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'Original' key or 'easy' key?

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
Which do you go for? Yeh I know us jazzers should be able to play 'everything in every key' but what about rock and pop solos for example Your Latest Trick, Smooth Operator, Will You, Pick up the Pieces, Take 5 etc etc?

I ask 'cos I learned Your Latest Trick from a solos book in an easy key, C or G major I seem to recall but I never felt comfortable with the sound as it clearly wasn't the same key as on the record. Anyway, I am now putting that right and it seems the 'correct' key is F# major, not exactly the easiest to master.

So what do you lot think?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
Tunes have always (too long?) been sung in different keys to allow for the singer's voice. Play it where it sounds right. But F#..... That's just too much for me to comprehend at my lowly level of progress :w00t:
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
Tunes have always (too long?) been sung in different keys to allow for the singer's voice. Play it where it sounds right. But F#..... That's just too much for me to comprehend at my lowly level of progress :w00t:
Yes but proper sax solos surely should be in the same key as original - we're not talking about playing live with a crooner who needs a particular key. I looked at Your Latest Trick and thought... nah no way in F# major but in less that 20 minutes had it under my fingers. Just goes to show, for me at least running through it a few of times slowly then playing by ear and I'm well away. However if I try to play it from the dots its a lot harder. Still need to work to get those ornaments to the melody spot on though.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,365
Play it in the original key, definitely.

It was a big shock to me when I started playing alto and tenor in a covers band where a lot of the songs are in "guitar-friendly" keys like A and E. That means five, six or seven sharps depending on whether it is tenor or alto. I'd been used to lots of big band tunes in F, Bb and Eb concert which are much nicer for us saxes.

"Difficult" keys often appear intimidating, but after a bit just seem natural. Especially if you are not sight reading but playing from memory or improvising.

Rhys
 
Messages
509
I Think that you should always try to play in the original key, I know that can be hard to begin with, but it is surprising how much you can achieve,take five for instance, a right bugger! but so satisfying when you master it. If I have any problem with a piece of music or a solo I take it slow and let "muscle memory" do its thing.
Also I keep going over scales and all that stuff.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
I Think that you should always try to play in the original key, I know that can be hard to begin with, but it is surprising how much you can achieve,take five for instance, a right bugger! but so satisfying when you master it. If I have any problem with a piece of music or a solo I take it slow and let "muscle memory" do its thing.
Also I keep going over scales and all that stuff.
It's also handy as an excuse - as in, "Well I could play Take 5, but I play tenor so it'd have to be in a different key and wouldn't sound right' :w00t: >:)
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,660
It's also handy as an excuse - as in, "Well I could play Take 5, but I play tenor so it'd have to be in a different key and wouldn't sound right' :w00t: >:)
Doh! You've sussed out my cunning plan!

I try to stick to the correct key, but if I can't manage that then I play it in a playable one. With a lot of my own backing tracks that I've created with BIAB, the tracks are in an easy key! :blush: I'll get my coat then! :blush:
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,947
I wonder how many listeners are going to notice the difference between F# major, and a tune played in either of the 'easy' keys either side of it. As everything saxophone is played in equal temperament, there isn't a sound difference between the keys, just pitch. :mrcool

That said, a recent exercise in my book had me playing a tune in C, then transposing it down to Bb by ear, then writing the notes to it in Bb on an empty stave. Just for fun I did it in D as well. Sounded a whole lot better in D than C or Bb, so maybe I've just shot myself in the foot. :shocked:
 

griff136

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,048
Original Key is the way to go - yes it may be harder to play but whats the fun in playing everything in the same key.

If its for your personal pleasure what better way to improve on your scale playing and sight reading by doing it in the original key and then you can even play along to it.

after all a "Difficult scale" is only a scale that you dont play enough.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
I find F# major and C# major really no more difficult to play than, for example, B major. A practical problem is that there isn't all that much written in these scales that I find in other ways manageable. The same goes for Gb and Cb (but in all of them I am less fast than up to four flats and sharps). Although I do not seem to have any difficulty with these scales, acquiring fluency in them through the playing of scales is only part of the challenge. It is worth remembering also that these scales begin to appear in the syllabus only in the higher grades when the student has done a lot of groundwork over several years.

For some reason I found Ab major and F minor harder than anything else until I put some real effort into them.

Griff's comment that "after all a difficult scale is only a scale that you don't play enough" is in my view spot on.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
There's another issue here - some people find sequences easy to remember and others don't. I find it difficult to remember the steps to a waltz. different fingerings fo different keys come to me with great difficulty and only after a lot of trying - and then when they do come, I get mixed up between the keys vey easily. So for instance I'll be playing something in A Major, then get sidetracked into D major and stop playing the G#s. Happens when I try to sing as well, only there I'll go up a key or two - or down a key or two.

Another one is that I'll be playing a piece in one key, play another piece in a similar key (e.g. go from D major to G major) and then forget and play the G Major piece as if it's in D major.

And there's another issue - E# is an example - it's not an extra key to slot in and replace another - it's a key to use inj a different way. I'm dreading altissimo and the cross/funny fingerings. I really battled with the illogical fingering sequence on the recorder as a kid, seems to be haunting me again later in life.

Perhaps I should dump the sax and switch to hamonica. At least I can have an instument in each key, and just learn one set of movements for a tune.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Not sure if this is a spanner in the works but surely it is only necessary to play the solo in the same key, if you wish to sound exactly like the soloist you are trying to copy.

Willing to place a bet on the fact that the originator only played that solo exactly that way once and even then, it might be a mixture of several cuts, mixed by a clever engineer.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
Not sure if this is a spanner in the works but surely it is only necessary to play the solo in the same key, if you wish to sound exactly like the soloist you are trying to copy.

Willing to place a bet on the fact that the originator only played that solo exactly that way once and even then, it might be a mixture of several cuts, mixed by a clever engineer.
OG

Maybe but when you have a well known solo it seems to me to be pointless playing in a different key. Surely the goal is to be able to play along to the original tune isn't it? Now I appreciate that for us tenor bods that causes some issues with stuff originally played on alto and visa versa but I think from here on in it'll be original key or nowt except where the transpose from Eb to Bb for tenor is concerned.

I also transpose a lot from 'tenor masters' where the goal for me is to play for instance Moritat or Paul's Pal as near to Sonny Rollings as possible so it needs to be in the right key there also. Of course then the challenge is to be able to play in all other keys as well by ear. Well its an aspiration at least :w00t:
 

cherrybyte

Member
Messages
110
Not sure if this is a spanner in the works but surely it is only necessary to play the solo in the same key, if you wish to sound exactly like the soloist you are trying to copy.

Willing to place a bet on the fact that the originator only played that solo exactly that way once and even then, it might be a mixture of several cuts, mixed by a clever engineer.
Thereby leaving future problems for all the cover bands and their 'can you do Baker St punters' as you stand there grimly holding a Low A Bari..bit like the B'astard plumbers who never put a stopcock anywhere and build all the cuboard/kitchens in afterwards..or the even more B'astard electricians who cut the cabling 'dead on'(paticularly in ceiling rose fittings) so when you have to cut back the 'crumbled' stuff and change the rose their 'aint any'...now you all know where the phrase "cut me some slack m8' comes from...B'astards...all of them..
 
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Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
Thereby leaving future problems for all the cover bands and their 'can you do Baker St punters' as you stand there grimly holding a Low A Bari..bit like the B'astard plumbers who never put a stopcock anywhere and build all the cuboard/kitchens in afterwards..or the even more B'astard electricians who cut the cabling 'dead on'(paticularly in ceiling rose fittings) so when you have to cut back the 'crumbled' stuff and change the rose their 'aint any'...now you all know where the phrase "cut me some slack m8' comes from...B'astards...all of them..
Probably none of my business, but I gather that that building project didn't go well.
 

Richard Perks

Member
Messages
170
Well I guess I like the original keys because, most likely against all reason, the origanl key just sounds right. Attached is number I played with a sort of 50's band 5 years ago and they wanted to do it in E (F# for tenor) naturally and after listening to original , you could tell the sax player loved it in F (Eb for git) well it took some talking but they changed and I was happy. Also for AlanB I was using the Berg!!!!

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2902384/Come Go With Me.mp3

I know not the greatest but it was fun to play.
Richard
 

Der Wikinger

Member
Messages
180
Answer this question: What sound are you after, and what instruments are you using? In my compositions I sometimes raise the key for a second verse or the bridge to add dramatic effect. Also, if you have a band that is not all professional musicians, would it make you feel better to give them music in a key that they either cannot play or will have great difficulty playing? Would you rather be technically correct or sound good?
 
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