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> How Can I Tell What Key A Song Is In?, Kris said this was a popular question ..
Andrew Cockburn
post Jan 17 2008, 01:34 PM
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Hey Fret, I sympathise with your question - its almost impossible to describe this, but you will know it when you start to feel it. If you don't know it you need to practice some more - fortunately practicing this is fun - you just need to listen to a lot of music, and think a little about it while you are doing so.

Pick a song, listen to it as usual, and after each chord change, ask yourself "did I get somewhere with this change, or am I still moving to somewhere else". If there is still a feeling that you need to move on, you are not on the root. AFter a while you should be able to pick out the chord that is the root. When you can do this, start listening to songs that you know the key and chords of and check that you are right.

That's the best explanation I can give you - keep working on it smile.gif


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FretDancer69
post Jan 17 2008, 09:29 PM
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thanks andrew, i do listen to alot of music, almost constantly when im not at school, but the problem is, i dont know what are the names of the chords that are played, so that makes it harder, but i understasnd how its done, its just a matter of time ill guess, ill keep working on this for sure.


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FretDancer69
post Feb 4 2008, 06:05 AM
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Hey Andrew, i was re-reading this lesson again and i found out something that confuses me, it is the following:

QUOTE
2. If there are sharps, look at the stave line that the last sharp symbol is placed on, and go up 1 degree of the scale. In the example above, we have 4 sharps, F#, C#, G# and D# (again, these are derived using the circle of fifths). The last sharp is D# - one degree up from that is E. Another way to put this is that this sharp sign gives you the 7th of the scale. One up from that is the 8th, or root, giving you your key. So the example above is in the key of E just as we thought.


Ok, so you say 1 Degree. But doesent D# to E means a Semitone? Im confused, but then again, the statement that i underlined above contradicts my doubt, Yes, the next degree from the 7th would be the Octave but i dont understand how can D# to E be one degree?

can you please help me.. thank you, sorry for bothering too much sad.gif

EDIT: nevermind Andew, i figured it out, i cant believe how silly i am, sorry for wasting your time.

i was looking at it in a different, way: the order of the notes on the fretboard, instead of the degrees of the E Major scale. Jeez im going nuts! blink.gif

This post has been edited by FretDancer69: Feb 4 2008, 06:09 AM


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DeepRoots
post Feb 4 2008, 06:14 AM
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QUOTE (FretDancer69 @ Feb 4 2008, 05:05 AM) *
Jeez im going nuts! blink.gif

Dont be so hard on yourself man! We all have mental problems blocks tongue.gif

There really isnt a waste of anyones time if you dont yet undertand something...

Glad you figured it out tho wink.gif
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Andrew Cockburn
post Feb 4 2008, 06:30 AM
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QUOTE (DeepRoots @ Feb 4 2008, 12:14 AM) *
Dont be so hard on yourself man! We all have mental problems blocks tongue.gif

There really isnt a waste of anyones time if you dont yet undertand something...

Glad you figured it out tho wink.gif


Thanks Deep - thats a great point - if you hadn;t figured it out we would have been happy to help you with it smile.gif


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gudinho
post Apr 4 2008, 08:15 AM
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Andrew, great article I never had this Music theory as clear as now, and about the subject I have a kind of method to figure out the key of a song, and sometimes works with the chords as well, I try to stick to the bass lines 'cause they 're much easier to follow, this is not 100% effective some bassist do a lot of movements, but works with some tunes and with some parts of the song. Does it have any sense at all?
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Andrew Cockburn
post Apr 4 2008, 01:00 PM
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Sure - thats a good point - a lot of the time the bass is playing around the root notes of the chords so that will help you figure them out smile.gif


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-Zion-
post Jul 30 2008, 08:15 AM
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hi Andrew.

I have a question about finding the key in a song.
Lets say the song has this chord progression: C, G, Am, Em
it's a fairly simple chord progression, but i just want to make sure i understand correctly..

Now i have this Major scale chart, and plotting the chords into it, i have now narrowed the list of possible keys down to three.. C, F and G.



Is this a correct way of figuring out the key of a song? it seems to make sense to me, but i just want to make sure..

And another question: What determines whether the key is major or minor??
i dont suppose that all chords in the progression should be minor chords.

Please help me a bit..

Thank you very much.
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wrk
post Jul 30 2008, 09:07 AM
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Andrew can explain this maybe more clearly, but one thing i noticed in your approach, so maybe it's helpful.

You should check the other notes of each chord as well:

C major - C, E, G
G major - G, B, D
Am - A, C, E
Em - E, G, B

In your diagram you have marked the F major scale as an possible option, but F major has a Bb on the 4th. Which would not really fit with the G and Em chord.

To choose between the C or G major scale is depending on which chord is the main focus i guess.

Maybe it would help you if you expand your Diagram with the complete chord on each degree.





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-Zion-
post Jul 30 2008, 09:47 AM
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Hi wrk and thank you for your input
So i have been a little too fast.. Instead of plotting in the chords directly i should plot in the notes of the chord??

C major - C, E, G
G major - G, B, D
Am - A, C, E
Em - E, G, B

these chords gives me these notes: C D E G A B narrowing it to two keys C and G?
however, the C contains an F note and the G an F#, so.. .. well.. i dont know..

This post has been edited by -Zion-: Jul 30 2008, 09:50 AM
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DeepRoots
post Jul 30 2008, 10:00 AM
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You seem to have analysed it well enough biggrin.gif
Next id say try using your ear- try to identify which chord in this progression sounds like...home...finished- this is then your answer smile.gif

To me while i play through this progression once and then end on anothe C major- everything sounds finished and resolved nicely- so to me i guess it's C major.

The next step i would reccomend is to record and loop the backing chords and then play either a C major or G major scale over them and see which you think sounds better- remember to lean on the root note of the scale alot for a better comparison.

I'd say that generally if i have a progression that could fit in to two keys i listen for the chord that resolves it which is (most of the time, not 100% of the time) the first in the progression.
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wrk
post Jul 30 2008, 10:09 AM
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QUOTE (-Zion- @ Jul 30 2008, 10:47 AM) *
these chords gives me these notes: C D E G A B narrowing it to two keys C and G?
however, the C contains an F note and the G an F#, so.. .. well.. i dont know..

As you said, the difference between C and G major scale is the F or F#.
The notes of your chord (1st, 3rd, 5th) progress does not include an F or F# somewhere... by now smile.gif

As an add on DR's advice ... when you play/record your progression try to add the 7th (especially on the G major chord) and you will quickly notice in which key you are.








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-Zion-
post Jul 30 2008, 10:21 AM
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QUOTE (DeepRoots @ Jul 30 2008, 11:00 AM) *
You seem to have analysed it well enough biggrin.gif
Next id say try using your ear- try to identify which chord in this progression sounds like...home...finished- this is then your answer smile.gif

To me while i play through this progression once and then end on anothe C major- everything sounds finished and resolved nicely- so to me i guess it's C major.

The next step i would reccomend is to record and loop the backing chords and then play either a C major or G major scale over them and see which you think sounds better- remember to lean on the root note of the scale alot for a better comparison.

I'd say that generally if i have a progression that could fit in to two keys i listen for the chord that resolves it which is (most of the time, not 100% of the time) the first in the progression.


thank you DR.. because you just touched the subject.. i want to ask you about the scales.. im still pretty new to this, but i was thinking about playing the minor pentatonic scale.. and not the major scale, because i would think that it did not work on the minor chords..?

so i guess my question is.. when choosing a scale, should i look at the notes in the chords rather than Major vs. Minor?
(i only know the minor /major pentatonic, blues and major so lets stay with these for the sake of understanding)


QUOTE (wrk @ Jul 30 2008, 11:09 AM) *
As you said, the difference between C and G major scale is the F or F#.
The notes of your chord (1st, 3rd, 5th) progress does not include an F or F# somewhere... by now smile.gif

As an add on DR's advice ... when you play/record your progression try to add the 7th (especially on the G major chord) and you will quickly notice in which key you are.


Thank you, i will try it.. if i haven't narrowed it down to one key, is adding the 7th always an option to quickly notice it?


and can either of you explain exactly when a key is a minor key??

Thank you both again
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DeepRoots
post Jul 30 2008, 10:39 AM
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QUOTE (-Zion- @ Jul 30 2008, 10:21 AM) *
thank you DR.. because you just touched the subject.. i want to ask you about the scales.. im still pretty new to this, but i was thinking about playing the minor pentatonic scale.. and not the major scale, because i would think that it did not work on the minor chords..?

so i guess my question is.. when choosing a scale, should i look at the notes in the chords rather than Major vs. Minor?
(i only know the minor /major pentatonic, blues and major so lets stay with these for the sake of understanding)


Basically- a scale whether its major or minor- can be "harmonised". This means turning the group of 7 notes into a group of 7 chords. When we harmonise the major scale, we get major and minor chords (and a diminished chord- no need to discuss that here too much though).
Also a minor scale will harmonise and get major and minor chords too.

So a major scale wil work over minor chords, in the case that it is one of the chords you get from harmonising that particular scale.
(all this is in Andrew's chords for scales lesson)

We lay out the scale, pick a note then skip a note, untill we have 3 notes:(check the above lesson for how to get to this next step)

We get: C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor B diminished

So as you can see- all the chords in your progression are in that^^. And we produced those minor chords by harmonizing a major scale, so yes! you can use a major scale over a minor chord- if the chord can be taken from that particular scale.

This may seem a bit off topic- but when you get really used to harmonising scales like this- you'll get to the point when you can quiclkly decide what chords will work over any scale you like- and also you will recognise chords as groups of chords from a certain scale- making scale choice quick and easy smile.gif
Read that lesson though! It's a great one biggrin.gif



QUOTE (-Zion- @ Jul 30 2008, 10:21 AM) *
and can either of you explain exactly when a key is a minor key??


Again, minor scales can be harmonised just like a Major scale and will have it's own set of chords etc (check the lesson).

Adding this knowledge of harmonising scales along with using your ear to identify the root/home/resolving note/chord will give you a powerful tool for working in this kind of "puzzle".

My short answer would be to use C major scale of your chords, my longer answer would include identifying the tonic (root of the scale) chord and also learning how to harmonise a scale for a true understanding of how scales and chords work together.
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wrk
post Jul 30 2008, 11:02 AM
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DR said everything ... smile.gif

Two approches were helpful for me to learn how chords and scales work together:

1. Analyse .. exactly as you did by taking your fixed progression. With the help of your diagram its easier at the beginning, extend your diagram with chords (chord notes), this will give you an idea about harmonizing the scale like DR explained.

2. Let your ears decide ... play and modify the progression by changing order of the chords or by adding some notes which sound good to you, but don't forget to analyze it again.

It will be more and more clear for you, very quickly you will not need a diagram anymore ... then you know you did progress smile.gif







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-Zion-
post Jul 30 2008, 11:15 AM
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thank you both.. i believe i still have some work to do in the theory department.. smile.gif
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Andrew Cockburn
post Jul 30 2008, 04:22 PM
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Um, hello? Guess I'm not needed around here any more sad.gif Wrk & DR did a great job of answering that one!


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kevvyg
post Jan 27 2009, 02:12 PM
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Hi, on the subject of key signatures, I learned something which may be of help!

The order which the sharps appear on the stave is: Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds (FCGDAEB).
The order which the flats appear on the stave is: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charle's Father (BEADGCF).
To work out the key from a key signature:
If the signature contains sharps, take the last sharp, and go up 1 semitone. (1 sharp on the 'F' line gives F# + 1 semitone = G major, G A B C D E F# G).
If the signature contains flats, the last but one flat (reading left to right), IS the key. (2 flats, one on the B line, and one on the E line. The last but one is on the B line, so the key is Bb Major, Bb C D Eb F G A Bb)
Hope that helps!!

Kevin
I suppose the two examples above could just have easily been E minor and G minor, but probably best to ignore that for now... biggrin.gif


QUOTE (-Zion- @ Jul 30 2008, 09:15 AM) *
hi Andrew.

I have a question about finding the key in a song.
Lets say the song has this chord progression: C, G, Am, Em
it's a fairly simple chord progression, but i just want to make sure i understand correctly..

Now i have this Major scale chart, and plotting the chords into it, i have now narrowed the list of possible keys down to three.. C, F and G.



Is this a correct way of figuring out the key of a song? it seems to make sense to me, but i just want to make sure..

And another question: What determines whether the key is major or minor??
i dont suppose that all chords in the progression should be minor chords.

Please help me a bit..

Thank you very much.


I spent ages trying to work this stuff out, so I might as well pass on the info!
The notes of a major scale have the interval pattern TTSTTTS, so C major, for example, is C D E F G A B C.
The triads (3 note chords) built on each note are MmmMMmd, where M is major, m is minor and d is diminished.
So - the chords built on C major are Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, Gmaj, Amin, Bdim.
Add to this the info about the chord notes, (in this case, CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, GBD, ACE, BDF), and you're in with a good chance of sussing out the key.
In this case, it's probable that you're in C major, (or A minor - it depends on the 'feel' of the piece, and how the chords are arranged), but it could be in G major (or it's relative minor E minor), as the F# wouldn't show up in the chords you've given us. G major is G A B C D E F# G, so the chords that would show F# would be B minor, D major, and F# diminished.
Same for the E minor scale. F major's not in there at least, as you have Emin, as opposed to Edim. So, it's still a bit of a mystery I'm afraid, but you get the idea, I hope.
And, having said all that, someone could quite possibly write a song in a certain key, and just lob a non key chord in for a laugh. It wouldn't change the key, it would just be an 'odd' chord!

ps, A chord is major if the distance between the root and 3rd is 4 semitones (major 3rd), and is minor if it's 3 semitones (minor 3rd)

This post has been edited by kevvyg: Jan 27 2009, 02:30 PM
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Fuebob
post Mar 22 2016, 03:47 PM
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Hi mates

Sorry for digging here smile.gif

I've got a dumb question :
How is it supposed to work for a backing track composed only by power chords (root, third, fifth) or composed only by some notes ?

Example 1: Metalcore riff :

Drop C notes Riff :

D--|-----------------------------------------------
A--|-----------------------------------------------
F--|-----------------------------------------------
C--|-----------------------------------------------
G--|------8-----7------8---5----------5-7-------
C--|-0-0---0-0---0-0---0-----0-0-0------------


D--|-----------------------------------------------
A--|-----------------------------------------------
F--|-----------------------------------------------
C--|---------------------------8-7-5-7-----------
G--|------8-----7----5-----------------8-7-5----
C--|-0-0---0-0---0----0-------------------------


Am I good if I say :
We have these notes : C, D, D#, F, G, G#

These notes are in the Aeolian mode of C.

So the scale i would play on should be C minor scale, right ?



Example 2: Backing track with power chords :

Drop D Power Chords Riff :

E--|-----------------------------
B--|-----------------------------
G--|-----------------------------
D--|-0--0--0--0---8--8--8--8-
A--|-0--0--0--0---8--8--8--8-
D--|-0--0--0--0---8--8--8--8-


E--|-----------------------------
B--|-----------------------------
G--|-----------------------------
D--|-5--5--5--5---3--3--3--3-
A--|-5--5--5--5---3--3--3--3-
D--|-5--5--5--5---3--3--3--3-

Am I right if I say :
The notes i keep are : D, F, G, A#

These notes fit in Aeolian mode of C too (but not the thirds of these chords).
BUT, it also fit the Aeolian mode of D and G (where the third of each power chords, fit too).

In that case how can I know on which one i should work on ?

Many thanks for your help !

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Andrew Cockburn
post Mar 23 2016, 09:35 PM
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Hi Fuebob -

You need to keep in mind the root notes of these chords which are a clue to the tonal center. Both of those riffs (as is often the case) seem to me to start with the first root note as the tonal center - C in the first, D in the second.

For the first rift, that confirms what you already said - this seems to be a C minor riff.

For the second riff, the first root note is D, meaning we are looking for a scale that starts with D and incorporates F, G and A# as well.

D aeolian is D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C D - since Bb is the same note as A# it fits in nicely.

The reason we would say Bb and not A# in this context is that D Aeolian is a mode of F major which is the scale we get when using one flat (Bb), but that is really just a matter of notation and doesn't change our conclusion.

To answer your general question - the fact that we don't have any thirds here in theory gives you a little more leeway in scale choice but since power chord riffs are usually painting around full scales in the actual songs anyway, in practice the 3rds are kind of assumed and you end up with the same result.

One way to confirm this is to not just listen to the riff, but also any bass and melody line that goes with it - they will often incorporate other missing notes of the scale and give you a fuller picture.

This post has been edited by Andrew Cockburn: Mar 23 2016, 09:39 PM


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