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Re: Key signatures in modes other than Ionian & Aeolian

From: Peter Crighton
Subject: Re: Key signatures in modes other than Ionian & Aeolian
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2018 22:17:59 +0200

2018-04-17 7:47 GMT+02:00 Lukas-Fabian Moser <address@hidden>:
Am 17.04.2018 um 01:24 schrieb Torsten Hämmerle:

Even if my opinion may differ from the general opinion here, I think that in
popular music, one would use standard D major key signature.
Reason: Two sharps clearly show D major tonic and the characteristic mixo
tone C (flat seventh) stands out in the sheet music by the accidental used.
I very much agree. In my impression, nowadays most musicians (save medieval or Renaissance music specialists and maybe Jazz musicians) tend to only differentiate between "major-like" and "minor-like" scales/keys, which means that every modal scale is measured against the one of the two "standard" scales/keys more similar to what is at hand. So, having two sharps in the key signature will most probably be read as "major-like tune with tonic D", which is exactly what should come across, even in the music leans more toward, e.g., mixolydian mode. (In fact, more ofthen than not there are elements characteristic of more standard major/minor tonality in such a tune, for instance think of the e-Dorian mittle eight in "Norwegian Wood" which concludes with a regular cadenza in E major.)

If you write your D-mixolydian tune with just one sharp, I see two equally unfortunate possibilites: Either musicians will correctly recognize D as the tonic and play C sharp all the time (since this is what they're used to in a major-like tune with tonic D), or they look at the key signature, think "G major" and try to relate everything in the tune to some elusive "tonic" G.

Nowadays, I think the key signatures are read not as combinations of alterations but of fixed code sets designating one of the standard keys, expressed as a combination of tonic plus "major/minor". So, go for D major key signature.

I agree with you, at least for now I will go with this in my project … I think it makes the most sense in this kind of music. It is an album of 12 songs, so I might change my mind again when I have listened to and transcribed all the songs. I’ll go with whatever makes most sense consistently throughout the album.

But thanks everybody for your input, it has been quite helpful and interesting!

Peter Crighton | Musician & Music Engraver based in Mainz, Germany

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