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Trying to figure out the Key of a Song

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by nihtg1, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. nihtg1


    Jun 29, 2013

    I have been at odds with a particular song over the last few days trying to figure out the key to a particular song. The song is by the band K Sera (who makes fantastic music I find) and is called Meditations in an Emergency. Hopefully this is in the right thread.

    As far as I can tell the chords played on the piano sound like they start with g# minor. The problem is the bass line seems complicated and that it has a few notes that don't belong in the scale. (I know this is possible but my ear training is pretty behind and just wanted to see if I could get any input/help)


    PS the song may be hard to find you are best looking on spotify or something of that nature.
  2. punchdrunk

    punchdrunk Supporting Member

    Jun 22, 2013
    Jacksonville, Fl
    I could only find a small sample clip on Pandora radio, but it sounded to me like the bassist was (a) using a lot of compression, (b) employing a good bit of chromatic approaches, and (c) seems to be doing that Jameson'esqe dropping into the phrase via unrelated open string thing. The heavy dose of compression can tend to slightly obscure his line in the mix. I sure that someone here can cite his exact signature and note for note line via a single listen tho.
  3. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    There will always be one note, one chord, that always seems to pull the ear towards. Try not to let one note or one chord paint the entire picture for you. Listen for the "resolution." Resolution is the sense of tonal completion.

    If you were in a conversation with a person, and that person said, "Well, if I were you..." and just stopped there, with no resolution to the sentence, you'd be waiting for that person to say something else.

    Musically speaking, listen for the resolution of the sentence. Like spoken language, the ear (or brain, if you prefer) is looking for a tonal center. What is everything coming back around towards?

    The same parts of the brain that listen to music are the same parts that listen to speech. A different part of the brain writes on talkbass.com (thinking about written language), and is the same part that thinks about "keys." Try to bring the two together, the same way you do with speaking and writing, and listening and playing.
  4. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    In my previous post I referred to the key of G# minor being the relative minor of E Major. I was incorrect. I had things mixed around in my mind, and G# minor is in fact the relative minor of B Major.

    As I was saying, just because an opening chord is G#min, that does not mean that the key is G# minor. B Major is the relative key of G# minor. As such, listen to the piece and hear if the tonal center pulls your ear towards G#, or B. Or, any other note that makes sense.
  5. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I say the song is in G# or Ab minor.

    Bass lines don't have to fall into a particular scale. Music would be boring if they had to.
  6. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    It's five sharps, or seven flats. Either way, nobodies happy reading the sheet music.
  7. The song is in Ab minor. The part i think you are talking about is when it drops a 1/2 step down to the G....which you are correct, is not in the key of Ab minor (except as a passing tone). That is a diminished chord...the strong notes over that chord are G, Bb, C#.

    I hope this helps.

    FWIW...one thing that you are often not exposed to in rock music, or as a rock bass player (there are always exceptions) are the concept of key changes. Most rock songs are in 1 key, and once you figure that out, all of the notes of that song are simply in that key.

    However, key changes are very common in some styles of music, and the song will actually change keys...thus taking you to a note that is not in the key you were just in.

    For fun...just play an Ab minor scale and when you get to the octave (Ab) move your finger down a 1/2 step to the G. You will here the progression in this song better that way.