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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000631.txt from 2001/02

Subj: [kl] Enharmonic perplexity
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2001 10:13:18 -0500

Frank P. Galiani (bewildered in Bloomington) asks:

>> I'd appreciate some advice. I'm at the point where I am beginning to
tackle scales in F# and C# Major (and d# and g# minor). Most of the exercise
books I've seen seem to use F# and C#, but there are some that give the
exercises in Gb and Db Major (and eb and ab minor). Whew! I realize that
the fingerings for the enharmonic keys are the same (I think), but it appears
as if there are eight new keys to learn instead of four. Any suggestions on
how to approach this? (And does anyone ever use Cb Major)? <<

Frank -

It's important to learn these both ways. There actually are pieces (or parts
of pieces) written in Cb. More important, though, is the fact that pieces in
less extreme keys often modulate through the stranger ones, or jump
momentarily into them.

It gets weirder. When you see a double sharp or double flat, it's an
indication that the for the moment you're in a harmony with more than 7
sharps or flats. For example, the relative minor of F# major is D# minor.
When you practice the harmonic minor exercises, the ascending sixth and
seventh degrees are sharped and you're playing in effect in D# major -- that
is, in 9 sharps. This isn't merely theoretical. The Debussy Premiere
Rapsodie has any number of spots where the harmony starts around the circle
of fifths a second time.

You have to get your visual memory used to recognizing these enharmonic
"spellings" so that you don't get thrown when you come to them. Part of your
technical equipment is having practiced every possibility often enough that
you're ready for anything. If you're accompanying a singer whose top notes
are not coming easily that day, and the conductor says "take it down a half
step," you don't want to be the one to say "I never learned that key."

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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