#1
I have a smattering of music theory and knowledge of scales, from playing piano for a few years, but there's something I've not been able to wrap my head around.

I know that if a song has the chords C, F and G then it's in the key of C. I know the C major scale and all those notes are in it. Great.

But if a song goes G, F and C, is it still in C, or is it in G Lydian (I think I mean lydian)?

And if a song goes Am, C, G - is it in C or would you say A minor?

Or more to the point - what would be the best way to describe to a fellow musician the harmonic structure of the song?
#2
Quote by hessodreamy
I have a smattering of music theory and knowledge of scales, from playing piano for a few years, but there's something I've not been able to wrap my head around.

I know that if a song has the chords C, F and G then it's in the key of C. I know the C major scale and all those notes are in it. Great.

But if a song goes G, F and C, is it still in C, or is it in G Lydian (I think I mean lydian)?

And if a song goes Am, C, G - is it in C or would you say A minor?

Or more to the point - what would be the best way to describe to a fellow musician the harmonic structure of the song?


You can typically figure it out based on using common chord patterns that are popular in the genre of music, like I IV V. As well, the chords will follow major minor minor major major minor diminished or the 7th version which you can google. So, if you have a C in there the song would be in the key of C if the other chords present were Dm, Em, F, G, Am, or Bdim. Of course that all changes with chord substitutions, then really you just need sheet music to find the key.

At least, that's how I approach it, I hope that helps, I'm definitely still learning how to do this as well.
A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
- Steve Martin
#3
You need to use your ears. Listen to where it all resolves to. What is the tonic?

Most of the time it is pretty clear, even if there are non-diatonic chords. Sometimes it's a bit hard to hear where it resolves to (especially if the whole song has just one 2-4 chord progression). For example if you listen to Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream", it only has two chords (Eb and F). I don't really feel it resolving to either of the chords. I also can't tell if it resolves to Bb major or G minor or something else. Some parts feel more minor to me and other parts feel more major. I would say the tonic is pretty ambiguous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98WtmW-lfeE

But as I said, most of the time you should be able to hear it pretty clearly.

G-F-C could be either V-IV-I or I-bVII-IV depending on the song. It has to do with what happens before and after the part. If it's just three chords looping, I would say it would be in G, not C. Also, that's not really something I would call a "modal sounding" progression. I would just say it's in G major, using a b7 accidental.

It all depends on the context. You need to use your ears. I would say Am-C-G sounds more A minor than C major to me.

^ Just using chords that fit the C major key signature doesn't mean you are in C major. You can also be in A minor, or actually any other key. You can use any chords in any key. It's all about what your tonic is. If the tonic stays C, you are in C.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Jun 20, 2014,
#4
What works for me, I always try to find where the ionian scale fits in (or minor pentatonic to find the parrallel minor key). Sometimes it's easy and the key can be the first chord of the song, sometimes a bit tricky (Foo Fighters - Wheels for example).
Also, when improvising or playing a solo, it really doesn't matter if the key is in C or Am, because all the notes are the same. All it takes, is just the musician to get the feel of the key and play the "right" note progressions...
And this Katy Perry song must be in A#/Bb as the song uses only I[A#], IV[D#], V[F] steps (as far as I listened), with I and V in chorus and IV comes in in the prechorus/chorus thing.
#5
Quote by Made-In-China
What works for me, I always try to find where the ionian scale fits in (or minor pentatonic to find the parrallel minor key). Sometimes it's easy and the key can be the first chord of the song, sometimes a bit tricky (Foo Fighters - Wheels for example).
Also, when improvising or playing a solo, it really doesn't matter if the key is in C or Am, because all the notes are the same. All it takes, is just the musician to get the feel of the key and play the "right" note progressions...
And this Katy Perry song must be in A#/Bb as the song uses only I[A#], IV[D#], V[F] steps (as far as I listened), with I and V in chorus and IV comes in in the prechorus/chorus thing.

No, there are no Bb chords in the song. It's just Ebmaj7-F all the time, throughout the whole song.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Jun 20, 2014,
#7
Quote by hessodreamy
I have a smattering of music theory and knowledge of scales, from playing piano for a few years, but there's something I've not been able to wrap my head around.

I know that if a song has the chords C, F and G then it's in the key of C. I know the C major scale and all those notes are in it. Great.

But if a song goes G, F and C, is it still in C, or is it in G Lydian (I think I mean lydian)?

And if a song goes Am, C, G - is it in C or would you say A minor?

Or more to the point - what would be the best way to describe to a fellow musician the harmonic structure of the song?



G F and C and resolves to G? Its a G and F is the bVII and C is the IV

Am C and G? Resolves to Am? It's in Am and C and G are the III and VII

The best way is know the Key center and know all the functions of the chords as it relates to that Key center. You'd ideally know Diatonic, and Non Diatonic Harmony. Most who don't know those, can't do what you're asking. Nearly anyone that does, can do what you're asking how to do.

Best,

Sean
#8
Quote by wafflesyrup
Katy Perry. For science!


A lot of Katy Perry's songs are interesting from a theory standpoint.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#9
Key doesn't need to be qualified with a modal label, even if your chords aren't based on the "standard" major and minor scale.

Add up all the notes in a standard blues progression and you have most of the chromatic scale, and no two of the chords fit into the same major scale. But you'd still just say "Blues in C".
#11
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Listen to where it all resolves to. What is the tonic?


Quote by Sean0913
G F and C and resolves to G? Its a G and F is the bVII and C is the IV

Am C and G? Resolves to Am? It's in Am and C and G are the III and VII


I think I get it now. You basically express it as where the 'home note' of the song is. Which may or may not be obvious.

Quote by Eastwinn
You can find a discussion of this topic by following this link:

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1277200

I'll give that one a read, too.

Thanks for the info, guys.