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#565221 - 09/14/06 12:51 AM How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Why would a composer of piano music choose to write a piece of music in C-Sharp Major instead of D-Flat Major or vice-versa (or similar circumstances with other keys)?
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#565222 - 09/14/06 01:42 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
I believe that is is firstly for ease of reading, and secondly (following on from that) because of where the modulations go. If, for example, the piece is essentially in C#/Db major, but maybe a second subject (perhaps rather unconventionally) were in the tonic minor, such that modulations in a development section were to wander through keys like E major and even A major, then one would be tempted to annotate the piece in C# major, and take advantage of the easy to read notes for E major, rather than Fb major. But you can see how often this happens by the much larger proportion of pieces written in Db major, rather than C# major ;\)

EDIT: Another way of putting it would be that the majority of conventional pieces of music tend to modulate farther away from the tonic, and more often, through 'sharper' keys (dominant, supertonic, etc), thus leading to naturals in Db major, which would mean harder-to-read double sharps if annotated in C# major.

-Michael B.
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#565223 - 09/14/06 04:27 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Sviatoslav Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 98
Loc: Italy, Torino
Different keys lead to different moods.
C # Major for example is associated with a mysterious character (Beethoven's Moonlight, Chopin's prelude op 45, scherzo n3 etc.).
And so it goes for other keys.

Some examples in Mozart could be:
C Major is the key of big ceremonies, of military marches, of solemn celebrations (and sometimes can also become a caricature). Symphony K. 338, Concerto K. 503, beginning of Concerto K. 467, beginning of the Jupiter symphony

G minor is the key of desperation, of passion, like in the Symphony K. 550 or the Quartet K. 478, Quintet K. 516, or Sonata K. 590d.

C Major - the military air "Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso" in the "Nozze di Figaro".
G minor - the very sad air of Pamina in the second act of the "Magic Flute".

There are also technical problems to solve; in an orchestra usually winds like some specific keys and the other instruments must adapt.

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#565224 - 09/14/06 04:27 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
JohnEB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/20/06
Posts: 754
Loc: Belgium
pick the one which will have fewer accidentals based on modulations, as mentioned above.
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#565225 - 09/14/06 05:24 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Liszt_BG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 338
Loc: Bulgaria
 Quote:
Originally posted by Sviatoslav:
C # Major for example is associated with a mysterious character (Beethoven's Moonlight, Chopin's prelude op 45, scherzo n3 etc.).[/b]
All of the above mentioned works are in C sharp minor, not major.

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#565226 - 09/14/06 05:30 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Liszt_BG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 338
Loc: Bulgaria
And by the way, I don't see a reason why should a composer write in, say, C# major instead of Db major only because of an intermediate or development section, meant to be in E major, or whatever. He can simply modulate into E major, shifting from 5 flats to 4 sharps. It's a simple as that.

There must be another reason about that. And I think I know what it is. For instance, I used to prefer Eb minor than D# minor, because it was way easier for me to read it. After learning the Scriabin etude op. 8 no. 12 it became quite equal. Maybe a given composer reads a key better than its enharmonic key, and that makes him write in it instead of the other.

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#565227 - 09/14/06 08:21 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Well, personally, I would find C# Major MUCH easier to read that D-Flat major? Why? Because with C# Major, every note is sharped. It's just like playing in C major when no notes are sharped. With D-Flat Major, you always have to remember which keys are flat and which are not, but that is not an issue at all with C# Major.
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#565228 - 09/14/06 08:49 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Liszt_BG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 338
Loc: Bulgaria
Interesting way of thinking, Pianojerome. To me they're the same.

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#565229 - 09/14/06 09:23 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Frank_W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/06
Posts: 1047
Loc: United States
I agree with Sam. I prefer to call it C# instead of Db, and I prefer to work with sharps, rather than flats. I don't know why, but it just seems easier to me, for some reason.
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#565230 - 09/14/06 09:26 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Liszt_BG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 338
Loc: Bulgaria
I USED TO prefer flats. Not for reading, but in general. Now the balance has shifted. I'm more comfortable using sharp keys.

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#565231 - 09/14/06 09:52 AM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
jpw101 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/05
Posts: 631
Loc: UK
I know I've mentioned this before, but if anyone can explain why Liszt modulates from D flat major to C sharp major in the 6th Hungarian Rhapsody, I'd love to know! It would sound the same and be more readable in D flat, so why the enharmonic key signature change?

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#565232 - 09/14/06 12:19 PM Re: How does a composer of piano music choose between enharmonic keys?
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
Flip a coin?

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