ok, ive often just figured playing in the key of E meant playing all E chord formations...maybe going Emaj Eminor Eadd9...stuff like that...but i realize this is probably wrong

i saw a lesson somewhere on here where this guy was saying something about playing in the key of C and then his progression was Cmaj G7 Fsus4 etc.... (not sure if thats exactly what he had but it was something like that)

so what does it mean to play in a KEY exactly? is there a link someone can hook me up with to a description of what is going on with this?

any advice would be good

anything is plenty mang...and its better then damn...nothin at all
The 'key' you are in is based on the tonal centre and the scale used - so if your tonal centre is C and you're using the major scale whose root is C, then you're in C Major, and the chords and melodies would be based on the notes from the C Major scale (which means you'd be mainly using the notes C D E F G A B and the chords C Dm Em F G Am Bdim, and/or variations of those chords - so extended and altered versions of those chords).
Last edited by zhilla at Aug 21, 2009,
Take the C major scale


start with the C note, then move up the scale by a third, then from that note a third again, in other words skip a note, then skip a note again which will give you these notes.


C E G is the C major triad, so the C major is a chord in the key of C major (kinda obvious that one)

Do that with each of the 7 notes of the scale, so for the D note we get


D F A which is the D minor triad so D minor is also in the key of C major, and when you've done each of the 7 notes you'll end up with this sequence of chords.

Cmaj Dmin Emin Fmaj Gmaj Amin Bdim

Which are the chords of the key C major, and you can work out the chords for any major or minor sclae using the same method.

That's how to derive the chords of the key, however any alterations of those chords which still use the notes of the scale will still be in key, and you can even use alterations that use notes or even chords out of the scale without technically going "out of key" provided you don't dwell on them and use them as stepping stones.
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