Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why?

Posted by: JamesPlaysPiano

Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/20/12 08:55 PM

The subject says it all. I got to thinking about this, and it occurred to me that my own answer has some very specific reasons. I'm going to hold off on my answer for a bit, though, because I'm curious to see what others will have to say.

So what is your favorite key to play in, and why?

James
Posted by: Ted

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/20/12 11:21 PM

Inasmuch as I ever play within keys, one is as good as another for me. I do seem to conclude a disproportionate number of recorded improvisations in Db, but I haven't the faintest idea why. It is certainly not conscious, and is not related to preceding content. Just as when I was scanning in a large number of my handwritten compositions from years ago, I found many to be in E. I don't have a clue why that was either.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/21/12 05:32 AM

hmm that's a good question - if I remember to ask my teacher, I'll share his answer (as I can't improvise, I don't feel I personally can answer!)
Posted by: daviel

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/21/12 12:16 PM

pick a key; any key...
Posted by: Steve Nixon

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 05:01 AM

Originally Posted By: daviel
pick a key; any key...


Yep exactly. They're all good smile
Posted by: beeboss

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 05:34 AM

I like D minor, the saddest of all keys
Posted by: custard apple

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 05:46 AM

Hi Dave B
That's interesting. I've ever only done one tune in a minor key, the D min 6 Beautiful Love, and I thought it was an extremely sad key.
Do you ever work in modes to make this key even sadder ?

JamesPP
My favorite key is Ab maj. Not too happy, just mellow.
Posted by: beeboss

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 08:34 AM

HiCustard,
sorry it was a spinaltap-ism
apologies to the uninitiated ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgViOqGJEvM
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 10:17 AM

Originally Posted By: custard apple

My favorite key is Ab maj. Not too happy, just mellow.


As "In a Mellow Tone"... smile cool
Posted by: rada

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 10:49 AM

I think every key sets a 'tone ' for itself....just as certain instruments have a role.....for the example the bassoon being nicknamed 'the clown' of the orchestra. So for me, different keys
put my inner ear in different levels. I probably prefer minor to major keys but then that is a natural occurence in music..
all the time.....with relative minors.

rada
Posted by: daviel

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 11:18 AM

Our flute-ist last night likes Am.
Posted by: Steve Nixon

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 03:51 PM

Originally Posted By: beeboss
I like D minor, the saddest of all keys


Nice beeboss smile
Posted by: JamesPlaysPiano

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 06:16 PM

I was wondering if anyone might say "any key," or that the key doesn't matter. Ted, I'm totally NOT talking about you in particular here, and this wasn't meant a "trap" in any way, but I would like to comment on that for a sec. I think there's a reluctance to admitting to a favorite key because, for SOME people, it might seem uncool, or like a "negative." After all, if you admit to favoring a key, it might indicate that you're better in that key, which might indicate that you're worse in another key, and some people don't want to admit that they struggle in some keys. Again, NOT pointing fingers here.

I just find that to be interesting, because there are certain undeniable idiosyncrasies with certain keys. As a result, there are certain things that are easier to do in certain keys. That doesn't mean that you CAN'T do them in all keys. It often just means you have to work harder. Of course, this can come down to style. If you play bluesy stuff then you'll likely favor C, F, Bb, and other keys with, among other things, a black note for a flatted third and a white note for a major third, because that accommodates lots of the "sliding" licks in the idiom. Sure, it's our goal to be great in all keys, but it wouldn't be shocking to admit to having a favorite, because it makes certain things that one does easier.

Of course, there are other things that could drive us toward certain keys, such as favoring sharp keys because you either play strings yourself or play with a lot of strings players, or favoring flat keys because you also play brass or play with lots of brass players. Then there are people who have such a strong connection to reading that, even when improvising, they tend to prefer the smallest number of accidentals, because it becomes tedious to think in too many sharps OR flats. And all this is in addition to people who say that certain keys sound different inherently.

Ted, you said "Inasmuch as ever I play within keys," which suggests that you're probably not playing blues all day smile However, I'm sure that doesn't mean that you don't have sounds that you tend to prefer as an artist, conscious or otherwise. How interesting that you gravitate towards Db and E, seeing as how different they are! I'd expect your average person who loves Db to shy away from E, and vice versa. I wonder what it is about your musical improvisational preferences that compels you both keys? Interesting!

For me, yes, I play in all keys all the time, but I definitely have my favorite. For years, it's been Db, and as I was saying earlier, it struck me as interesting when I got to thinking about why. There are two reasons:

1. Geography. The geography of the Db scale is so unique that it sometimes feels as if it would be hard to play the wrong note. C major, while an easy key to get started on, actually seems challenging at times because it's an open "plateau" of white notes. It's easier to get "off track" by a note, as opposed to Db, which seems more rigid. For me this seems to extend to the secondary harmony as it applies to Db. All those secondary dominants and tritone subs seem to fit in only one way.

2. The above could apply to several keys, but I think this next reason is what separates Db, for me. When playing diatonic runs in a tonal context (which is not all I do by any stretch, but it has a significant presence in my playing) we often avoid the fourth scale degree. I find myself creating lines that in essence are made of the entire major scale minus the fourth. (Not just running up and down, but in a variety of ways). The two hand positions that make up this scale (thumb on C, then thumb on F) seem to make it particularly easy to play and isolate the fourth (Gb). It just feels comfortable.

Having said all that, I'll definitely favor other keys if I'm playing other styles, such as blues, which I do quite a bit.
Posted by: custard apple

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/22/12 07:09 PM

Hey James
I'm finding out that with the flatted major keys, 4 can actually sound very good, even on a downbeat, in the middle of a phrase.

Hey Dave B
You are the biggest joke artist. I'm gonna be careful of everything you say from now on wink

haha Dave F, thanks for introducing me to In A Mellow Tone. You sure know so many standards.
Posted by: Ted

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/23/12 02:10 AM

The Db and E frequency applies to old written compositions and conclusions of improvisations, assuming a conclusion exists (up until the Zoom H2 I just let the tape run out). The main body of any given improvisation is likely to contain a roughly equal distribution of notes I think, but I haven't actually counted anything.

I find it much easier to say what does not influence keys I play than what does. It cannot be the sound as I do not have absolute pitch. It cannot be anything to do with convenience of written notation, as most of my old pieces were conceived at the instrument and written out, often very reluctantly, later on after the event. Thirdly, I doubt the haptic convenience you mention, although a very important part of improvisation for many I am sure, has much to do with my own case. I find something to like in the "feel" of all keys. This because my teacher when I was a kid made me play every idea around the key circle. Fingering in improvisation has to be catch-as-catch-can though, surely ? If an idea occurs to me I just get it out any way I can, there is no time to work out optimal physical positions. Lastly, I am not interested in harmony at all in any accepted sense of the word, (I found that out by posting on forums for ten years !) and treat it as more or less a surface colouring over rhythm and phrase. Therefore difficulty or otherwise of placing fingers within a given keyboard subset does not present itself as an issue.

So where do "keys" come from when I improvise ? Sorry, I just don't have a clue. It's like asking why I would use one rhythm more than another. It's almost too complicated to think about.

Now I am talking here about complete improvisation, wherein no predetermined pattern, motif, melody, anything, exists. I just start, let the ideas flow and finish after half an hour or an hour or whatever. I find beginnings and endings a bit of a nuisance actually but I'm getting better at them with age.

I'm probably too different to shed much light on your question, but I think it is an intriguing question and I am interested to read the different responses.
Posted by: Jazz+

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/28/12 10:24 PM

Easy question. The obvious answer is the 5 most common keys in jazz: C, F, Eb, G and Bb.
Posted by: DaveRobertsJazz

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/29/12 04:51 PM

I love Db Major because it falls under the hands so easily. Unfortunately, bassists don't like Db because it doesn't fall under their hands that easily.
Posted by: WiZeM@N

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 07/30/12 05:50 AM

I find the flat keys fit better for my fingers. Eb, Db, Ab, Bb. They are easy keys to play in.

For some reason I hate sharps. I think because the sharps are on the middle fingers. Where as all flat keys you use your pinky in the left hand to shape the chord.

For the "easy" keys, C, F ,G, i am ambivalent. I don't loathe nor love them.
Posted by: JamesPlaysPiano

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 08/01/12 12:36 AM

Originally Posted By: DaveRobertsJazz
I love Db Major because it falls under the hands so easily. Unfortunately, bassists don't like Db because it doesn't fall under their hands that easily.


Ha! That's true. Once I started playing Autumn Leaves in Bb minor/Db major, I never turned back. (The changes feel GREAT in this key!) But every time I call it, my bass player makes sure I see his eyes rolling. smile
Posted by: jordyzzz

Re: Improvisers- what's your favorite key to play in, and why? - 08/01/12 08:07 AM

any keys except those who has lots of accidentals (C Sharp major, F sharp major, B major), because i'm a beginner, and it's harder to improvise when there are lots of black keys.

but for me, the good sounding keys (to my ears) are C sharp, A Flat, and E Flat..