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What key is this?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Rick Martin, Aug 25, 2004.


  1. The song, "Head Over Heels" by the GoGos, has A,B,C,D,E,G chords all as Majors. The song starts and ends on D Major. I suppose this song could either be in the key of D or G but in both cases the ii chord and the vi are still played as Major. All of the chords are Major, so what key is this song???
     
  2. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    What's the progression? What notes are in the melody?
     
  3. The chord progression in the verse is DGDGCGDA. There is a bridge or prechorus (I don't know which to call it) DGDGCGCBA and the chorus which has a very recognizable bass solo is DAEB X4 . The bass line notes for the chorus sounds like 1353. When I play this song on a six string all of the chords are Major.
     
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    It may not really be in a key. A lot of pop music is written by folks who do a great job of getting music out with a very limited harmonic vocabulary, basically they write by putting together the chord shapes they know in a progression that makes some sense to them. Trying to analyse a tune like that in terms of functional harmony can be problematic, as you are basically modulating like crazy all over the place without really setting up any modulations. If it starts on a Dmajor and ends on a Dmajor, people may SAY it's in Dmajor when all they really mean is that the chord relationships start and end here and if they take it to Gmajor you just play the same chord shapes a fourth away.

    Why do you ask, what's the question behind the question?
     
  5. I ask out of curiosity. I try to use music theory to help me learn pop songs by ear. I listen to the record, try to match up with the chords I think I hear and then rather than hunt and peck, I try to use what theory I know to make educated guesses about where the song is going.
     
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    SHEBANG - that's not a bad way to do it, but you may be better off just taking the chords off as you hear them, rather than trying to guess or predict where they fit. If the only shape the songwriter knows how to make is a D minor 7, then THAT'S the chord that going to precede a Gmajor 7. Even though you're laying for a D7.

    Sure, it's tough if you are hearing root movement and trying to prophesy chord quality. so you just gotta listen for chord quality and voicing.
     
  7. I thought I was livin the vida loca, but now, I'm not so sure.
    What about the rules, man? l, ii, iii, lV, V, vi, Vll If the ii the iii and the vi are major and the song sounds good, doesn't there have to be some kind of explanation like multiple key changes or an arbitrary decision by the Supreme Court?
    "modulating like crazy all over the place without really setting up any modulations" This means multiple key changes, right? What do you mean by setting up any modulations? Madonna modulates a lot, but she just goes up a whole step and stays there. Ususally only once in a song.
     
  8. mnadelin

    mnadelin

    Apr 6, 2003
    Kalamazoo, MI
    I'd also echo what Ed and Smash said. A lot of songs don't really fit into the confines of a traditional key. Especially pop/rock tunes where people write them without a lot of harmonic knowledge. However, you said the song starts and ends on a D major chord. So if I were in a band handing out the charts to the guys and someone asks what key it's in, I'd probably say D. With these types of tunes, I usually try to look at it and kind of assign a key that fits with it. Either way, the actual key of the tune is pretty insignificant. The important part is that you can play it.
     
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    we doan need no steenkeng rules.
    Not to pick nits, but if the ii the iii and the vi are major, they'd be the II, the III and the VI. And then you'd be talking about some seriously altered scale..

    Well, Yes and no. Functional theory does a great job of explaining what was common practice in that world. You don't analyse a blues in quite the same way as you do a Bach two part, right? You're not playing a blues in Bb just because the first chord is an F7, right? So if the only two chords a song writer knows how to make on guitar are Dmaj7 and Gb7b9#9b13, then the song is going to use those chords in as musical a fashion as it can, right. And you approach it as being in "sort of modal world" and play from chord to chord rather than through the chords by voice leading, altered chords, substitutions etc etc. You have to use a different sensibility to create the "melody" of your line.




    By actually setting up the modulation.
    Bb D-/ C-7 F7/ Bb D-/ D-7 G7/Cmaj7/

    See how you move to Cmaj? That got set up.

    Bb D-/C-7 F7/ Bb / Cmaj7 /

    That didn't, you just jumped to the new key. Make more sense? In your example, the change to the second chord was not preceded by any harmonic indicator that you were changing keys. And I don't think the composer was thinking about it as a key change, they're just moving constant structure chords (prolly cause they liked the shape of them) in a consistent fashion.
     
  10. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS

    I don't know Ed, in that second progression, the sound to me is similiar to the setup going into the B section of Rhythm Changes. We start with Bb and end with Bb, it's a complete statement and then we go to CMaj7 to begin some other statement.
     
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Which is what happens in Rhythm, the bridge jumps to a new key center with no modulation, no set up. Which is what I was illustrating, yeah? Because we were talking about modulations that GOT set up and modulations that DINT got set up, yeah?
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    Interesting thread now! :) I think the point is that what helps you in this is knowing the sounds of chords' quality - knowing a notional key doesn't necessarily help that much, unless you are playing Jazz and want to analyse the functional harmony !! ;)

    I played for years (decades!) in rock/pop bands writing original songs and nobody ever knew what key we were in and often the spur to a new song was breaking any rules - as in, it sounds like it ought to go there - so we'll pick a chord that sounds completely out of place!! ;)

    Whereas in the first few weeks of studying Jazz, we were studying II-V-Is and trying to work out the key they were in, so we could decide which scale(s) would fit!! ;)