So is a D-G instrument transposing?

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So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby mjh » Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:05 pm

This discussion did happen in "the other place", but now I am getting between 80 and 90% in my grade 5 music thoery trial papers, I might understand the discussion, so I thought I'd put it here.

The story seems to be that string instruments are somehow supposed to have an open string tuned to G. With the positioning of tangents and key bars, this leads to an arrangement of keys that looks physically like black and white piano keyboard notes, even though this arrangment presumably predated that instrument (and probably virginals, clavicord, harpsicord, fortepiano, organ, synthesiser...) In the conventional major scale (or, I guess, Lydian mode) this forms the TTSTTTS interval pattern of the C major scale.

So that is the picture for a G-C instrument.

Now before I started to do some music lessons, my belief was that the staff notation was supposed to be independent of instrument, having derived from all sorts of tablature and medieval notations which by and large, were not. With that belief, I would see a little dot on the second space up, think "A" and believe that this was instruction to produce 440Hz (OK, or 220, 880 etc in modern tuning and similar multiples of 415 earlier etc.) on an instrument whatever it is you have to do with bodily contortions to do this.

This is obvioulsy incorrect.

So someone decides to play with string tensions and gauges and decides that an instrument whose open string is a perfect fifth away from the G instrument sounds good, so without changing the keybox, we now have an instrument which plays naturally with an F# in the natural scale - a key of G major and an open string of D. So, there are obvioulsy two ways of playing music on this instrument. We could go with my previous view (that A on the staff means play some multiple of 440Hz etc.) so the notation follows the key positions and in this case, the instrument is not transposing.

Alternatively, we could believe that there is something special about the piano (etc...) keyboard layout, and instead pretented this is a G-C instrument when playing from notation. In this case, clearly I'll see say C in notation and play G on the instrument. Clearly, this is a transposition of a perfect fifth.

So which is it? It seems to me that if D-G instruments have music written for them and G-C instruments similarly, the instruments are different, not transposing. If, however, all the notation is in C major but gets played in G major, then the instrument is transposing.

It seems in modern practice at least, that players learn two fingerings from a single notation which would support the non-transposing point of view.
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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby paulsherwood6 » Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:37 pm

Hi Mark,

I'm in full agreement with your concluding paragraph. I am sure that if the D/G instrument had a classical background it would be considered transposing and the music would be written accordingly but that is not what I have seen of current practice. Perhaps more importantly, if I was advising a new D/G player with an interest in the folk dance tradition, I would strongly suggest that it is best to 'think D' when they play the open string. That will make it much easier to play together with other folk instruments and easy to read their sheet music and the tunebooks that you can buy.

Paul
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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby Scott Marshall » Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:45 pm

Hi Mark and Paul, I played mostly on a D up until about a year ago and now mostly play g/c. I think the tuning of the trompette (on the D it is unison with the open string and on the g/c it is tuned to c or d) gives a very different feel to the drone. I would like a second g trompette on my g/c. I dont think in terms of the notes I am playing -more the interval sound against the drone.
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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby CeciliaKM » Fri May 01, 2009 8:57 pm

Don't forget that the 5-lines stave is a relatively new development, I couldn't tell from the top of my head exactly when it became standard without looking up, but for centuries it was 4 lines, and previously to that it was only 1 or 2 to make those early non-dotted neumes more visual in terms of high and low.

You also know that it wasn't just bass and treble clef to accommodate music, but singers especially and some transposing instruments use a range of different clefs. It is all about the best possible arrangement of the notes available for that particular instrument (or the range of the singer), without using many ledger lines as we do nowadays on piano.

So, if you are a composer or a conductor for example you are expected to be able to read these and also to read them transposing so to insert into the whole texture of the orchestra. (Viola players use alto clef to read their music.)

Because we don't have a big range on the gurdy anyway, it uses the same treble clef. I think you should think D when you play in D and yes, adjust your fingering, don' try to transpose.
In my opinion, and it is totally personal, the D tuning must have been an answer to the widespread use of other D instruments, especially pipes and whistles in folk music. And their D-ness could be down to the size of a conveniently sized piece of wood with those holes spaced away just right comfortably? This is a guess, anybody has looked up what's the truth here?

Instruments and scales developed hand in hand:
The Medieval scores did not use accidentals except the B-flat and later the F-sharp (as if you had 3 scales only, one from C, one from F, one from G). The scales were based on tetrachords plus a tone, there is a good explanation about the basic permutations here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrachord#History

The scale ideas of the Western music (and further away too) are based on the harmonics, so take the fifths from an F, F-C-G-D-A-E, organise them into steps and you have that 6 notes scale that is often used in Medieval music. The B and B flat acts as a divider to decide what mode or scale you use. This is not an accurate and detailed explanation how it really worked, but gives a good general idea.


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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby organgrind » Sat May 02, 2009 6:34 pm

Well my contribution to this one is that I think yes it is a transposing instrument.

I believe this is correct because:

1.The layout of the western musical scale has been locked for several hundreds of years in its current form.
2.The D gurdy uses the G scale arrangement of notes as does the C/G gurdy.
3. If we were to call the open note D then this puts the diatonic (C scale notes ) and chromatic scale notes in the wrong places.
4. If we think of it as G then the arrangement of notes will be correct according to universal musical practice.
5. The music for the instrument should be written with G as the lowest note and D bagpipe music should be transposed before being played. Always assuming that the player reads music. The piece will sound a perfect fourth lower.
6. However, if the player were to only wish to play the hurdy-gurdy in D and no other keyboard instrument of any kind then Paul's suggestion of calling the lowest note D should be perfectly fine, bonkers, but entirely reasonable. And it will certainly make the music reading aspect very easy.
7. But when all is said and done it IS a transposing instrument because the keyboard layout makes it so. I believe that would be the universal view expressed by any classical musician or academic.
8. If I write music for the D gurdy I write it out in both ways, showing D at the bottom and showing G at the bottom, that way you can communicate with everybody.

Peace and love to all :D

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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby CeciliaKM » Sun May 03, 2009 12:00 am

Huh Richard,

It's a bit confusing for me. What do you call a G arrangement? If I start thinking about a C-G gurdy, with the open string being G, the arrangement of the keys still follows the C major scale, so in "piano language" white keys are A B C D E F G A B C' etc. and blacks are the sharps/flats respectively.
On the D gurdy the open string is D and the keys are E F# G A B C D etc.

I personally don't play a D, or very rarely, but if I do I prefer to see the music in D. But because I am coming from Kodaly background, using most of the time relative sol-fa it doesn't matter that much, however, I still don't feel I could compare the D gurdy to for example a B-flat clarinet being a transposing instrument in the same sense.

Most music for C-G is written in either C-major or minor, if you play in G, you tune your trompette to D (as we do in the Naudot).
On D however, the repertoire that is played is mainly French folk dance music, where the majority of tunes seem to be based around the D drones. The tonic is the D, the trompette and all the drones are in D as well, so it is not so easy to transpose from one tuning to another.

If you ignore this drone difference of course you can transpose, play the same fingering, in fact you could transpose from any odd keys if you know your music theory, but Scott's point earlier of the different relationship between chanterelle and trompette effects the tonality of the music.

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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby ruthbramley » Sun May 03, 2009 11:24 am

I think the problem comes when reading music. I play a GC gurdy, which means that the keyboard corresponds with a piano keyboard, so the key that looks like it ought to be a C, is a C. For a bear of little brain like myself, that's nice and straightforward. I'm not brilliant at sight-reading, but can manage at a slow, steady pace, because I know where the notes would be on a piano, and simply transfer that knowledge over to the gurdy.

Simply playing a tune on a D gurdy that I have already learnt on a GC gurdy, by using the same key positions is fine, as it automatically transposes the tune down a fourth (?). What would confuse me (and I have never tried it, so I'm only guessing) would be trying to sight-read a tune on a D gurdy. If the music says it's a C, I know where to find it on the GC, but the C key on the D gurdy would be G (I think).

I think it's a bit like using a capo on a guitar. I don't have perfect pitch (or anything near) so playing a guitar with a capo on, and using, say, a G chord shape, which with a capo on the second fret sounds as an A chord, doesn't bother me in the least. By putting the capo on, you effectively move the nut position so that the open strings play a higher note that they would do without the capo. So if I want to accompany a song on guitar that is written in G major, but I want to sing it a bit higher, I just put the capo on a suitable fret, and play the same chord shapes as I would normally, and hey presto, it's in a more singable key. Makes playing in difficult keys like Eb possible without resorting to 'two-handed chords' (the sort where you need your right hand to manoeuvre your left hand fingers into position ;) ) Reading music on the guitar with added capo also becomes a bit more complicated as you have to remember that the open string is not what you assume it to be, but at least the frets on a guitar all look the same, rather than being arranged to look like a piano keyboard, so everything works in semi-tones. Perhaps if gurdy keys were all in one row it would be easier? It's all very confusing...
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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby Jon » Sun Jun 07, 2009 5:17 am

Somebody above said this:

"G/C tuned instrument .. open string being G, the [ physical ] arrangement of the keys ... follows the C major scale, so in "piano language" white keys [ lower key row on the gurdy ] are A B C D E F G A B C' etc. and blacks [upper key row on gurdy ]are the sharps/flats respectively ==> G#, B flat, C#, E flat, F#, G#, etc. On the D gurdy the open string is D and the keys are E F# G A B C D etc. "

I am trying to get my head around keys and the notes they play on a G/C vs. a D/G tuned instrument.

So on the D/G tuned instrument, what are the white key notes (lower row of keys) in "piano language", and what are the black key notes (upper row of keys) in "piano language"?
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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby Scott Marshall » Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:51 am

Jon wrote:Somebody above said this:

"G/C tuned instrument .. open string being G, the [ physical ] arrangement of the keys ... follows the C major scale, so in "piano language" white keys [ lower key row on the gurdy ] are A B C D E F G A B C' etc. and blacks [upper key row on gurdy ]are the sharps/flats respectively ==> G#, B flat, C#, E flat, F#, G#, etc. On the D gurdy the open string is D and the keys are E F# G A B C D etc. "

I am trying to get my head around keys and the notes they play on a G/C vs. a D/G tuned instrument.

So on the D/G tuned instrument, what are the white key notes (lower row of keys) in "piano language", and what are the black key notes (upper row of keys) in "piano language"?


Jon,

the answer is in the quote: "On the D gurdy the open string is D and the keys are E F# G A B C D etc. ", the black keys are D#, F, G#, B flat, C# etc.



PS I didn't write this, it must have been Cecilia using my computer again! Scott
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Re: So is a D-G instrument transposing?

Postby Jon » Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:05 pm

Thanks.

So are these diagrams correct? What about the last (right hand) key, upper row, C or C#, right?

http://www.dragonflybridge.com/HurdyGurdy/Keyboard.html

I MUST get that piano image out of my mind and accept sharps on the black (lower) HG keys and naturals on the white (upper) HG keys.
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