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Beginner Music Theory question for Eb minor in Bb.

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
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505
Ok, you'll have to excuse me because this is very confusing and I'm well-confused.

I'm studying minor keys and transposing scales for Bb instruments. So here's the problem.

I have a sheet music program with two staffs. The top staff is in concert pitch. The second staff down is for a Bb instrument.

I wanted to write the Eb minor scale for the Bb instrument and I wanted it to show up as Eb minor in the key signature of the Bb instrument staff. So what key would I need to set the concert staff to?

I'm thinking that I would need to set it to Db minor. But there is no Db minor on my sheet music program. Instead I need to use C# minor. Ok, that's fine. That works since these are enharmonic keys. The only problem is that this places the Bb instrument staff in D# minor instead of Eb minor.

I mean, it's the same notes since these are enharmonic keys. But I wanted to write it and play it as Eb minor and not as D# minor. It's just easier for me to wrap my mind around Eb minor than D# minor.

But what can I do if there is no Db minor choice for the concert staff? Is that a big no-no to write things in Db minor? Is there no such key signature?

It does appear that I can create a "user defined key" to accomplish this feat. But then it looks really weird on concert staff.

Do trumpet and tenor sax players basically just learn to recognize D#m instead of Ebm?

Is that the key they would normally see in concert sheet music? (I mean in terms of seeing D#m instead of Ebm?)

I hope I'm just confused. :thumb:
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
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8,128
The (natural) Db minor scale in your concert staff would need to read as follows:

Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bbb Cb Db where the 4th tone is B double flat which sounds the same as A

The key signature would read from left to right Bbb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

This is not a very common key, but it is possible to write music in the key of Db minor. Of course the piece would be easier to read in the key of C# minor with 4#'s in the key signature (and no double flats) and it would sound exactly the same.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I see. It's the double-flatted B that's the problem.

So concert music would never be written in Db minor then. It's just not a practical key signature to deal with. That makes sense.

So for all practical purposes when writing score in a sheet music program that has multiple staffs, the Bb instrument is going to need to be written in D#m instead of Ebm simply because the main concert staff is going to need to be in C#m instead of Dbm.

I guess I'll have to live with that. I'm willing to bet that more sophisticated sheet music programs would provide a way to get around that. I'm using Melody Assistant. It's a really nice sheet music program, but it has its limitations.

I'll have to settle with the trumpet score being written in D#m I guess.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,947
SD, I don't really understand this.

If you want to play concert pitch Eb minor on a Bb instrument, then it's written a tone up, i.e. F minor.
If you want to play the Eb minor notes, then write it straight, but it'll sound a tone down as C#/Db minor.

But changing the key sig will confuse things a lot because you still need to finger the sharps and flats in the sig. you're playing.

I'd guess that your music program will transpose from concert pitch to the equivalent pitch for a Bb instrument if you change the instrument. If not download musescore, cos it does.

That way you can have concert pitch on the stave (e.g. instrument = piano), add an extra stave for Bb (e.g. instrument = T Sax) copy the concert pitch notes to the Bb instruemnt stave, and you'll be in the correct written pitch.

I agree on using C# instead of Db.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
SD, I don't really understand this.

Ok, this is a really silly thing, so let me try to explain.

I'm studying scales, and keys, and transposing, etc. Not that I haven't done this before, but I'm trying to get a better handle on things, and I'm practicing all these scales whilst I'm doing this so it's good practice.

Anyway, I have this book on music composition and I'm working on an "assignment" they gave me in the book. The assignment was simply to pick a scale of my choice and then to write a composition using this scale plus a bunch of limitations that they are placing on me for this exercise.

Ok, fine so far right?

So I decided to pick Eb minor as the scale that I would like to use for this project. And I'm going to being playing the melody on the Bb trumpet. So I'm all set to begin. So I get out the sheet music program and set up a "Concert Staff" for the electric guitar. The guitar is in the key of C (standard concert key).

I'm going to use the guitar for the rhythm harmony chords.

So next I set out to figure out what key I will need to play on the guitar. Well that's easy, it's either going to be C#m or Dbm. Actually I much prefer the C#m (not that it makes any difference, but it's just easier to think in terms of C#m than it is to think in terms of Dbm. So I'm happy with the guitar being written in C#m (no problem there)

But then I realize that this basically forces me to write the trumpet piece in D#m instead of the Ebm which I had originally chosen.

Well, that kind of threw me for a loop. I mean, I realize that these are enharmonic keys so the only difference will be in the notation on paper. The actual notes being played aren't going to change.

Just the same, I had my "heart" set on writing this piece in Ebm for the trumpet. :)))

I was intuitively drawn to Ebm dog gone it, not D#m. :mrcool

I mean, this is messing with my intuition here. So I was trying to figure out how I could write this in Ebm for the Bb trumpet like I had originally set out to do.

It can be written either way on paper like so:



But the sheet music program won't allow me to set up a Bb trumpet in the key of Ebm.

It just won't let me do it.

It's forcing me to write this piece in D#m and it's messing with my creativity!

I don't want to write it in D#m dag blast it! >:)

I want to write it in Ebm!

I want to THINK in flats, I don't want to think in sharps for this piece.

It's a matter of deep intuitive creativity.

I want my flats dog gone it!

Where are my flats?

Just gimmie the flats. :thumb:

I was intuitively drawn to Eb minor, not D# minor! :crying:
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,947
Thanks, makes sense now. I'll check and see if Musescore can handle it when I get home, or maybe one of the other Musescore users can check before then for you.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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5,995
Most 'simple' music notation programmes limit things like key signatures and time signatures. Anything needing double flats or double sharps is not 'simple'.

I have Sibelius V5 and I'll have a look if I get some time over the Christmas break. I used to have problems with time signatures such as 4/2 not being handled.

If it's any consolation, I got asked last night for the dominant of the relative minor of C# major... there are some warped people out there! (The answer is E# or enharmonic equivalent - F).
 
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Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I'm learning to live with the D#m key signature. It's not as bad as I thought it might be. I'm actually improvising on the trumpet thinking in terms of Ebm, then writing down what I've done in D#m. It's not really that bad actually. The only thing is that all the notes are shifted down a line or space. Because D#m goes from D# to D#. So the actual root note is in the "D" position (i.e. the D line or space). Whereas Ebm goes from Eb to to Eb, so the actual root note is on the line or space for E.

So writing it in D#m shifts the entire scale down by exactly one line or space for every note. But for some reason that's not bothering as much as I thought it might. At least it's consistent across the entire scale.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Just for the record. Jbtsax answered the question. The ultimate problem is that to put a Bb trumpet in Ebm, I would need to set the concert key of the sheet music program to Dbm. But Dbm has a double-flatted B-note in the key signature. Like so:



My sheet music program simple won't handle double flats or sharps in a key signature. So, in short, there's no way I can put a Bb Trumpet in Ebm using my sheet music program.

So in a sense the problem has been "solved". (or at least my question has been answered)

~~~

I did learn something though. I wasn't aware that some standard key signatures require double flats, or double sharps. That's interesting.
 
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