Welcome to old and new friends who are interested in discussing Cajun and other diatonic accordions, along with some occasional lagniappe....



General Forum
Start a New Topic 
Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.

It has been one of the perennial topics on this forum: which key accordion should I get? And we have a variety of perennial answers.

Just to throw things in a different perspective, I thought I would share a little tidbit that I came across this week. I recently auditioned to join a large classical music choral group, The Community Chorus of Redlands. We just had a concert last week of Haydn's Te Deum and the new K. Lee Scott Requiem. Next, we are preparing to join the Redlands Symphony to perform Beehoven's Ninth Symphony. Among the materials we were provided was an article about the Ninth Symphony, which had a few paragraphs about the musical symbolism in the symphony. For what it's worth, here is part of what was said:

"For every composer, keys can be understood as spiritual spaces of expression. Beethoven uses three tonalities prominently in this symphony: D minor, B-flat major, and D major. Simply put, D minor stands for death, B-flat major for faith and hope, and D major for human victory and jubilation."

I am not sure what the relevance is to us, but I thought it was interesting.


Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.

f# - key of kings

g - the people's key

e flat - the saddest of all keys

thats all i ever heard anything about

i didn; realize that it varied with
every composer though


here is too much information on keys and personalities


Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.

I think you are looking at this outside the box -- and that's great. What you are suggesting is different keys suggest different moods -- how refreshing and how true. When the eternal $2,000 question is always popped here, there's always 3 tired, old answers always given... C for Cajun, Bb for zydeco and "find the key to match your voice". Rarely is the "key issue" discussed any deeper.

To me, it's all about creating the mood of a song. There are some tunes that just sound better in a certain key -- and many of those keys aren't the common, everyday configurations. Granted, having a lot of stage real estate taken up by a bunch of expensive accordions kinda sucks, but so does playing in 1 or 2 keys all night long, IMO.

I love to hear a C&Z band perform, but one of my personal woes are -- is the fact that after a while, the same key can get very tiresome to the ear. This is why so many un-schooled ears tell me, "Gosh I love Cajun (or zydeco) music, but it all sounds the same to me..." To some extent, I feel their pain.


Re: Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.


You're right on target. A lot of old timers knew this too, and even if they had only one accordion, they would alternate tunes by key all night long so the listener would not get bored.

I find that key not only affects the mood of the song, but the mood of the musician (of course it puts the fiddler in a bad mood when you start changing accordions). But for me it puts me in a great mood to move to a higher key.

When Leo Abshire and I played together we would always start the dance on a C accordion and switch to D about half way through. You could tell a difference in the crowd- more excitement.


Re: Re: Re: Question to David.

David,can you explain how you guys changed from C to D in the same song? That sounds interesting?

Re: Re: Re: Re: Question to David.


I guess I'm still hung up on changing from a minor to a major key. A minor is the minor key for C. so play a tune in Am then play a tune in C. For example, play "The Mardi Gras Song" (A minor) then go into "Jambalya" (key of C)- all from Larry MIller's book.

Sorry if I have missed the point of your question..... Ed

Re: Re: Re: Re: Question to David.

Hi Maz,

It wasn't me that said that, but to answer your question anyway, I think what was meant was that during the course of the dance a switch was made from one accordion to another, not during a particular song (e.g., play 10 songs with a C accordion, then play the next 10 on a D).

However, I know of cases where a key change was made in the middle of a song. One scenario involves a quick accordion switch, perhaps while another instrument is soloing. Another scenario is when a dual key accordion is being used - i.e., a Randy Falcon accordion, in the hands of Wayne Toups: push down the 3 stops for one key, and pull up the 3 stops for the other key and off you go.


Re: Re: Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.

Long time ago I have been watching a concert of Emmylou Harris. She announced the concert as an
"An evening in G" and nobody complained.
If you love the music it doesn't matter.

Re: Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.

I have heard the same thing from classical performers. However don't forget
Hank William's "Kawliga" did the same thing in that it changed from a minor to a major key and really has an effect. It really gives a lift to the music.

Re: Re: Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.



Also .. an additional observation ..

The thing with Kawliga is that it did not change
to a relative minor key, such as going from
"C" to "Am", but instead just changed to a minor
key (such as going from "C" to "Cm")
which is probably impossible to do on a
Cajun Accordion

I love that tune, very effective technique indeed


Re: Re: Re: Re: Characteristics of certain keys - from a classical music perspective.

Thanks for all the explanations guys.

a lot of key variation

i play in many keys, in the band repertoire
on the c accordion they would be
A [really A7 - the band plays in A
but of course my 3rd and 7th are flatted,
a very bluesy key]
A minor
D minor
G minor
E minor

and most of them on both C and Bflat accordion

and some on G, Bflat or F rows of my 3 rows

so it makes for a lot of key variation

then i'm playing zydeco, it;s not quite
as stuck on the first and second positions
as cajun


Jamey Hall's most excellent Cajun Accordion Music Theory

Brett's all new Cajun Accordion Music Theory for all keys!

LFR1.gif - 1092 Bytes The April 2011 Dewey Balfa Cajun & Creole Heritage Week

augusta.gif - 6841 Bytes

Listen to Some GREAT Music While You Surf the Net!!
The BEST Radio Station on the Planet!