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Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

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Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby 1961TC4ME » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:57 am

Hi all,

I'm going to attempt to explain this minor dilemma as best as I can, so bear with me as these are rookie note reading questions. :lol: I'm working on a Bach piece (BWV 533) that incorporates some sharps such as C#, D# and A# in the Fuga part, and it's a bit confusing in places. It's been about 5 years since I worked with my teacher, but if I recall correctly, he said at the time if a note such as an A or a D within a given measure is marked as a sharp, all following A's and D's within that measure are also sharp (even if they are not marked), that part I get.

First rookie note reader question: In the very next following measure, if there is no indication of the A's or D's being sharp or natural, then they are again played natural. Right? Or are they sharp in all following measures until indicated somewhere as again to be played as a natural? My understanding has always been (and I could be wrong here) if a D as an example is marked sharp within a given measure and in the following measure the D's are not indicated as being sharp or natural (i.e., no marking either way), then the D's are played natural.

Second rookie note reader question: If the right hand (top line / top stave in a 3 stave arrangement) D in a given measure is marked as a sharp, are all D's in the below corresponding measures also sharp even if not indicated as sharp, or would they / should they also be marked as sharp?

Any help or something I could read or see as a visual here would greatly help.

Thanks,

Marc
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby mnailor » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:23 am

Modern music editions follow the convention that an accidental -- sharp, flat, natural, double flat, etc. -- is in effect for the rest of that measure for that note on the staff only.

Other octaves of the same note are not affected even in the same measure.

The key signature reasserts itself in the next measure.

Early editions, mostly pre-1700, didn't necessarily follow the same simple rules. Current editions of early music may carry forward early practices like an accidental only applying to the marked note, not carrying through the measure, and having to supply your own accidentals based on harmony. Mostly I see this in Renaissance and early Baroque.

I haven't seen that sort of thing in modern Bach editions, but I've only used two.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby organsRgreat » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:09 pm

“First rookie note reader question: In the very next following measure, if there is no indication of the A's or D's being sharp or natural, then they are again played natural. Right?”

Yes – right – BUT . . . quite often composers insert naturals in the following measure just to be certain. According to music theory a flat or sharp “dies” at the end of a bar (measure), but composers seem not to trust performers to observe the rule, and “precautionary” naturals occur more often than not. (I think Americans say measure when we in England would say bar?).
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby 1961TC4ME » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:38 pm

Thanks for the replies,

Yes, my organ teacher (here in the U.S.) always said measure, but I have noticed some use the term bar.

Here's the piece in question where the A, C & D sharps business starts on page 4. I'm getting a bit stumped towards the end of page 4 and things are sounding weird in comparison to the CD I have of this song, I think this morning I was adding in sharps where they were to be naturals.

http://ks.petruccimusiclibrary.org/file ... BWV533.pdf

I do make a habit before attempting to learn or play something new, I go through the music and mark all the accidentals in an effort not to miss them.

As pointed out here, I have seen in some pieces before where as a 'friendly reminder' a note that was just marked sharp in the previous measure will be marked natural in the next measure, and in some old pieces where the accidental applies to just one note in the measure. What was throwing me off was in this piece accidentals are only done once within the measure and I wasn't sure about what to do with the same notes on the next measure. Now that I know for sure, I'll keep the rule in mind that if not marked in the next measure that the sharp, flat, etc. is over at the end of that measure where it was last marked. AND, yes, very helpful to know that corresponding measures of the left hand and pedal if NOT marked regardless of what's marked above them are natural (unless of course F's are sharp, B's are flat in the piece, etc.) no matter what the notes in the other staves are marked. That I often wondered about but am now set straight on as well. Rookie organ playing 101! :D

Thanks!

Marc
Last edited by 1961TC4ME on Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby adrianw » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:16 pm

Of course, the notation rules (if applied consistently) only tell you what the editor intends you to play.

What Bach intended is a different and sometimes controversial matter. For example, in M32 on p5 the first D sharp printed in this edition is not a misprint (it sounds just fine, and was doubtless a conscious editorial choice) but most modern editions (and therefore most performances you hear on CD) now choose D natural, even though it sounds a bit weird, since that is what the sources suggest Bach wrote.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby sjkartchner » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:25 pm

The final measures of page four appear to be consistently and logically notated. And, they sound correct to me when played on the piano.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby organsRgreat » Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:27 am

Having followed the link you provided, I can see that the accidentals arise mainly because the piece is in the key of E minor. You'll know that there are two versions of a minor scale – the melodic minor, in which ascending and descending versions have different notes; and the harmonic minor, which uses the same notes ascending and descending.

In this Prelude Bach starts with single notes, so he treats the music as a melodic line and uses the rules for a melodic minor scale. This is particularly clear in the second half of the third measure, where he's thinking in A minor. That's why he uses G sharp where the line is ascending and G natural where it's descending.

That G natural is followed by an F sharp because by then he's heading back to E minor in the fourth measure, and in E minor the F will be sharp in any version of the minor scale.

You might find it helpful to play over both versions of the E minor scale before starting to practise the piece, to get the sounds into your ears.

Slightly off-topic, but it seems to me that the association major keys happy, minor keys sad, was not established in Bach’s time – he often writes happy music in minor keys. The Badinerie from his Orchestral Suite No. 2 is a well known example – e.g. at 1.28 in this youtube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVARLQolFk0
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby 1961TC4ME » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:18 am

Just as another reference, this is the version that first caught my ears, I have the CD and I've listened to many times, BWV 533 starts @ 20:32.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT_t8Qv ... 6e1MPmEwSF

Besides the Bach piece, there's really lots of good music on this CD and a few others I've learned like the Benedetto Marcello Psalm 19 which I really enjoy playing, thanks to Luis (profeluisegarcia) here for providing me with a copy of the piece.

Being I'm more fairly slooooow in transferring what I'm reading to the keys vs. being just a slow reader, I also need and incorporate the value of hearing the music several times to get it in my head and compare what I'm playing up against what I've heard and how it should sound, and boy there's a few spots in the Fuga right now where it sure doesn't sound like it should! :lol: I've got the prelude part of this piece down pretty well, to the point of memorizing it for the most part. I finally decided to dive into the Fuga part, it's coming along slowly. Bach stuff is quite interesting and fun to play when you get it down, but it's for sure not easy! :roll:

Marc
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby johnstump_organist » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:49 pm

Given the level of your question, one situation you might encounter and find confusing (although maybe not) is if a note with an accidental is tied over to another measure, that tied note still is affected by the accidental but subsequent appearances of the note in that measure are not. I have had beginning students ask about this situation.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby 1961TC4ME » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:24 pm

organsRgreat wrote:
Slightly off-topic, but it seems to me that the association major keys happy, minor keys sad, was not established in Bach’s time – he often writes happy music in minor keys. The Badinerie from his Orchestral Suite No. 2 is a well known example – e.g. at 1.28 in this youtube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVARLQolFk0


To say Bach wrote some awesome music would be an understatement of epic proportions. The guy had to have music going in his head steady 24 / 7.

johnstump_organist wrote:Given the level of your question, one situation you might encounter and find confusing (although maybe not) is if a note with an accidental is tied over to another measure, that tied note still is affected by the accidental but subsequent appearances of the note in that measure are not. I have had beginning students ask about this situation.
John


Now there's something I didn't think about, and also good to know! :D

OK, since we're on the subject of accidentals, here's another thing I'm not quite sure on. On page 4 at the very beginning of the Fuga, third measure, left hand E's show a trill with a # below it which to me would indicate to play the trill sharp, but if you listen to the audio example I linked to the trill is played E to D. Anyone care to explain this one?

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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby johnstump_organist » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:24 pm

Look closely at the "tril" you'll see a slash across it, that means it is a mordant, not a trill. Mordents are usually one or two repetitions with the lower neighbor note, either diatonically or automatically. The sharp sign I'm sure is an editor's suggestion, but it is a good one. Feel free to try a diatonic mordant and see which you like best. I almost always prefer half step mordant as they add a little extra"bite" to the sound.
A really good book on ornamentation in Bach, is an somewhat older book, but still very good, by Putnam Aldrich (I think, I'll check and correct it if that's not right). He was the harpsichord professor at Stanford in 60s and 70s. Besides showing how to interpret the written signs, it includes some great tips on where and how to add ornaments that were probably expected to be played, but often not rotated. You can find it for free now online to download. It is not all that long, so makes a very good intro to baroque ornamentation. If I can find the link I'll put it here.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby johnstump_organist » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:33 pm

https://archive.org/details/ornamentationinj010511mbp
This page has several download options of the Aldrich book Ornamentation in the Organ Works of I. S. Bach

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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby sjkartchner » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:54 pm

I would think that the D# mordants (as do the other D#'s in the piece) serve the function of leading tone to anchor and emphasize the E tonic in the minor key.
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby 1961TC4ME » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:00 pm

johnstump_organist wrote:https://archive.org/details/ornamentationinj010511mbp
This page has several download options of the Aldrich book Ornamentation in the Organ Works of I. S. Bach

John


John,

Thanks much for this! I will print off a copy as yes it is full of examples and explanations.

While we're at it I do have one more question (might as well get them all out of the way! :lol: ) about this piece that is non ornamentation related. I see this also from time to time in other pieces, but again not sure what it is that's intended. In measures 23 (page 5) and 33 (page 6) we see a tie between a B in the second stave (left hand) and an E in the top stave (right hand). Does this mean that both the left hand B and the right hand E are to be played together at the same time? That's what I'd guess it means, but then the question is: Is there a particular reason they'd tie (or for lack of a better word, display) the two notes tied together like that between the staves?

Thanks again,

Marc
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Re: Changing from sharps to naturals, ect.

Postby johnstump_organist » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:40 pm

I don't see the tie you are talking about. There is a cross staff beam where the alto part was being written on the bass staff and the goes back to being written in the treble staff, but I'm not sure what you are talking about in those spots.
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