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What keys do you play in?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Paul4703, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. Paul4703


    Mar 19, 2007
    Just a post to gather some information on the range of keys that music is played in.

    What type of music do you play and what keys do you mainly play in as a percentage?

    e.g. Gospel - 90% G major, 5% A minor, 5% D major

    (Note that these keys and percentages may be completely wrong it is just an example of the sort of info I'm interested in).

  2. Rock & pop-rock(covers), contemporary Christian, pop-rock originals(sig); all kinds of keys. E, A & D for more gtr-based stuff & C, G, F as well as sharp/flat keys for piano/key-based. A flat seems to come up a lot.

    Edit: I don't keep track of the percentages but like ingredients in food, I've listed the more plentiful first. :D

    Edit #2: Probably 7/8 major
  3. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I play in a jazz big band and do a lot of theater work. I play in all keys. I'm not sure that I could give a percentage, other than to say that when you're working with Bb instruments, you tend to play in flat keys more than sharp keys, so F, Bb, Eb, and Ab are very popular.
  4. I'm Country and that, in my neck of the woods, means Major. From there the key depends on the vocalist. What I've run into:

    Gals want A or G perhaps F.
    Guys Want G or D some call for C.
    Bass vocalists want E.
    I've only had one ask for Bb or any of the flat keys for that matter - I discount F being one of the flat keys.
  5. jmac


    May 23, 2007
    Horsham, Pa
    Is that allowed. lol.

    I play in D minor as much as possible; afterall, it is the saddest of all keys.
  6. All
  7. Big band stuff i play is always in flat keys (hey let make it easy for the brass....):rolleyes:

    3 flats is the norm, but can go to 7 flats ( i find that one a bit hard to sight read..)

    sharp-wise i never see more than 2....
  8. TheMutt

    TheMutt Guest

    Apr 28, 2007
    I play contemporary Christian with some old-school stuff thrown in there as well.
    Lots and lots of A, C, D, E, F#, and G, as well as some (maybe 5% total here) Eb/D#, F, Ab/G#, B, and Bb/A# (obviously I'm writing the enharmonic equivalents here).
  9. Kraken


    Jun 19, 2001
    Aylesbury, England
    4 in C Minor, 4 in D Major, 2 in D Minor, 3 in B Minor, 2 in A Major, 2 in A Minor and 1 in each G Major and G Minor.

    by no means a comprehensive list, but should give you an idea.

    we're a kind of Alternative/Hard Rock (I don't know take a listen and make your own mind up :D link in sig)
  10. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Last band did R'n'B, soul, rock stuff (think Gladys Knight, Aretha, Sam & Dave, Stones, Blues Bros., Robben Ford, Clapton, etc.) Keys included E, F, F#, G, A, A, Bb, B, C, D.

    Country bands I was before country became bad 80's pop-rock were mostly G, C, D, E, and A.

    I don't play much at church, but they hardly ever are in sharp keys. The default if they don't know where the singer started is Ab with Db and Eb being very common.

  11. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    I play Jazz, Fusion, World, Funk, Reggae, Rock, Country etc... it's all good so I'd say I play in all keys.
  12. While the guitarist "plays" each song in usually E, G, C or D. In reality he often uses a capo so I end up playing in just about every key possible.
  13. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    While it's possible to generalize somewhat about certain keys being popular in certain styles, I honestly think it's a big mistake to not be prepared for ANY key at ANY time. I work with so many different singers, male and female, that I constantly have to play all kinds of songs in every key.

    Besides, it's good for you. If you can play a tune equally well in all 12 keys, then you really do own it. The one exception I might make to this generalization would be music that relies on some technical gimmick unique to a particular key (e.g. a slap bass line using open E).
  14. Chris K

    Chris K

    May 3, 2009
    Gorinchem,The Netherlands
    Partner: Otentic Guitars
    Keys I play in are mostly between 4b and 4#, but what does it matter? IMHO the bass is one of the easiest instruments to change the key of a song. Don't watch your hands, just move up or down one one or two frets...

    I used to play the alto sax, now that's a completely different story, keyswise..
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    asking what key someone likes to play in is like asking whether you like the gas pedal or brake pedal better. for me it's case dependent...when i'm stopped and i need to get somewhere, i love the gas pedal. but when i'm doing 90 and i see a hairpin curve coming along the horizon, i really like the brake pedal.

  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree with the last 2 posters that it is a meaningless question - you can play a 12-bar Blues in any key and it's still a blues! Key is irrelevant in our system of intonation, based on pianos which have been tuned specifically so that they can play in any key witout being re-tuned. "Equal Temperament"

    If you look at music before Bach, Bagpipes or things like Japanese classical music - then different keys do have different characteristics - but our modern western system of intonation is spcifically designed so this is not the case!!

    For keys to be different - then you need to use the system of "Just Intonation" - but that would need different instruments to normal keyboards and guitars!! :eek:

    Look here for more info :

  17. Chris K

    Chris K

    May 3, 2009
    Gorinchem,The Netherlands
    Partner: Otentic Guitars
    This makes a good opportunity to ask why some people keep recommending to practise scales in all keys. IMHO you''re better off if you know f.e. 8 different scales in 2 keys than the other way around.
  18. "If you call yourself a musician you must be prepared to play in any and every key".

    This was told to me by a sax player many years ago and, whilst not being as dogmatic about it as he was (he once offered someone outside whon tried to argue with him on this) - there's a lot to be said for that way of thinking.

    I recall getting my Bass re-fretted once 'cos the 3rd fret on the "A" string had worn down rather a lot - the bandleader played piano :).
  19. praisebass


    Aug 20, 2009
    Various keys certainly do have individual characteristics, according to most composers and others. See the following:


    Of course, I don't play keys, I generally play bass, but playing in theature, I play in all the keys.
  20. So much of what we do is based upon what the vocalists wants. I have often wondered why hymns tend to be in the flat keys.

    I have been told it is because congregations sing flat. I'm sure they do, but, is that the reason our hymnals tend to use the flat keys?

    Another question. What is behind the decision as to what key a "congregational songs" will be published in?

    Your thoughts ....

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