Determining key of recordings

TO: internet:harp-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

<From Jack's description of his difficulty, the problem may not be
one of key but of position.

Inconstant tape speed can drive you up the wall. I mean the kind
of recording where it's on pitch one moment, then wanders off
just far enough to make you unsure of what note's being played.
I've even encountered this on instructional playalong tapes.
Nothing you can do about that one.

However, let's posit that the the tape is OK.

 >I can almost play along with the tape but eventually come to a
 >note that sounds on tape like it is a natural - yet I have to
 >bend to get it or visa versa.

Can you determine for sure if this is a tape fluctution or not?
Is the note halfway between pitches when the others aren't, or is
it dead on, just not the note you expect it to be?
Does the internal evidence - the tonal structure of the
accompanying chords and the scales used elsewhere in the piece -
indicate which way the note should go?

If you're having to bend to get the note, and it's being played
on diatonic, then maybe the original was played in:

     - Another position on a different key harp (different mode)

     - the same position but a different tuning - minor tuning,
       melody maker, "country" tuning, etc.

If it's on chromatic, and you're concerned that you're learning
it in the wrong key, which key does it lie easiest in? Tape pitch
is seldom off by more than a semitone (more than a semitone will
be noticeable, as it will seriously distort the timbre and and
attack), so you've probably got only two choices. Between B
major, let's say, and C major, which is the more likely?

Again, internal evidence is available from the instruments you're
hearing. There are characteristic things that happen in each
position on both chromatic and diatonic, and don't happen in any
other, and you can hear them if you listen closely.

For instance, on chromatic, some slide trills that work in F are
impossible transposed down to E. And if the two side-by-side C's
(or Db's) are played together, that's a real giveaway. All-blow
or all-draw gliss-type arpeggi can also give away a position.
Some of these can be raised a semitone with the slide, others
(like most slide trills) can't. You have to tote up the evidence
and sift through for a position that accomodates all of them.

With diatonic, because Asian players traditionally don't bend
notes, you can immediately discount any key/position/tuning that
requires it. Again, find a combination that can account for all
the notes. And be aware that there are semi-solo tunings used for
diatonics in Asia that you're unlikely to find in North America.

Is it possible to communicate with the original recording artists
and ask them?


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