A little off key

  • Monkling

    Member
    NY
    US - English
    It refers to music and/or singing. If a piano needs tuning it would sound "a little off key." It does not hit the proper notes.
     

    te gato

    Senior Member
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Antonio;

    I agree with Monkling..it is said when speaking of music....

    Example: Someone you know is singing a song...very poorly..so bad in fact that all the cats in the neighbourhood are running for cover :eek: ...you say..to be polite...'That was a little off key'...

    te gato;)
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    In music it is not really an idiom, it is literal. I think its idiomatc usage is in its use in non-musical situations when something is ... not quite right. An improper remark, a suspicious sounding story, that kind of thing.
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    Antonio said:
    Hi Group,

    What does this idiom mean?
    Off key is not only used in a musical sense, but it is also used to just mean inappropriate or not quite right. Here are a couple of definitions from the web.
    off-key
    1. Music Pitched higher or lower than the correct notes of a melody. 2. Being out of accord with what is considered normal or appropriate: a high-flown, off-key speech by a newcomer.
    off-key
    Definition 1. not on the right musical note or pitch; flat or sharp.
    Definition 2. deviating from the normal or proper; irregular; incongruous.
    Example: an off-key joke ; an off-key color combination.

    Related Words: off-color , sour
     

    Jeremy Sharpe

    Member
    Canada, English
    Yes, just to explain further, a key signature in music dictates which notes will be used. If you stray outside of that key signature, you could be said to be 'off-key'. Synonyms include 'out of tune'.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Actually, I would use "off key" in the same way as "out of tune", meaning "flat" or "sharp"—I'm referring to music, naturally.

    I would not say, to someone playing wrong notes, "You are out of key".

    I would say, "You are IN the wrong key." :)

    Gaer
     

    Jeremy Sharpe

    Member
    Canada, English
    gaer said:
    Actually, I would use "off key" in the same way as "out of tune", meaning "flat" or "sharp"—I'm referring to music, naturally.

    I would not say, to someone playing wrong notes, "You are out of key".

    I would say, "You are IN the wrong key." :)

    Gaer
    Yes, I suppose that's true. I was just trying to connect it to key-signature somehow. :)
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Jeremy Sharpe said:
    Yes, I suppose that's true. I was just trying to connect it to key-signature somehow. :)
    I think was also use "off key" to describe people sing badly. You know how it goes. Ten people sing "Happy Birthday", and none of them seem to be singing the same notes. :)
     

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    Edwin posted some examples, that can be used, with this phrase that are not necessarily into music for example:

    an off-key joke ; an off-key color combination, a high-flown, off-key speech by a newcomer.

    Can someone please, give me some examples, using this phrase, but not into music.
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    You can use off-key to describe your temporary disposition:

    Boy, I don't know what's wrong today, everything I do is a little off-key. meaning: I can't do anything right today.

    You can shorten the phrase and just say: I'm a little off today. Must be something I ate!

    She looks a little off-key to me. meaning: She doesn't look herself today. She might be pale or down-in-the-dumps.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    jacinta said:
    You can use off-key to describe your temporary disposition:

    Boy, I don't know what's wrong today, everything I do is a little off-key. meaning: I can't do anything right today.

    You can shorten the phrase and just say: I'm a little off today. Must be something I ate!

    She looks a little off-key to me. meaning: She doesn't look herself today. She might be pale or down-in-the-dumps.
    Right, or:

    I feel a little off-key today. Though I would use "off" instead, I think, as perhaps many others would, because it's shorter.
     

    jniec

    Member
    USA, English
    gaer said:
    Actually, I would use "off key" in the same way as "out of tune", meaning "flat" or "sharp"—I'm referring to music, naturally.

    I would not say, to someone playing wrong notes, "You are out of key".

    I would say, "You are IN the wrong key." :)

    Gaer
    Would you say the same thing for a trombone player or a bass player who was playing out of tune? If they're a little flat or sharp, it may not be that they're playing in the wrong key, but not very good at adjusting their pitch in performance. I'd say that they are out of key.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    jniec said:
    Would you say the same thing for a trombone player or a bass player who was playing out of tune? If they're a little flat or sharp, it may not be that they're playing in the wrong key, but not very good at adjusting their pitch in performance. I'd say that they are out of key.
    Personally, I'd say to a trombone player:

    "You need to adjust your main tuning slide, because you are flat/sharp. Now, let's check your positions. Oops, you're playing 3rd position about 1/2 inch to far out. Things like that." (I taught trombone for many years. I'm also a brass player.)

    I would never say, "You are 'out of key' or 'off-key'." I'd say, "You're out of tune." But it could be different elsewhere, in the UK, for instance. Whatever gets the idea across!

    For a bass player, assuming you mean accoustical bass, not bass guitar (with frets), I don't know what would be said.

    Gaer
     
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