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Thread: Why keys of B and B flat?

  1. #26
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Wait until you get to Db and Ab!

    One thing about playing jazz, I've gotten used to playing mandolin in any key. Of course it's not the same as trying to play a Bluegrass break in B at top tempo.....

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  3. #27
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I am the artists formerly known as MikFb FbdgFbrton
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  5. #28

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by rockies View Post
    If you're ever going to play in a band or backup for a female singer get ready for those keys. A, Bb,& B. They are commonly in female singers voice range, also be prepared for capos by the singer being on ANY fret, and progressions from your wildest dreams or nightmares. Especially when they say " I just wrote this new one last week"
    Dave
    Female singers don't use A, Bb, and B anymore than male singers. There are "high" female singers (sopranos) and "low" female singers (altos), just like there are male tenors and basses. Sopranos tend to sing an octave above tenors and altos tend to sing an octave above basses. All the keys are covered.

    Even given that a person is a "high" singer (soprano or tenor), that doesn't limit their keys, just the key for a particular song. Some songs have a range of about an octave from the tonic up to the next tonic. Other songs have an octave range from one dominant to the next higher dominant. They would need to be in different keys for the same singer.

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  7. #29
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    When backing singers in jazz situations, all bets were off. Tunes that were usually played in F or Bb would wind up in D, as the singers picked the keys based on their vocal ranges not the comfort of band members.

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  9. #30
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    E or even Fb ...
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
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  11. #31
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Again, thanks for all these helpful responses. I suppose one of the characteristics of BG that distinguishes it from old time mountain/country music is its use of more sophisticated, jazz-like musicality. And I come to BG from that far more simple 3-chord keys of G, C, D, and A background. Ralph, what I meant by the last sentence of my original post is that, once I learn to play the breaks as Tottle lays them out, they aren't something I can transpose/translate into any other key except the key in which Tottle used. It's not like I'm learning breaks that can simply be shifted up the neck a fret or three to get into the desired key.
    But I see now that a) I wanna learn to play IN those keys and b) it's all about gaining more musical skill on the fretboard.

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  13. #32
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Thank goodness I’ve learned not to take a drink of anything before I start reading ANY of Mikes Posts!
    That last one really caught me off Guard! You sir, are a card and must be dealt with!!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  15. #33
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Another way to think about it all (not a substitute, but a parallel and useful path), is to think in terms of moveable patterns.

    So with ideas like FFcP and closed position chords and double stops it is possible to play scales and chords, and melodies and harmonies, indeed to be able to improvise, in every key, by figuring it out once, in closed position in one key.

    So I often find I don't really know, (and sometimes don't care) what key I am in. I am in the key of right now, right here, and from right here I know where the I, IV, and V chords are, (the others too of course), and I know some cool interesting ways to get from the V back to the I chord also in moveable patterns, and some cool transition sounding double stops and harmonies.

    So if I find that I am playing all this stuff today one fret higher than when I do these things normally playing, say, in A, well, lookie here I am playing in Bb. Imagine if I knew how to play in Bb. Or whatever. You get it.

    Again this is not a substitute for knowing how to play in every key. But FFcP and moveable positions and patterns will get you playing in every key, before you know how. Its a massive cheat code.
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  17. #34
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by RickPick View Post
    Again, thanks for all these helpful responses. I suppose one of the characteristics of BG that distinguishes it from old time mountain/country music is its use of more sophisticated, jazz-like musicality. And I come to BG from that far more simple 3-chord keys of G, C, D, and A background.
    .......
    But I see now that a) I wanna learn to play IN those keys and b) it's all about gaining more musical skill on the fretboard.
    Good point about BG music as distinguished from old-time.

  18. #35
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    Female singers don't use A, Bb, and B anymore than male singers. There are "high" female singers (sopranos) and "low" female singers (altos), just like there are male tenors and basses. Sopranos tend to sing an octave above tenors and altos tend to sing an octave above basses. All the keys are covered.

    Even given that a person is a "high" singer (soprano or tenor), that doesn't limit their keys, just the key for a particular song. Some songs have a range of about an octave from the tonic up to the next tonic. Other songs have an octave range from one dominant to the next higher dominant. They would need to be in different keys for the same singer.
    I learned something about my own singing about ten years ago when I was a regular attender at a fairly high-level bluegrass jam. I have a baritone singing voice and I can't get that high as a rule, so I used to call songs mostly in G if I had to sing them, which the caller usually has to do, unless the caller is requesting a song by another member. Anyway, I digress...

    One night I called, "Think of What You've Done" by The Stanley Brothers, in G. The banjo player, who is an excellent player, apparently knew my range better that I did, and proceeded to suggest that I sing it in B. I was completely surprised by how easy it was to sing the entire song very comfortably in what I had always figured was too high a key for my voice.

    I can't sing everything in B, but the range of pitches in that song seem to "lay" right in my vocal range. I do not hesitate to try songs in higher keys now. Ya never know!
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

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  20. #36

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    How many singers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    Just one to hold the bulb, while the world revolves around her.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

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  22. #37
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    Keying those tunes up leads to the “high lonesome” sound that hardcore grassers seek. The higher pitch lends a more cutting tone to the singers. That’s why the kids these days always want to “mash it up” to Bd or B.
    If its "high lonesome" in B it'd be higher and lonesomer in C.....

  23. #38
    Registered User rockies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I don't know if my observations when listening to the Monroe's and other traditional bluegrass bands (old and new). Though it seems to me those keys seem to be chosen more for the upper range of the high tenor harmony singer then for the melody singer. This is just an observation and may just be my really old ears hearing things other than the other noises I seem to hear !!
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  25. #39

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    I learned something about my own singing about ten years ago when I was a regular attender at a fairly high-level bluegrass jam. I have a baritone singing voice and I can't get that high as a rule, so I used to call songs mostly in G if I had to sing them, which the caller usually has to do, unless the caller is requesting a song by another member. Anyway, I digress...

    One night I called, "Think of What You've Done" by The Stanley Brothers, in G. The banjo player, who is an excellent player, apparently knew my range better that I did, and proceeded to suggest that I sing it in B. I was completely surprised by how easy it was to sing the entire song very comfortably in what I had always figured was too high a key for my voice.

    I can't sing everything in B, but the range of pitches in that song seem to "lay" right in my vocal range. I do not hesitate to try songs in higher keys now. Ya never know!
    This!
    This is why B or Bb.

    I love singing in these keys.
    And, its not hard to do so on mando.

    As i sing more, im learning that while i can sing in several keys, only one or two will really fit, and give me money notes in the entire melody/harmony ranges.

    While we can all get very obsessive about instruments and instrumentals, ....

    yes, the song DOES revolve around the singer, like it or not.

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  27. #40
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Variety

  28. #41

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Until we get so high and so lonesome we arrive at Alison Krause's high G. So now we're back in banjer key.

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  30. #42
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    My sweetheart, who's a singer, tells me that many singers say that B flat is the universal key for the human voice (she wasn't committing to this idea herself). If that's true, why does it seem that no inventor or improver of stringed instruments ever took it into account?

  31. #43

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    Even given that a person is a "high" singer (soprano or tenor), that doesn't limit their keys, just the key for a particular song.
    Someone gets it.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  32. #44
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    44 posts and no one has said...
    “Because it’s there!”
    I kind of like playing in those keys part of a night, good stretch of the fingers!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  33. #45
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    44 posts and no one has said...
    “Because it’s there!”
    I guess there has to be something between A and C.

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  35. #46
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Here's a fun tidbit about Bb and "fiddle tunes." There are darned few Irish/Scottish trad fiddle tunes in Bb (unless you're trying to play along with Highland Bagpipes which are kinda/sorta in Bb). It's not even a key listed in the search field for the tune database at thesession.org.

    However! There are some fiddle tunes commonly played in B flat's relative minor of Gm (or G dorian). Probably due to the way the scale fits so nicely in first position on fiddle, or the range of whistles and flutes. So don't be alarmed if you come across a fiddle tune in Gm/Gdor. They usually lay out very nicely on the fingerboard.

  36. #47
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    44 posts and no one has said...
    “Because it’s there!”
    I kind of like playing in those keys part of a night, good stretch of the fingers!
    Post #25.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

    "IT'S T-R-E-M-O-L-O, dangit!!"~Me

  37. #48
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    G minor does lay out nicely on the mandolin fingerboard. And both G minor and B flat are somewhat common keys in Scandinavian music. Especially Finnish.

    Said it before, my personal key demon is C minor. Just have a difficult time transposing to that key. Seems to me it was designed for either accordion or nyckelharpa to show off. Thankfully have yet to play with a singer who likes that key.

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  39. #49
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Its not hard to learn to play in all keys. You just gotta PRACTICE it
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  41. #50
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Its not hard to learn to play in all keys. You just gotta PRACTICE it
    Like pete says!

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