I dabble with my piano sometimes—at a beginner level, as you will see.

I just improvised this sound today, and now I was thinking what key it might be in. I wanted to say G minor, but that uses B-flat, and I'm using a B-natural in there. Is this not really in a proper key?

While on the surface this question is about me wanting to know the key, it really is about how to recognize a key, possibly recognizing modulation, and also about whether being in a key is a canon to be respected.

Also, please suggest bluntly anything you'd like on improving this from a music-theoretic standpoint. We're all here to learn.

  • It's really sad that questions like this need to be closed because of "rules". This is great for learning and could be for many others too. Jan 14 '20 at 19:47
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica we should more focus on how do it generically with an example rather than figure it out for someone as it's a skill to have. One example of a generic version of this question is here: music.stackexchange.com/questions/22033/…. I think it could be improved by an example.
    – Dom
    Jan 14 '20 at 19:52
  • @Dom I think this is a maximum effort question from a normal person, a beginner. Demanding more is unrealistic. If you demand more, then the rules of the site don't cater for normal people, IMO. Maybe this could go into a category "examples of questions that were actually about figuring out what key a song is in" or something. But to require a beginner to take the jump in abstraction level is heavy. :) Jan 14 '20 at 19:52
  • Remember we're building a library of questions and answers others can use in the future. Identifying the key of one song won't really help others in the future, but outlining the steps of how to do it will help out others instead of just giving a key.
    – Dom
    Jan 14 '20 at 19:56
  • I know - a big database of truths! LOL That idea is from geek fantasy land. Works nicely for professional issues of programmers, maybe for lawyers. ;) You wouldn't believe how hard my humanist friends have laughed when I have explained the idea behind this site. Building a database of accepted truths, where a basically clueless person gets to select what the answer is, and then that piece of information is sealed and closed as the canonical official fact in that matter. :D And so a big database of fact is built. Ok, but then back to reality ... Jan 14 '20 at 20:00

It's obviously in G major, key signature one sharp, even though I think you don't happen to play any F# notes. To test this hypothesis, play a descending G major scale as melody: G - F# - E - D - C - B - A - G. The final G note of the sequence feels like coming home, doesn't it?

In your song there's a brief detour to a C major'ish feeling, with an F-based backing chord from which it goes to C and then back to G, but the passage is so quick and even the melody stays the same that the F naturals would be notated with temporary accidentals.

If you want to hear what it would sound like in G minor, key signature two flats, change all the B notes to Bb, and E notes to Eb.

Nothing wrong with this little song. In a Disney movie it could become a popular hit. ;)

  • When I played the F chord in the harmony, it sounded good to me. That F meant to me that this wasn't G major. Are you saying that at the time I had switched to a different key? (IIUC, that is modulation.) Jan 14 '20 at 19:39
  • Yes you can think of it as a modulation or mode change of sorts. But it's so brief and temporary that you can look at it as a bit of extra seasoning, to add taste. Things like that are really good in songs, because they're something to remember, to give character to the tune. It would be more boring if you had just used an F# note and a D major chord or something. For some people it takes a lot of studying to have enough courage to add an F chord like that. ;) Quite often it's better to not know too much and just do what sounds good. (Someone might say it's G Mixolydian mode ...) Jan 14 '20 at 19:43
  • By the way, did you use my advice to test the hypothesis by playing the scale? Did it feel like G was the home note? Jan 14 '20 at 19:45
  • Not yet, but I'll go ahead and analyze this some more later on. And yes I stumbled upon that while playing and was surprised that it sounded so good even without my lack of formal music education, so I wanted to start to tease at how I had gotten to that; hence the question. Jan 16 '20 at 20:32

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