I was recently playing my guitar, suddenly I found that C, D and E chords sound good together in a progression, but I was not able to find a key in which these chords go together, so I wondered what is going on ? Like while writing music is it necessary to first pick a key and then start playing ??

  • 1
    Often, picking a key is a safe way to go. These chords don't belong to key E, but they work well in E, specially at the end of a phrase.
    – Tim
    Apr 29, 2018 at 18:25
  • Like if these chords don’t belong to the key of E major then why do they work well in the key itself? Apr 29, 2018 at 18:33
  • When you are playing these chords, can you tell which note feels like the 'home' or 'root' note? Btw this is similar to Will a song written in a key only use chords in that key? Apr 29, 2018 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


The progression C, D, E is not tonal, which means it doesn't have a tonic (key). It's just major chords in parallel. You can use them to create an effect or a feeling, or even combine them in A-tonal music (music without a classical key).

Alternatively, you can use it inside a tonal progression to create modulation (change for scale )


Modulation from C to E (Through Tonics)
C G C (to accomplish a C key) and than - D E - to transpose to E scale and than B E (to accomplish this new Tonic)

Modulation from Fm to Am (Through Dominants)
Same idea: but I use C and E as dominants:
Am C Am C D E Bm E Bm

A-Tonal Example
(This one is not really good because I don't know much about A-Tonal music, but you can get the idea)

(I'm sorry the examples are on piano, because I'm not a guitarist, but the music theory is the same :))

  • I never heard the word 'Tonalic' - do you mean 'tonal'? Apr 29, 2018 at 21:09
  • This is a very basic music theory term... I can't explain that in one comment. Try googling it. It short - The tonic is the "home" of the scale, for example C major's tonic is C. Tonalic music is music that works with scales (usually the classical ones). A-Tonalic music doesn't (Look out Schonberg - who is a famous A-Tonalic composer). But you probably want to stick to tonalic. Apr 29, 2018 at 21:11
  • Thanks for the explanation - and in standard English, I'm 99% sure you mean 'tonal', not 'tonalic'. (Google hadn't heard of 'tonalic' either!) Apr 29, 2018 at 21:20
  • 1
    Sorry! You're probably right. It's the same thing. I am not a native speaker so I thought you're supposed to say "Tonalic" . I'll edit. Apr 29, 2018 at 21:22
  • No worries (I like the word 'tonalic'! myself :) By the way, although I don't necessarily disagree with your answer, there are various definitions of 'tonal' music - many people might think that a progression with C major, D major and E major could still be tonal if it has a clear 'home note' or 'tonal centre', even if it doesn't fit nicely into a particular 'key'. Apr 29, 2018 at 21:35

It is not necessary to find a key if you are composing (if that is what you mean). You may want to you may not. Be relaxed about making up your own tunes, either have an idea in your head and try to play it, or play around with different chords, in other words, explore the fingerboard, stop when you find a phrase or something that you like and enlarge on it, using your imagination. There are different ways to compose, be relaxed and the ideas will come. Learn some theory which will help and give you a better appreciation of what it is you are doing.

  • I, personally, don't believe that. It's good thing to experiment but in knowing and understanding the theory behind everything really helps you to compose well. May 2, 2018 at 13:37

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