#1

Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:57 am
by drkorey • 1 Post

What is an easy way to know what key a song is in? I remember seeing either a post on the forum or comments under one of Pebber's many great youtube lessons where there was a discussion that if a song had a D & G in it the key would be in A (for example, may not be correct & all of the examples/keys were based on three chords/notes) and I thought that was an easy way to go about it. Suggestions?

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#2

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:14 pm
by Scottulus • 222 Posts

Well, the easiest way to know what key a song is in, is is to know WHAT chords belong to WHAT scales, and WHAT their key signatures are. In my humble opinion, there is no substitute for playing the right notes over the right chords. I mean, there are ways you can 'get by' but in the end, why not just learn your key signatures, chord harmony, and then you will just 'know it' and you will at least be able to try to play the changes? I mean, in a modal blues or rock tune you will probably get away with playing one pentatonic scale over the whole progression and sound fine, but a Jazz tune like Blue Bossa or Giant Steps is gonna sound lame if you approach it that way...

Here are some topics you may find useful learn them and you will have cracked the 'cheat' lol
1) Key signatures and intervals
2) Relative Major/Minor concepts
3) Names of notes in each chord
4) Major Minor and Dominant function That is 'what they do' in a chord progression.
5) Major and minor pentatonic scales and how they relate to their 'parent' major/minor scales
6) Notes contained in triads/etc
7) Major Scales, Harmonic minor Scales, Melodic Minor Scales

Okay if a song has a D and a G in it (Let's assume D Major and G Major) I will not base what I play in the progression off of ONLY those chords; I will want the full story. Here's the way I think;

1) What are the notes in the chords? D = DF#A G = GBD

2) If I add up all of those notes what scale do I get? GAB DF# hmmn A Gmaj7 add9 arpeggio... Close-ish to a Gmajor pentatonic...

3) What notes are missing? Looks like a 'C' and an 'E' of some sort. So I fill 'em in. If there were other chords in this progression I would use them to help fill in my 'note pool' to see how much is diatonic, and what I have to look out for.

4) What key signatures most closely resemble this? G major/Eminor has 1# (F#) So that is the one I would go with. I would base this decision on whether the D is being used as a transition (Dominant) chord, but if the progression has only those two chords in it Gmajor/Eminor would be safe. The key of D major is a possibility also, but (2 sharps F# and C#).
Really, at the end of the day, you could 'make up' a scale using only the notes in the chords, and it would be perfect. I don't worry myself about modes or anything like that, just chord tones and that gives me a starting point; my ears will take over from there.

Anyways, in my humble opinion the easy way is doing it the hard way and learning your shit. There is no substitute for knowing what notes go with what chords. Knowing what chords are being implied with your licks... At the end of the day, the player that can do this is going to get a lot more out of playing. Trouble is that it can be a lifetime pursuit, so best to start now!

Hope some of this helps, just my opinions! Take from it what works for you and discard what doesn't!

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#3

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:41 am
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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Play an F and then F#, if F# sounds better then

Play a C and then C#, if the C# sounds better then

.........G..........G#................

.........D..........D#.................

..........A..........A#...............

.........E............E#...............

.........B..........B#...............

C Major,G Major,D Major,A Major,E Major,B Major, F# Major, C# Major....

a minor,e minor,b minor,f# minor,c#minor,g#minor, d#minor, a#minor....

This is why they call it a circle of fifths


Last edited Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:41 am | Scroll up

#4

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:13 am
by Scottulus • 222 Posts

Really Nick? lol You are going to 'process of elimination' every possible note, when the notes that will work are already in the chords? A Gmajor triad and a Dmajor triad. All of the key chord tones are provided... All you need to know are the notes in the chords. That simple. GBD DF#A

In all honesty, I am not sure what your post, Nick has to do with anything in regards to helping one figure out the basic key of a song. As a matter of fact, it looks to me like a method someone might employ when they have no clue where to begin; a kind of a 'trial by fire' method where you try every note over it to see what works (I think the original poster has that one...). That doesn't work. The right notes to play are 99% of the time, the ones in the chord you are playing over. You mention cycle of 5ths, but it comes off a bit condescending, you haven't presented anything to show HOW it's useful, just sort of stated it (And in a weird context I might add). Maybe further explain what you are getting at?

Also, F# major and C# major are most commonly written/played as flat keys (Gb Major and Db Major), y'know, for sight-reading and arranging purposes. lol D# minor and A# minor are a bit funny/ugly as relative minor keys... write 'em out, and you'll see.

I go on record as saying the best/safest notes to use for your solo, are the ones found in the chord progression you are playing over. That IS the quickest, dirtiest method to get your solos/melodies happening. I mean you can just use your ear to find 'em, but I like to use my brain too... Speeds things up.

Regardless, good luck on this topic.

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#5

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:26 am
by uderoche (deleted)
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Quote: drkorey wrote in post #1
What is an easy way to know what key a song is in? I remember seeing either a post on the forum or comments under one of Pebber's many great youtube lessons where there was a discussion that if a song had a D & G in it the key would be in A (for example, may not be correct & all of the examples/keys were based on three chords/notes) and I thought that was an easy way to go about it. Suggestions?


In your example, assuming the chord progression was simply G and D, then the song would be in the key of G. D is the V chord in the key of G. G being the I chord. This V-I movement is at the cornerstone of all western music. It's the tension of the V chord resolving to the I chord. Very simple kindergarten level music theory.

Or, you can put the song on and poke around the guitar neck until you find the "right" note, which will be the tonic... probably.

I don't disagree with the "hunt and peck" approach. It can help your ear. But, you need to have an understanding of the chords and their functions. Training your ear and understanding the theory. Very important.


YouTube www.youtube.com/ursinderoche
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Twitter @ursinderoche

Last edited Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:29 am | Scroll up

#6

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:20 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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Your method of looking at to Chords to determine key center is incomplete because when all we have is two chords worth of information we are being vague about what is going to wind up either being Scale degree 4 or 7...like with only hearing a Major pentatonic scale C/C# is not accounted for in the chords so either C is IV or C# is VII my ears are the only thing i have to tell me wheither what I am hearing is a plagal motion in D Major or a PAC/IAC in G Major


Last edited Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:20 pm | Scroll up

#7

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:36 pm
by Scottulus • 222 Posts

Unbelieveable.

Well, just ignore my previous posts. Easy as that.

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#8

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:14 pm
by uderoche (deleted)
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Quote: NicholasJacquet wrote in post #6
Your method of looking at to Chords to determine key center is incomplete because when all we have is two chords worth of information we are being vague about what is going to wind up either being Scale degree 4 or 7...like with only hearing a Major pentatonic scale C/C# is not accounted for in the chords so either C is IV or C# is VII my ears are the only thing i have to tell me wheither what I am hearing is a plagal motion in D Major or a PAC/IAC in G Major


Plagal motion? I assume you are referring to the IV-I plagal cadence? Now, Nick...you know damn well the dude who started this thread is not in a harmony class dissecting Bach chorales. He's probably listening to rock music.


YouTube www.youtube.com/ursinderoche
Facebook www.facebook.com/ursinderoche
Twitter @ursinderoche
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#9

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:42 am
by Cliff • 344 Posts

So if I wanted to do some classic 70's rock style pentatonic solo improvisation over this song, what would be the appropriate scale to use?

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#10

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:04 pm
by Scottulus • 222 Posts

Emin/Gmaj Pentatonic. Or Gmajor/Eminor if you want the full parent scale.

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#11

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:08 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Thanks.
That's what I thought (the pentatonic I mean), but whenever I try it never sounds very good. Maybe it's just me, but I seem to be able to improvise much more effectively in minor keys.

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#12

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:29 pm
by pebberbrown • 878 Posts

If you only have 2 chords, G and D, what key is the song in?

These 2 chords - G and D are the most basic chord symbols for MAJOR chords.

Major keys always have Major chord triads on the I - IV and V chords.

So if G is the I then D is the V. If G is the V (of C) then D MAJOR would not fit.

If G is the IV (of D) then G would be the IV and D would be the I.

So if D is the I then G is the IV in the key of D major.
IF G is the I then D is the V in the key of G major.

There arent really any other logical possibilities with Major Keys and Major chords.

I - IV - V in G = G - C - D
I - IV - V in D = D - G - A

all major chords.

So for scales try:

Key of G: G major scale or G major pentatonic.

Key of D: D major scale or D major pentatonic.

*note - you can also get away with using a Mixolydian scale (major with a b7) a lot of times on a progression
that STAYS on one chord for a while - mostly occurring in classic rock.


Last edited Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:33 pm | Scroll up

#13

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sun Sep 08, 2013 10:13 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Thanks Pebber.

Personally speaking, I think part of my problem is that I've really only learned the pentatonic in the most basic positions, so all the licks I know and all the places where my fingers come to rest tend to be those notes that emphasise the minor key. Playing the same licks in the equivalent major key doesn't seem to work so well, but I think I just need to learn more pentatonic positions. Also, I guess, up-beat rock songs require an ability to think a little faster when improvising.

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#14

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:49 am
by Tom (deleted)
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You're better off than me, Cliff. This thread is like Greek to me. I don't know any music theory except the names of some notes and chords. I don't know where to start, honestly, whether it's memorizing scales I should do or read something that explains the big picture or what. Or rather, I don't know what the end-goal is and what I'm supposed to achieve, so I have no tangible goals and therefore don't get started either.

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#15

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:43 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Tom, I think Ursin posted a link to one of Pebber's theory videos in the sweep picking thread. Maybe check that out?

I seem to remember you said you were a programmer? I think basic music theory should be very accessible to someone with a reasonably logical mind. For me, a little theory helps compensate for a poorly developed musical ear.

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#16

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:52 am
by Tom (deleted)
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I'll check it out and try find that video. I'm sure once I realize why music-theory is beneficial and can see what the end-result is supposed to be -- in essence, some concrete goals -- I can find the motivation to study up on it. Right now, it's been an aimless surfing and reading and watching for something that resonates with me, and at the end of that day, I've felt I might as well just play the guitar on the available free time instead. :-)

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#17

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:57 am
by Tom (deleted)
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You know, I learn best by taking on a "project" and it makes me see how things fit into the picture. That's how I've learned best in programming, so I think I'll start this by trying to look at notes used in a song and see how they fit together and if I can transpose that to scales and chords.

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#18

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:47 am
by Cliff • 344 Posts

That sounds like a plan.

As for motivation, one good reason for learning some of this stuff is to be able to answer the question posed at the top of this thread.

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#19

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:51 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Here's a cool tutorial vid from Marty Friedman about using chords to help construct solos. Good inspiration for learning theory!

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#20

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:44 am
by Tom (deleted)
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That was a very hands-on and motivating tutorial. So, an open question to anyone with music theory knowledge, when watching that video, what do you consider the minimum prerequisites to be? I.e. what about music theory should you know when you've come to "soloing over chords" as explained by Marty in part 1. I'm asking because I got to part 2 or 3 where he out of the blue started talking about modes, I believe. Considering where we'd come from (soloing over chords), I figured modes has to be simple. Well, I looked up modes and it appeared anything but simple and self-explanatory. At least in regards to their practical use in that musical context on soloing over chords, but I don't expect every Internet-publication to be very pedagogic. Still, the sites I hit up felt like being in 1st grade or something, getting handed a paper with the multiplication table and go "what am I supposed to do with this?" (I'm not really good at learning for the sake of learning.)

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#21

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 11, 2013 7:40 am
by deltadiscos • 310 Posts

Modes hmmm. just keep playing the major scale and let the modes worry about themselves. Pebber has a quick modes video somewhere explains it well.

Basically play a Dm chord, solo over within the Cmajor scale using D as the home tone and your playing a mode. Dorian to be precise
Pebber has diatonic backings for the G major scale on here.
play through them using Gmajor scale. A dorian. B phrygian.
C lydian. D Myxolydian E Aeolian. F# Locrian


You think you practice enough.......YOU DON'T!............PRACTICE MORE! Darryn U.K
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#22

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:35 pm
by dszady • 8 Posts

Enjoy. It's fun! (not being sarcastic)

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#23

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:48 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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"Basically play a Dm chord, solo over within the Cmajor scale using D as the home tone and your playing a mode. Dorian to be precise
Pebber has diatonic backings for the G major scale on here.
play through them using Gmajor scale. A dorian. B phrygian.
C lydian. D Myxolydian E Aeolian. F# Locrian"


The issue with "modes" is 1.) that if you are playing a C major scale and 2.) your ears are trainined in the ways of diatonic harmony of the major and minor scale...which is really 99.99999% of modern music.....then your ears will inevitably hear C or A as your homeplate.....Never the D, because the second scale degree is not a high gravity scaletone.

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#24

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:13 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Pretty sure this is in C# dorian:

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#25

RE: Simple ways to know what key a song is in?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:21 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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The ONLY respectable talk of modes that I have heard in musical academia is of what is called "mode mixture"...And even that makes noo mention of the phyrijidorian thingmabobs that you guys talkin' bout. mode mixture is when you borrow a certain chord from parrallell major/ minor keys...example: you are in g minor but you play a IV ie a C major chord that you borrow from parallel major key. Also visa-versa.

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