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Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Davidoc, Jul 8, 2002.

  1. Does it really matter what key a song is in? What methods do you use to decide what key to use?

    How about key changes? Is there any theory to choose what key to modulate to? What about techniques to cause suspense and resolution when approaching a key change?

  2. well yes and no for me

    being self taught but many years of concert/jazz/marching band, i do have knowledge of keys, scales, ect.

    BUT when i write music i am usually not concerned with the key at that time. i play by feel. if a note sounds good it stays, if not i change it. that simple. usually after it is written i will figure out the key for additional riffs, solos, ect.

    i do try to not write eveything in the same key. thats one reason a bands songs might all sound the same. so i might write a riff, realize we already have 2 or 3 oter songs in that key, and maybe move it a step or two.

    as for modulation, ill leave that to the others.
  3. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    The key will matter a lot to the singer, and sometimes the guitar player, horns, etc. Keys like Ab and Eb are tougher for guitar because they cannot use as many open voicings. Trumpet players love Bb, as do many keyboard players.

    Singers, so I have been told perfer flat keys because they are easier to sing. (I don't understand this myself, but hey, I'm not a singer.) Apparently many showtunes are written in flat keys for this reason.

    Many tunes written around guitar are in the key of G, D, C, and A. Tunes written on keys tend to be in Bb, Ab, Db, Eb, and F. So when you here an old R&B tune with lots of keys and horns, bring out your flat keys.

    As far as changing keys, also known as changing key centers, there are tons of "rules", (more like concepts), you can apply. It would be far to difficult to explain here. I suggest you take a lesson or two from a jazz teacher. You will likely have to learn this on piano, and not bass, because it has a lot to do with chord substitutions. The ideas won't be as clear on a mostly monophonic instrument like the bass.
  4. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    There are a lot of guitar things written in sharp keys. It is also easy to play natural harmonics in sharp keys (because E,A,D,G,B are all sharp keys).
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah. B sounds different than C sounds different than Eb sounds different than A# sounds different than.....

    Major sounds different than minor sounds different than phrygian sounds different than dorian.

    What do you feel? Piano comes in real handy on this. What is the process you undergo to write a song? Do you sit down at a piano and play with chords and progressions til you feel something? Do you randomly choose a progression and key and adjust? Do you have a singer that prefers certain keys? Do you play with horn players that prefer other keys?

    Sometimes I'll just be messing around, and I'll like the sound of F#Maj moving to Em7 to D#m7, etc. But if you hear something you like, let's say a C7, try it as an F#7 or Ab7, just for comparison.

    That's fine. What do you want to do? V7 of V7? ii/V7 to a V7 of V7? Modulation based upon mode. Altering a chord?

    Most certainly. It's called harmony. Which, is pretty much all theory. You can't just say, learn this and this, and you'll know how to do it. It's a matter of practicing your arpeggios and scales to the degree that they're internalized. It's a matter of understaning harmony, of tension and resolution. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to do it. Sure, there are some things that work better than others, but you won't fully appreciate harmony until you can produce on your instrument what's in your head. Do you have something in your head right now, that you just can't get out?

    All sorts of great things for this. More later.
  6. I never knew you could have stuff in the key of a mode, such as D Dorian or B Locrian. I always thought these were in the key of the Ionian (C Major in both of the above cases). Thanks jazzbo!

    This just made my understanding of harmony a whole lot more confused.
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Instrumentalists tend to write in keys they are familiar with. Singers write in keys that accomodate their vocal ranges.

    I think most Western popular music is written around open guitar chord structures. (capoed to accomdate the singer if need be)

    Most all rock/pop is written around riffs which tend to be generated in E, A, etc because of the tuning of the guitar/bass and open strings, pulloffs etc.

    As mentioned, they all sound different. Go with what you like.

    As far as modulation, there are tons of thoughts. One of the easiest and most common is to use the fifth of the new key then resolve to the new key.


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