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Song in the key of G with an F chord?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Axtman, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    I come across this occasionally and have always wondered why not just have the song in the key of C?

    The rest of the chords are G, C, Am, D, Bm, Em.
  2. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Because the song is in the key of G. The G to F is a VERY common chord change in the key of G. What's the song?
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I think the OP's confusion is from the fact that F is F# in the key of G.
    the chords F,G, C, Am, D, Bm, Em also do not spell exactly out C. (Bm would be B dim)

    Not knowing the song I 'd guess that
    1.) it starts and ends on a G chord
    2.) its kind of Rock / Classic Rock or Blues sounding
    In addition to the "home" chord or final melody note, Key is determine by
    1.) what scale the melody mostly uses
    2.) what scale most chords are derived from

    throwing a flattened 7th chord in otherwise "correct" major progressions not only allowed, but downright common.
    joebar likes this.
  4. bjjp2


    Apr 25, 2015
    G to F (flat 7 in G) says mixolydian to me.
    alexlocurto likes this.
  5. You ask a good question. I'd ask the keyboard what key they were going to use and then I'd do likewise. The guitarists will just follow the chords and play by rote what is written, not worrying with the key. That F, G, C, Am, D, Bm, Em does beg for C in my book.

    Songwriters take liberties with major and minor chords all the time. In simple ole I-IV-V7 songs the Dm chord often is left as a D chord. Why? Dm is not used as much and takes a guitarist a little doing to get the fingering right where a D just rolls off the fingers. Second guessing the songwriter I'd leave to the whole band... that is why I would ask the keyboard what they were going to use.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
  6. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    The bVII chord is a way to blues a tonality. If you understand some diatonic theory, you will get this.

    In the key of G, the VII chord would be a F#min7(b5) OR D7/F# would do the job also. Don't forget that bass notes are the second melody in a song so the bass note is also there to harmonize the upper melody. When playing a F chord instead of a F#min7(b5) there are some good chance that the melody would be the same. It could easily be a A or C or E which are the arpeggio notes of either F#min7(b5) or F maj7. If you want a more basic or bluesier sound and the melody can fit a F Maj instead of the more sophisticated sound of F#min7(b5) then it is stylistically appropriate to play the F instead of F#.
    I hope it makes sense ;)
    joebar and justbass57 like this.
  7. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    The song is "Shine Jesus Shine". It is in the key of G. Starts on G and ends on G. Whenever the F chord pops up in the song it just sounds "wrong" to me. It's probably there to add sonic tension or something.

    Thanks for all your replies!
  8. Cowboy in Latvia

    Cowboy in Latvia

    Mar 1, 2015
    The modal guess earlier was correct. The beginning of the verse and the entire chorus are pretty much Ionian whereas there is a bit of a mixed modal feel for the second half of the verse (at least if I remember the song correctly).
  9. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    It was pointed out to me that a lot of songs especially blues and blues based songs were written on guitar and if they knew a chord and it could work they'd throw it in there and we've all heard the bVii a lot by our exposure to a lot of music so it sounds right. By now a lot of places where a maj7 chord 'belongs' we're used to hearing a dom7 chord so that sounds right. For the bVii to sound right shouldn't that be a dom 7 as well?
    at least based on what Keith Richards plays.
  10. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    Even if the key is e.g G all the chords in a song does not have to be chords from that key.
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    Since you started your explanation using Roman numerals, then switched to named chords, and in a I-IV-V7 progression there isn't a minor chord, I'm going to guess a little. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm guessing you're referring to the ii chord in a simple context? (For instance, "Honky Tonk Women") If so, the reasoning behind using a major tonality on the ii chord isn't the fingering. When you play the ii chord major (or more accurately dominant), it's it becomes the V chord of the V. (In C, D7 in the V of G7)
    mambo4 and repoman like this.
  12. Yes as you say the ii chord being a D not a Dm. My point, however, is if the key is suspect, some think C and some think G, we should settle this right away. I'm betting the rhythm guitars will play what is written (the actually key being secondary) that being the case, the rest of us should be in the same key and the quick way to settle that is just ask the keyboard what key they will use.

    I think someone did mention that the actual song's verses do start and stop on the G chord. Knowing that; yes G would be my choice.
  13. Zootsuitbass


    Mar 13, 2011
    bVII7 comes from aeolian/natural minor. Classic parallel minor model interchange. Often played as a triad.

    bVIImaj7 (again triad) Comes from Mixolydian.

    The Key a song is in is what feels like "Home". Yes often the chord it starts and ends on but not always. If it deviates it usually starts elsewhere and ends at home. Just friends is this, First chord, Cmaj is the IV chord out of G.
    Last edited: May 1, 2015
  14. Rayjay


    Sep 27, 2014
    Lahaina, Maui, HI
    It's definitely in G. There is an F# in the melody.

    The part you are referring to is right before the chorus Fmaj (bVII) to D7 (V7). Its a pretty common chord change. Same thing right before the chorus in "Shout To The Lord"

    Its just there to create some tension. Notes that are out of the key are common and are called accidentals. Also, don't forget that songs can change key within the changes. Think of songs like Giant Steps; it changes key every 2 bars. But, the key is always the tonic of the chord the song / melody resolves back to.
  15. radmin

    radmin Supporting Member

    Jun 23, 2006
    Columbus, Oh
    The short answer, D implies G.
    The longer answer, Sometimes people throw in chords that sound weird yet good. I see it all the time in modern worship music. In older church songs major 2 is common also.
    The fact that the F sounds weird when it comes around suggests that it's a substitution, not the 4. Your ear knows.
  16. Rayjay


    Sep 27, 2014
    Lahaina, Maui, HI
    Also to address the key of C,
    1) there is an F# in the melody (not in C)
    2) there is no Bmin in the Key of C
  17. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    I believe in the context of the piece the composer used that device to create tension that resolves itself later.
  18. Joshua Pickenpaugh

    Joshua Pickenpaugh Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2001
    Looks like a substitution for the V chord, to me.
  19. Rayjay


    Sep 27, 2014
    Lahaina, Maui, HI
    I see what you mean but I don't think that's a logical way to approach it. What you're saying is that if its an F7 chord, then the key of the song changes to Bb major, and if its an Fmaj7 chord the key of the song changes to C major, all based off the root G of the key of the song.

    Thats technically true....

    In this case though, I would think of the F chord as just an accidental passing tone. Its only there for a moment to create tension before a resolution to the I chord. Its also common for people to make the IV and instead of playing a #11 they play a natural 11 (4th degree of the C lydian scale). Think of Keith Richards, that's basically his signature lick. I don't think of the song necessarily changing key in those moments.

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