#1
Hey, so this is a question that's been bugging me for a LONG time: How do you choose a key? I ask this because lately I've been thinking of some cool riffs, but I've noticed one correlation: they're all in D natural/harmonic minor. I'll go, "Ugh, not ANOTHER D minor lick, I'll just move it down to _ minor." But when I do this, all I hear is that it just sounds shifted up or down, not any real feel to it. The closest thought I've had is that one lick sounded more "pirate-ey" in A minor.

How do you know what key to choose? I've found myself either sticking with a mode of C, F, or G major or just picking a random key in my because I feel like I NEED more variety. I mean, F major's only my favorite key because of how the E becomes diminished (makes for some sweet standard tuning riffs). This is starting to really bug me. I feel like I only hear intervals, not actual notes.
#2
If you're writing music in a band that someone will sing, you should write to fit the voice of the singer.

Use a key that sits somewhere comfortable with the singer's range.
#3
Quote by whiteraven119
If you're writing music in a band that someone will sing, you should write to fit the voice of the singer.

Use a key that sits somewhere comfortable with the singer's range.


Problem is, I'm not in a band that has a vocalist (the band part itself is questionable, too- we haven't met in months and college is gonna prevent the possibility of getting together even more ). So I'm just trying to write songs by myself at the moment.
#4
well i dont really have a method. usually ill make a song by accident. i may be just fiddling around and ill stumble on a chord that i like and work from there. maybe i want open strings so ill use a key that has open notes. maybe its not good for my vocals, so ill change it. maybe i just dont like the sound so ill try another key until it sounds nice.
#5
Hmm. You can't really pick a key that suits the singer until you know what the vocal melody will be, because that is one deciding factor. For example if you want the chorus to sound really belty, then you pick the key that the singer will be at the top of their range in - for that particular melody - not the key itself.

So for me often a song just comes out in the key I'm "writing in", whatever that happens to be. And then once I have a melody I might change keys, usually quite early on, and then continue writing the song in that key.

If you don't have a singer like you mentioned, then just write the songs in a key you like, and then you can change the key later when you have a singer, or whatever.
Last edited by ChrisBG at Jul 15, 2009,
#6
What with equal temperament and all, the key you're in should be based just about purely on utility. For instance, with a singer, you'd want to fit their voice of course. With horn players, you want to stay away from sharp keys as they're a bitch to play in. As a guitarist, take advantage of things, like you are with the way the E fits in an F major scale. Experiment with another key, taking advantage of constants: Open strings, harmonics, etc.
#7
When I was in a band, we used to play in Drop D a lot. Cminor and Gminor were scales we used frequently.

The singer had a somewhat high-pitched voice, so we had to adjust to his style of singing.

Any key will work great. All that it falls within is everyone's range they are capable of playing. Keyboardists for example have access to all sorts of keys and chords with very easy accessibility, so they're probably the most dynamic.

Our favorite (keyboardists) chord scale for soloing probably is the Ami (Cma) scale. All white keys means you can rip extremely fast.
-Tommy S.
#8
Quote by Tommy S.
Any key will work great. All that it falls within is everyone's range they are capable of playing. Keyboardists for example have access to all sorts of keys and chords with very easy accessibility, so they're probably the most dynamic.

Our favorite (keyboardists) chord scale for soloing probably is the Ami (Cma) scale. All white keys means you can rip extremely fast.

Watch it though - keyboardists tend to stick to one key naturally when they're learning, so ask them before you do anything weird (like write something in Fsharp major - nightmare...). I usually stick to D for example, but switch in and out of modes often - always based on D though.

The guitarist is usually the one who's going to have the most problems, since you will occasionally catch people writing songs in Eb or D when they should really be in E.

As said before, so long as it's the same mode all keys are identical.
#9
you have to first and foremost fit around the ranges of the various instruments playing, vocalists are normally first because they can't change range easily then work from there.

i know it technically makes no difference what key you write in, but a song will often feel different in different keys, i can't quite explain why but some things will just work in one key and not another :s in the same way if you're used to hearing a song in one key, it'll sound odd in a different key, which is why i can't stand live covers of sweet child, they tend to get played in E and it just sounds wrong!
The only 6 words that can make you a better guitarist:

Learn theory
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#10
You'll want to find the lowest note you want to rip into, because if it is below an E, you'll want to drop tune. Since drop-D is so prevalent, the key of Dminor gets used a lot. But when it comes down to it, besides your vocalist, the only time key really comes into a problem with guitar is on a CD or at a gig. Depending on your style, sticking in the same key all of the time can lead to it all sounding the same.
#11
Huh, never considered using keys based around the instrument. That makes a lot of sense, though, because I've noticed if I write a song that utilizes the A string a lot I'll stick to sharp keys (G and D, mostly). And I know that our lead guitarist doesn't know too much about music theory, so I can talk to him about what keys he feels comfortable in. Thanks for the help, guys!