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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Question of Keys.

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haggis - Posted - 07/30/2015:  12:37:24

Why would a tune's key signature be F major and yet all B's in the tune are natural? Why not C major?

folkpunk - Posted - 07/30/2015:  15:02:19

Some kind of modal thing?

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 07/30/2015:  15:17:32

The physics of sound and the construction pattern of the major scale....... The whole and half step pattern can't change as long as it is a Major scale. Sooo.....
when you start a Major scale on the F tone two whole steps then a half step gives you a Bd.
F G A Bd C D E F .......

Capice? R/

Dick Hauser - Posted - 07/30/2015:  15:25:59

I have played tunes using the mixolydian scale.  The key signature would be for the key of A, but all the 7th notes (i.e. G Note) would be have notation changing them to a G natural.  So you end up playing the tune like it was in the key of D.  What is the name of the tune you are referring to ?  You might check "Fiddlers Companion" website and look for information on that tune.  It could identify which key they tune is normally played in.  I am just too lazy to figure it out but not knowing the answer bothers me.  The mixolydian key would explain the flatted 7th.  i have played around on a piece of paper and ended up asking the same question your did Haggis.

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 07/30/2015:  20:09:50


Originally posted by haggis


Why would a tune's key signature be F major and yet all B's in the tune are natural? Why not C major?

That is F Lydian Mode which has a kind of ethereal flavor to it. 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7

my fav example of Lydian is Blue Jay Way by the Beatles (key of C    C D E F# G A B ((occasional Eb))  )

Edited by - mmuussiiccaall on 07/30/2015 20:17:12

alaskafiddler - Posted - 07/31/2015:  02:21:05

Could be that the tune is actually in F major - but... not sure how to explain  this.... the melody doesn't use a 4th (Bb)  but the melody/chords modulates through a II (G major chord) - or possibly VI7 - II7 - V7 (D7, G7, C7) ;  it's a fairly common progression  - and with that puts an accidental (B note) in the melody. Accidentals are just that, they don;t belong to the key. (it's not really in Lydian).

pete_fiddle - Posted - 07/31/2015:  03:01:54

Could do with the melody/accompaniment  to figure it out,probably F is the "key centre" for the accompaniment,and like Alaska says the melody uses the B's as accidentals or for tension,or doesn't use them at all, or it could be like mmuussiiccaall says and the tune is Lydian or a combination?

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 07/31/2015 03:15:11

haggis - Posted - 07/31/2015:  14:12:39

Here is the tune I speak of.


DougD - Posted - 07/31/2015:  20:08:17

Yes, as Alaskafiddler surmised, the B naturals are against a G chord, which is harmonically correct. Also that piece is in D minor. not F - its not written in C major because its not in that key, although it ends on C which muddles things a bit. Unless there's supposed to be a deliberate tension between the F naturals against the F sharps in a D major chord in the B part, I'd say they forgot to make those minor chords.

The key of D minor vs. F brings up the difference between key signature and key. The key signature is the group of sharps or flats placed on the staff at the beginning of a piece of music, and at the beginning of each subsequent line. The key is a tonality that might be implied by that group of sharps or flats. One flat (Bb) might imply F or Dmin, depending on the scale used and where the tune begins and ends in that scale. (F or D in this case). C mixolydian mode or G Dorian mode could also as easily be written with one flat. You have to look at the melody and the tonal center to determine the key that's indicated by the key signature. F Lydian mode mode would use a different key signature - no sharps or flats, the same as C major, unless you want to use a lot of accidentals.

Edited by - DougD on 07/31/2015 20:16:14

DougD - Posted - 07/31/2015:  21:04:09

PS - So as I understand the terminology, in your example the key signature is one flat (Bb) and the key is D minor.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 08/01/2015:  01:23:46

i think in this case i think the (guitar) chords could all be played without 3rds with the D drone ringing throughout (drop D tuning or DADGAD) so that would make folkpunk right and the tune would be modal, i would try D Dorian if i was going to have a go at improv,so that would put the tune in C major(in my mind)!! That would confirm mmuussiiccaall's view as well ,and DougD would be right aswell,as the tune is minor so you could use modes from the D harmonic/melodic minor as well(cool Gypsy stuff).i think modal stuff is (sometimes) written out in C and the Key sig is just telling you what notes to play flat or sharp unless the dots tell you otherwise, but i could be wrong....

Hang on is that a Bb set of pipes he is playing,that would defy my logic if the music was written out for Bb instruments...

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 08/01/2015 01:35:05

fujers - Posted - 08/02/2015:  16:17:03

F is a very interesting key. Lots of double stops if you can hit them.

I play a few tunes in F especially in the second position and the first, I hardly ever venture out of my comfort zone when I play in F but sometimes I do.

Don't ever try to play in C#. This is no mans land for the fiddle. You have to play every note closed or just about and us fiddlers really like the open strings. No ones play's in C#

Now minor keys are just fun to play in. There I get to use my mode playing and that's a lot of fun..a lot of fun. Got to practice now. Jerry


Edited by - fujers on 08/02/2015 16:17:34

FacePalm - Posted - 08/02/2015:  18:52:25


Originally posted by fujers

Now minor keys are just fun to play in.


Hey Jerry, do you play in F minor as well....!?

fujers - Posted - 08/03/2015:  07:42:55

F minor doesn't come up to often in stuff I play. So I/m going to say no. I know how to play in that key but it just doesn't come up. Jerry

alaskafiddler - Posted - 08/03/2015:  22:48:59


Originally posted by haggis


Here is the tune I speak of.

D Dorian. 

As far as the melody construction goes; fits right in that Dorian. (IMO that tune is written with the wrong sig)

One thing about Dorian (and Mixolydian) many folks and a confusion key signature, (readers and writers) based on what they learned as "the rules" - essentially as they fall under Major/Minor world. They might recognize the D Minor aspect to the tune and believe (according to "the rules") that means one flat (as relative minor same as F major). 

D Dorian - has no sharps or flats ( B natural is not accidental to it); essentially the same as C major) - IMO if playing lots of  traditional music, get familiar with Dorian (esp E Dorian, A Dorian and B Dorain); and how they are not quite just Minor with an accidental sharp sixth.

BTW - Not sure about those chords listed in that notation, I guess might work, but kind of takes it away from the Dorian sound.  I believe there are other chords folks use that keep it more Dorian.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 08/04/2015:  13:09:33

Could be a secret piping cipher question..wink

pete_fiddle - Posted - 08/04/2015:  19:33:14

interesting hearing different folks analysis,its odd that some of the best "players" i know(in there own genres) wouldn't have a clue what modes are,or even know which notes are in a Bb chord,and if anyone starts talking theory they run for the hills,i suppose the only way to learn from these folk is to sit down with them and try and play along, or listen to recordings of them,which is my preferred way to learn a tune(being a bit slow at picking up tunes).but i have learned tunes from the dots and have been surprised to find that mostly they go with other folks versions,with a few tweaks,but sometimes they are just plain wrong

Dick Hauser - Posted - 08/05/2015:  06:09:45

Pete - I think that situation is gradually changing. More fiddlers seem to be starting out with some degree of musical training. In addition, some kids are receiving training by highly qualified professional fiddlers. I have been told that some instructors interview potential students to determine if they should be accepted into a fiddle training program. One mother told me she moved from Dallas Texas to Arkansas so that her daughter could enter a program like this. Material for learning music theory is becoming more and more available. Some of these young fiddlers are very good, and they keep getting better. When I have a question about music theory, and I can't find the answer in one of my books, I start looking on the internet.

I often wish there were lessons on music theory for amateur musicians. Downloadable videos and notation on music theory, and its application in music. Just all of my music theory books are weak on applying the theory. If someone offers SKYPE lessons on music theory and its application in fiddling, send me an email. I would prefer videos with intermittent SKYPE lessons to discuss problems areas. I learn slow, but don't forget. That is why I like videos. I can watch and listen repeatedly and figure things out.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 08/05/2015:  10:37:52

We're fiddlin'.  We're not violinin'.  Learning to fiddle is a process of listening and imitating.  Violining involves a good deal of theory and scholarship in addition to hands-on playing and listening.   Sure, there's places where the twains meet, but it's important to appreciate the differences between the disciplines.   Fiddling is a folk process, not a scholarly process.  To my mind, it's not meant to be overthought. 

I play the tunes the best I can.  If I end up making a few changes to tunes because of inability or brilliance, well, that's the folk tradition.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 08/05/2015:  13:00:50

Dick i think that the theory(s) are genre specific and that's why there is so much confusion,a Gypsy violinist will look at things from a totally different perspective than an Irish fiddler,blues player or jazz violinist etc, each discipline has its own "theory" (IMO) but i think they do share common ground, my own interest is trying to find out what happens when the different genre's/cultures have combined and spark off subtly different types of music,like what happened when an Irish banjo player  went into a Chicago bar with a Scots accordion player and a French fiddler (for instance) and heard Scott Joplin playing for the first time,(probably not too far fetched) and then they went home and had a tune together, it would have to alter their perceptions IMO,and unless someone can tell me that,(for free) the only way forward for me is to listen,research and make up my own theory's.As long as they have a musical foundation they are probably as good (to me) as anybody else's theory's,plus i will totally understand them,and have the luxury of being able to change them at will when i find out they are wrong ,which is incidentally one of my biggest epiphany's(knowing that i am probably wrong but sticking with it until i find otherwise)... it's all good clean funsmiley

DougD - Posted - 08/05/2015:  13:37:05

I agree that musical theory and the teaching of it are "genre specific." Jazz guitarists don't look at chord structure in the same way as classical pianists, for example. At least when I was learning, classical instruction didn't really mention modes, except maybe the Medieval church modes. I hadn't thought about them until recently, even though I've played and accompanied lots of "modal" tunes.

I should add that my comments about the key of this piece were based on the the key signature and chords in the notation. Of course the first thing they did after writing the key signature was to "naturalize" all the B flats, as haggis noted. That really makes it a Dorian scale, with a sharp 6th, as alaskafiddler stated. It would have more elegant to write it with no sharps or flats, since it uses the notes of the C major scale, as Pete said. They may have wanted to convey the feeling of the D tonal center though, or maybe they didn't know any better and thought no further than "D minor with some accidentals." Some of the chord choices make me think that might have been the case. I can't see the image too clearly, but is that a Db chord in the last measure of the A part? If so, that seems like an odd choice, and everywhere else that phrase occurs in the piece its a Bb. Sloppy work or bad eyesight on my part I guess!

BTW, there are a couple of versions of this tune notated at The Session:

Edited by - DougD on 08/05/2015 13:50:04

Lee M - Posted - 08/05/2015:  13:53:52


Originally posted by pete_fiddle


Could be a secret piping cipher question..wink

Finally, some clarity..!!


DougD - Posted - 08/05/2015:  13:57:15

Time limit got me: The first version at The Session is similar to what you have, haggis, except its written with no sharps or flats. Its identified as being in A minor though, although a helpful Session member pointed out its in D Dorian. The second version looks more interesting.

Edited by - DougD on 08/05/2015 14:00:31

pete_fiddle - Posted - 08/05/2015:  14:07:20

OK Lee it's D Dorian and they wrote it wronglaugh(or it could be a pentatonic minor scale derived from leaving the semitones out of a D Phrygian modewink) but any way it's D i think....maybe

fujers - Posted - 08/05/2015:  15:04:44

Hey, Just pick the thing up and play it. That's it

Who cares if you are good or bad. Who cares if you know your scales and what not

The thing was made to play so just play it

Trying to think to much into it will kill ya. Take it slow and study and practice

Now if you really want to play good you're going to have to practice.

But if you just want to learn something anything or just a simple tune....learn it and don't look back. You have it in your hands....Use it. Just saying. Jerry

FacePalm - Posted - 08/05/2015:  15:28:15

Henry, There is other modes that you can play in. Just pick one! If you just listen to what you play you will figure it out.

The modes are just modes and you can change these modes to suit your needs. There's nothing holding you back to discover what chord changes are and nothing that you can't discover by learning scales.

Scales to me at least are my best way to express what I want to say. I mean if you don't want to say nothing....then don't express it. If you want to express something then express it.

Scales are important to all of us. But it just takes practice...that's all.

As I go to bed I have just completed my nightly exploration of scales.

Henry, You need to step up to the next level and understand your scales. Twist them a round and just see what you get.

You might be amazed at what you will find. I'm only offering this a friendly expression of the good for fiddle playing.

But you might want to take a look at it. Jerry


Ok Jerry , I think I'll go and play some scales now......huh, what the..?

Addie - Posted - 08/05/2015:  18:11:17

The note range is that of the bagpipe scale-- G4 to A5.

People I know slide up from Bb to B natural on this tune.

ChickenMan - Posted - 08/05/2015:  18:53:06

I like your new avatar, Addie.

Okay, back to the missing Bb discussion.

Edited by - ChickenMan on 08/05/2015 18:54:15

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 08/06/2015:  17:50:45

In my opinion this piece could be written in the key signature of C for the player who would wish to just play what they see. But I would want to see it in the key of D minor with that one flat being naturalized thereby putting it into the Dorian mode. This would give me the "chord pool" as I list here that would be available in this mode with of course the D tonalities being the tonics. These chords listed are the chords that could be used to harmonize this melody (with no sharps or flats so as to not disturb the mode.)  Also if the soloist then saw the melody and the chords behind them an ad-lib improvisation could be performed

C F G CM7 FM7 G7 Dm Em Am Csus Dsus Esus Gsus Dm6 C+9 F+9 G+9 A+9 G9 CM9 FM9 C6/9 F6/9 C6 F6 G6 Dm7 Em7 Am7 Dm+9

fujers - Posted - 08/07/2015:  00:02:54

You give a lot of explanation and I appreciate it.

One thing you have to remember is that most of use who play the fiddle my have no musical skills.

We just play by ear. Some us are good and some of a different nature and we'll just have to see what the end meens.

The charts you presented looked interesting.....but I don't understand them. I can read Nashville charts numerical and other.

I'm sorry I don't understand. Could you simplify it for me. Thanks, Jerry

texasadam - Posted - 08/07/2015:  08:09:41

After looking at the chords for the tune, I'm pretty confident in saying that the key is C Mixolydian. All of those chords are chords you would typically see of a tune in C (it even ends on a C chord), but the key signature looks like it's in F. Since C is the 5th in F, and Mixolydian is based on the 5th scale degree, I'd say the tune is in C Mixolydian.


This is similar to Old Joe Clark. At jams and such, we always say that Old Joe Clark is in A, but the G notes are all natural and the chords of the tune sure look like chords to a tune in D.. Since A is the 5th of D and in D all of the Gs are natural, there ya go, it's actually in A Mixolydian. I think we always just say that it's in A because it's easier than getting into a discussion about theory at a jam.

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 08/07/2015:  13:30:32

Here's the song as done by Faran Flad, it begins four minutes into the video.

I have attached the sheet music with the chords they use and an mp3 that is slowed down to 33% for practice.

Edited by - mmuussiiccaall on 08/07/2015 13:42:46

Bulgarian Red

Bulgarian Red 33% speed

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 08/07/2015:  14:33:01


Originally posted by fujers


You give a lot of explanation and I appreciate it.

One thing you have to remember is that most of use who play the fiddle my have no musical skills.

We just play by ear. Some us are good and some of a different nature and we'll just have to see what the end meens.

The charts you presented looked interesting.....but I don't understand them. I can read Nashville charts numerical and other.

I'm sorry I don't understand. Could you simplify it for me. Thanks, Jerry

Jerry here's some background,

the thirty chords come from this chart I made up 14 years ago when I was teaching composition. I wanted students to write a song and I was getting DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS looks when it came to what chords could be used. I told them to pick a mode and key ( 7 modes x 12 keys = 84 possibilities) once you write a melody in that mode I told them to look under their pick on the chart to find the 30 possible chords that could be used to harmonize a melody that do not break out of the modal notes. For example the key of C ionian never uses a chord that has a sharp or flat in it. All I did was think in my head of chords that had no sharps and flats and 30 is when I ran out! Once I had it in one sequence of modes I simply transposed it into the other eleven keys.

BTW most people only use around 5 of these chords for their song!

Edited by - mmuussiiccaall on 08/07/2015 14:36:59

30 Chords For Modes


DougD - Posted - 08/08/2015:  11:11:27

Thanks for posting, Richard. Nice playing in that YouTube video, and your notation makes a lot more sense than what haggis has.

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