Thursday, June 22, 2006

Playing TIp #23: Flute Keys

In general, a key or scale is a set of notes that sound consonant with one another and from which the bulk of the notes in a song are chosen. In modern western music theory, this pool of notes is defined by partitioning an octave into 12 equally spaced notes (defined as a half step) between any two neighboring octaves. It’s not the intent of this posting to dive deeply into musical theory, however it is important to understand a few fundamentals of musical notation in order to have a reference for some subsequent discussion. Why is this important? One of the most common questions for new flute player is: What is the key of my flute? This discussion will help answer that question.

Basic Notes

For lack of any better reason in the organization of these possible notes, each note has been assigned a letter name from A to G. For example, all of the white keys on a piano are assigned one of these letters repetitively in order from A to G. In addition, there is also the concept that some notes are slightly higher or lower than any given note. When a note is slightly higher, it is called a “sharp” and denoted with the symbol: #. Likewise, when a note is slightly lower, it is called a “flat” and denoted with the symbol: b (lowercase B). All of the black keys on a piano are designated as sharps or flats. These notes can alternatively be called either the sharp of the note immediately below it, or the flat of the note immediately above it**

Here is the complete list of these 12 notes, in order:
A, A#(Bb), B, C, C#(Db), D, D#(Eb), E, F, F#(Gb), G, G#(Ab)

The bottom line is that the fundamental note (the note played with all holes covered) of your flute is one of these twelve notes, and the subsequent scale produced by the other holes on the flute will be in a scale related to this fundamental note. There are many, many types of scales that can be played on most instruments, however some of these scales are more pleasing to listen to than others. ThIn a future post, I will introduce the pentatonic scale, which has become the scale of choice for most modern Native American Flute makers today, and give you some ideas of the other scales which can be found on your flute.

**In classical musical theory there are some strict guidelines about this rule of assigning sharps and flats, but we won’t concern ourselves with this in this discussion. It’s enough to know that sometimes a note can be called two different things and mean the same thing.

Creative Commons License

This Playing Tip is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

No comments: