Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

So just to make it simple. When you pick a key for a song and you use the notes in that scale, do you only use those notes for all other instruments? And does the octave of each note matter? Or as long as it's just say a G note and you play a G note it doesn't matter what octave? thanks

share|improve this question

closed as too broad by Dom, kiprainey, Shevliaskovic, Jason W, Dr Mayhem Apr 14 '14 at 13:53

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I would recommend finding a beginning music theory textbook and learn the fundamentals of theory. Once you have a better grasp of the language, you can then work on making it meaningful. – jjmusicnotes Apr 11 '14 at 4:29
Whilst this question seems very simple, the answers will be complex, and probably confusing to the OP. – Tim Apr 11 '14 at 5:59
Just try it. See what you think. – Lee Kowalkowski Apr 11 '14 at 8:22

Well, of course later on there will bemany more aspects, like modal playing, chromatic runs and so on, but I think this is not the kind of answer you're looking for. To keep it as simple as you did:

Basically yes, you use the same notes for all instruments involved, and the octave doesn't matter. If you're in the key of G Major, You can play the notes from the G Major scale, no matter how high or low and no matter on which instrument, and it won't sound wrong. Of course this is greatly simplified, but I hope it helps a little bit.

share|improve this answer

When you pick a key for a song and you use the notes in that scale...

There are reasons why you would want to move to notes that are not in the scale but for the most part yes you do stay in the notes that form part of the scale.

And does the octave of each note matter?

I'm not sure what you mean here. Do you mean does it matter which G you play? If so yes there may be various notes with the name G on an instrument but they are not the same. They differ hugely in how they sound.

share|improve this answer

To answer the first part of the question, yes. It is safe to create a melody with the G major scale if the song is in G major.

Obviously, if the melody sounds good to you it doesn't really matter what scale you are using. For example, one of the go to scales in rock music is the Pentatonic scale. Quite often musicians will actually use the minor scale of the song's key for various melodic parts like guitar solos. So in our particular example if the song is in Gmajor, you would use the G minor Pentatonic for a guitar solo, etc.

Second, choosing an octave is very important, especially for singers. You wouldn't want to give a baritone singer a melody that's centered 2 octaves above middle C, for example.

If you are just talking about instruments, the biggest thing to consider is the instrument's range. You might have to lower or raise the melodic phrases up or down in order to play it on a certain instrument. After that, it's mostly about the mood of the piece. The same melody might feel a little more ominous if you bring it down a few octaves, and on the flip side it might make the passage feel lighter and happier if the melody is in a higher octave.

Coming from a guitar background, with mostly a focus in rock, the blues and jazz; my view point is that of improvising guitar solos and things of that nature. There are many times where I have created a motif which I use to anchor the improv. I may start the motif off in a lower octave in the start of the guitar solo, build to a higher octave with a few bars of off the cuff improv and then ground that improv by repeating the motif at the new, higher octave.

A good place to start reading further is a book called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory". I got a lot of mileage out of the 1st edition of that book when I was teaching myself theory during boring classes in high school. Also, if you are taking music lessons for any instrument you may want to bring up your interest in composition to your tutor. I know my face to face time with instructors was invaluable while learning things like music theory, song composition and improvisation.

To summarize:

  • Writing melody in the scale that matches the song's key is a safe bet (using the G Major scale for a G major song.)
  • Choosing an octave is important when considering the mood of the song and the vocal/instrument range of the person or instrument meant to play the passage.
share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.