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Key Signature For A Song Based Around A Dorian Riff?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Curious as I don't know much about this- guitarist wrote a tune where the main riff is in C Dorian. All the other chords follow diatonically. Would you still write it out as being in the key of Bb, even though the feel of the song is minor and based all around that C Dorian riff with the C be a definite "home" note?
  2. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I'm not a specialist, just my thoughts.
    C Dorian (minor)= C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C
    Bb Ionian (major) = Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb

    In both cases, you would write two flats in the key signature: Bb and Eb.
  3. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I would write it in C minor and use accidentals as necessary for the natural sixth.
  4. This. If the tonal center of the song is C-something (major or minor), write the key signature that defines the song in that manner, then use accidentals to account for any harmonies or pitches that are non-diatonic.

    The trouble with mixing modes and the major-minor system is that they were never really meant to mix and be compatible as a single system of harmonic organization. Modal harmony treats the relationships between pitches and sonorities in a different manner than the major-minor system.
  5. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    That's a lot of extra writing if you add the accidentals. If the song is in Cmin, but based on a Dorian mode, the key signature can just have the 2 flats you would have in the key of Bbmaj. This is the way a jazz chart would be written if it is modal like that.
  6. SidMau


    Sep 3, 2012
    The key signature doesn't define what key its in. It defines the set of keys including Bbmajor, Gminor, and the modes (C dorian included). One writes Bbmajor and Gminor with the same key signature, its not like 2 flats in key sig = Bbmaj... writing the signature as you would Cminor (or Ebmaj) would just be... not correct.
  7. It's only 1 extra flat - Bb major/G minor (2 flats) to Eb major/C minor (3 flats).

    I should probably clarify - if all you want is the easiest way to notate the music, then by all means, write it with 2 flats. My answer was geared towards writing it in with the key signature that would be most appropriate given the tonal organization of the song. If the song is based around a C-minor sonority, the most appropriate way to notate that so that the harmonic organization of the music makes the most sense, is with 3 flats.

    Along those same lines - key signatures help define, but don't necessarily dictated the actual key of the piece. BUT, if you define a piece as "In the key of X" you are defining it in the major-minor system - it's either one or the other. Having a piece of music with 2 flats in the key signature does not mean the possibility of the music being in the key of X dorian (or any other mode).
  8. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    this and I may add that if your piece of music always have those two flats ( Bb and Eb ) then by all means, write it at the key.

    Also there isn't a way to write the key to be sure we are in a mode and since a Dorian mode is derivated from a major key.

    a key just tell you that those flats will always be there unless notated ( and this rarely last more than a bar or two ).
  9. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Well-educated musicians would write C minor with three flats in the key signature and would "use accidentals as necessary for the natural sixth" - A.

    Less-educated, like me, would try to use improper "shortcuts" similar to "thumb-texting-language"on iPhone - IMHO.

    Jazz musicians would also use those shortcuts.
    Miles Davis "So What" using only the Dorian minor scale
    (16 bars Dm7, 8 8 bars Ebm7, 8 bars Dm7)

    The key signature does not have Bb flat.

    Ex.2:"Scarborough Fair" (ballad) in D Dorian has Bb flat in the key and, when needed, B natural.
  10. SidMau


    Sep 3, 2012
    The key sig in that is left to a neutral, which makes more sense for either Cmaj (or its relative minor, etc...) Or a 12-tone piece. Key signatures tell you what notes are sharp or flat. C Dorian has two flat notes, thus it has an Eb and Bb in the key sig
  11. +1,000
  12. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I posted this question on my Facebook page. A couple of the people who responded had the same gut reaction as me, which is to use the key signature for C minor, but the significant majority of the responses (including all of the responses from those of my friends who work professionally as orchestrators and arrangers) is to use 2 flats as SidMau suggests.
  13. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Exactly. I would go with the majority there. A well trained musician (which jazz AND classical musicians are) would write it with 2 flats in the key signature.
  14. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Yup, same here. In my experience as an arranger, this would cause the least amount of confusion about the piece amongst conventionally trained musos.
  15. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I disagree. The Major and minor system is just as modal as Dorian, Lydian, or any other modal harmony. It just so happens that the Major mode (Ionian) and natural minor mode (Aeolian) are far more commonly-used in much western music. And yes, key signatures define Major and minor keys as theory is conventionally taught, but two flats defines C Dorian just as much as it does Bb Major or G minor; it just so happens that it's more common to see two flats and correctly conclude that the piece of music is in Bb Major or G minor.

    In analyzing the harmonic structure of a piece of music, if I see two flats and I see that the I chord is a Cmin7 (based on location, relationship to melodic phrasing, chord duration, chord movement, etc.), I immediately conclude C Dorian.
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Me too, except it would look like Eb ;) But if you put chord symbols over it and accidental the 6th as as you said, there would be no confusion this way.
  17. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Just quoting:

    "A key signature tells the performer that the accidentals indicated are throughout the piece."

    "A key signature designates notes that are to be played higher or lower than the corresponding natural notes and applies through to the end of the piece or up to the next key signature."

    "The purpose of the key signature is to minimize the number of such accidentals required to notate the music. "

    "A key signature is not the same as a key; key signatures are merely notational devices.
    For example, the only sharp in the G major scale is F sharp, so the key signature associated with the G major key is the one-sharp key signature. However, it is only a notational convenience; a piece with a one-sharp key signature is not necessarily in the key of G major, and likewise, a piece in G major may not always be written with a one-sharp key signature."

    "A key signature is a symbol. It is seen in notation. Keyality is a sign. It is audiated.
    Any number of tonalities and keyalities may be associated with a key signature. For example,
    one sharp may indicate major tonality and G keyality, harmonic minor tonality and E
    keyality, Dorian tonality and A keyality, Mixolydian tonality and D keyality, and so on.
    Therefore, it is not possible to know keyality of music simply by seeing a key sign."
    Music needs to be audiated before its key signature can be assigned keyality and tonality.

    "Key signatures indicate neither tonality nor keyality..."
    http://books.google.com/books?id=F2...s the key signature equal to tonality&f=false
  18. You would write it with the two flats. The reasoning that some are using to say why you should use the key of the tonal centre it flawed. Say for example a song was written based around B Locrian the 7th mode of C Major, you wouldn't pretend it was b minor with 2 sharps and then write naturals on every c and f you came across. You would just leave it as the C Major key signature.
  19. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Thank you. It means that my first posting in this thread was correct.
    "In both cases, you would write two flats in the key signature: Bb and Eb."
  20. Well, there are 15 key signatures, and there are 19 posts in this thread, so someone should have gotten it right by now. :)

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