• traditional string instruments are tuned such that it’s easiest to play them in keys that are natural or slightly sharp (particularly C, G, D)… this is why so many old fiddle tunes are found in those keys.
  • wind & brass instruments tend to be easiest to play in slightly flat keys (particularly F, Bb, Eb)… this is why so much of Louis Armstrong & early/Hot Jazz repertoire was recorded in those keys.
  • keyboards (piano, harpsichord, organ, etc) are highly versatile as a result of having been invented with the concept (of musical keys) in mind; the pattern (7 white keys + 5 black keys), was deliberately chosen to democratise the musical keys, ironing out preferences as far as possible. There is however a mild prevalence of keys with 1–3 sharps OR flats.
  • different voices will of course be more or less comfortable, perhaps have to strain, playing in different keys… and at different times of day! If I ask you to sing the “Ba-dee-ya” of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, at 6AM or 6PM, you’re likely to give a very different performance each time.
  • cheat instruments such as the fretted strings (guitar, bass, mandolin, etc) for which you can buy a $5 capo to artificially shorten the neck… are still affected tonally in that the higher the capo is placed, the less fullness of body you’ll get in the sound (especially when strumming with a pick).

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Oli Steadman

Oli Steadman

Bass/BV @StornowayBand. DataCat @AstraZeneca. Consulting via StoneStreetProductions.