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Key signatures in modes other than Ionian & Aeolian

From: Peter Crighton
Subject: Key signatures in modes other than Ionian & Aeolian
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2018 21:18:18 +0200

Hello all,

my question is not exclusive to LilyPond, but I hope you can enlighten me anyway.

I am transcribing a song in D Mixolydian and am wondering which key signature to notate it in – d \mixolydian (because that is the mode it is in) or d \major (because a D major chord clearly is the tonic of the song). I’d rather notate it in d \mixolydian, which seems correct to me, but might it be easier to read (especially for non-professional musicians) in d \major just with a natural sign before every c?
What is everyone doing in such a case? Any experiences which is easier to read? Also, could the style of music matter? In Early Music I’d be even more inclined to notate in d \mixolydian, but in this case it is a pop song where people might only expect to see major or minor keys.

Curious to hear what you all think.


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

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