Key characteristics

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Jagwah
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Post 14 Jan 2022

I came across this and found it quite interesting.

I have tried to focus on a few keys myself to learn their characteristics. From the little I know, I agree with what is in this list of descriptions, would you?

On the paragraph on top it's pretty brutal what is said about equal temperament, are we really working with an inferior tuning system that has far less characteristics than before? I guess this could be contrasted by comparing today's music and classical music from before equal temperament was established, thoughts?

https://www.wmich.edu/mus-theo/courses/keys.html

Cheers!
:reason: It's all about the plo, yo.

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selig
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Post 14 Jan 2022

I don't know about all that - it may apply to piano because of how the layout influences the results. For example, saying C major is childlike makes sense because this is the key you first learn to play as a child (and you often learn children's songs like Twinkle Twinkle and Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc). I'm sure one can find exceptions to all the supposed characteristics listed.

FWIW, I don't even think associations with chord quality always makes sense, let alone absolute key. Plenty of sad songs in major keys, or happy songs in minor keys.

Examples of ‘Sad’ Songs in Major Keys
Plain White T’s: Hey There Delilah
REM: Everybody Hurts
Sinead O’Connor: Nothing Compares to You
Adele: Someone Like You
The Everly Brothers: Love Hurts
Taps
Examples of ‘Happy’ Songs in Minor Keys
Pharrell Williams: Happy
Sound of Music: My Favorite Things
Abba: Money, Money, Money
Peggy Lee: Fever
From: https://www.schoolofcomposition.com/is- ... minor-sad/
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ScuzzyEye
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Post 14 Jan 2022

Jagwah wrote:
14 Jan 2022
On the paragraph on top it's pretty brutal what is said about equal temperament, are we really working with an inferior tuning system that has far less characteristics than before? I guess this could be contrasted by comparing today's music and classical music from before equal temperament was established, thoughts?
I agree with that assessment. I've always been on the technical side of audio/music production. Early on I had heard people talk about different keys having different characteristics. My response was, "no way that's possible, changing keys is just changing the frequency, but the relationships between the notes have exactly the same ratios." This was when I only knew of equal temperament.

I came across this page years ago http://www.larips.com/ and have been chasing unequal temperaments since.

There's some really good news on that front recently. ODDSOUND https://oddsound.com/ has come up with a protocol for telling instruments how to detune different notes from each other. This allows instruments to be completely retuned into non-Western scales that aren't even based on 12 note octaves. Or you can just alter the pitch ratios of the 12 notes in an octave. There's was a very quick uptake in supported VSTs, including Arturia and U-he. (See a bigger list here https://oddsound.com/usingmtsesp.php .) It was also built off of a part of the MIDI spec, so some hardware also handles the message for a subset of the features. No native support in Reason though (maybe if you treated Reason like a MIDI instrument, and looped your MIDI input through ODDSOUND, you might be able to get monophonic support using pitchbend).

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Jagwah
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Post 16 Jan 2022

selig wrote:
14 Jan 2022
FWIW, I don't even think associations with chord quality always makes sense, let alone absolute key. Plenty of sad songs in major keys, or happy songs in minor keys.
Thanks, great examples. I get that certain keys have certain characteristics, but to purposely go against their grain, we can still get our desired result, just in more of an unexpected way imo. I will definitely be trying out D# Minor after reading its description in the link above. Cheers for commenting :)

ScuzzyEye wrote:
14 Jan 2022
I came across this page years ago http://www.larips.com/ and have been chasing unequal temperaments since.

There's some really good news on that front recently. ODDSOUND https://oddsound.com/ has come up with a protocol for telling instruments how to detune different notes from each other. This allows instruments to be completely retuned into non-Western scales that aren't even based on 12 note octaves.
It's really crazy that this big change happened, I would like to understand why it was deemed necessary, surely there was a usable system in place prior. Oddsound is very interesting, just that it is there shows there is a want for it. Not sure if you ever tried the MicroTune RE or if it is capable of this type of tuning.

Are you aware of any mainstream entertainers that don't use equal temperament, and can you hear a difference when comparing the two?
:reason: It's all about the plo, yo.

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selig
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Post 16 Jan 2022

Jagwah wrote:
16 Jan 2022

It's really crazy that this big change happened, I would like to understand why it was deemed necessary, surely there was a usable system in place prior. Oddsound is very interesting, just that it is there shows there is a want for it. Not sure if you ever tried the MicroTune RE or if it is capable of this type of tuning.

Are you aware of any mainstream entertainers that don't use equal temperament, and can you hear a difference when comparing the two?
Off the top of my head, the change happened because folks were tired of having to play in one or two keys, or retune to play in a different key (which isn't easy on some instruments). Plus, if you wanted to play with another musician, you likely both needed to have instruments in the same key.
My first exposure to non-equal tunings was Wendy Carlos. Interestingly, and probably because of how most of us have grown up, some of this music just doesn't sound 'right' to a lot of folks. Getting over that bias seems difficult, as the technology to explore other scales/tunings has been well in place for decades and yet it has never really caught on beyond a few intrepid musical explorers.
Kind of reminds me of the QWERTY keyboard (designed to actually slow down typists to prevent jams), which is not ultimately ideal but so ingrained that even improved layouts have never really caught on.
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orthodox
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Post 16 Jan 2022

Jagwah wrote:
14 Jan 2022
On the paragraph on top it's pretty brutal what is said about equal temperament, are we really working with an inferior tuning system that has far less characteristics than before? I guess this could be contrasted by comparing today's music and classical music from before equal temperament was established, thoughts?
I think the equal tempered tuning allows for greater freedom in variations, where the previous systems could lead to a more pronounced dissonance. You can of course call that a character and use its features, possibly avoiding certain sequences and chords.

There's still a way to use it in a DAW, by loading a specially tuned patch in the sampler.

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ScuzzyEye
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Post 17 Jan 2022

Jagwah wrote:
16 Jan 2022
It's really crazy that this big change happened, I would like to understand why it was deemed necessary, surely there was a usable system in place prior. Oddsound is very interesting, just that it is there shows there is a want for it. Not sure if you ever tried the MicroTune RE or if it is capable of this type of tuning.

Are you aware of any mainstream entertainers that don't use equal temperament, and can you hear a difference when comparing the two?
MicroTune does what ODDSOUND does at the barest minimum. That's monophonic, and changes the pitch wheel to tune some notes sharp or flat. But the real character comes from playing chords because different notes will beat against each other differently in each key.

I don't know anyone making main stream music that way, but there have been a number of classical recordings made with other temperaments. That Larips website has some examples. There are some semi-known bands who have experimented with microtonalities, not just retuning some notes.

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Jagwah
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Post 21 Jan 2022

selig wrote:
16 Jan 2022
Off the top of my head, the change happened because folks were tired of having to play in one or two keys, or retune to play in a different key (which isn't easy on some instruments). Plus, if you wanted to play with another musician, you likely both needed to have instruments in the same key.
My first exposure to non-equal tunings was Wendy Carlos. Interestingly, and probably because of how most of us have grown up, some of this music just doesn't sound 'right' to a lot of folks. Getting over that bias seems difficult, as the technology to explore other scales/tunings has been well in place for decades and yet it has never really caught on beyond a few intrepid musical explorers.
Kind of reminds me of the QWERTY keyboard (designed to actually slow down typists to prevent jams), which is not ultimately ideal but so ingrained that even improved layouts have never really caught on.
Yes that would have been a huge mission to simply jam / write with a friend. Maybe song writing and instrument playing was only for the very devoted way back in the day.

Interesting to think that our rears are so accustomed to modern tuning anything else sounds wrong to us.

I remember discussing the 432Hz vs 440Hz debate with a life long guitarist who never had heard of it - we never got around to it before I moved away but we were both very keen to get him to tune and play his guitar by ear like he normally does, and have me record it - then drop it in Reason and use a tuning VST to see exactly where he tuned it to. I assume from what you are saying it's likely he would have gone exactly to the 440Hz tuning.

Interesting stuff!!
orthodox wrote:
16 Jan 2022
I think the equal tempered tuning allows for greater freedom in variations, where the previous systems could lead to a more pronounced dissonance. You can of course call that a character and use its features, possibly avoiding certain sequences and chords.

There's still a way to use it in a DAW, by loading a specially tuned patch in the sampler.
I'd like to think that the more modern tuning is superior, but that goes against what the article said. I guess it's hard to really say at this point.

Maybe with the old tuning, things would sound dissonant to us that would not have sounded that way back in the day when it was the standard.
ScuzzyEye wrote:
17 Jan 2022
MicroTune does what ODDSOUND does at the barest minimum. That's monophonic, and changes the pitch wheel to tune some notes sharp or flat. But the real character comes from playing chords because different notes will beat against each other differently in each key.

I don't know anyone making main stream music that way, but there have been a number of classical recordings made with other temperaments. That Larips website has some examples. There are some semi-known bands who have experimented with microtonalities, not just retuning some notes.
I figured Microtune would be lacking compared to a dedicated VST or that website, such is the nature of the RE paradigm.

So why use microtonal scales and old temperaments when your listeners are probably going to find it dissonant? I guess one would have to have a keen interest themselves to explore it, cheers for the response.
:reason: It's all about the plo, yo.

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ScuzzyEye
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Post 21 Jan 2022

Jagwah wrote:
21 Jan 2022
So why use microtonal scales and old temperaments when your listeners are probably going to find it dissonant? I guess one would have to have a keen interest themselves to explore it, cheers for the response.
Some keys are more dissonant than others. Some have actually more harmonious interactions between notes than is possible with equal temperament. With equal everything is off just a little bit, but equally off. With some temperaments you can actually have a perfect 5th in one key, but to make that perfect you've pushed some combinations of notes a bit farther out.

That's what drew me to the idea. With unequal temperaments you can play with the dissonance. A key change doesn't just mean going up or down a few steps, it can create or release tension by making things sound a bit more on edge, and then smooth out between sections of the song.

There were some keys that were generally avoided because they were so dissonant, but if that's not a feature you want in your song, you can avoid those keys too.

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rgdaniel
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Post 21 Jan 2022

selig wrote:
16 Jan 2022
Kind of reminds me of the QWERTY keyboard (designed to actually slow down typists to prevent jams), which is not ultimately ideal but so ingrained that even improved layouts have never really caught on.
Not true, apparently. The opposite in fact. "Contrary to popular belief, the QWERTY layout was not designed to slow the typist down, but rather to speed up typing. Indeed, there is evidence that, aside from the issue of jamming, placing often-used keys farther apart increases typing speed, because it encourages alternation between the hands"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY#Properties

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