Minor Keys

At last, I feel well enough to practise my violin again. I should explain that I’m only a few months into this, so most things I play sound pretty ropey. Still, it’s nice to play along to the practice track on the CD. It sounds better when you’re playing along with someone else.

One of the pieces I practised today is called ‘Greek Night Out.’ I remarked to my teacher that I liked it, and it reminded me of a Klezmer piece I’d played called ‘Jewish Wedding.’ ‘They’re both in a minor key,’ she replied. ‘This one’s B minor.’

When I got home, I looked at the key signature and thought, ‘That’s D major, surely?’ I’m just working through the Grade 1 theory book so, you know, I’m pretty hot on this stuff! I wondered what the key signature for B minor looked like, and, sure enough, it’s the same as the key signature for D major. In fact, I learned, to find the relative minor, you just go down three semitones (as in D to B). The key signature remains the same.

But, how does it sound so different? The piece I’m playing starts on D, and it doesn’t have that many bars. It’s a beginners’ piece, after all. And yet, it has an entirely different sound from a D major piece. I need to ask my teacher how you can tell, just by looking at the score. Wow, music, it’s so mysterious!

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