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working out key of a song

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I'm just wandering if there is a set way to do this? Basically my situation at the moment is that I am writing a few songs, the one I'm concentrating on right now is a hard rock western style number. It uses chords A5/ B5/ C5/ D5/ E5/ G/5 - I have looked at doing acoustic style stuff with a similar riff using A minor, Cadd9 and Gmajor aswell. Anyway my point, how do I figure out what 'key' this is in.. the way I've always thought it is done is that you see which key uses all the chords you are using and it's bound to be in one of those...


looking at the chords I am using for this song I am assuming that the key for the song must be either...


C Major (C D E F G A B)


G Major (G A B C E D F#)


basically I think if I pick one of those (say C Major) and stick to that scale when making the solos/ other lead riffs etc I should be okay. Is this the right way to go about that or is this completely the wrong thing to do and is there a 'proper' way of finding out what key a song is in.. obviously this is also useful when you are trying to figure out how some of your favourite songs are played etc aswell

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It's hard to explain with out you hearing the riffs etc. I haven't written the song in full I am still constructing it but prominent chord for the electric version I'm doing is A5 and I guess if I was to do it acoustically like I have been doing then yes it would be A Minor, the song will most likely finish on one of those chords..


the main 'hook' is E5 G5 A5.

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OK, this subject can get pretty complex to explain and Im sure someone here can explain a lot better than me... but i'll have a go anyway... ;)


I will do my best to simplify and not blow your mind with too much theory :-(


as you are using chords with no thirds (A5 etc) to determine major / minor its a little trickier to spot a pattern and determine keys


from looking at the chords I would guess you are in c major and heres why


In C major you obviously have the notes c,d,e,f,g,a,b


If you take each of those notes and build up a triad from them (1st, 3rd, 5th) you get the following


I - C

ii - Dmin

iii - Emin

IV - F

V - G

vi - A min

vii - B dim flat 5


this pattern is the same for any major scale (tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone starting on any note). The root of the scale and the 4th and 5th chords will always be major. The 2nd, 3rd and 6th will be minor and the 7th chord will always be dim flat 5


this way you can spot what key you are in by seeing if your progression fits into this model. easiest way is if your progression uses 2 minor chords or 2 major chords 1 tone apart. For example if it uses G minor and A minor its likeley you are in F major and they are the 2nd and 3rd chords in the scale. If you are using D maj and E maj its likely you are in A major and they are the 4th and 5th chords of the scale.


Obviously there are exceptions to this but as a general rule it will work.


So assuming you are in C maj your riff should still sound great if you use A min, B dim b7, C maj, Dmin, Emin, Gmaj (although you may want to substitute the Bdim b7 for a straight B dom7)


As for using these notes in C major scale to compose guitar solos with, thats another very confusing subject. You are now getting into playing through modal systems...


as a rough guide heres what id suggest. Use the notes of the c major scale (c,d,e,f,g,a,b) but depending on what chord of the scale yiou are playing over will determine where you start and finish each scale. Try this:


I - C maj (c,d,e,f,g,a,b,c)

ii - D min (d,e,f,g,a,b,c,d)

iii - E min (e,f,g,a,b,c,d,e)

IV - F maj (f,g,a,b,c,d,e,f)

V - G maj (g,a,b,c,d,e,f,g)

vi - A Min (a,b,c,d,e,f,g,a)

vii - B dim b 5 (b,c,d,e,f,g,a,b)


try playing these scales over the chords and it will open your playing up to a whole load of new sounds and colours


Anyway, I just read bac through this and i havent explained it very well. can someone else help without getting too hjeavy into theory??


Hope this is some help!

Russ x

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The problem is you're refering to your chords as A5, etc. which doesn't offer if it's major or minor. But... since there's a C5 in there that tells me you're in Am. C would be the minor 3rd of an Am chord. The E5 would be they turn around chord. If you substituted the E5 for an F you'd have something like the outro solo to Stairway to Heaven, right? It sounds like you're in Am.


Play an A blues scale.

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