my point but it's lost somewhere in my files...yes..

*Lights up another cigar and loosens tie...smoking profusely*
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#1473815 - 07/13/10 10:10 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Jared Hoeft]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2629
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: Jared "Mert" Hoeft
Originally Posted By: JonnyJohn
Despite it being F minor..for simplification you should stick with G# cuz there are no Ab in an A minor key.


I hate to point out the obvious, but there's no G sharp in A minor either :P lol. I would stick with A flat since the F minor triad in second inversion is most accurately spelled C-F-Ab

However, G# is the leading tone in a minor and would be found in both melodic and harmonic minor scales. As others have said context is key, if the G#/Ab resolves upward to A then it would be functioning as a leading tone and G# would be the most appropriate spelling. There are many possible reasons for spelling it either way. If the other notes of the chord are indeed F and C then you're spelling an f minor chord and you need to decide if it's functioning and an f minor or as an E# minor chord. While either is possible the context would make it clear.

For those wondering why an E# minor would be appropriate spelling consider an E major chord functioning as a dominant, but instead of resolving to A minor the B and E move up in parallel fifths (or fourths) to a e# minor chord that is undoubtedly moving somewhere not in A minor. I said it was possible, not necessarily desirable.

Of course the comment sticking in the back of my mind is if you have to ask you may want to spend some quality time with some music theory books.

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#1475957 - 07/17/10 04:18 AM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Steve Chandler]
iLikeChopinToo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 32
As far as I know, you normally use accidental sharps in sharp key signatures and accidental flats in flat key signatures. C major and A minor is a sharp key signature with 0 sharps in this context. But if there is a harmonic reason it reads more sensible with the other type of accidental, you can use it.

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#1476060 - 07/17/10 11:40 AM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: iLikeChopinToo]
photowriters Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/06/08
Posts: 180
Loc: Kansas City
Originally Posted By: iLikeChopinToo
As far as I know, you normally use accidental sharps in sharp key signatures and accidental flats in flat key signatures. C major and A minor is a sharp key signature with 0 sharps in this context. But if there is a harmonic reason it reads more sensible with the other type of accidental, you can use it.

FWIW the sharps and flats in a key signature are not accidentals. They are the key signature. An accidental is a modification to the pitch of a given note that is different than the key signature would indicate. (This includes both an accidental in the same measure that returns the note pitch to that indicated by the key signature and a courtesy accidental that appears in the next measure to remind the musician that the pitch has returned to the key signature pitch.)

Perhaps even more to the point is that accidentals in a sharp key are not restricted to sharps and accidentals in a flat key signature are not restricted to flats. If it makes harmonic and melodic sense to have a flat in the key of D Major (2 sharps in the key signature), there is nothing wrong with that. For example if there is a common tone modulation to G minor (2 flats in the key signature) for 3 or 4 measures, it makes more sense to use accidentals than a new key signature. In that case there would be liberal use of accidental flats and accidental naturals.

The composer is certainly free to use whatever notation he/she desires in regards to accidentals, but if the composition has a series of nonsensical chord spellings:
  • Musicians will complain about the piece,
  • Sales of the piece will suffer,
  • Teachers, conductors, and prize judges will pass over the piece, and
  • If it is written for a class, the grade will suffer.
Hope that helps!


Edited by photowriters (07/17/10 11:42 AM)
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Regards,

Bob

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#1476091 - 07/17/10 12:21 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: photowriters]
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas
Best answer I've seen yet in this thread. Thanks Bob.
_________________________
Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax

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#1476177 - 07/17/10 04:00 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: Studio Joe]
photowriters Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/06/08
Posts: 180
Loc: Kansas City
Originally Posted By: Studio Joe
Best answer I've seen yet in this thread. Thanks Bob.

You are most welcome. I guess my music theory teacher turned me into a bit of a theory junkie.
_________________________
Regards,

Bob

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#1476194 - 07/17/10 05:01 PM Re: What's the rule with notating #'s and b's when composing? [Re: photowriters]
JonnyJohn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 149
Loc: New Zealand
yes..why not..
*puts out cigar by standing on it*
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