[Dixielandjazz] Six Flats - The ultimate?

Edgerton, Paul A paul.edgerton at eds.com
Wed Oct 4 17:30:09 PDT 2006

Steve Barbone wrote:
>Are 6 flats the ultimate? Heck no, The key of Cb has 7
>flats. Take Janie's six flat list and add a Fb to it.

>You can also play in 7 Sharps if you want. Key of C#.
>Now this should be a really bright key.
>(F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#)

>Anybody play in those keys?

Sure, Steve, lots of people play in those keys, but that's not what most
of us would call them.  C# would have 7 sharps but Db as only 5 flats.
Most would prefer the latter.  Cb would have 7 flats but B only has 5
sharps.  Same deal.

The only grey area is F#, with 6 sharps as compared to Gb, which would
be 6 flats.  Most published music would put it in F#, but sometimes (for
horn players) it might be easier to think of that as Gb.  Whatever.

The difference between Cb and B might have been of some importance
before the adoption of equal-temperament,  but no longer.  The usual
practice in modern times is to pick a key that allows the melody to fall
in the desired range of the lead voice or instrument.  (Anybody remember
fake books that had tunes in both the "trumpet" key and in the "tenor"
key?)  That said, there is reason why Chopin's Polonaise was in Db
instead of C.  On a decent piano, it sounds more resonant in Db and a
little "plainer" in C.  And of course, those few unfortunate souls who
have perfect pitch can add all kinds of interesting anecdotes here.

In the interest of education, here is list of keys with the number of
sharps or flats needed, plus a version of the fabled circle of fifths
showing the relationship between the keys...

Major:		   Minor:

 6# - F#  <-+       (6# - D#mi) <-+
 5# - B	|        5# - G#mi    |
 4# - E	|        4# - C#mi    |
 3# - A	|        3# - F#mi    |
 2# - D	|        2# - Bmi     |
 1# - G	|        1# - Emi     |
 0  - C	|        0  - Ami     |
 1b - F	|        1b - Dmi     |
 2b - Bb    |        2b - Gmi     |
 3b - Eb    |        3b - Cmi     |
 4b - Ab    |        4b - Fmi     |
 5b - Db    |        5b - Bbmi    |
(6b - Gb) <-+        6b - Ebmi  <-+

            <--         C         -->
 "Flat" Keys        F       G        "Sharp" Keys 
                  Bb           D                 
                 Eb             A                
                  Ab           E                 
                    Db       B                    

This horse, if not dead, ain't fit for riding.

-- Paul Edgerton

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