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Thread: Why keys of B and B flat?

  1. #51
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    Post #25.
    I missed that, thanks Jim.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  2. #52

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    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?
    Well, the horn world sure did...

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  4. #53
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Edit - does not add to discussion.
    Last edited by Eric Platt; Mar-15-2018 at 9:01am. Reason: Removed

  5. #54

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I find Bb to lay on the mandolin frets very well. You have G open, A open, D open, and chord shapes move well in the first 5 or 6 frets. Chord along on Boulder to Birmingham in that key, you'll see what I mean.
    <><><>><<><><>
    Start slow, fade early

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  7. #55
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Isn't the simple answer "That Bill did it in those keys"?

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  9. #56

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Martin View Post
    I find Bb to lay on the mandolin frets very well. You have G open, A open, D open, and chord shapes move well in the first 5 or 6 frets. Chord along on Boulder to Birmingham in that key, you'll see what I mean.
    Those handy open strings in Bb become flat 3rd and flat 7th in B making B a good key for more bluesy playing. And for tunes that use the flat VII chord, it's a A, which gives lots of open strings. I still find B difficult to play in, but I think the open strings in B have lots of potential depending on the tune.

  10. #57

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by RickPick View Post
    I think Mike's Satan explanation serves best. I'd have suggested "perversity" myself..... But WHY -- in a mandolin instruction book -- would Tottle pick these keys to present tunes for mandolin learners? He even explains where guitar players should place capos and what "corresponding" chords to play, knowing they would never play directly IN those keys. I guess I still don't understand. Why wouldn't he teach the songs in G or D or A or whatever, and then tell the guitarist where to put the capo (uh oh, that's not what I meant). I've heard C referred to as "boring old C" -- presumably because it has no sharps or flats. But what's the appeal of BFlat or B. Is there any "music theory" advantage to these keys? BTW, I enjoy learning to do things I don't understand, but I'd enjoy it even more if I understood why I'm learning it!
    If a singer chooses a song, and the best key for their vocal range is B or Bb then a mandolin player needs to play in that key. I play with a banjo player that gets annoyed anytime we play in a key where he can't play out of G shapes. Don't be like him...

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  12. #58

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Also if you want to play a lot of songs in relative minor keys you need to know the key of Bb to play in Gm, F for Dm and Eb for Cm.
    For example Lonesome Moonlight Waltz in Dm
    Rob

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  14. #59
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by RickPick View Post
    ...... But WHY -- in a mandolin instruction book -- would Tottle pick these keys to present tunes for mandolin learners? ....it!
    Don't you think he might have put them in those keys because he thought that you would WANT to learn to play in all keys?
    He's trying to teach, not to give you a plug-in break for your next jam.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Just to throw a wrench into everything, don't forget the other instruments. If, say, you're playing with A 2 row C/F accordion, the key choices will probably be different than with a 120 bass keyboard accordion. Or hardangfiddle. They are often tuned in an A variant and are generally limited in key choice.

    That's another reason to learn all the keys.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Don't you think he might have put them in those keys because he thought that you would WANT to learn to play in all keys?
    He's trying to teach, not to give you a plug-in break for your next jam.
    I bought that book when I first started playing, precisely because

    - there were hardly any other bluegrass mandolin books out there, and
    - it featured a real breadth of styles, keys, tunes, techniques.

    Around the same time, I picked up Jethro's book, Tottle's Back Road Mandolin LP (with the tab sheet inside the album sleeve) and subscribed to Mandolin World News. I was off to the races.

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  20. #62
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Don't you think he might have put them in those keys because he thought that you would WANT to learn to play in all keys?
    He's trying to teach, not to give you a plug-in break for your next jam.
    Not really,,there's no mention of anything like that in the book,,I think he wrote the tunes simply in the key they're most commonly played in,or else in the original key the tune or song was wrote in...

  21. #63
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    Not really,,there's no mention of anything like that in the book,,I think he wrote the tunes simply in the key they're most commonly played in,or else in the original key the tune or song was wrote in...
    Well, if so, that also answers the OP's question.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Just to throw a wrench into everything, don't forget the other instruments. If, say, you're playing with A 2 row C/F accordion, the key choices will probably be different than with a 120 bass keyboard accordion. Or hardangfiddle. They are often tuned in an A variant and are generally limited in key choice.

    That's another reason to learn all the keys.
    I've played a lot with accordion players - from the 120 bass piano accordions to one row Cajun boxes - and what you say is very true.

    I often have to transpose a tune to whatever key the guy with the 3 row button box can get all the notes and chords!

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    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?
    They did.

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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.


    Indeed, the key is not the range. And frankly, some singers, especially women are known to use a capo on every song, not to suit their voices but to shorten the scale of the instrument.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    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.

    I've already mentioned Sailors Hornpipe. My main reference for fiddle tunes, as a beginner on the mandolin, was Howdy Forrester's Fancy Fiddlin' Country Style, which has two pieces in B; High Level Hornpipe and Clarinet Polka (a duet with Jimmy Riddle's harmonica).

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    Isn't the simple answer "That Bill did it in those keys"?

    That may be true of B natural, but Bb really is a standard key on violin and mandolin. And for some reason Monroe didn't play much on songs in those keys. E.g., on Cheyenne he solos only over the g minor bridge. There's a more of his mandolin on gospel numbers like Wicked Path of Sin and Life's Railway to Heaven

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Relio View Post
    If a singer chooses a song, and the best key for their vocal range is B or Bb then a mandolin player needs to play in that key. I play with a banjo player that gets annoyed anytime we play in a key where he can't play out of G shapes. Don't be like him...
    A banjo player of course should be able to play in the keys of C, D, E, and F in G tuning, without a capo, possibly after retuning the 5th string (but a friend of mine says that E works splendidly in G tuning, without retuning.) Of course, if he can handle C uncapoed, he could also handle D, capoed at the 2nd fret, etc. but I believe in the long run it is best to play these keys open.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    A banjo player of course should be able to play in the keys of C, D, E, and F in G tuning, without a capo, possibly after retuning the 5th string (but a friend of mine says that E works splendidly in G tuning, without retuning.) Of course, if he can handle C uncapoed, he could also handle D, capoed at the 2nd fret, etc. but I believe in the long run it is best to play these keys open.
    I've been around good banjo players 50 years or more, and seen many professionals in concert. Don Reno is the only one I've seen play those keys without a capo. Of course I'm talking bluegrass banjo players.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Relio View Post
    I play with a banjo player that gets annoyed anytime we play in a key where he can't play out of G shapes. Don't be like him...
    He comes to your jam, too? Man, he gets around.

    If the tune is in D, E, F, he clamps at 7, 9, 10 - what a waste of real estate. And he kind of slinks around to the back, as if he knows his shortcomings are obvious. I quit trying to edjookate him long ago...actually, quit going to that jam, for that and myriad other reasons

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    That may be true of B natural, but Bb really is a standard key on violin and mandolin. And for some reason Monroe didn't play much on songs in those keys. E.g., on Cheyenne he solos only over the g minor bridge. There's a more of his mandolin on gospel numbers like Wicked Path of Sin and Life's Railway to Heaven
    Bill had his inadequacies, no doubt, all couched in his stylistic thing. Can you say 'crosspicking'...?

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Many years ago a well know professional mandolin player told me, "When you learn a new song, learn it without striking any open strings and then you will be able to play it in any key".....It makes sense to me...Like fiddle players, use one finger like a capo and plant it firmly on the fingerboard and stretch if you have to to get to the other notes...

    Practice, practice, practice...

    Willie

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  39. #74
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    Many years ago a well know professional mandolin player told me, "When you learn a new song, learn it without striking any open strings and then you will be able to play it in any key".
    It's called "closed fingering". A no-open-strings pattern that can be moved anywhere on the fingerboard.

  40. #75
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    I've been around good banjo players 50 years or more, and seen many professionals in concert. Don Reno is the only one I've seen play those keys without a capo. Of course I'm talking bluegrass banjo players.
    Thanks for mentioning Reno. With his skills he can do what you say.

    It comes from his guitar-oriented approach to banjo.

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