What key to change an A#m song to?

Edited: March 15, 2019, 7:57 PM · Regina Carter has a song on her "Something for Grace" cd called "Listen Here", which is originally an old Eddie Harris song done on horn, sax I think.
Listen Here with Regina Carter

I love the song and want to attempt it, but I did not know what key it was in, and some software I have says it's in A#m/Bbm, which I think might be the original key on horn.

I'm looking to make it easier to attempt, I don't know if changing to another key would cause unforeseen hurdles also. Can anyone recommend a key change for this? I'm not highly adept, and I also don't think I'll be doing any of her vamping anytime soon, but the basic melody is very catchy.

Replies (24)

March 15, 2019, 8:06 PM · Try backing it down a half step, so you start on A instead of Bb. That way you'll include all the open strings.
March 15, 2019, 8:50 PM · Thanks Mark. Hey, you got any Louisiana roots? New some Bouquet's/Buquet's back there.
March 15, 2019, 9:50 PM · If you are playing it on a string instrument, go A min, or B min.
For a written transcription, Bb min is a lot easier to look at than A# min. For singing, find the key that best fits your range, style, resonance, then maybe move +/- half-step if it is a "bad" key for the instrumental accompaniament.
Edited: March 16, 2019, 5:57 AM · What joel says.

The horn's original written key was C minor, probably.
But sometimes CDs (especially old ones) play at strange speeds, in the same way that DVDs often play a semitone sharp. But Carter is modern.

Barber's Adagio for Strings is in Bb minor.
Relative major Db, five flats, better than a relative major of C#, seven sharps.
Coincidentally, I was watching an Almodóvar movie last night, and a string orchestra was playing something in B minor, and I thought, yes, not a bad key.

Edited: March 16, 2019, 4:46 PM · A possible reason for choosing a key such as B-flat minor (as in the Barber Adagio) is to minimize intrusive unwanted resonances from open strings, which you would get from Amin or Bmin.

My recommendation is to learn and familiarise yourself with keys having at least 5 flats, and even double flats, a useful skill if ever you find music from the late 19th century romantics, such as Bruckner, Dvorak, Suk et al, on the stand in front of you. In so doing you will quickly realise that F-flat is not the same as the open E, C-flat is not the same as B, and B-double flat (yes, it is in the key of G-flat minor) is not the same as the open A, etc. If nothing else, this is all very good intonation training. Also good for the soul.

I agree with Joel that the flat keys are easier to read than sharp keys - I think this may be a typographical thing.

March 16, 2019, 12:32 PM · Another reason for choosing Bbm, as our op surmised, is that the piece was created to play easily on Saxophones and trumpets, etc. And it's not a "typographical thing," because there's no typography. In this case the op only has the audio track, and he determined the key from that. His inexperience led him to postulate A#m, instead of the more plausible Bbm.
March 16, 2019, 1:14 PM · I just listened to the tune and believe the tune is in Bb major not minor.
March 16, 2019, 1:21 PM · Whether major or minor, transposing down a half step to A will likely be easier.
Edited: March 16, 2019, 2:02 PM · I disagree, if you are trying to play what she is playing. Her solo was born in Bb and would have a different characteristic in the key of A. I'm sure she would have played it differently in A.
Edited: March 16, 2019, 3:49 PM · My best guess is that it appears that it might be in Dorian mode, which you could think of as basically Ab major, if that helps at all. At any rate, try playing an Ab major scale around over the music and see if you agree that this seems to fit well.

I'm not a violinist, but wouldn't that put everything nicely under the fingers (all four of them) in half position (first finger on Ab on G string) and then everything would be pretty straightforward with no open strings? Maybe that key isn't such a dumb idea, but not one that a classical player would think of? As I said, I'm not a violinist. . . .

The title track is definitely in Dorian, so this might be pointing to a trend in her music. Something like that often happens. . . .

Edited: March 16, 2019, 8:38 PM · I'm sorry folks but it's in Bb. It rocks between Bb and Eb.
There are more chords much later in the tune. I'm not sure where an Ab would fit in with the 2 chord progression.
Edited: March 16, 2019, 3:53 PM · Sorry, you can use an Eb, but I don't think that's what is really happening. That takes something kind of exotic sounding and turns it into a simple rock tune. I'm not hearing that.

I'll assume you're saying Bb when you really mean Bb minor, because that main chord is a Bb minor, not major.

March 16, 2019, 4:40 PM · I disagree, but let's agree to disagree.
March 16, 2019, 4:46 PM · Mark, "typographical thing" in my response to Joel Quivey was a general comment that flat keys are often easier on the eye than sharp keys. "Typographical" because the sign conventionally chosen to indicate a sharp sign is a largish blob which in some printed editions can sometimes be confusingly similar to a note, especially when sight-reading at speed.
March 16, 2019, 6:17 PM · I got the A#m designation from from DJ software I have. Only after listening to the original recording by the original artist, did I get that it was likely Bbm. My ear is not good enough to tell whether this is Bb or Bbm.
March 16, 2019, 6:17 PM · I think it is basically B Flat minor and sometimes E Flat major.

One semi tone down, it would become A minor and D major, so you won't need to use your 4th finger as much.

March 16, 2019, 6:23 PM · continued-- Agree with; ___ For band instruments, Saxophones, clarinet, trumpets, etc., Bb is a lot better than A. Key of A on Bb instruments is notated as B nat., 5 sharps.
March 17, 2019, 8:29 AM · As a side issue: when I was a kid some 75 years ago I spent 35 cents (US) of my hard earned allowance (7 weeks worth) to buy a wooden music transposition slide rule so I could experiment with different keys. I notice the item is no longer sold (at least on line) - but their are similar items that one can easily make or purchase (just not wooden):


Edited: March 24, 2019, 4:06 PM · It's just a typical jazz/blues vamp, where a guitarist/pianist would vamp on a Bb7 (one measure) then Eb7 (one measure) chords. No jazz/blues player would accompany the melody with straight major or minor chords, even though part of the melody contains a straight-up Eb major triad (2nd inversion). The apparent confusion is that the melody contains a major and minor third (welcome to jazz/blues). I played it in A and B, and honestly don't have a preference as both provide several open string opportunities. The key of A might be better since beginners are usually quite adept at the 2nd inversion of the D major triad on the A and E strings.
March 30, 2019, 2:57 PM · If you ever expect to play this song with a blues / jazz person on piano, guitar, sax, jazz violin, etc. they will play it in B flat and E flat chords. B flat and E flat are not hard to play on the violin. They are just unusual for folks with only classical repertoire.

Spend 2 weeks working on B flat and E flat scales and arpeggios (Flesch?). You will then be just fine with this song in B flat. Then you can play along with Regina Carter and pick up some of her incredible technique. You will be amazing.

March 30, 2019, 6:16 PM · Thanks Mike.
March 30, 2019, 9:48 PM · Its the Bb Dorian scale over Bb7 and Eb7, and it's quit possible the fiddle is tuned down a semi-tone.
Edited: March 30, 2019, 11:31 PM · @Henry, She is tuned to standard tuning. She really is just improvising over the two chord, Bb flat and Eb flat, chord progressions.
March 31, 2019, 12:46 AM · Jeff, maybe you are correct, but usually violin improvisers when playing in Bb and Eb take advantage of the open strings as chromatic passing notes for effect, which I don't hear anywhere in her improvisation.

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