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Questions tagged [key]

For questions about key signatures, scales, modes and similar topics. Most questions should also be tagged with "theory".

97
votes
24answers
22k views

What's the point of keys other than C and Am?

I'm VERY new to music theory, just learning. I'm reading about keys and scales right now. From what I understand major keys are all the same except for being shifted by one or more semitones (e.g. C ...
42
votes
2answers
5k views

Why do instruments have a key?

There are many instruments that have keys other than C. For example: The Eb Alto Saxophone The Bb Clarinet The Horn in F Why do these instruments have a key in the first place? Here's a more ...
40
votes
5answers
7k views

When were the terms “Major” and “Minor” applied to keys?

In 1547, Heinrich Glarean published Dodecachordon in which he posited that in addition to the 4 existing pairs of church modes (plagal and authentic versions of modes with finals on D (Dorian), E (...
37
votes
12answers
14k views

Is it possible to write a song without a key?

"This song is in F Major", "That song is in A Minor", "This song is in D Minor, but modulates to F Major in the middle", etc. Can we say "This song has no key"? Are there songs that have/follow no ...
32
votes
6answers
7k views

B flat minor - the key of death … seriously?

My music teacher always rambles on about B flat minor, endlessly repeating how it is the key of death and is therefore used in movies for death scenes. Alright, I understand that it is minor, no ...
29
votes
6answers
7k views

Is there any way to find a key of song somehow mathematically/algorithmically?

There are many scales with different keys for the same notes. For example, with the notes C D E F G A B C, we can have: C major, C Ionian, A natural minor, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G ...
28
votes
10answers
24k views

When is a piece in A minor versus C major?

When would you say a piece, or a movement in a symphony, is in A minor versus C major? They both use the same notes on the scale... what would indicate that the piece is in A minor? Let's take an ...
27
votes
8answers
13k views

Understanding minor key harmony

A comment discussion under this question from me, clued me in to the fact that I don't really understand how minor keys work very well. So here is what I think I know The natural minor comes from the ...
24
votes
4answers
870 views

Where do the double accidentals go in “theoretical” key signatures?

Recent questions led me to discussions of theoretical keys, which are defined by Wikipedia as keys with at least one double accidental in the key signature. (Unfortunately, the source of that ...
23
votes
4answers
14k views

Why is music for strings more likely to be in keys with sharps?

One thing I've noticed is that music written for strings, such as violin concertos, are a lot more likely to written in a key like D or A major than something like F or Bb major. I recently saw a ...
22
votes
6answers
18k views

With sheet music, how do you determine whether the song is in the major key or the minor key?

For example, if the key signature on the left doesn't have any sharps or flats then it could theoretically be in either the C Major scale or the A Minor scale. How do you determine which one?
21
votes
6answers
9k views

Is G sharp major a real key?

I'm mostly self-taught, so I don't know much in the way of theory beyond the basics. I have heard of G sharp Major a few times. I believe a scale in the key goes as such: G♯, A♯, B♯, C♯, D♯, E♯, Fx, G♯...
21
votes
8answers
6k views

Are sharp keys “bright” and flat keys “dark”?

I was reading this book and on the "Circle of Fifths" chapter it claims that keys with sharp key signatures (C, G, D, ...) are "often though by musicians" to be "bright" sounding and those with flat ...
21
votes
8answers
14k views

Is F Lydian mode in the “key” of C Major?

In most cases (if not all), a piece of music without sharps or flats in the key signature, would be considered in the key of C major or A minor. This question assumes the context of Western Music ...
20
votes
6answers
11k views

If Für Elise is in Am why there is a D# in it?

Für Elise intro starts with E D♯ E D♯, Wikipedia says the key is Am. What scale does it fit? Is it like a blues scale where D♯ is a flat 5? Why D♯ is used in the sheet music? Is it easier to read ...
20
votes
4answers
4k views

Why is automatic key detection hard?

From what I understand, it is difficult for automatic algorithms to figure out the key of a recorded piece of music. For example, in one review of a range of professional "DJ" software that had a key ...
19
votes
7answers
4k views

How to escape the C Major trap when improvising on the piano

I play/practice the piano for some decades and when improvising (Jazz, Romantic, and sometimes even Baroque), I observe a certain magnetism of the C Major key. I'm able to play scales, arpeggios, ...
18
votes
8answers
2k views

How to figure out what key a piece is in?

I am trying to write a guitar accompaniment to the piece "Fair and Tender Ladies", but I have no clue what I need to do to figure out what key that piece is in. Also, the instrument playing the piece ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Why does the chord progression Dmaj -> Emaj -> Bmaj sound good?

I looked up the chord progressions for all major and minor scale keys, but this combination doesn't match any of them. Why does it work well?
17
votes
5answers
24k views

How come songs in a certain key play notes not in that key

I just started trying to learn about music theory as I'm learning to play the guitar. So as beginner's do I looked up a list of easy songs to play and I start learning away. Since I'm also trying to ...
17
votes
1answer
649 views

Are there any rules of thumb for shifting the key signature within a tone net?

[ ... struggling with giving this a better title ] I'm working out the algorithmic bases for generation of a tone-net (tonnetz) in preparation for programming the presentation layer. The problem is ...
16
votes
4answers
3k views

Why are both D and D# fitting into my E minor key?

I tried to look around for an answer to this problem but don't know how to ask the proper question in a search engine. I've been working on a song and realized recently that while I had been working ...
16
votes
6answers
8k views

Capitalization of key names (C Minor vs. c minor)

I was taught when I was young that minor key names should be written with the note in lowercase, as well as the word "minor". Nowadays on recordings, etc., I usually see both capitalized. What was ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Which key are these notes and how to transpose it to the key of D?

I am a beginner in music theory so please bear with me. I was looking up a document which talks about transposing music and I understand a few things I think about transposing music. But if I, for ...
15
votes
9answers
15k views

Is Emajor the dominant chord in the key of A minor?

I read somewhere that Emajor is the dominant (V) chord in A minor. Is this correct? If so, why is it not Eminor, since the A minor scale has no sharps or flats in it?
15
votes
6answers
29k views

When playing in a minor key, will the chords be minor as well?

I've been jumping into music theory myself and I've been stumbling on creating certain melodies and such. I've played guitar all my teenage life and not once have I ever sat down and said I'm going to ...
15
votes
2answers
4k views

What is a key signature?

I'm trying to learn the flute and I bought a book to help me learn. In one of the first chapters it describes something about key signatures and the circle of fifths and I'm completely lost. What is ...
15
votes
6answers
10k views

Why do musicians prefer to play in certain keys? [duplicate]

Why do musicians care about which keys they choose?
14
votes
9answers
6k views

Is it harder to play in a key with more flats or sharps?

This is a very naive question, but I tend to perceive a song with a key signature that has more flats or sharps to be more difficult than the same song written in a key with fewer flats or sharps. ...
14
votes
4answers
6k views

The Chords in this progression sound great but don't belong together - so why do they work?

I am a songwriter and compose my own music to go with my lyrics. Most of my chord progressions follow common patterns like using a I V IV or I IV V with an occasional ii or iii or vi chord thrown in ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

How to choose a key signature for a song that modulates often?

In jazz, let's say, how would one choose a key signature for writing a lead sheet for a song where keys change every few measures or faster? Is writing the key changes explicitly going to be helpful ...
13
votes
6answers
12k views

Why have I never found any music written in the key of C Sharp Major?

Music is written in almost every key that corresponds to every note that is on my piano keyboard. There is clearly a C Sharp (black key right of C) on my piano keyboard but I don't recall ever seeing ...
12
votes
8answers
3k views

Do all songs have to be in a major or minor scale? Can a song have random notes that don't belong to any major or minor scale?

For example, every scale has a given set of notes. But is it possible that there's a composition which doesn't fall into one particular scale?
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Why are different keys necessary / important? [duplicate]

If all major key songs can be played in C major, then why do people play them in other keys? Assume there is no singer involved and we're just talking about what sounds "good". My understanding is ...
12
votes
4answers
3k views

Why did Albéniz write in C♭ instead of B?

I'm referring to Evocación, the first movement of Iberia, which is in the key of C flat (7 flats, every note flat). The key of B uses exactly the same hotes, but using 5 sharps instead of 7 flats. To ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Why use accidentals instead of a key signature?

Using my ears, I determined the key of Theme from Schindler's List to be D minor. Looking at the sheet music that I have, I saw that the key signature is C major/A minor, but every single B in the ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

How can I easily translate between a key and a key signature?

Is there a good mnemonic or trick for working out the key signature from a given key? I can always write out the chromatic scale, then count out the appropriate intervals from the tonic, and figure ...
12
votes
4answers
793 views

What determines the overall key of a work with multiple movements and key changes?

For example, we talk about Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, yet the movements are in a variety of keys: Allegro con brio (C minor) Andante con moto (A♭ major) Scherzo: Allegro (C minor) Allegro ...
12
votes
2answers
551 views

What do these unusual signs on key signature mean?

I know that the more typical notation for the little X in the time signature is used for double sharps, but in the intro of the volume the author of this work seems to say that he is using that symbol ...
11
votes
7answers
4k views

Can any song in a major key be performed in C major?

Let's say we have a song in a major key. My understanding is that performing different songs in different major keys just makes the song either higher or lower in pitch. And that's just about the only ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

Can a song be in the chromatic scale?

I noticed that Entry of the Gladiators is said to be in C major scale but I was wondering if it could be in the chromatic scale since it uses all the notes. And if not, are there examples of songs ...
11
votes
9answers
7k views

What key could the progression Cm - G - Dm - Am be in?

I'm working on a song (my first ever actually) and I love the chord sequence: Cm - G - Dm - Am I started off working in C-Major, but borrowed Cm from the parallel minor key C-Minor. But really, in ...
11
votes
4answers
16k views

Difference between keys and scales?

I am a Tabla (a North Indian percussion instrument) player and I am trying to learn the western music theory. My study was going well until I stumbled upon keys and scales. Now though I know what ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Why is the choice of key considered so fundamental in Classical music that it often effectively becomes part of the name of the composition? [duplicate]

I often hear references to, e.g., "Bach's Fugue in G Minor," sometimes with a number (something like "Bach's Fugue in G Minor #13"). Why is the key of the piece so important that it becomes part of ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

Do songs written in certain modes not have keys?

Up until recently I thought that if a song was written in a mode with a major 3rd, then it was in a major key, and if it was in a mode with a minor 3rd, then it was in a minor key. But I read an ...
10
votes
8answers
21k views

Why do Major keys contain minor chords?

Looking through each Major Key: At position II, III, VI are MINOR chords. At position VII, this is a DIMINISHED chord. Looking at the C Major Key as an example, this chord progression is made up ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Chopin Polonaise in Ab major, op 53 change in key

In Chopin's polonaise in A-flat major, op.53, in the second section the key changes from A flat to E major. What type of change is this? Is it from the flattening of the sixth (F-flat major), or was ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Is there a minimum of notes and chords i need to determine the key of a song?

Just by curiosity. What is the minimum of notes and chords i need to determine the key of a song?
10
votes
5answers
602 views

Comfortable notes in a key

I've been playing guitar for some time, and often when i do improvisation exercises, I hit notes which sound too tense to finish a run/lick/riff on. Kind of like having a sentence which no full stop. ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

How to establish a mode?

I would like to learn about the art of establishing a mode. For example, how to make A minor sound like A minor instead of C major.