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Topic: key color?????  (Read 1275 times)

Offline jeremyjchilds

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key color?????
on: July 16, 2005, 05:55:23 PM
You know, people talk about Key color all of the time..
"so and so brought out the such and such charachter of this and that key..

As a technician, I and probably everyone else knows that in order for a piano to sound good in all keys, there needs to be an equal interval between all 12 S.T. of the scale. On, top of that, due to the amount of inharmonicity inherent in the scale design of particular pianos, the stretch may need to be much more or less.

So assuming a piano is well tuned, all I can surmise is that our sensing of tone color is simply that, a reaction to the key beginning on a relative frequency, and having nothing to do with any actual change in the character of the intervals..

Would anyone argue with that??

Then, the next question would be.. how can we explain how we can sense this relative interval as having a certain charachter when that starting note commonly has about a 10 cent varience. (percentace of a semitone, that is)

Let me give you an example, since the advent of "intelligent tuning machines" the exactness of each pitch on the piano is even less consistent between pianos. The reason for this, is that aural tuners will tune a piano to a certaion note )A440 for instance) so A 440 will be roughly exact. A tuning machine, will listen to the piano, then create a tuning in equal temperment that averages out the inharmonicity without preference for the purity of any particular tone. I can always tell when a tuning machine has been used, because A440 is about 10 cents too high. (not that they are bad tunings,)

But I'm not here to talk about tunings, what I want to know is this. If a tuning is in equal temperment, then key color must just be our reaction to a tonal center around a certain frequency, right,

and...since that specific frequency can have so much varience, as I have shown, how can we be sure that we are not just trying to hear things that are not there? I mean, it makes you sound really smart if you can talk about key color, but is there really anything to it?

Granted, with historical tunings, there was very surely key color because the tunings were in biased temperements, could our perception of key color be a carry-over from those past days?

iF someone has anything comments on key color, please let me know, especially if it is concrete, This post was based on no research, just observation, and I would like to have a more concrete answer than I don't know when a tuning customer asks...

thanks so much
"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline shoshin

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Re: key color?????
Reply #1 on: July 16, 2005, 08:53:55 PM
I'm sorry to be the first to inform you on this but "Mozart's key of doom was d minor" has nothing to do with absolute pitch based on 440Hz because his piano wasn't even tuned to 440Hz.

Offline jeremyjchilds

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Re: key color?????
Reply #2 on: July 17, 2005, 12:22:50 AM
You are very right, my mistake on the "key of doom" thing.

"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline alzado

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Re: key color?????
Reply #3 on: July 18, 2005, 10:37:55 PM
Jeremy--

I am no great expert on this, believe me, but I believe I know what you are saying.  Way back when, the notes in various keys actually had different relationships with each other, so that different keys actually produced different harmonics.

But then "well tempering" came in.  Bach's Well Tempered Clavier is supposed to be a study of the keys that have been balanced by "well tempering."  Now the different keys no longer produce different harmonics because they are just the same relationships transposed to a different initial pitch.

This has bothered me a lot.  My piano teacher tells me her favorite key is B Major.  Because things sound so beautiful in this key.

She also tells me that composers choose a key because that choice will alter the sound of the chords and make possible some effects unique to each key.

Now that just does not jibe with my understanding of the revised relationship between keys ("well tempering") in the Eighteenth Century.

So I share your perplexity on this issue. 

Clearly I am one of those people who "know just enough to be dangerous"  on this topic.  But I am curious and would like someone who really knows "what's up" to comment on your issue.

Thanks for posting it--
 

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