Monday, April 2, 2012

Musical Terminology, as in B-flat Major

Musicians have slang terminology for all kinds of things: they refer to jobs as “gigs”, call their instruments “axes”, and consider the extra woodwinds, i.e. piccolo, E-flat clarinet, English horn, and contrabassoon as “toys”. The term I want to focus on today is “B-flat Major” – not the key, but the term, which means average, normal, commonplace.

Most music students begin learning to play in bands, and bands spend an inordinate amount of time in B-flat, largely because most of the band instruments are B-flat instruments: clarinets, trumpets, tenor saxophones, coronets, euphonium, and trombones to name just a few. For ease of learning, pieces for bands are written in B-flat, F, and sometimes E-flat to accommodate these instruments. It is entirely possible for a flutist, for example, to leave high school without ever having played in sharp keys.
Over the years musicians have started referring to generic circumstances as “B-flat Major”. I did that in a knitting class I was teaching once, and the students looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses. Only one knew what I meant. She had gone to music school.

I read about 20 blogs from the Blogging from A to Z challenge yesterday, most of theme posted by writers. Many were excellent. I would say in comparison, my writing is extremely B-flat Major.


  1. Well, I really LIKE B-flat major, and your writing :-)

  2. I would not consider your writing B-flat Major at all, especially since you are approaching a topic not at all the usual writerly fodder, but musical. It is refreshing (and educational - although I have not read nearly as many blogs as you have in one day. I had problems finding that many who have posted for "A")!!

  3. I like your writing too, and I like that you have far-flung interests and a secret life as a musician. Well, it was a secret to me until that recorder concert at Christmas. I'm doing a Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days challenge. We can have battling April bloggin challenges. You read mine and I'll read yours. BTW, B-flat major is a fine note but B is really for Barbara, always has been, always will be.

  4. As a musician and a knitter as well, I think your blog posts for the A to Z challenge are really interesting! Unfortunately, as a former teacher (I wear many hats!) I know where this lack of musical knowledge comes.

    Too many schools, faced with severe budget cuts/deficits, cut music programs which are viewed as not as important as sports. It's a crying shame, but bands/orchestras are being combined or eliminated entirely.

    Be proud of your "voice" as a blogger. I for one love it!

    *~* Julia *~* *~*

  5. Good topic for this challenge. New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.