#1
Okay, I keep seeing people asking about what chords go in what key signatures. When I write guitar (I'm a bassist, so it's usually on my computer), there are two ways I'll do it:

1. If it's a distorted powerchord kind of song, I'll just worry about the root notes of the powerchords.
2. If it's a song that uses fuller chords, I'll take each note in the chord into consideration of the key; I'll borrow notes from other keys if it works, but I'll be careful with it.

So, is there some way I'm missing as to how chords fit into keys?
#2
Find the root note of the chord, then you can do octaves, 5ths, etc. to spice it up. Personally, as a bassist, I HATE just following the guitarist all the time, so knowing scales and where to go as far as what notes can cooperate with what notes is very helpful. Octaves are a good place to start, though.

And actually, whether it's a chord (full) or power chord, the root note is the same, so it applies the same basic way. How complicated you get from there is up to you.
#3
In the Key of C you would have the Chords:
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

If you are playing in the relative minor or feel like spicing it up then you can add in E major and F minor, but you don't tend to use the Fm very often.

These patterns apply to whatever key, so just transpose accordingly.
#4
I've just realised that's not really what you were asking. Oh well, no harm done.
#6
Good tip, I too frequently get caught up with making everything stick to a key etc. You're better off having a looser knowledge and using your ear more if you can.
#7
It may be easier for you to just remember which scale degrees form what type of chords, instead of working it out every time.

So for major keys it looks like this (Capital means major, lower case means minor, dim means diminished):

I ii iii IV V vi viidim

And for minor keys:

i iidim III iv V VI VII

However, this is just chord formation, which you seem to already know. However, it looks like you are missing the actual use of each chord in the progression. A good place to start would be cadences.

Cadences come at the end of phrases or in your case the end of the progression.

A perfect cadence is V - I, so G(7) to C in C major. This cadence usually used at the end of a piece as it sounds finished (the V resolves very well to the I). If you have a four bar chord progression with a chord for each bar, then often it is not good to have a perfect cadence to tonic in the fourth bar. Eg:

C Am G7 C

This is because the progression will often sound finished so it wont lend itself to being repeated many times. However, the perfect cadence can be very useful if you have a perfect cadence to the tonic in the first bar. Eg.

C Am F G7 (C Am F G7)

This is because the G7 will resolve strongly towards the tonic at the beginning of the progression which will make the progression want to start all over again. Using this technique can give you a chord progression which you can repear for as long as you like.

A Plagal Cadence is from VI to I. It resolves like a perfect cadence does but less strongly, so it can be used in the same ways as a perfect cadence but it is used at the end of pieces or sections a lot less often.

An Imperfect Cadence is from I-V. This cadence is often used to end phrases because the phrase sounds complete but the lack of resolution implies that there is more to come. You could use a Imperfect Cadence to end your verse just before going into the chorus.

These are the three most common cadences and you should practise using them (at least the Perfect and Plagal). There are also lots of other functions of chords in progression (pre-dominants, secondary dominants, tri tone subs) which you could look into.

In a good progression every chord will have a specific purpose, which is why there should be more thought than simply seeing which chords are diatonic to the key when writing progressions.
#8
Okay, thanks everybody. I guess I really shouldn't worry too much about keys, like you guys said, considering I play mostly Punk, Grunge and Alternative anyways.

Edit: Posted before the above person posted the lesson; gratze.
Last edited by herby190 at Jul 31, 2009,
#9
Quote by twat
In the Key of C you would have the Chords:
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

If you are playing in the relative minor or feel like spicing it up then you can add in E major and F minor, but you don't tend to use the Fm very often.

These patterns apply to whatever key, so just transpose accordingly.


You mean the major/minor pattern?

So like, in the Key of A, you would have:

A Bm Cm D E Fm Gdim ?

Thank you for not calling me a n00b in advance.
Doomsday Arsenal - alternative/progressive
Fender '08 Am Std Strat w/ CS69s > MXR Classic 108 Fuzz > JH-1B Wah > MXR Dyna Comp > EHX Big Muff Pi > Maxon OD9 > MXR Phase 90 > Ibanez CS9 > MXR Carbon Copy > Boss TU-2 > Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
#10
Quote by timeconsumer09
If it sounds good, it is good. Remember that.

Honestly, this is the best advice so far. Theory is great and can open many doors, but there are just as many people who know it and still can't write a good song.
#11
Almost, but you have to do it to the notes of the scale.

So instead of:
A Bm Cm D E Fm Gdim ?

You have a C sharp, F sharp and G sharp.
Excuse the fact I have no hash key,
A Bm Csharpminor D E Fsharpminor Gsharpminor

The pattern for a scale is
I - 1 tone - II - 1 tone - III - 1 semitone - IV - 1 tone - V - 1 tone - VI - 1 semitone - I
#13
Okay, got it thanks. My guitar teacher just wrote out the full scales for each key for me.
Doomsday Arsenal - alternative/progressive
Fender '08 Am Std Strat w/ CS69s > MXR Classic 108 Fuzz > JH-1B Wah > MXR Dyna Comp > EHX Big Muff Pi > Maxon OD9 > MXR Phase 90 > Ibanez CS9 > MXR Carbon Copy > Boss TU-2 > Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
#14
If you're writing a song then what you think sounds good is the right thing to do as has been said, however that is often portrayed as an alternative to theory. Theory simply helps you understand what'll sound good, and it presents you with any number of possibilities when writing songs, it doesn't constrain you.

The problem with only knowing a bit of theory is that you then feel as if you have to act within it, which is not the case. Practically, if you want to write a song you need to have a key in mind (although it can change throughout the song), and understand the chords that can be built diatonically, but then when you have the basis of your progression do mess around with them. Add other notes and so on because if you don't you'll probably find the song a bit dull.

I think more important than fancy progressions though is understanding how to do things like write a bass line and a melody. And so if you're going to spend only a little time with theory, understand the scales you can pick melody notes from over each chord... you don't have to be fast with that, you just need a vague idea of how to make it work and it'll aid you greatly.

Perhaps this is all superfluous, you can just write a song using chords and notes available in one key... but it will bore you with time.

Also, a general theory thing, these questions are always answered with information about different cadences and stuff. And generally vague and wrong information about minor keys. If you want to know a bit about harmony go and look at an article on II-V-I progressions and other basic jazz stuff... waaay more useful than classical theory.