I've run into a couple songs recently that use two keys at the time, but not in the way that would meet the definition of polytonality.

What they do is they establish one key as the primary key and then blend in a second key but don't change to that key. They'll use it for a riff or a couple measures, or the song will take the groupings of notes that make up both scales and use them as if they are one scale.

I did some research on this but the best thing I could find is polytonality, and based on what I've read and the videos I've watched this doesn't seem to meet the definition of polytonality.

So would this be considered polytonality? If not, what would this be considered?

One example is a song called "Coloring Book" by a Kpop group called Oh My Girl. The song is in E Major, it blends in E Minor in the chorus, but doesn't change to E Minor, it just kind of uses it.

  • 1
    Can you tell us which piece it is, or at least tell us the keys? C Major against C Minor would be a much different texture, for example, than C Major against C# Major.
    – Sarkreth
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 6:25
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    What are the songs? It's possible that, when I listen to them, I classify them as polytonal anyway.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 14:20
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    In this case, since the song mentioned blends tonalities from the parallel major / minor, it would be classified as modal mixture. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 1:51

2 Answers 2


No, that isn't polytonality. Key ambiguity perhaps. But songs aren't required to stick to one key or mode. These are just convenient ways of analysing styles of music that DO choose to do so, and a lot of Common Practice music did. That's why we call it 'Common Practice'.

But, yet again, Theory Describes, It Does Not Command. Keys are a framework, not a set of rules.

Here's a much nicer piece that doesn't.


That is not polytonality. I couldn't bear listening to that song very closely, but it appears to just borrow some chords from the parallel minor key. I.e. the center of tonality is always the same.

By contrast, polytonality deliberately uses different tonal centers at the same time which would normally be considered incompatible.

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