Questions tagged [key]

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

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100
votes
25answers
25k 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 ...
44
votes
3answers
6k 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 ...
41
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5answers
8k 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
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12answers
15k 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 ...
34
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 ...
30
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10answers
28k 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 ...
29
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6answers
8k 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 ...
27
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8answers
14k 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
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9answers
7k 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 ...
24
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8answers
16k 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 ...
24
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4answers
1k 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
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4answers
15k 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
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6answers
21k 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
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6answers
10k 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♯...
20
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6answers
12k 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
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4answers
5k 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
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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
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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
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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
27k 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
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1answer
684 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
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6answers
1k views

Do we have any particular tonal center in mind when we are NOT listening music?

Let say I sing or play song in C major. I feel that C note as home, or in other words, it has the quality of the tonic note for me. I stop playing the song. After 24 hours or any longer period, ...
16
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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
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6answers
9k 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
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5answers
3k 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
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8answers
6k views

In a folk jam session, when asked which key my non-transposing chromatic instrument (like a violin) is in, what do I answer?

I know of transposing instruments. A transposing instrument is one where the player reads a C, plays a C, and what sounds is the name of the key of the instrument. Those instruments are often referred ...
15
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9answers
16k 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
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6answers
30k 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
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2answers
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 ...
15
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2answers
5k 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
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6answers
10k views

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

Why do musicians care about which keys they choose?
14
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6answers
15k 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 ...
14
votes
9answers
7k 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
8k 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
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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 ...
12
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9answers
2k views

How to figure out key from key signature?

I know the major scale formula so can easily work out the signature by building the scale from tonic, but I've never learnt it the other way... How to know the key/scale from the signature of sharps/...
12
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8answers
4k 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
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8answers
26k 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 ...
12
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5answers
3k 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
20k 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 ...
12
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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
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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
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4answers
982 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
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2answers
592 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
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5answers
2k views

Accurately recalling the key - can everyone do it?

I'm wondering if it is common for people to accurately recall not only the melody of a song they know, but also the key. I've recently done a small experiment where I asked a few of my friends to hum ...
11
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4answers
3k 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
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9answers
8k 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
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5answers
2k 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
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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.
11
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3answers
32k views

How do you convert a major song to a minor and vice versa?

On YouTube there are a load of videos where songs have had their keys switched from major to minor and vice versa. For example, YMCA which has been edited to a minor key: ...