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RemoHead



Joined: 07/02/09
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Loc: West Midlands, UK
Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new
      #1011877 - 05/10/12 11:31 AM
Hi guys,

I’m a sound engineer & drummer. Just lately I seem to be working more and more with people who have no idea what key they are writing in for some reason so I need to work it out for tuning vocals etc. Not really playing a pitched instrument as such i'm struggling a bit.

Could anyone suggest a technique for identifying a song key quickly and accurately?

Many thanks in advance, Remo

--------------------
Studio Engineer & Session Drummer
www.thedenstudios.com
www.chris-drums.com


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1011881 - 05/10/12 11:38 AM
Often the chord it ends on !


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_ Six _



Joined: 03/06/06
Posts: 1461
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1011890 - 05/10/12 12:01 PM
I've never seen a programme that you can throw chords into and it gives you a result. So a bit of study might be on the cards. Although there's a very quick guide here:

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/how_to_...

Basic music theory and harmony isn't that hard if you're technically minded. You should have a look at the cycle of fifths, how chords are constructed from the major and minor scales and 7th chords. Engineers need to know this stuff and you're at a disadvantage if you don't. No need to learn how to read or write dots just how chords and scales relate to each other.

Tricks (like what chord the song starts/ends on) doesn't take modulations of key into consideration or the fact that a lot of amateur bands write songs by ear and don't conform to standard practice. One useful trick, I do use though, is look out for the dominant 7 chord. That's usually the V chord in any particular major key. Although, there's a Beatles song (can't remember what it's called for the life of me) that cycles around dominant 7 chords and is effectively changing key every time there's a chord change so it's not always accurate! If the bands don't know what key it's in you may have to score it out to help and correct their mistakes.

i.e In C Major G7 would be the dominant 7 chord. In G Major D7 would be the dominant 7 chord etc. Find that chord and count backwards from 5 down to the tonic.

eg.. We have an A7 chord in the section so count backwards, (5)A7, 4(G) 3(F) 2(E) 1(D) so that is in the key of D Major or B Minor. If you study how chords are constructed you'll know what numbers should be major, minor, dominant or b5 etc.

I highly recommend a book called Jazzology by Robert Rawlins for covering basic and more advanced practical theory. Knowing your stuff really helps you out when you're stuck composing or even just jamming.

Drummers tend to dismiss theory as not important to their trade but, being a drummer myself, it really helps being able to communicate with musicians.

Hope that makes sense. There's an initial learning curve but well worth the effort as it'll come naturally. A good teacher can work wonders.

Cheers

(If you PM me your email address I'll send you over some theory stuff) What key is my song in?


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
Posts: 5655
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1011899 - 05/10/12 12:35 PM
Quote RemoHead:

Hi guys,

I’m a sound engineer & drummer. Just lately I seem to be working more and more with people who have no idea what key they are writing in for some reason so I need to work it out for tuning vocals etc. Not really playing a pitched instrument as such i'm struggling a bit.

Could anyone suggest a technique for identifying a song key quickly and accurately?

Many thanks in advance, Remo




The question worries me rather! Are you thinking of throwing a vocal track into Autotune with the assumptions that (a) all the pitches should be in a particular scale and (b) the singer is centering on the CORRECT pitch, within a semitone or so?


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BJG145



Joined: 06/08/05
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Loc: Norwich UK
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1011903 - 05/10/12 12:38 PM
I'm not a fan of automatic tuning (careful graphical tuning gives much better results) and if they're singing so far off the note that chromatic won't catch it they should be doing it again anyway IMHO. I suppose it depends on the singer/genre though.


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
Posts: 5655
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: BJG145]
      #1011912 - 05/10/12 12:49 PM
Quote BJG145:

I'm not a fan of automatic tuning (careful graphical tuning gives much better results) and if they're singing so far off the note that chromatic won't catch it they should be doing it again anyway IMHO.




Anyone's who's done manual tweaking in AT or Melodyne will know how misleading the "detected" pitch can be. And how a wildly mis-pitched but well-centered "wrong" note can be effectively moved, a badly-focussed but almost-on-pitch one is beyond help.


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BJG145



Joined: 06/08/05
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1011915 - 05/10/12 01:09 PM
Quote Exalted Wombat:

Are you thinking of throwing a vocal track into Autotune with the assumptions that all the pitches should be in a particular scale



I might be missing something, but this is the reason that I've only ever used chromatic scales when using an automatic setting. Just because a song is based in a certain key, doesn't mean that no other notes will be sung. I've never found much use for the "key" concept in Autotune.


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: BJG145]
      #1012040 - 05/10/12 10:16 PM
Quote BJG145:

Quote Exalted Wombat:

Are you thinking of throwing a vocal track into Autotune with the assumptions that all the pitches should be in a particular scale



I might be missing something, but this is the reason that I've only ever used chromatic scales when using an automatic setting. Just because a song is based in a certain key, doesn't mean that no other notes will be sung. I've never found much use for the "key" concept in Autotune.




But you have found SOME use for an auto setting? I'm amazed :-)


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RemoHead



Joined: 07/02/09
Posts: 258
Loc: West Midlands, UK
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1012177 - 07/10/12 07:45 AM
hi everyone,

thanks for the replies.

No what im planning to do is split the vocal part and put an suspect words or phrases on their own track running autotune on, not tune the whole thing.

I've picked up copy of melodyne too yesterday so going to have a play with that.

Really what i want to do is just sweeten the vocal performance rather than machine the life out of it.


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The Elf
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1012179 - 07/10/12 08:05 AM
If you have Cubase try VariAudio - by far the easiest way of tuning vocals in my experience.

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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Daniel Davis



Joined: 10/03/06
Posts: 873
Loc: Edinburgh
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1012181 - 07/10/12 08:55 AM
If you must tune vocals, you need to limit the pitches in the scale to the ones used in the vocal line, for instance if you are in C major, but have no Bs you are better removing them from the scale to avoid any mis-tunings of Cs sung flat or of scooped notes being drawn to that pitch.

Equally a piece could be in a key but have a number of chromatic notes, it could modulate even in passing, or it could use blue notes, so knowing the key doesn't automatically help.

So you can either start with the key and add pitches (or delete them) as required, or you can start with the chromatic scale and delete unused pitches.

The best sound for the majority of notes is no autotune, so either use a manual program or if you are going to use an automatic version use more than one track and chop the vocal part into notes which require tuning and those which don't. Or even sections which require different scales.

--------------------
Daniel Davis
Edinburgh Recording Studio Windmill Sound


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Daniel Davis]
      #1012284 - 07/10/12 11:17 PM
Quote Daniel Davis:

If you must tune vocals, you need to limit the pitches in the scale to the ones used in the vocal line, ..




It still won't work. If you must tune vocals, listen for the notes that need tweaking, decide what they ought to have been, and do it manually. Remembering that there's more to the perceived pitch than the auto-detected note, and that a badly-centered note may be un-fixable.


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Beat Poet



Joined: 21/01/12
Posts: 174
Loc: Hertfordshire, UK
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Gone To Lunch]
      #1018965 - 16/11/12 11:43 PM
Quote Gone To Lunch:

Often the chord it ends on !




That's strange, I always thought it was the chord the song starts on? I'm a drummer, granted I do play guitar though, for reference.

--------------------
Do you need real drum tracks? http://www.drumtracksdirect.co.uk/


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Beat Poet]
      #1019028 - 17/11/12 02:26 PM
Quote Beat Poet:

Quote Gone To Lunch:

Often the chord it ends on !




That's strange, I always thought it was the chord the song starts on? I'm a drummer, granted I do play guitar though, for reference.




I'm a drummer too, but study piano as well.....


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shufflebeat



Joined: 09/12/07
Posts: 3195
Loc: Manchester, UK
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1019132 - 18/11/12 12:05 PM
Pick out the notes on a piano. If you're lucky those notes will constitute some fragment of a major scale (doh, re, mi, etc.) If you have a good ear and the patience of a saint you may be able to work out which note would be the 'doh'. That's the key (unless it's a minor, of course).

See, simple.

For autotune - manual only. Other ways waste lifetimes.

Alternatively ask a musician (sorry, couldn't resist).

--------------------
Dear Mr God,
We called but you were out - B Dylan Deliveries (Intntl)


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Beat Poet]
      #1019182 - 18/11/12 06:34 PM
Quote Beat Poet:

Quote Gone To Lunch:

Often the chord it ends on !




That's strange, I always thought it was the chord the song starts on?




Could do. Could be the one it ends on. Possibly both, possibly neither. It wouldn't even be difficult to construct a piece that, though definitely in a particular key, never hits the tonic chord at all!


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SecretSam
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1019248 - 19/11/12 09:31 AM
It's a much more subtle question that it appears.

In a university-level theory of jazz course, I handed in an exercise claiming that one four-bar section of a tune was in D minor, and got it 'wrong.' Apparently, I should have realised the piece was in C at that point (jazz pieces have lots of temporary key centres).

'Aha," I argued, 'But with all those D minors in a row, it's obviously D minor innit ? You can't hear anything else.'

The prof said: 'No, because .... (can't remember the reason)....*'

'What about the first 16 bars of Miles Davis' "So What," then. Are you telling me that's in C, because D dorian is a mode of C ?'

'No, that's in D minor. It's a modal piece. Don't confuse yourself.'

But is was too late, I already had.

*After many years of study, I spotted a now-obvious truth about the analysis of tunes: if there is debate about which key a tune is in, it doesn't actually matter. Whatever you were going to use the information for, try it both ways, as if each solution is equally correct. Then choose the result you like best. As Mark Levine puts it: it is music theory, not music fact.

--------------------
Instant gratification is actually pretty good. It's fast as well.


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SecretSam
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: SecretSam]
      #1019251 - 19/11/12 09:48 AM
... and more usefully:

I would strongly recommend Dan Haerle's The Jazz Language as an introduction (and a lot more) to the theory of any music except classical.

It is cheap, short, logical, and easy to follow by yourself without a teacher. I worked through it on the Tube train over several weeks.

When you have done with that, the next step is Mark Levine's magnificent The Jazz Theory Book.

--------------------
Instant gratification is actually pretty good. It's fast as well.


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damoore



Joined: 05/07/09
Posts: 578
Loc: New Hampshire
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Beat Poet]
      #1032869 - 10/02/13 12:30 AM
Quote Beat Poet:

Quote Gone To Lunch:

Often the chord it ends on !




That's strange, I always thought it was the chord the song starts on? I'm a drummer, granted I do play guitar though, for reference.




Depends what you mean by 'starts'. Lots of songs start the intro on the five chord. If you mean start of the verse, the I is common, but some songs start on the two. 'Angel from Montgomery', for example, iirc, starts the verse on the five, although its being in G is somewhat hypothetical - its really in the Mixolydian mode starting on D - that's the "key centre".

But a whole song is often not in one key. Standard devices are to put the chorus up a fourth, or to restate the verse or chorus up a second.


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Daniel Davis



Joined: 10/03/06
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1032897 - 10/02/13 02:02 PM
I sometimes use autotune on clients and sometimes use melodyne. But when using either you will notice that very often a note sounds worse when tuned than when left alone. One reason for this is the artifacts associated with tuning are often worse than the slight tuning issue. One reason is the way especially autotune removes performance and leave the track soudning like a vocal line played on a sampler. But more importantly...

Both Autotune and Melodyne are 'tuning' your notes to out-of-tune pitches. Yup, unless you change the scale setting to something other than Equal Temperament, you are going to end up with an out-of-tune vocal. There are no pure intervals in equal temperament - so nothing (except an octave) can be in-tune.

Happy experimenting.


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. [Re: Daniel Davis]
      #1033029 - 11/02/13 01:10 PM
Quote Daniel Davis:

But more importantly...





Interesting point, but "least importantly" surely? Equal temperament will be nearer the mark than anything the vocalist produced!

The most important thing is to throw out any idea of AUTO tuning. Listem to the track, look at the pitch envelope of each note, complete with scoop, fall-off, drift, vibrato and all the other "imperfections" and manually edit the bad-sounding ones until they sound good. Which may look WAY off the grid!


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damoore



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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1033838 - 17/02/13 10:29 PM
For notes that are only slightly off pitch, adding some chorus can mask the problems since it inherently diffuses the pitch. This assumes that your singer can basically hit the notes though - its impossible to add enough chorus to cover really pitch challenged singers without it sounding horrible in itself.


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: damoore]
      #1034094 - 19/02/13 11:59 AM
Look at some notes from a keyboard in the graphical view of a pitch-correction program. And at some from a singer.

The instrumental notes will basically start on pitch and stay there. Some modulation, vibrato perhaps. But you'll have no trouble seeing the basic pitch.

The vocal notes will be all over the place. Even with a good, in-tune singer, there will be scoops, falls, wild variations in vibrato... Your job is to learn what a note perceived as "centered" looks like. It may be centered on the wrong pitch, but it HAS a discernable pitch! These notes can be easily corrected.

Then there are notes that slide around, but can be pulled into shape by the various modifications available in the program. Sometimes this sounds good, sometimes not. Try.

Then there are notes that just didn't come out right. There's no central pitch to adjust. Either accept them as part of the style, but not exactly "singing", or get the singer back to do it better.

Notice that sometimes what LOOKS like a wildly inaccurate note actually sounds good and in-tune. And that a quantised pitch position isn't always the right place to move a note to. LISTEN!


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alexis



Joined: 10/01/03
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Loc: San Antonio, TX USA
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1034447 - 21/02/13 05:35 AM
Quote Exalted Wombat:

Look at some notes from a keyboard in the graphical view of a pitch-correction program. And at some from a singer.

The instrumental notes will basically start on pitch and stay there. Some modulation, vibrato perhaps. But you'll have no trouble seeing the basic pitch.

The vocal notes will be all over the place. Even with a good, in-tune singer, there will be scoops, falls, wild variations in vibrato... Your job is to learn what a note perceived as "centered" looks like. It may be centered on the wrong pitch, but it HAS a discernable pitch! These notes can be easily corrected.

Then there are notes that slide around, but can be pulled into shape by the various modifications available in the program. Sometimes this sounds good, sometimes not. Try.

Then there are notes that just didn't come out right. There's no central pitch to adjust. Either accept them as part of the style, but not exactly "singing", or get the singer back to do it better.

Notice that sometimes what LOOKS like a wildly inaccurate note actually sounds good and in-tune. And that a quantised pitch position isn't always the right place to move a note to. LISTEN!




Great sounding advice, Exalted Wombat, and meaningful to me currently as well. The latest thing I do for a note that doesn't sound so great is to tighten up the area of interest ( shortening the segment in Cubase lingo) by excluding the scoop into and out of the note. VariAudio at least will sometimes decide the note is a different one than it initially did before shortening the segment.

Not that that gives the answer, but it sometimes does point the right way to start retuning that particular note. And I've found that VariAudio is not so hot in my hands repitching scoops. So, I'll generally not mess with those too much.

One problem I have with retuning in general, maybe it will be helpful to the OP also, is that after a while of listening to the original notes, they start sounding just fine as originally sung! Maybe the trick is to walk away from the task for a while, but I wonder if there's another way to not let the brain become satisfied with something just because it's become familiar with it?

--------------------
Alexis -Cubase7.5.20 64bit;i5-4570 3.2GHz,16GB RAM;W7SP1 64bit on Samsung SSD840 Pro256GB;Seagte 1TB SATA600 Audio;UR28M;Motif8;UAD2Solo;Jamstix 3.3;BCF2K;TC Helicon VoiceOne;RevoicePro2.5


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: alexis]
      #1034543 - 21/02/13 03:27 PM
Quote alexis:

after a while of listening to the original notes, they start sounding just fine as originally sung! Maybe the trick is to walk away from the task for a while, but I wonder if there's another way to not let the brain become satisfied with something just because it's become familiar with it?




It works the other way for me! The more I listen, the more analytical and perfectionist I get.


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damoore



Joined: 05/07/09
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Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1035962 - 03/03/13 03:07 AM
Conversely, if you sing, scooping is something you need to get under control. The same thing is true of a number of wind instruments. If your singer is having trouble, have them work on hearing and feeling the note before singing it. Playing/singing long notes also helps. As you want to keep your singer relaxed, get them to "warm up" under the guise of helping you getting your recording chain configured.


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The Pablo Augustus



Joined: 22/12/11
Posts: 14
Loc: Humboldt
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: RemoHead]
      #1043048 - 12/04/13 01:07 PM
Quote RemoHead:

Hi guys,

I’m a sound engineer & drummer. Just lately I seem to be working more and more with people who have no idea what key they are writing in for some reason so I need to work it out for tuning vocals etc. Not really playing a pitched instrument as such i'm struggling a bit.

Could anyone suggest a technique for identifying a song key quickly and accurately?

Many thanks in advance, Remo




Can you jam in a minor key on keyboard? Bring a melodica and jam until you find the root. If they are ambiguous let them know.

We are raised with expectations, if we don't here them generally aren't happy.


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The Pablo Augustus



Joined: 22/12/11
Posts: 14
Loc: Humboldt
Re: Help! - a drummer work out song keys. new [Re: SecretSam]
      #1043050 - 12/04/13 01:15 PM
Quote SecretSam:

... and more usefully:

I would strongly recommend Dan Haerle's The Jazz Language as an introduction (and a lot more) to the theory of any music except classical.

It is cheap, short, logical, and easy to follow by yourself without a teacher. I worked through it on the Tube train over several weeks.

When you have done with that, the next step is Mark Levine's magnificent The Jazz Theory Book.




As I mentioned in other threads if you are at ground zero listen to reggae. It spells out the chords. Start roots then go british reggae where they use all the chords. If people are writing music and don't know the key tell them to stop and educate. When music is unstructured nobody is interested because of how we learn to listen in the western world.

So the first book I'm interested almost bought it....but I have found the Levine book impossible. Wish my school had a jazz track.

I've taught myself the theory I know from pop music....I wish I could follow jazz....do you really think the first book could help me crack Mark's book? I know the guy and his book seems like just too much information for someone trying to write pop music.

Where were you at when you started the first book.....I would love to find the key to get through Levine. He's an average performer btw, gets gigs cuz of his name and book but very uninspiring with his jazz band. I was so excited before the show and like damn, that was mark levin?

His book is the gold standard....thats what they all say...you talking the piano book or theory?

Anyway, I'm going to check out the first one you mention because I would love to get there.

I play steel pan and solo my ass off by ear, can find keys instantly, shread all pop progressions but have to fake real jazz. Wish I didn't.

Thanks for the book suggestion.

I'm interested in the first book


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