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FDP Forum / Tin Pan Alley - Songwriting / Best way to figure out what key a song is in?

JimisAshStrat
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IL

Sep 1st, 2010 01:21 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I write most of my music by noodling around and recording little snippets/riffs and building songs around them. The problem is that when it comes to coming up with a bass part or a solo that doesn't mimic the main riff I'd like an easy way to figure out what key I'm in without trying every key to see what sounds best. Anyone else have this problem?

mark bjorke
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Annapolis, MD

Irrational House of Pancakes
Sep 4th, 2010 06:50 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I rarely think about it. I just consider the chords and the melody. A song might have more than one key if it has at least one chord that's not diatonic.

Consider the root, which third you can use, major or minor, if the dominant 7th applies and you can create a better than average bass part.

(This message was last edited by mark bjorke at 08:02 AM, Sep 4th, 2010)

Buckd22
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St. Louis, MO

I've changed my tagline.
Sep 16th, 2010 10:19 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Often in Popular music the first chord will tell you the key. But not always.

If you take all the chords in a song an line them up alphbetically and you see 2 major chords next to each other(1 step apart) assume it's the 4th and 5th chords of the key. You can work back to the I chord and you have your key.

To Marks point the idea above does not work if there is a key change or out of key chords. I should say these things make it more difficult.

I hope that helps somewhat.

(This message was last edited by Buckd22 at 10:19 AM, Sep 16th, 2010)

gdw3
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LA-la-land, CA

Insert clever comment here
Sep 16th, 2010 02:24 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

The last chord is really the one to look at, if the song has an actual ending. Otherwise, try looking at the last chord of the verse. Again, like the first chord, it's not always going to be the key.

But, you know, it can just be intuitive. What chord feels like home? What chord do you land on at the climax of the verse? What chord feels the most stable, the most like an ending, the one that is most resolved?

If you're noodling with single notes/riffs in your songwriting, think about what scale you're noodling in. And what about recording your noodling and trying notes under it? I do this with the voice recorder on my iPhone. You don't need anything hi-tech for working something out. And sometimes, the same lick can have different bass notes under it to cool effect.

Buckd22
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St. Louis, MO

I've changed my tagline.
Sep 18th, 2010 09:37 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"But, you know, it can just be intuitive. What chord feels like home? What chord do you land on at the climax of the verse? What chord feels the most stable, the most like an ending, the one that is most resolved? "

This is an excellent approach.

ECS-3
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USA / Virginia

Dec 18th, 2010 01:45 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

It really depends on the song. Every major scale also has a 'relative minor' that is the same exact notes, but played in a different order.

Example:

C-Major is all the white keys on the piano and so is A-Minor. But in one case you start on C and the other case you start on A. But all the notes are the same (all the white keys).



FDP Forum / Tin Pan Alley - Songwriting / Best way to figure out what key a song is in?




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