I just need some carification on the keys of songs...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by golden_boy, Jan 4, 2005.

1. golden_boy

Dec 27, 2004
Was just wondering if someone could tell me if I have the idea of what the key of a song actually is, I have read it over and over in my theory book, but Im still not 100% sure about it...

Firstly, for notation, the key is where you put the #'s or flats at the start of the notation to rest the last of the notation (unless you change key). You can then put in the accidentals in by putting #'s and flats in on seperate notes right?

Secondaly, in the actual music making, if, say, a song is in Cmaj, then it is most usual to use chords and notes out of that scale right? Well, if so, that means I could use C,D,E,F,G,A or B chords right? Or not? Because I was thinking that if I do that, then there is going to be notes in those chords that do not fit the Cmaj key?

sorry if this is a stupid question, but it has been bugging me after reading my theory book lol.

Oh secondaly, Ive been reading up on mdoes, and I think I understand them, for example, say the key of a song is GMaj, and I use the dorian scale for the song, then that scale would start on an A, corerct? Im just wanting to make sure

Thanks for any answers

2. tim99Supporting Member

Jan 28, 2003
Wow. You are in a good place. You are going to learn lots of stuff with these questions and this thinking that will unlock lots of doors for you.

Search this site and the web for diatonic harmony.

You can see this best on a keyboard. You are correct that the chords out of Cmaj are C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. But if you go to a keyboard, and make triad chords from those starting notes, and only use the next notes from the actual Cmaj scale, using only white keys, you will notice that the C is major, the D is minor, the E is minor, the F is major, the G is major, the A is minor, and the B is diminished.

The triad notes:

C E G
D F A
E G B
F A C
G B D
A C E
B D F

This sequence of maj min min maj maj min dim is true for all major scales.

Now you know why even "simple" pop songs have minor chords in them. If the chord progression is I-ii-vi-V in C major, then the chords are C major, D minor, A minor, and G major. Note that I used roman numerals to denote the chords, and I used lower case roman numerals to denote minor chords.

The next step is to look at seventh chords using four notes.

So. Talking about the key. You now have the tools to look at a chord chart and figure out the key. Look at the first chord and the last chord. Those chords may be the key. Then, look for major chords that are next to each other, as this happens only in the IV to V position. Now look to see if the other major chord and the minor chords fit into the formula for the key. Pretty neat.

tim99.

3. golden_boy

Dec 27, 2004
wow, great info, thanks a lot That has cleared up a lot of my questions. Thanks a ton!

4. JimK

Dec 12, 1999
Look at the KEY Signature(the group of either Sharps/Flats right after the Clef symbol).
The Sharps follow a distinct pattern-
F-C-G-D-A-E, Etc

...as do the Flats-
F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb, Etc

You should get to the point of instantly recognizing the key by the number of Sharps(or Flats) depicted in the Key Signature.
Example:
3 Sharps? You should think Amaj (or its relative minor key , F#minor).
4 Flats? You should think Abmaj (or its relative minor key, Fmin).

Chords in a Major key are built on thirds. Get familiar with this-
I-ii-iii-IV-V7-vi-viio

So, in Cmaj-
C-D-E-F-G-A-B = Cmaj = I
D-E-F-G-A-B-C = Dmin7 = ii
E-F-G-A-B-C-D = Emin7 = iii
F-G-A-B-C-D-E = Fmaj7 =IV
G-A-B-C-D-E-F = G7 =V7
A-B-C-D-E-F-G = Amin7 = vi
B-C-D-E-F-G-A = Bdim = viio

Bear in mind the rules may be bent & even broken, Neo.
(If not, muisc would be pretty scientific & BOR-ING!)

5. golden_boy

Dec 27, 2004
wow, you guys are great, Im glad I found this board lol.

Thanks tim99 andJim K!

6. tim99Supporting Member

Jan 28, 2003
I would not say "the dorian scale for the song." I think you are on your way to understanding modes, but modes are a tricky thing that I see people getting a simple introduction to and then thinking that they understand them. Most "introductions" to modes do not really explain modes and how they are used, they just simply explain an easy way to see what they are.

I think of modes this way: If you are in the key of G Major, and you have determined this by looking at both the key signature and looking at the chord progression you are in right now, and you come accross the chord notation Am7. To me that key and that notation says that I can use the Am7 chord, and/or the Am7 arpeggio, and/or the A dorian mode (scale) at that point. I would be playing notes from the Am7 chord and the A dorian mode. And I would not be thinking about the G major scale. I would NOT be thinking that the A dorian mode is "just notes from the G major scale starting on A." I want people to hear the sound of Am7 at that point, I do not want them to hear random notes out of the key that do not reflect any particular chord sound.

So, as the chord progression goes along, I am playing notes from the chords, the arpeggios to those chords, and the modes related to those chords, and when I am having a good day you can actually hear the chord progression through those notes, the same as you would hear them if I was playing the chords.

tim99.

7. tim99Supporting Member

Jan 28, 2003
JimK rocks. I do not know the numbers. I look for the second to the last flat or a half note up from the last sharp. I am working on the goal of knowing the number of flats and sharps but I am not there.

tim99

8. JimK

Dec 12, 1999
Agree; whatever works.
Actually, I don't count them anymore, either...I see a cluster or 'pattern' & hopefully get it right.

9. tim99Supporting Member

Jan 28, 2003
B-C-D-E-F-G-A = Bdim = viio

The triad is B diminished, B D F.

The seventh is B half diminished or Bm7b5, B D F A.

The symbol for the half diminished is the circle with a slash through it.

A fully diminished B, or Bdim7 would have a bb7, or Ab, B D F Ab. Note that Ab is not in the key of C.

tim99.

10. golden_boy

Dec 27, 2004
thanks. The info is hurting my head a little at the moment lol, but I will give it a while to settle in. Thankyou again

11. JimK

Dec 12, 1999
Right...1/2 diminished.
I was trying to out-type you!