I came across the theme for flowers in the attic:

Please forward to the main theme at 1:33. I'm trying to figure if it is using relative keys.

It seems it uses a combination of B major and G# minor -- these are relative keys. The main theme uses two chords the G# minor (the I chord of G# minor), and F# (the V chord of B major). Does this sound right? And if this is right, is it typical to borrow different chords of relative keys?

p.s G#minor and F# are both in the key of B major, but the theme seems to center around G#minor.. therefore I'm thinking there's more than one key involved here.

  • 3
    Why does almost every word ending in s have to be preceded by an apostrophe??? Especially when it's absolutely incorrect to use one? – Tim Dec 1 '17 at 22:32

For the most part, the whole point of relative keys is that they share the same chords. The only possible exception is the V and viio in a minor key with raised leading tones. What you’re calling the “i chord of g# minor” is also the vi chord of B major, and it isn’t uncommon at all in either key. This isn’t borrowing from the relative key, it’s totally standard behavior in a single key.

  • thanks, so would you say the song is major or minor? – user34288 Dec 1 '17 at 22:32
  • @foreyez I don’t really know the piece, but to be honest—at least from a first listening—I’d be more likely to say it was in F# Dorian. Does it consistently use D#? Of it’s D natural might be more likely to be F# Aeolian. – Pat Muchmore Dec 1 '17 at 22:37

It seems to want to return to G#m, so there's a chance it's in that. But - in a lot of songs in G#m, there'll be a B chord, and a lot of songs in B, there'll be a G#m. They are relative, and therefore possess the same key sig.

This happens all the time, and therefore is unremarkable. When someone says 'the next number's in C, I expect somewhere to be playing an Am - relative again.

More unusual is the concept of parallel chords, which introduces a whole new set of chords which can be, and are, played during a song.

The more definitive, if that's what you're after, 'solution' is that if it's in G#m, there is a fair chance there will be D# or D#7 chords, featuring Fx (F##) as it's often, but not always, the leading note of G#m.

  • " When someone says 'the next number's in C, I expect somewhere to be playing an Am - relative again" ... What do you mean by 'relative again' I thought Am was a diatonic chord of C major. – user34288 Dec 2 '17 at 12:58
  • also.. I was talking about the chords: G#minor and F# major and how they're related. those were the main chords of that song's theme.. – user34288 Dec 2 '17 at 13:00
  • Diatonic means something made up using only the notes from a particular key. Relative major/minor are diatonic, as in they are both directly from the same key. So, in C, Am is the relative minor, and, yes, thus, a diatonic chord. I'd be expecting any of the 7 diatonic chords to appear in a song in C (or any other key!) G#m and F# are both diatonic from the key of B major. G#m is vi, F# is V – Tim Dec 2 '17 at 13:11
  • so would you say this song is in B major? – user34288 Dec 2 '17 at 13:19
  • This song is not in one key. It modulates. The part in question is in G#m. But questions concerning 'what key is this in?' are disallowed... – Tim Dec 2 '17 at 13:31

SOME music sticks to diatonic chords in one key. A whole lot of music doesn;t music doesn't. You've been taught what chords can be made from one scale. That's interesting, but it isn't a restriction, you can use others too!

Yes, making a song from a mix of chords from a major key and its relative minor is commonplace. If you feel a need to label it as being in a particular key, pick one of them! But there isn't really any need.

  • what would be written in the key signature then? you just randomly pick one? – user34288 Dec 2 '17 at 18:41
  • If you're mixing major and relative minor, it's the same key signature anyway, isn't it! But, yes, when writing in a freer harmonic style it can be quite an arbitrary choice! If the music is tonal, but fluidly so, I suggest you pick the key signature that will need fewest accidentals. If you're going atonal, use the open key signature. – Laurence Payne Dec 2 '17 at 22:04

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