earlier today i looked through the real book to see what keys are the most common for standard tunes. i decided to focus on "the great american songbook" witch means that i skipped all tunes written by jazz musicians, brazilian composers, or pop musicians like stevie wonder or the beatles. i also decided (for some reason) to count a major key and its parallell minor key as the same key. hereīs the top six ranking:

1. c
2. f
3. eb
4. g
5. bb
6. ab

i only found one tune in db, body and soul (the bridge is in d), but i couldnīt find anything in a, e, b or f#. do you know any standard tunes that are written in those keys?
There are 25 comments, leave a comment.
there are some b sections in the uncommon keys, like the song is you (in e) and polkadots and moonbeams (in a), but itīs hard to find entire tunes.
hi savage if you are interested in playing in those keys why not transpose the tunes and that should allow you to play in those keys. the greatest " bill evans " often played in b e d a  but he knew all the keys so well he said playing in those keys did not affect or bother him  good luck c p
actually i spend a lot of time practicing stuff in all keys. i was just making an observation and wondering if any standard tunes are written in the uncommon keys. maybe some of the tunes are written in those keys but transposed to c or f for convenience?
i was thinking about this again, and thought iīd reopen this old thread. maybe iīm the only one whoīs interested in this, but...

what standard tunes are written in "sharp" keys (besides g)?
you asked if we knew any standard tunes "written in".  so  i am thihking that maybe you do not know that very few of the real book keys are the keys that the tunes were originally "written in".  the real book written by berklee college of music students origianlly for berklee college of music students to use while doing pick up gigs ...
when they decided to do a chart for tune that was originally from a show as was the case with a large portion of the american songbok.  they did not even transcribe from the original show music nevermind use the original show key which was based on vocal not instrumental concerns.  the berklee students transcribed from a hip instumental version most of the time..  a miles davis version... a sonny rollins version  which is why you have come up with the keys you have come up with it has nothing to do with the original keys, or at least there is no reason to believe these are the original keys.  i compose dailey for example.  when it comes to arraning i often change the keys i of my tunes to accomadate who i am going to have record.  if i am going to be using primarily horns i am more likely to do my charts and go to the studio with f, bb, eb.  if i have a guitar player i really want to feature i may ove to e, g, a.  a bass player i may stay away from f.  so i guess what i am saying is what key the tune is originally written can become of less and less importance as the process goes on.  althought as a composer i will admit it can seem awfully imiportant at the begining of the process.
what i forgot to add there i think is this... so once the berklee kids tracribed a tune they often said... wait a minute that is going to be to hard to read of in that key on a pick up gig though so lets go to print in c of g instead of gb.   and that was the right thing to do for the application that the book has had.
but it makes what you are doing pointless.
it's not pointless in the sense that (in my, probably relatively limited), experience, the real book keys are often the starting point for playing standards when musican get together in circumstances where there is limited preparation for a gig.  also, there may be some connection between the real book keys and comfortable keys for singers.
wouldn't it be a better situation if everyone wrote and played every song in one key.  that way whoever was playing the song would know the key backwards as they've spent all their life playing in that key, and as a result their improvising, playing, composing in that key would be much much better???

(just an idea...feel free to shoot it down in flames!!!)
no because variety is better for just about everything in life.  
if i were to expand on  your idea i could say.  wouldnt it be better if everyone were black and there were no white people.  wouldnt life be so much easier if there were no chinese or spanish people, just black people... wouldnt everyone get along so much better???
as i also sing i  usually move the key up or down a few semitones  
to still be able sing it in my register.
many songs i used to do in c im plaing now in b which somehow my fingers swing better .
i keep playing in c the ones where more mellow floating sound is desired ,although hopefully i will be able float in b one day too.

for me a key works great for walking bass ,f and g for boleros and cuban stuff .i`m scared of  eb and gb and opening the real book i only get depressed while it cheers me up learning any new song from recording .i learn in c or g and then transpose it to suite my voice
i know jazz in all keys. though i can't improvise...
if you can not improvise you do not really know jazz in any key now do  you?
thanks for the replies. pointless - maybe, but still interesting. most of the time we play standards in the keys they are written in fake books. that means we donīt get as much practice in sharp keys unless we make a habit of transposing the tunes. most piano players i know are more comfortable in flat keys, and itīs not because they fit the hands better (they donīt).

i mean if i transposed a melody like "heard and soul" to g flat or in any key, i would be able to put in some dominant 7 chords and chord substitutions and embellishments and create a good solo over the melody, but with some time and thought. no, i am not a true jazz pianist, but i have the potential to become one. ;)
conceptionally and theoretically, i know the structure of jazz, but physically i don't.
savage jazz is more frequently played in the flat keys because horn players prefer flat keys.  jazz has always been an art form that includes horn players.  there fore piano players are more likely to play in the flat keys because they are accustomed to playing the tunes with horn players.  there is no point in my becoming very familiar with a tune in the key of e if i know i am going to playing with a tenor player.  the tenor playor is going to cursing me if i want to play misty in the key of e.  so we do not play in flat keys becase of the real book.  the real book is in keys because of the keys the tunes were played in and because of the keys the authors of the book knew jazz players would want to play the tunes in..., ie the flat keys.
love for jazz.... none the less... until you learn the art of improvisation you have not come close to experiencing the joy of what jazz is all about.  you have only touched on some of the perifial ornamental aspects of the form.  and as improvisation is the real meat and potatoes of what jazz is you can not possably conceptually and theoreically know the structure of jazz.  because to do so you have to conceptually and theoretically understand improvisation, and understand improvisation as it applies specifically to the jazz idiom.

i do agree with the fact that improvisation is what really counts when people learn about jazz piano, but, do you agree with me that understanding the theory behind jazz improvisation brings you one step close closer to actually learning how to improvise? imho, it is better to learn how to improvise with knowledge of chords, tritone substitutions and altered chords, ii-v-i's, key modulation, scales and arpeggios that work over each chord, and licks and phrases, then not having knowledge at all! right?

my whole point was, even if you know all your jazz theory and you apply all your theory to learning how to improvise, but then you stumble over a few passages a dozen times when you improvise, it wouldn't take you long to learn how to improvise over a melody and within some time, you would be able to conjure up an exceptional solo.
because a, e, and b are guitar keys, and we all know guitar players can't play jazz....  :-)

seriously, i like mike's explanation about horn players (trumpet and tenor) that play a step up.  that makes the most sense.
lfj.  no because in the end improvisation is only in small part about theory.  theory is just the last thing you do to tweak the whole process.
   improvisation is mostly about time.  understanding time. and you can not understand that until you actually start learning to improvise.  in jazz it is about understanding and internalizing the flow of eigth notes.  this takes time to get.  understanding ii v i's , key modulation, arpeggios, licks phrases,  that is all the easy part.
what age did you people start learning how to play jazz? did you know all your jazz theory after playing jazz for a short time(let's say a couple of years or so of playing jazz) or did it take you longer to figure out the jazz theory?
bill evans plays 'beware my foolish heart' in a, and very nice it is too.

rather than comparing what key these tunes are written in, it might more interesting to compare what keys the tunes are performed/recorded in.  

you could take a tune like satin doll then find recordings of about a dozen or so female singer, male singers, trumpet players, guitarist, pianists, big bands.... you might come to some interesting and usefull conclusions: like maybe females mostly comonly sing it in f and males sing it in a and tenor sax players in bb.
back to savage's original question, if you want to find songs in sharp keys, look in a rock or folk fake book.  for example, in my "classic rock fake book" from hal leonard, i'd estimate that 90% of the songs are transcribed in a sharp key (frequently e, a, or g).  the "folksong fake book" from hal leonard has about 90% of the songs in d.  this goes back to what mike says.  rock is played on a guitar, so they put rock songs in a guitar key; i assume that d is a good fiddle key...i know its a good fife key.  the guitarists that i jam with won't even play anything in a flat key...they don't know the chord shapes.

of course, these probably aren't the types of songs savage was thinking of as "american standards".
Please sign in to post.

Jazz Piano Notebook Series
Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 1 - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 1 of this educational jazz piano book contains 15 jazz piano exercises, tricks, and other interesting jazz piano techniques, voicings, grooves, and ideas Scot Ranney enjoys playing.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version - videos

Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 2 - jazz piano tricks of the trade you can use today

Volume 2 has 14 jazz piano exercises and tricks of the trade, and quite a bit of it is Calypso jazz piano related material, including some Monty Alexander and Michel Camilo style grooves. Jazz piano education is through the ears, but books like this can help.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Tim Richards' Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 3 contains 12 jazz piano exercises and explorations by the acclaimed jazz piano educator, pianist, author, and recording artist Tim Richards.

Tim wrote the well known "Exploring Jazz Piano" and "Improvising Blues Piano" books and has several others to his name.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 4 is by Jeff Brent, a jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and author of "Modalogy" and other acclaimed jazz theory and education books. In this book Jeff shares detailed analysis of transcriptions of live performances. He covers everything from the shape of the songs to the tricks and licks he uses in improvised lines to the ideas behind his lush chord voicings.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Most Recent Discussions
Great Resource for Jazz Pianists
Scale in Calderazzo solo
analyzing Someone To Watch Over Me
Site updates
Korg SV-1 vs Nord Electro
Brad Brad Mehldau's independant left hand

Piano for Adoption Scam
Aprender Jazz en Piano
Oh Tannenbaum for Jazz Piano
Volume 5 of the "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is Available!
LearnJazzPiano.com File Downloads News

Top Sheetmusic Picks

Jazzy Christmas Arrangements
Cocktail Piano
Best Songs Ever, 6th Edition
Christmas Medley
Moana Songbook
Late Night Jazz Piano

Jazz piano education is cool.

be the main character in your own story

Rock on. Follow your passion.

Sign In

privacy policyterms of serviceabout • 50,655 messages 63,069 accounts 57,139 logins
LearnJazzPiano.com Copyright ÂĐ 1995-2022 by Scot Ranney • website software and design by scot's scripts
LearnJazzPiano.com is For Sale - Serious Inquiries Only