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Sharps, flats, and patterns

The thing that I've come to appreciate about different instruments is the things that become easy or hard depending.

They keyboarded family of instruments.. pianos, synths, harpsichords, etc. is interesting once you've been playing guitar for a while. See, you can play the C major (or A relative minor) key very easily on the keyboard, using only the white keys. Or you can play the E flat major (or G flat minor) pentatonic scale only on the black keys. Otherwise, you need to remember sharps and flats.

There's some longstanding reasons for this, revolving around the days before modern temperment and how you could only play one key before retuning anyway.. and there were even some constructions where the black keys were split so that the C sharp and D flat were actually different keys... because with the earlier tuning systems, you'd get dissonant 'wolf' tones on some intervals.

But this means that a piano has a very definite home key.

For more historical reasons having to do with mechanical strength and range and whatnot, string instruments have their own natural patterns. The Violin families in fifths, the guitar family generally in fourths... and then, depending on the size of the instrument, there's a certain span you can reach.

The guitar, being designed to get an overall useful solo sound as well as chords, ends up where the key of E, major or minor, is the home key. Mostly, because the key of A or D is also easy to reach, all three being achievable through the use of the lower three strings.

But it's not quite as fixed, because if you aren't sounding open strings, you can transpose up and down simply by moving the fingerings up or down the fretboard, potentially using a capo to hold all six strings down. And there's enough range that you can pretty much move it up or down throughout the octave with reasonable ease.

There's also a giant chunk of easy chord fingerings for all the common chords across most frequently encountered keys. However, it's still the case that there are some keys that are really awkward on the guitar without using movable barre chords or a capo because none of the notes in the chord can be played as open strings.

It also ends up that, especially when you consider the guitar versus the piano, each instrument has configurations of notes that are very hard to play on the other. You can play closely spaced notes with greater ease on the piano, but you can play these lovely wide inverted chords across multiple octaves on the guitar with great ease.

It's fairly easy to, on the guitar, fall into a completely uninspired playing technique where you use a fairly small number of movable patterns. The standard barre chords and the blues box. I was once better, but I'm still pretty good about seeing the guitar fretboard as a complete whole, although this is still reliant upon being able to draw from muscle memory to know where the notes of a scale are. I'm not quite as good on the piano, but I'm working on that. It turns out to be harder because you don't really have the same sort of home-in-any-key that the guitar ends up with.

In theory, all MIDI keyboards are able to act as transposing pianos.. such that I might choose to transpose up and down in half-steps.

I'm of two minds. See, there's been a bunch of efforts to make the keyboard more key-neutral. For example, the Jankó keyboard or the Wicki-Hayden layout. And then you can use the same fingerings no matter what key you are in.

On the other hand, when you accentuate the ability of a keyboard to produce perfectly harmonic sounds, you make carefully chosen disharmonic sounds harder. Part of the sound of the piano becomes the arrangements of fingerings required to work within the constraints of the instrument. Even using a transposing piano.. well, it can easily become a silly crutch. Same as just writing things in a tracker grid or piano roll. It end up sounding un-human.

In other words, there is no shortcut and I need to keep practicing my scales.