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Why does G# sound right when my melody is in C major?

I would argue that your melody may not be in C major at all. C major and A natural minor share the same pitches, and your melody is constructed precisely in such a way that it can exist both in C ...
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If Für Elise is in Am why there is a D# in it?

It is common to use notes that are not in the scale to add color. It's called chromaticism, from the ancient Greek word for color. Think how composers use a G# instead of a G in A minor, for example ...
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Which key are these notes and how to transpose it to the key of D?

(It's going to be tough to explain all of this in a single answer. If you're interested in this, I strongly recommend finding a music theory text, either online or in hard copy. But I'll do my best to ...
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32 votes
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Understanding minor key harmony

This is an excellent and important question. In a minor key, all 4 possible combinations of 6th and 7th scale degree are used, and each combination corresponds to a scale: b6, b7: natural minor (...
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Why do instruments have a key?

There are two concepts and ideas that happen in music which, when combined, explain why this happens. The first is that the way certain instruments are constructed affects what sounds they can ...
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Why is music for strings more likely to be in keys with sharps?

Sharp-keys are in some ways nicer to play than flat ones. The preference for these keys is perhaps most extreme in folk styles: going through two collections of celtic-style fiddle music[978-1-85720-...
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Why do Major keys contain minor chords?

When you say "Why are the key signatures in the major key like this", you are misusing the words "key signature", so let's start by explaining that. A key is a combination of: a choice of root note ...
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Is F Lydian mode in the "key" of C Major?

No. A key* is not just a set of notes, it tells you the tonal center** of a piece and the expected harmony and melody of the piece. If that was the case we wouldn't even distinguish between major and ...
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Why use accidentals instead of a key signature?

There's a blog series on film scoring that I can't seem to find again right now, but in it the blogger (who composes and conducts orchestras for film scores) mentions that key signatures are never ...
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28 votes

Why is automatic key detection hard?

There's a few factors at play here: Let's assume that we have a magical piece of software, which can listen to audio and tell us exactly what notes are being played. Even given this software, ...
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Are sharp keys "bright" and flat keys "dark"?

It certainly holds some truth, irrespective of tuning system, in the following sense: modulating to a key with more sharps evokes a “bright” sensation; modulating to more flat evokes a &...
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27 votes

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

If someone is asking about the key of the instrument, I would answer "I play in concert pitch." If when jamming, someone asks "what key are you in?" I would say, "I am playing in (name a key) concert ...
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Why have I never found any music written in the key of C Sharp Major?

C sharp major has seven sharps, D flat major has five flats. Out of the box, the latter is preferable. The former may be more appropriate when there is more material requiring "flattening" the key ...
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Is there any way to find a key of song somehow mathematically/algorithmically?

There's no such thing as a 100% sure identification of what 'the key' of a song is if you aren't taking notation as your reference - sometimes different people hear the same song as being in different ...
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Melody using a different scale than the bassline - what is it called?

Suppose I'm playing the piano, using my left hand to repeatedly hit the note C as a very simple bass line to give the key of my song (C major). Then I use my right hand to ... [play] the melody using ...
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When were the terms "Major" and "Minor" applied to keys?

I hope no one minds that I got curious, and did a bit of digging into this on my own. I discovered what appears to be an excellent resource answering this very question. The book is entitled Between ...
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What is this note?

This is just D doublesharp, which is enharmonic to E. The trick is that key signatures are not additive. In other words, any accidental added to a pitch is considered to be its own construct, not ...
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23 votes
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Can a song be in the chromatic scale?

Colloquially, we don't say pieces are "in the chromatic scale," no. We can say that a piece is in C major, or even just in C (not specifying major or minor), but not that something is in the chromatic ...
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Why does G# sound right when my melody is in C major?

You started in key C major, and you've modulated into key Am, its relative minor. True, there's no G♯ note in key C major, but key A minor has three slightly different incarnations, when written in ...
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Why are both D and D# fitting into my E minor key?

Your confusion is understandable because you have the choice of using one, or a combination, of three minor scales: the natural minor, the harmonic minor or the melodic minor. In using a D# you have ...
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Why does the chord progression Dmaj -> Emaj -> Bmaj sound good?

I would actually consider this to be ♭III - IV - I in B major, with the ♭III borrowed from the parallel minor key. In fact, with the ♭III chord, it's somewhat similar in character to one of the "...
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21 votes

Why are different keys necessary / important?

The tonal system is an historical inheritance, but we could not do without it today in the realms of most classical, popular and main stream music, even if we wanted to (and why would we want it?, ...
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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?

No, not all songs have to be in a major or minor scale. All that it takes to prove this is to find one example that goes against the rule: This melody, which has both C♯ and C♮, cannot belong to a ...
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21 votes

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

Remember that music isn't the only thing that has pitch. Most sounds in the natural world have a pitch as well, and a random sound outside could temporarily get stuck in our ears as a possible tonic. ...
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21 votes

Confused about shared notes between keys

They share a note by name and another note by enharmonic equivalent. In your example, both C and F# have the note B. C has the note F, and F# has the note E#, which enharmonically equivalent to F. Of ...
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20 votes

Accurately recalling the key - can everyone do it?

Most people can't do it. Absolute pitch reference [perfect pitch] is quite rare - just as rare as people who 'couldn't carry a tune in a bucket'. Pitch reference, the same as most skills, is on a ...
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Does the starting note for a song have to be the starting note of its scale?

Does a scale always have to start off with the note it is named after? A scale is a collection of notes with one of those notes designated as the 'home note'. When you're playing that scale in a ...
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19 votes
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When is a piece in A minor versus C major?

The last chord harmony of most pieces give a feeling of ending. (It would, wouldn't it - otherwise the piece goes on, potentially).With no key signature, shown, a piece could be in C major or A minor. ...
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Difference between keys and scales?

[A scale is] just a bunch of notes the composer decided to use in his music. This is correct, or at least it's a valid way to look at it. In western music, the key chosen for a piece implies both a ...
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19 votes
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Can any song in a major key be performed in C major?

A keyboard with only white keys. How do you know which is actually C? But to the answer. Yes, if a song is purely diatonic (using only the notes from its scale, with no extra # or b. It can be played ...
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