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What minor key to use for the Trio of my Scherzo?

Which minor key should I use for the Trio?  

  1. 1. Which key should I use?

    • The more difficult parallel minor of Eb minor
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    • The obvious, dramatic, relative minor of C minor
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    • The interesting, infrequently used mediant minor of G minor
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    • The related, more melancholic F minor
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As you probably already know, I am writing a Scherzo in Eb major. Now, if I were writing this for solo piano, I would gladly do an Eb to Ebm key change, since most key changes I see in Scherzi when going from the A section to the B section(or to put it another way, when going from the Scherzo to the Trio) are parallel key changes(i.e Cm to C or F to Fm). But, I'm not writing this for solo piano, I'm only improvising on the piano. I'm actually writing the Scherzo for a string quartet ensemble. That makes me think that Eb minor is just going to make things difficult on the performers for no good reason. I mean seriously, how often do you hear string instruments in 6 flats? But, I feel that I still need a major-minor shift for contrast. Second minor key I could think of using would be C minor. Now that isn't so hard for string instruments and there is quite a bit of string quartet repertoire in C minor.

But you know, the relative key switch is used very often, especially from Beethoven onwards. Beethoven sure loves his Cm -> Eb -> Cm motion. Not saying that it's damming or anything to move to the relative key, but maybe in a Scherzo I would want something more interesting to add some humor to the piece. I know I'm already adding humor through rhythm and dynamic, but why not do it through the key as well? After all, the word Scherzo translates to joke. There are 2 more possibilities I can think of, those being the mediant minor of G minor and a Circle of Fifths motion to some key like F minor(or maybe even a direct modulation to F minor). Somebody else suggested maybe moving to A minor, the minor key a tritone away from Eb, but I don't know that I would want to do that. It feels too distant to me.

For more context, I tonicize Bb several times in the Scherzo section and even fully modulate to Bb major. During this modulation, I develop the first theme 3 times, each time briefly taking me to a new key. First I move to F minor, then to C minor, and then finally to Bb major. I change the instrument that plays the highest melody of the first theme and also I diatonically invert the canon part of the theme. First the violin plays the upper melody, then the viola, and then finally the cello. I'm thinking of maybe starting the middle section of the Trio in the key of Bb major to provide a sense of hope, a ray of light in the darkness of minor(I know I want to use some related major key to start the middle section of the Trio before going back to the darkness of minor).

So now I'm back to what minor key to use. I don't think I want to use Eb minor because of how difficult it is for string instruments. C minor is such an obvious choice. G minor, the mediant of Eb major, now that might be more interesting to use since the mediant is the least commonly used diatonic relation and because it sort of reminds you of the Bb major that previously occurred. On the other hand, since Bb major is the relative major of G minor, that movement to Bb major in the Trio, that ray of light, becomes much less interesting than it does if I use C minor instead. A direct modulation to F minor might also be interesting, but is F minor going to fit with the Allegro Vivace? I find F minor to be a very lamenting, melancholic key. When I hear F minor being dramatic(like the stormy kind of dramatic, not deathly lamentation), I always hear quite an emphasis on its minor dominant, C minor and I wonder whether it is the tempo or that C minor relation causing the F minor to feel stormy.

So should I use the key of Eb minor since the majority of Scherzi have this parallel key switch when going to the Trio? Or should I use C minor because it is easy to play and has what I think is an interesting relation to Bb major? Or should I move to the Mediant minor of G minor because it kind of reminds you of the Bb major that has previously appeared in the Scherzo? Or should I directly modulate to a different related key such as F minor?

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What should you do?

Put all the keys into a hat and pick one at random.

Seriously, if you can't decide, then get the decision made randomly.

 

Don't like this idea? Have another think about your keys then.

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I don't see why one would choose Eb minor just because "it's the most difficult key".

Just take the tonality or modulation you need to express what you want. Or if it's the same for you then I don't know, take whatever.

There are strings quartets in Eb minor, for example nº 3 by Tchaikovsky or nº 15 by Shostakovich.

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4 hours ago, jawoodruff said:

I'd argue to do away with keys all together and be like Liszt: "Sans Tonality"!!!

 

But, that just isn't like me. Where is the harmonic structure going to come from if there is no tonality? Harmonic structure is integral to most classical music genres including yes, Scherzi. The only classical music genres I can think of for which harmonic structure isn't integral are tone painting pieces, fantasias, impromptus, and nocturnes(Though most of the pieces in these genres still have harmonic structure). Aren't listeners going to impose a tonality on the piece anyway, missing the point of going atonal?

And it is very rare for me to come across atonal music that I actually like, a lot of it emphasizes seconds and tritones and is just a sea of dissonance. I don't mind dissonances used to add ambiguity(Beethoven and Shostakovitch both do this). I don't mind one diminished seventh leading to another before finally resolving(Beethoven does it all the time in his works). But when the dissonance isn't there to add ambiguity to a tonal landscape AND the dissonance never resolves, or if it does, it doesn't feel like it resolves AND dissonances are all over the place, that's when it really bugs me to the point that I don't like the piece.

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Posted (edited)

Why dont you use all of them in a kind of " trio development section"

Cm -----> G7 -----> Ab (just some tonic subtitution) ----->Fm (as reference for his later entrance,and also as asubdominant) -----> G major -----> Cm ----->E° -----> F minor -----> Ab major ( tonic prolongation, and a subdominant reference for Eb minor), Bb minor -----> C7 -----> F7 -----> B7 -----> Ebm -----> Abm -----> Ebm -----> Bb7 -----> Eb7 ----->Ab7 (dominant subtitution) ----->Gm -----> D7 -----> G7 ----->Cm and you are back in the relative minor and all that's left is a retransition to Eb major.

Well that would be interesting but it's just and idea, I just made an overall progression, the development of the keys is at your will.

I adjunt an mp3 of how the progression sounds, with proper voicing will sound better.

 

Edited by Tortualex
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I once composed a piece in a loose somata form format in which the first B section was in the dominant key and the second B section was in the dominant minor key; I thought it sounded really interesting. After some development, I then offset the dominant minor with a brief tonic minor before finally returning to the tonic major. Just something to consider

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On 1/7/2020 at 6:10 PM, Tortualex said:

Why dont you use all of them in a kind of " trio development section"

Cm -----> G7 -----> Ab (just some tonic subtitution) ----->Fm (as reference for his later entrance,and also as asubdominant) -----> G major -----> Cm ----->E° -----> F minor -----> Ab major ( tonic prolongation, and a subdominant reference for Eb minor), Bb minor -----> C7 -----> F7 -----> B7 -----> Ebm -----> Abm -----> Ebm -----> Bb7 -----> Eb7 ----->Ab7 (dominant subtitution) ----->Gm -----> D7 -----> G7 ----->Cm and you are back in the relative minor and all that's left is a retransition to Eb major.

Well that would be interesting but it's just and idea, I just made an overall progression, the development of the keys is at your will.

I adjunt an mp3 of how the progression sounds, with proper voicing will sound better.

That would be interesting, to treat the trio more as a development section than as a completely separate part and use all 4 minor keys in it. That might make the Eb minor easier on the string players. It would however, cause my piece to go from the typical Scherzo form of A B A to sonata form, since the second theme within the Scherzo section is in Bb major, the dominant of Eb major. I'm not sure that I have ever heard of a Scherzo in sonata form or a sonata exposition in 3 parts where the third part is the first theme slightly altered.

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2 hours ago, caters said:

That would be interesting, to treat the trio more as a development section than as a completely separate part and use all 4 minor keys in it. That might make the Eb minor easier on the string players. It would however, cause my piece to go from the typical Scherzo form of A B A to sonata form, since the second theme within the Scherzo section is in Bb major, the dominant of Eb major. I'm not sure that I have ever heard of a Scherzo in sonata form or a sonata exposition in 3 parts where the third part is the first theme slightly altered.

Well, the rules are there for you to break them, if you want and are curious, you can make 2 versions, on in the typical form and one on this experimental form. 

 

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@Tortualex I just might do that, composing a version of this Scherzo in the typical Scherzo form and one in the experimental 3 part exposition sonata form. So maybe for the typical Scherzo form version, I will do a Cm -> Bb or Ab -> Cm motion for the Trio, and for the 3 part exposition sonata form version, I will do something like the development section that you suggested. And then, when I'm finished with both versions, I will attach both versions to a post about this Scherzo, making sure to link back to this thread and clarify which one is in the experimental sonata form, not just in the PDFs but the MP3s as well.

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