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Scales

Posted by Samiam 
Scales
August 06, 2017 08:56PM
If you are playing all white keys in a piece even if you don't start with C and you don't go in any particular order but you follow WWHWWWH is this still considered C Major scale? If yes would it be considered in the key of C or the note you begin with? ( W= whole note H=halfnote).
Re: Scales
August 07, 2017 05:54AM
If you don't start on C, you can't follow the WWHWWWH pattern without the black keys.

With that said, while there are some ifs and buts, generally whether your melody starts on C (or A) or any other white key, if the entire melody is played on the white keys, you are almost certainly in the key of C or Am. You'd have to look at the chords or other accompaniment to know which of those two it is.

J
Re: Scales
August 08, 2017 09:45AM
No.

There is more to being in a key than just the note set you are using.
Simply noodling around randomly on the white keys does NOT necessarily mean you are in C major or A minor.
In fact, people were using such notes long before the concept of "major" or "minor" even existed.

(And incidentally, using an occasional black note - chromaticism - does not necessarily mean the key has been abandoned)

For the key to mean anything, the tonic has to be "home". - The goal of the piece, the point of rest.
In C major, C is the tonic. It has to function as a tonic or it isn't C major.

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
Re: Scales
August 08, 2017 02:01PM
I completely agree with you, and perhaps the words "almost certainly" in my answer were a bit strong. As practical matter, though, if you pick a hundred pieces of western music at random that have no sharps or flats in the melody, I'd bet eighty or more of them will be in C or Am, and if you pick another hundred that do have sharps or flats in the melody, less than twenty of them will be in C or Am. As I said, there are "ifs and buts", but in answer to the OPs question, I think it is fair to say that if you are playing only on the white keys you are probably playing in C or Am. That's assuming what you are playing on the white keys doesn't sound like crap, of course! ;)
Re: Scales
August 09, 2017 04:29PM
Thank you all your responses. I thought I understood it all which for the most part I do, but after reading random post and articles I questioned what I learned. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
Re: Scales
August 10, 2017 06:27PM
You are very welcome. One last thought... As already said, if you're playing along on the white keys and it sounds good, you're probably in C or Am, but ... you could just be getting lucky. You could be in F or Dm and just haven't come across a Bb, or in G or Em and just haven't come across an F#. Every one of the "flat" keys has Bb, not B natural, and every one of the "sharp" keys has F#, not F natural. So, if you want to know if you are in C or Am when you are playing along "on the white keys", look for an F natural and a B natural. If you see those two, your odds of being in C or Am go through the roof!!!
Re: Scales
August 10, 2017 06:38PM
PS/disclaimer - before somebody else brings it up. Everything (literally everything!) I've said discounts "modal" music, but I submit that no one who can "hear the root" in modes other than Ionian mode would ask your question. . . and that's not an insult. I also submit most proponents of modal music can't hear that root either. I've played with a lot of musicians. A tiny handful could/can play anything music outside of Ionian, Dorian and Lydian that anyone would want to hear.
Re: Scales
August 11, 2017 05:43AM
Argh - where ever I said Ionian, I should have said Ionian (major) and Aeollian (natural minor).... Can't seem to edit it now.
Re: Scales
August 11, 2017 12:22PM
Modal music is a whole different kettle of fish.

Most of us (in the West) are so conditioned to tonal music that we can't hear music as modal anymore. We hear Dorian and Phrygian as "minor", Lydian as "major" and so on.

There are some good examples of old hymns and folk songs (still in use) which are correctly labelled "modal", irrespective of their "key signature" or how you might hear them.

And another thing, Ionian is not the same as major, Aeolian is not the same as minor. The waters have been muddied a lot over the years, but the terms are not interchangeable; they carry very different meanings.

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
Re: Scales
August 11, 2017 06:32PM
Alright, you hooked me! Like a great big fish, line and sinker! Ionian not the same as Major and Aeollian not the same as minor... Hmmm... That got me
thinking. Am I right in thinking that your point is the lack of harmonic "function" in modal music? Which is to say in "true" Ionian or Aeollian, we drone the hell out of the root and play melody, or perhaps non-functional counterpoint over it, because we don't recognize functional movements like tonal Dominant to Tonic movement as means of establishing a root. Am I close? I'm asking out of genuine curiosity... I've never quite grasped modal music, and your comment that Ionian is not the same as Major has me thinking really hard! Which is a good thing.

FYI your link to the book no longer works. Who is the author?

-J
Re: Scales
August 11, 2017 10:19PM
jjjtttggg Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Which is to say in "true" Ionian or Aeollian, we
> drone the hell out of the root and play melody, or
> perhaps non-functional counterpoint over it,
> because we don't recognize functional movements
> like tonal Dominant to Tonic movement as means of
> establishing a root.

I think you're talking about modal improvising, rather than actual modal music. For example, (keeping to the white notes), Scarborough Fair is a song in the Dorian mode. Its tonal centre is D, which makes it sound like it's in D minor but with B natural instead of Bb. Nobody playing those notes can hear it as being in C major or A minor because D is the obvious tonal centre. There's no droning needed to establish a tonal centre in this song as the melody's shape and the chords do that. Even the chords aren't necessary.

Modes were in use long before chords came along, and, in fact, it was the development of functional harmony that led to the demise of the modes and their gradual replacement by the new system of major and minor keys. Most modes were found to be unsuitable for establishing a strong tonal centre so they got the boot from most (but not all) classical music, remained in folk music, and were later re-introduced into jazz in the 50s and rock, etc. in the 60s. They seem to have gone out of fashion again, though.

Jack's dead right about the muddied waters.
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