Playing in certain keys

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by The1bassist06, May 16, 2012.

  1. I have recently started jamming with other musicians and I had a few questions. A lot of times one of the guys will be like "Hey we are gonna jam in the key of C go!" Thing is I don't know what im suppose to play. Would you play mostly the notes that are in the C major scale? Im not big into theory the most I know are scales so I would like to improve my theory knowledge so I can make myself better.
  2. That is one way to think about it and a useful starting point. Keep in mind though that if it's blues/rock based they probably are thinking C7 rather than C Major so you'll probably be hitting the Bb instead of the B.

    The A minor pentatonic will probably fit in there as well (look it up)

    Let your ears guide you.
  3. The next one is in C ready 1 & 2 & ........

    That means the song is going to use the notes and chords found in the key of C. This begs the question what are the notes and chords in the key of C.

    You need some way of bringing this information forward. I'm going to give you a couple of cheat sheets that will let you do this and then give you a theory paper that will teach you how to do this on your own.

    Here is a chart of the notes in each major scale. images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRRYcV2hhg4amCxTWEmYJdn92tA-1VyoiTELzvjZznVMTMFJKvK.png
    Here is a site that will tell you the chords in each key. Notice this site will also give you the notes in the scale plus the chords made from them and then some common chord progressions you can count on seeing. This site gives you all you need, however, it's not all on one sheet of paper, like the above list. I suggest you bookmark this site.
    Here is the theory paper that will have how to do this. Theory - Basic, Intermediate, Advanced.pdf Print the first 20 pages and read a little each night.

    OK, that gives you everything, however, you only need some of that. So you are jamming and some one says the next one is in C. The C chord is going to be the tonal center of the chord progression. C notes are safe, boring, but, safe. Yes you can play the C major pentatonic, but, lets move to chord tones. If you are Pop, Rock or Country you can assume (and you know what assume does) the chords will be the I, IV and V chords of the key. Look on that site that gives you the chords for the key of C the I IV V will be the C, F & G chord. Count on playing those during the song. Now the question is when in the song.

    With out going into 38 pages of stuff , start playing using the C chord, watch the rhythm guitar's fingers and when he changes chords do likewise. Hope he went to the F. When he changes again hope he is going to the G. Pretty safe bet it was one of those two, trust your ear and adjust. Probably pretty quick he will be returning to the C and start this all over again. Helps if you can recognize what the rhythm guitar is doing, either by watching his hands or by hearing and being able to identify the sound of the next chord. Other than that, good luck. Jamming is an art form, not rocket science, but, you need to work your way into it.

    Try and get some fake chord sheet music on the songs your friends will be playing and make yourself some cheat sheets of the chords used in them.

    Jamming is a safe place to be jump in and have fun. No one will get upset if you do make a mistake, jamming is fun time.

    Good luck.
  4. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Learn some theory and you will know. It's the best way.
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I used to think that playing "in a key" meant simply playing the scale of that key signature.
    But in general playing a song "in a key" refers most often to the chords of the song, which may or may not utilize those notes exclusively.

    "blues in A" would be good example. The chords A7, D7, and E7 contain many notes not in the key of A.

    The real useful part of theory is understanding how chords are built from scales, so you know when someone say s"key of C major" there are essentially 6 chords most likely to show up....all this is covered in the PDF linked in my sig
  6. Is there a lager copy of this chart somehwere?

    Make it as large as you want. - Print screen, paste in a word file, Format, Picture tools, crop, and enlarge - right click and drag to the size you want.

    Or use this:
    Have fun.
  8. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    It is better to play in certain keys than uncertain keys.
    For me the most uncertain keys are my car keys.
    I never know where to find them.
  9. If you play unexpected keys you are playing jazz.
  10. its the only way..
  11. I 2nd what dvh suggested: I would go with "C Mixolydian" over "C Ionian", aka C major. C Mixolydian is a fancy way to say the C major scale, but with a Bb instead of B natural. Use your ears. If it feels like there is some chord movement then try to find the new root- F, G, A, and Bb are going to be popular choices. Also realize *you* as the bassist can move the chord most easily. Just start playing an F for a while and listen for the other guys to follow you.
  12. swaps


    May 12, 2012
    Austin, MN
    that would make me the best jazz player ever, then! ;):hyper:
  13. If you know how to groove in jazz. Most technical players are lousy jazz players as they need to learn the jazz groove. That in place and you could sound jazzy even with one or two notes.
  14. Thank you!
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