C major


C major
C major
Relative key A minor
Parallel key C minor
Component pitches
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
C major chord, root in red (About this sound Play ). Note that the root is doubled at the octave.

C major (often just C or key of C) is a musical major scale based on C, with pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Its key signature has no flats/sharps.

Its relative minor is A minor, and its parallel minor is C minor.

C major is one of the most commonly used key signatures in music. Most transposing instruments playing in their home key are notated in C major; for example, a clarinet in B-flat sounding a B-flat major scale is notated as playing a C major scale. The white keys of the piano correspond to the C major scale (however, some electronic keyboards are pitched in B-flat).[citation needed] Among brass instruments, the more common trumpet is the trumpet in C, and the contra-bass tuba is in C. A harp tuned to C major has all its pedals in the middle position.

C major is often thought of as the simplest key, owing to its lack of either sharps or flats, and beginning piano students' very first pieces are usually very simple ones in this key, and the first scales and arpeggios that students learn are usually C-major ones. However, going against this common practice, the composer Frédéric Chopin regarded this scale as the most difficult one to play with complete evenness, and he tended to give it last to his students. He regarded B major as the easiest scale to play on the piano, because the position of the black and white notes best fitted the natural positions of the fingers, and so he often had students start with this scale. A C-major scale lacks black keys, and thus does not fit the natural positions of the fingers very well.

A one-octave C major scale.

Twenty of Joseph Haydn's 104 symphonies are in C major, making it his second most often used main key, second only to D major. Of the 134 symphonies mistakenly attributed to Haydn that H. C. Robbins Landon lists in his catalog, 33 of them are in C major, more than any other key. Before the invention of the valve trumpet, Haydn did not write trumpet and timpani parts in his symphonies, except those in C major. H. C. Robbins Landon writes that it wasn't "until 1774 that Haydn uses trumpets and timpani in a key other than C major ... and then only sparingly." Most of Haydn's symphonies in C major are labelled "festive" and are of a primarily celebratory mood.[1] (See also List of symphonies in C major).

Many Masses and settings of Te Deum in the Classical era were in C major. Mozart wrote most of his Masses in C major, and so did Haydn.[2]

Of Franz Schubert's two symphonies in the key, the first is nicknamed the "Little C major" and the second the "Great C major."

Many musicians have pointed out that every musical key conjures up specific feelings. American popular song writer Bob Dylan claimed the key of C major to "be the key of strength, but also the key of regret." "French composers such as Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Rameau generally thought of C major as a key for happy music, but Hector Berlioz in 1856 described it as "serious but deaf and dull." Ralph Vaughan Williams was impressed by Sibelius's Symphony No. 7 in C major and remarked that only Sibelius could make the key sound fresh. However, C major was a key of great importance in Sibelius's previous symphonies.[3] Claude Debussy, noted for composing music that avoided a particular key center, once said, "I do not believe in the supremacy of the C major scale."

In musical catalogs that sort the musical pieces by key, whether they go by semitones or along the circle of fifths, they almost always begin with those pieces in C major.

A notable modern use of the key is Terry Riley's In C.

Whereas traditionally key signatures were cancelled whenever the new key signature had fewer sharps or flats than the old key signature, in modern popular and commercial music, cancellation is only done when C major or A minor replaces another key.[4]

Well-known compositions in C major

References

  1. ^ H. C. Robbins Landon, The Symphonies of Joseph Haydn. London: Universal Edition & Rockliff (1955): 227. "In the course of composing his first symphonies, the tonality of C major became indelibly impressed on Haydn's mind as the key of pomp, the key of C alto horns, trumpets and timpani, the vehicle for composing brillian and festive music, although at least during this period [the 1760s] he did not always reserve the tonality of C major for this particular kind of symphony: Nos. 2, 7 and 9, and possibly Nos. 25 and 30 ... are C major symphonies without the psychological manifestations inherent in most of the later works in this key. For the rest, however, the C major path is astonishingly clear; it can be traced from its inception, in Nos. 20, 32 and 37, through No. 33 and the more mature Nos. 38 and 41 to its synthesis in the Maria Theresia (No. 48) and No. 56. It continues with No. 50 and proceeds through Nos. 60, 63, 69, 82 and 90, reaching its final culmination in No. 97."
  2. ^ James Webster & Georg Feder, The New Grove Haydn. New York: Macmillan (2002): 55. "The Missa in tempora belli ... in C features the bright, trumpet-dominated sound typical of masses in this key."
  3. ^ Philip Coad, "Sibelius" in A Guide to the Symphony edited by Robert Layton. Oxford University Press. Sibelius's Seventh "is in C major, and a look back at the previous four symphonies [by Sibelius] will reveal how great the domination of C major has been [in his music]. It is the key of the Third, the relative major of the Fourth and the important 'neutral agent' in its Finale, the key which first forces away the tonic in the Fifth's Finale, and the principal opposition — the key of the brass — in the Sixth. Although it is now the tonic key, C major is also strongly associated with brass in the Seventh Symphony."
  4. ^ Matthew Nicholl & Richard Grudzinski, Music Notation: Preparing Scores and Parts, ed. Jonathan Feist. Boston: Berklee Press (2007): 56. ISBN 9780876390740. "In popular and commercial music, the old key signature is cancelled only if the new key is C major or A minor."

Further reading

  • David Wyn Jones, "The Beginning of the Symphony", chapter in A Guide to the Symphony edited by Robert Layton. Oxford University Press.
  • H. C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: The Symphonies BBC Music Guides

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada — Major professional sports league, or simply major league, is the term used in Canada and the United States to refer to the highest professional division in any team sport. The term major league was first used in 1921 in reference to Major League… …   Wikipedia

  • Major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada — Major Leagues redirects here. For other meanings of Major League or Major Leagues see Major League (disambiguation). The major professional sports leagues, or simply major leagues, in the United States and Canada are the highest professional… …   Wikipedia

  • major — [ maʒɔr ] adj. et n. • XVIe; en provenç., XIIIe; lat. major, compar. de magnus « grand » I ♦ Adj. Milit. Supérieur par le rang (dans quelques comp.).⇒ état major, tambour major. Médecin major. Sergent major. II ♦ N. 1 …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Major General — or Major General is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of Sergeant Major General. A Major General is a high ranking officer normally subordinate to a Lieutenant General and senior to a Brigadier General. In… …   Wikipedia

  • Major League Baseball on NBC — Genre Sport Developed by NBC Sports Directed by Harry Coyle Andy Rosenberg John Gonzalez Doug Grabert Bucky Gunts Starring Major League Baseball …   Wikipedia

  • Major scale — Major scales In music theory, the major scale or Ionian scale is one of the diatonic scales. It is made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher. In solfege these notes correspond to the syllables Do …   Wikipedia

  • Major Tom — is a fictional astronaut created by David Bowie, heard in his songs Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes, and Hallo Spaceboy. Bowie s own interpretation of the character evolved throughout his career. 1969 s Space Oddity depicts an astronaut who casually …   Wikipedia

  • Major League Baseball on CBS — Format Sports Created by CBS Sports Starring Sean McDonough Jack Buck Tim McCarver Jim Kaat Dick Stockton Greg Gumbel Pat O Brien …   Wikipedia

  • Major League Baseball on ABC — Genre Sport Developed by ABC Sports Directed by Chet Forte Craig Janoff Starring Major League Baseball on ABC broadcasters …   Wikipedia

  • Major (manga) — Major Major logo Genre Sports, Drama Manga Written by Takuya Mitsuda …   Wikipedia

  • Major — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Major (homonymie). Major est un grade militaire, qui se situe différemment dans la hiérarchie militaire suivant les pays. Il désigne le premier grade d officier supérieur ou, dans l armée française, un grade… …   Wikipédia en Français


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.