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What key am I in?

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What key am I in?

Postby lovesexy » Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:58 pm

Hi all

Bit confused here.

A song I'm working on goes A, B, D, A.

Now I know really I should be hitting Bm but for this particular song it feels more natural for the vocals melody to lean towards Bmajor.
So what key does this put me in and would it be deemed as 'abnormal'?

I have this problem a lot it seems!

Thanks for any help!
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby rz » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:01 pm

Your in the key of A with the B major chord 'borrowed' from key E major - to play over it use an A major pentatonic scale.

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Re: What key am I in?

Postby lovesexy » Thu Sep 15, 2016 10:16 am

Thanks! I don;t know why keys exist if you can just borrow chords from another key!
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:55 pm

There is a misconception (rife among guitarists for some reason) that only diatonic notes and chords are "correct". That if you want to use a chord that isn't "in the scale" it needs an excuse - a temporary modulation or a "borrow" from another key.

Not so. If we couldn't use chromatic chords there wouldn't be the term "chromatic chord". In A major, it's very common to use the II major chord. It doesn't need any special permission. It's II major in the key of A.

Here are two more common progressions. A, G, D, A. A, C#7, D, E7, A. They are both firmly in A major. There is no modulation, nothing is "borrowed". Repeat after me: "CHROMATIC CHORDS ARE ALLOWED!".
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby alexis » Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:09 pm

lovesexy wrote:...

A song I'm working on goes A, B, D, A.
...
So what key does this put me in and would it be deemed as 'abnormal'?

Not abnormal at all, the progression has a good pedigree, e.g., Sgt. Pepper.


lovesexy wrote:I have this problem a lot it seems!

...!

Not a problem, IMO! If you can come up with original sounding progressions that sound nice, your songs will tend to not be as run-of-the-mill sounding as others - a good thing!
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby BJG145 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 3:39 pm

I was listening to The Killers Human the other day, and I think one of the keys to its success is that relatively interesting and extended chord progression on the chorus:

Bb Dm Eb Bb
Are we human, or are we dancer?
F Gm Eb F
My sign is vital, my hands are cold.
Bb Dm Gm
And I'm on my knees, looking for the answer.
Cm Eb Bb
Are we human, or are we dancer?

...then the unfinished third chorus throws in a variation:

Eb F Gm
Are we human, or are we dancer?
Eb F Dm Eb
My sign is vital, my hands are cold.
Bb Dm Gm
And I'm on my knees, looking for the answer.

...before kicking back in with the orginal. Nicely done.

So yeah, please make your chord progressions as interesting as you can. Lengthen them, vary them, and save us from the curse of the three-chord trick. There are no rules.
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby lovesexy » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:08 pm

Well that's a relief!! Thanks guys!
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby alexis » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:40 pm

PS The Beatles borrowed their own progression actually: their #1 hit "Eight Days a Week" had it in D, then Paul nicked it from John for Sgt. Pepper's. And now you are using it! :D

I can't name a single song prior to "Eight Days a Week" that used it, but I'd guess there were many many. I'd also guess there's a good chance John had never heard a single one of them when he wrote it!
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Fri Sep 16, 2016 9:38 pm

BJG145 wrote:I was listening to The Killers Human the other day, and I think one of the keys to its success is that relatively interesting and extended chord progression on the chorus:


All diatonic in Bb major though. Probably written by a guitarist who knew (just) a bit of theory :-)
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby CS70 » Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:05 am

Exalted Wombat wrote:There is a misconception (rife among guitarists for some reason) that only diatonic notes and chords are "correct". That if you want to use a chord that isn't "in the scale" it needs an excuse - a temporary modulation or a "borrow" from another key.

Not so. If we couldn't use chromatic chords there wouldn't be the term "chromatic chord". In A major, it's very common to use the II major chord. It doesn't need any special permission. It's II major in the key of A.

Here are two more common progressions. A, G, D, A. A, C#7, D, E7, A. They are both firmly in A major. There is no modulation, nothing is "borrowed". Repeat after me: "CHROMATIC CHORDS ARE ALLOWED!".

Magic how much one learns just reading this kind of stuff. Thanks!
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby damoore » Thu Oct 06, 2016 1:46 pm

These things are well known in classical harmony (i.e. harmony as used by Mozart etc) as secondary dominants. So, for example I ii V becomes I II V. (upper case means major, lower case minor). So the only "unusual" thing about this chord sequence is that the II is followed by IV rather than V, but I think you will find lots of examples of ii IV in the literature, both classical and popular. However I had a quick look through Piston's chapter on irregular resolutions of secondary dominants and did not find this one,
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby damoore » Thu Oct 06, 2016 1:58 pm

While browsing the net I cam across http://www.idiotsguides.com/arts-and-entertainment/music-theory/common-chord-progressions/ page that you may find of interest. It does contain the sequence I-ii-IV

BTW, you will also see the II chord written as V of V in theory books.

BTOW, the subbing of major for minor, and the other way round, is a very old practice. A useful exercise for keyboard players is working your way around the circle of fifths like this:
C Cm F Fm Bb (etc) which is (F:)V (Bb:) ii V (Eb:) ii V (etc)

This device, of turning a V into a ii, is quite common in jazz.
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Re: What key am I in?

Postby forumuser905626 » Fri Oct 07, 2016 1:16 pm

I may not have the most solid foundation in music theory, but I have composed lots of tunes and used sometimes complex chord progressions both in key and with "borrowed" chords. Not knowing what is supposed to be correct may even be an advantage when I compose as I have to use my ears to find what sounds good to me.

If you want others to like it, sure, there are certain combinations of sounds that will sound more pleasing to an ear conditioned to whatever style of music they're exposed to, but even so the most interesting melodies and progressions are the ones that deviate slightly from our expectations, or that add variety that deviates slightly from the pattern already laid out previously.

To make "good" music, you want your listeners satisfied that their expectations of what comes next are often correct, yet sometimes surprise them by changing things around, but you don't want them confused and not understanding what they are listening to.

The bottom line, however, is if it sounds the way you want it to, then it is correct. Music is art. The only restrictions and rules you need to follow are the ones you impose on yourself.
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