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Key vs Key Signature

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Jun 18, 2016.


  1. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    That's a really good explanation. I've heard this common progression a thousand times but never thought of it as a secondary dominant. Kudos!
     
  2. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Okay, non-theory guy slowly following along....:D

    Using the subdominant of the IV (G) will help emphasize the G. Why does the C fit in? Is it because it's the IV of the G key you're borrowing from for the subdominant? Does that make it a C/Dsus slash chord?
     
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Just noticed this- so...this is what I had thought (that the key signature is G but the tonal center is D) but it seems contrary to most other posts, but I may be misreading them.

    It doesn't help that "key" and "key signature" can mean different things, and most uneducated-in-theory guys like myself mean "key signature" when they say "key."
     
    tbz likes this.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I like to think that the bVII-IV-I progression sounds good for the same reason the famous ii-V-I progression sounds good: the circle of 5ths. In both progressions, the roots of the chords are moving around the circle of 5ths like the hands of a clock. Opposite directions, though: ii-V-I in ascending 4ths (or descending 5ths) and bVII-IV-I by ascending 5ths (or descending 4ths).

    Skilled songwriters will often extend these progressions additional "clicks" around the circle of 5ths/4ths, for example adding vi to ii-V-I, or adding bIII to bVII-IV-I (example: "I Know You Rider").
     
    joebar likes this.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Instead of using the word "key", think of the word "tonic", as in "center of the tonality". When you listen to the song, what note seems to be the center of everything, the "sun of the song's solar system", as it were? Don't think about it, don't analyze it, just sing that note. You'll notice that the melody tends to end on that note at the end of each phrase "...she been doin' to me". That's the tonic, and you don't need a theory degree to figure it out. We generally think of the key as being a scale built on the tonic, but we need to remember that when people write music, they write it because it sounds good and not as a set of rules that they must follow lest their song will be "wrong". So this song is centered around the tonic of D, and I would say, casually and practically, that it's in the key of D if I were describing the tonality of the song to someone else.

    There has been disagreement about whether the second chord is a C major (i.e. - bVII) or a D7/G (i.e. - V7/IV). The notes in the guitar , from the bottom up, are C-D-A-D-E for the most part, which technically makes the chord a Dsus2/C. But if you listen to the vocal part, the F# needed to make the chord a D chord is still in the vocal; in truth, the guitarist had to move the finger that was playing the F# at first in order to play the C, and the open E is a nice color tone that he just left there for added color. By turning the D major chord into a D7, the chord becomes a dominant of the G chord, making it a temporary secondary "tonic". This is common in music, and strengthens the chord motion to the chord in question.

    Just because the song doesn't follow the theoretical parameters of the "D major scale" doesn't mean the song isn't centered around D. If you notice, in the intro the flute plays an F natural over the G chord, technically turning the G major chord into a G7. But none of that changes the fact that sonically, the song revolves around the D, as our ears will easily tell us. Hope that made sense. :)
     
  6. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    Here is how I would memorize it.

    "Key Signature" - any of several combinations of sharps or flats after the clef at the beginning of each stave,
    and,
    indicating the key of a composition.

    Let's say, I have two-chord progression - Em7 and Fmaj7. Now, I'm trying to create some kind of "tune".
    I can see that I have the following notes - E, F, G, A, B, C, D - that sound "OK" to me with those two chords;
    therefore,
    I don't need any sharps or flats in the key signature, which means,
    my "song" with two chords - Em7 and Fmaj7 - are in the Key of C major or A minor, but...

    I never show that C major or A minor chord, because I have built my "tune" only in relation to those Em7/Fmaj7 chords.
    My melody always rotates around E, F, G, A, B, C, D - based around the Em7 chord in the Key of C major.

    It means, that I'm using some kind of mode of the C major scale.

    Here is my help.

    Jazclass - Jazz Theory 14 : MODES of the MAJOR SCALE

    E phr.PNG
     
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    That's the contradictory thing that seems strange to me. While I understand a key signature isn't a hard and fast rule, it seems like it should be there to make things simpler when first handed a piece of music. When it has two sharps but then a quarter of the song's chords have one of those sharp notes flatted/accidentalledded? every time and no incidents of it being in its "normal" sharp state, it seems more complex rather than simple.
     
  8. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    Yes, the guitar player NEVER articulates that "pure" C major chord that (almost) EVERYBODY :rollno: knows about it.
    The guitar player uses several variations of Dsus4, Dsus2 - D-A-D-G , D-A-D-E, C-D-A-D, C-D-A-D-E.

    The melody notes with that D sus2 chord are - D, A, F#, (E), D
     
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's a courtesy to the sight-reader, and a convention of standard notation. It's actually "simpler" and less confusing (in my opinion) to follow consistent rules of notation, than it is to reinvent the rules from song to song to save ink.

    When I am sight-reading, a key signature of two sharps (F# and C#) tells me at a glance the song is in the key of D Major. Seeing the accidental symbol in front of each C natural reminds me to play C natural instead of C#, therefore preventing a train wreck on stage.

    This is only "complex" if you think reading/writing accidentals (sharps, flats, naturals, etc.) is complex. Probably comes down to how much exposure you have to "non-diatonic" music (i.e. music that uses notes outside the 7 notes of the major scale). Blues and rock players (for whom playing b7 is second nature) wouldn't be phased at all to encounter C natural in the key of D. Let alone bebop or classical players, who often contend with multiple accidentals in the same measure!
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I don't claim expertise here, but my understanding is that the key signature is determined by whomever is doing the notating. In most cases, of course, one would choose whichever key signature results in the fewest accidentals, but there might be other reasons to prefer one written version to another -- or it could be the case that two different key signatures wind up producing about the same number of (but different) accidentals. I always thought this was one of the main reasons why "key signature" and "key" are not synonymous, no?
     
  11. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    Let's take the same song, "Can' you see".
    Some of the arrangers/musicians would write two sharps - F# and C# (as D major) in the key, and you will need a natural to properly indicate C natural.
    Or,

    You can write just one sharp - F# to avoid using that C natural, but on the other hand, it will start confusing you about the key and the tonal center.
     
    joebar likes this.
  12. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Seeing as how I'm not physically capable of reading music, it's always VERY complex to me :D

    I am used to playing almost exclusively diatonic music for almost 20 years. It shows whenever I try to jump into jazz, which I've always loved but never had anyone to play with/learn from.
     
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Bryan - just think of this song as being in the "key" of D7 (i.e. - only one sharp, but centered around the tonality of D) and don't worry about what theory insists it be called. A rose by any other name...

    Edit: For example, when you see a common western rose in a garden, would knowing that its official name is Rosa Hesparrhodos significantly alter the experience of seeing and smelling it? I know that for me, 999 times out of 1000 it would make zero difference.
     
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Oh I'm not worried about the song itself- I can play/solo over it with no issues at all. I'm just fascinated by the aspects I don't understand about how it would be described theory-wise.
     
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  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I understand and that's laudable. I ended up getting several degrees in theory/composition just so I could understand the explanations of why I was hearing things the way I hear them, and also so I could be self reliant and figure out things that stumped me more quickly. But when in doubt, I trust my intuition/ear to figure out the sound I'm dealing with and then find the theoretical explanation later. :)
     
  16. INTP

    INTP

    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    It might be wishful thinking on my part, but when I see people getting hung up about music theory in general, I very often think that if they would consider the sound first, then the explanation later their resistance would fade away. I don't know if it's oversimplifying things or not. I know that for me personally, I was taught theory absent of the sounds and it really didn't stick until I understood the sounds that it was describing.

    I know that this put me at a disadvantage because I ended up picking up the aural part later in life than is probably optimal (from a brain development perspective). I have a son who is in 5th grade choir, and I really encourage his involvement because of the benefit of hearing (and singing) the intervals. Of course, it's based on solfege, but I am sure that learning a different naming convention later (he's starting band this year as well) will be easier than catching up on the ear training.

    Thanks for your clarifications to this thread, btw. Nice to see you on the rowdy side (BG) ;)
     
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  17. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    I'd jump to conclusions.
    An experienced and practicing bass player (without too much knowledge of Music Theory) can EASILY play a/any simple chord progression, even try to solo over that progression, but explaining that "simple chord progression" could be cumbersome even for educated musicians.

    Anyway.

    I think now, you can answer about the tonic center/tonality for that "such a "trivial" song, "Sweet Home Alabama". :hyper:

    I agree completely with "tsheldon"that
    It's not in Mixolydian. :rollno: :confused: o_O

    But...
    I have a question.

    Is the singer starting the song with F# note or as F natural - in Big wheels.., Carry me..., etc...
    I think it's F natural -a blue note.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
  18. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    I just skimmed , I did not see it explicitly mentioned:
    The key signature clarifies the melody
    against this the chord choices are fungible
     
  19. As some are finding out, trying to cram everything into some kind of purely diatonic framework doesn't work, because some of the puzzle pieces are missing. Most folks don't even know they are missing them. Understanding secondary dominants would fill in a lot of those blanks.

    If you're into theory and really want to start understanding the big picture, get the book "Mastering the Dominant Chord" by Don Mock. It's written for guitarists but it's so accessible and easy to understand, even a bassist can get it!
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
    AngelCrusher likes this.
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I think that is stating the issue perfectly. The sound is what it's always about. Nobody goes to a concert to listen to someone explain why a score is theoretically correct. Or if they do, then those are concerts I definitely want to skip. :D

    IMO, theory should never be taught that way. My best teachers always taught from behind the piano, only got up to write something on the board, then immediately went back to the piano to play what they had written so the concept and sound are inextricably linked to each other. I try to do the same.

    Likewise. :)
     
    Groove Doctor and INTP like this.

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