1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

What key am I in ?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DrumsAndBass, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. DrumsAndBass

    DrumsAndBass Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    I'm working with a deficit. I know bass lines but I can't figure out what key they are in. For example, I introduce a bass line to a keyboard player. He asks me "what key are you in?" I'm unable to answer him. So I play the bass line for him and then he tells me the key.

    Please help.
  2. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    if you are working from a standard major key...

    Look for where two notes are ajacent.... this will happen with either the 1 or the 4 chord... for example if you have a maj7 chord it is almost always a 1 or 4. If you know ANY other chords... you should be good to go.
  3. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    If you have two minor chords a whole step apart... ex Dm and Em those are your two and three chords.

    If you have two major chords a whole step apart... ex F and G those are your 4 and 5 chords.
  4. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    your 1 chord names the key...

    almost always excpet if the song is in a minor key then you would often name the key by the 6 chord.
  5. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    Also.... MOST of the time the last note you strike will name the Key.
  6. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    If you have sheet music. The sheet music will tell you what key with the key signature, i.e. two flats the key is Bb. Three sharps the key is A (major), etc. The circle of 5th/4th will help with how many flats or sharps each key has. http://www.circleoffifths.com/ Plus a quick peek will give you the I IV V progression for this key. It's called the circle. Put your tonic chord @ 12:00 O'clock; your IV will be on the left and your V will be on the right. The A is @ 3:00 O'clock. How many sharps are in the A major scale? Take a look. E is @ 4:00 O'clock and yep it has 4 sharps.

    No key signature. If all the verses end with the same chord or note, that chord or note is your key. A chord progression likes to resolve back to the tonic chord to end the verse, phrase, etc. Look for the ending, not the beginning.

    Look for the dominant seven chord, i.e. D7, G7, etc. If you have several G7 chords you can be pretty safe assuming the key is C. Look at your handy dandy key chart and you will find that the G7 chord falls into the C scale - no other. So that is your key.

    Look at all the chords and see if all of them fit into one key. If they all fit in one key you can assume that is your key. Why do I say assume? The songwriter may be following the Golden Rule, which is; if it sounds good it's good. You need a key chart - keep reading.

    No sheet music. You need to find the tonal center of the progression. Not a step for a stepper. Listen to the song and walk your G string up the neck. When what is coming from the song and what you are doing on your G string come in synch (sound good together) you have found the tonal center - look down at what note this happened on. That is your key.

    Using http://www.guitar-chords.org.uk/chords-key-c.html make yourself a key chart of all the major and natural minor keys. Making the chart will help you "see" how chords fit into keys. And then this will help you identify what key this song is using.

    Your ear will began to recognize the tonal center of the song, thus the key.

    Good luck.
  7. Reddog01


    Nov 3, 2013
    Georgetown, TX
    Standard musical scores have key signatures. The flats always follow a pattern: B,E,A,D,G,C,F and the sharps are in the reverse: F,C,G,D,A,E,B. Simply remember the word "BEAD" and then add G,C,F.

    With that said, if there are no sharps or flats in the key signature, you are in the key of C or A minor. You can tell if it is in a minor key by looking to see if the seventh note in the scale has an accidental, which raises the note 1/2 step. The minor will be the 6th note in the scale of the major key. So in the key of C, you go up the scale to D (the 2nd), E (the 3rd), F (the 4th), G (the 5th), and A (the 6th).

    If the key signature has one flat (Bb) then it is the key of F or D minor. Again, look for the raised seventh (C#).

    After that, it's easy. If the key signature has flats, look for the NEXT TO LAST flat in the key signature, and that's the key it's in. If it has three flats (Bb, Eb, and Ab), it's in the key of Eb major or C minor.

    If there are sharps in the key signature, look at the last sharp, and go up 1/2 step, and that's your key. For example, if there are four sharps in the key signature (F#, C#, G#, D#) you go up 1/2 step from the last sharp in the key signature, and you will find you are in the key of E major or C# minor.

    If all you have is a lead sheet with no key signature noted, the advise that MalcomAmos gives to you is great advise. This is a great example where knowing some music theory gives you as a bass player more power in being able to handle music that is being given to you to play.
  8. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Step one: what are the notes that make up your baseline?
  9. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    The keyboard player should be asking you what the chords are rather than the key. Then, step one: what are the notes in your bassline, and what chord(s) do they line up with.
  10. radioface


    May 2, 2013
    If you don't know what key your in, you shouldn't be on stage.
  11. negativefx

    negativefx complete hack

    Feb 18, 2013
    Fort Collins
    If you don't know which 'your' to use, you shouldn't be on the internet.
  12. Learn the scales. At least the major and minor scales. Once you got them in your brain it's easy to find your key. Take a look at the notes you're playing find the scale and that's your key.
  13. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
  14. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Not every song is in a specific key.
  15. Cnote2


    Nov 8, 2012
    ? Can you use the treble clef & play the bass parts
  16. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Do you mean can you write bass lines in a treble clef staff? If so, yes. I encourage students to know how to read both.
  17. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    Beautiful! Drive the troll back under the overpass.
  18. Jeff Elkins

    Jeff Elkins Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2007
    East Tennessee
    Lol! +1
  19. Cnote2


    Nov 8, 2012
    Ok lownote38 thanks, now if I were reading a piece of music that was treble could I apply the notes to the bass
  20. CnB77


    Jan 7, 2011
    Absolutely. Chances are you'd either be playing up the neck or playing the piece an octave lower than written, but that's not necessarily a problem