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FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Dumb question for the music theory geeks...

Contributing Member

South Florida

Dec 11th, 2018 08:52 AM   Edit   Profile  

I apologize if this belongs in another thread but I have question that comes up frequently.

I know enough music theory to understand that there is such a thing as "The Song Key" and the "Key of C" means no sharps and flats and as you move around the Circle of 5ths you add a flat or sharp and relationship between the Key and the relative minor and the pentatonic scale.

What I don't understand is something they call 'Key signature".

The reason this comes up is we will be on stage and launch into an unknown song and we simply ask, "What's the key" and the leader will say, "It's Am or Em or Bm and simply 1-4-5..." or something to that effect.

We all know what the leader means. If he says Am I know to look for a C or a G/F etc.

In Garageband or Logic if you select a new song file it will prompt you to select 'Key Signature" and you can pick a minor as the signature key although in strict music theory I thought there is no such thing.

Anyway help me. What is going on here?

Juice Nichols
Contributing Member

Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Dec 11th, 2018 09:02 AM   Edit   Profile  

They’re pretty much one and the same. The key signature has to do with how many sharps or flats are notated on the music score.


LA-la-land, CA

Insert clever comment here
Dec 11th, 2018 10:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

"Key" is really just short for "key signature".

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Dec 11th, 2018 11:18 AM   Edit   Profile  

Minor keys *do* have key signatures. But each minor key shares the same key signature as a major key.

The key of C major has no sharps or flats and the scale runs from C to C. The key of A minor also has no sharps or flats, but the scale runs from A to A. They contain the same pitches, but the start/end points are different.

The half steps in the C major scale occur between notes 3&4 and between notes 7&8, while the half steps in the A minor scale occur between notes 2&3 and 5&6. That difference in the position of the half steps is what gives the two keys their major and minor character.

Take the tonic note of any major key and go down three half steps (e.g., from C to A, or from Ab to F, etc.). The note you arrive at will be the tonic note of the minor key with the same key signature as the major key you started from.

This is easier to understand if you experiment with it on a keyboard rather than a guitar.

(This message was last edited by Te 52 at 09:52 PM, Dec 11th, 2018)

Contributing Member


Albino Blue
Dec 11th, 2018 07:50 PM   Edit   Profile  

More than you want to know but mostly in simple words. Helped me. Give it a scan ...

Key Signature Defined

FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Dumb question for the music theory geeks...

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