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We’ve reached the summit folks.  C major is the final key in the CBC Signatures Series.  Thank you to all who have come along for the ride enjoying the music, writing down pieces that caught your ear and generally have a great time listening to wonderful music.

The C major scale (often just C or key of C) consists of the 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 common key signatures used 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. Among brass instruments, the more common trumpet is the trumpet in C, and the contra-bass tuba is in C. A pedal harp tuned to C major has all of its pedals in the middle position.

C major is often thought of as the simplest key, due to its lack of sharps or flats, and beginning piano students’ first pieces are usually simple ones in this key; the first scales and arpeggios that students learn are also usually C major. However, going against this common practice, the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin regarded this scale as the most difficult 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 fit 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 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 key, second only to D major. Of the 134 symphonies mistakenly attributed to Haydn that H. C. Robbins Landon lists in his catalog, 33 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. This idea is further explored in a radio station called The Signature Series. 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.”

A big thank you to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the creator of the series Paolo Pietropaolo. for all of his hard work.

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