#1
Self taught here , terrible, and need help understanding some things. I know about 10 chords and about tuning. Sorry if this is a really stupid question...what do they mean by key? Is that the most used chord? For example if the most used chord in a song...say Gmaj...does that mean the key is "G"? I heard Billie Joe Armstrong ask a fan which key a song was in after inviting him onstage, when the guy answered Billie let him play with the band. Very cool!

Does the key refer to tuning? Would E standard mean the key is E?

And could somebody explain intonation to me while you are at it?

Thanks much for your patience and help.
#2
Intonation is a part of tuning.

Getting a guitar tuned consists of adjusting tension, but you also need to adjust the length of the string. If the string isn't the right length then the intonation won't be correct.

Here's why you should care:
If your intonation isn't set properly then it will be possible to tune any given open string to sound perfect, but when you press down on a fret it won't be completely in tune.
The frets are supposed to sub-divide the string, but if the string-length is wrong then the frets are only going to be 'sort of' in the right locations.

There's another thing that might make this difficult to understand, because the frets are really only approximately in the right place to begin with unless you play a guitar that has a compensated fretboard. Every string would need to have it's own fret-board if you wanted to get it perfect, because the relationships between the notes aren't perfectly uniform.
It's not like, half an inch, then another half an inch, etc... It's more like 31/64, followed by 32/64, followed by 30/64, etc.... and the pattern for each string depends upon which note the string is tuned to.
On the B-string the pattern might go 31, 32, 30
But on a hypothetical C-string the pattern would start at 32, then 30, then whatever spacing comes next.
So as you can see the very first fret should've been 31 for the B string, but 32 for the C string.

Of course these are all approximate distances! Please don't repeat this to anyone or I'll look like an idiot. I'm skimming over a few things just to get the idea across.

And if you really understand the things I've told you then you've got an idea of what keys are too. Keys are the root note of a pattern.
#3
Ah..so I was kinda right about keys! Thanks much.

Pretty complicated answer on intonation, thanks for taking the time to explain.
#4
I might have over-complicated it, but you can find the uncomplicated answer anywhere. Tune the string, check tuning at the 12th fret as well. If it's out of tune at the 12th fret but in tune when played open, then the intonation is wrong.
#5
That is the explanation I heard awhile back...whether the guitar is in tune at the 12th fret. Is that really a common problem though? Correct me if I am wrong but wouldn't any quality guitar not have problems like that?
#6
^^If a guitar is set up wrong it's set up wrong no matter the quality. Good guitars can have a very band intonation if you don't maintain it. You should intonate your guitar every couple of months, every time you change the strings. Or at least check it.

Now, keys... No, key doesn't meant the most used chord in the progression, and has absolutely nothing to do with tuning. (well, it does have something to do, but theoretically not.) You can think of a key as an available pool of notes that you can play in a song to sound "right". In G major for example, these notes would be G A B C D E and F#. All of those notes fit the key. Of course you can use other notes as well, but that's borrowing tones from other keys. G minor on the other hand would have G A Bb C D Eb and F. They're different keys because the pool of available notes is different. These notes are called "diatonic", a diatonic chord for example is a chord that only contains notes within the key. So, in other words keys dictate what chords and phrases you play. In G major, you can play the chords G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em and Fo because they contain the diatonic notes. The C#m chord for example isn't part of the key. Again, you can play other chords as well just fine, but that is again you borrowing from other keys. It can still sound very good.

There are a lot of great lessons on the subject here on this very site. Check out the top lessons in the lessons section.
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*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#7
Quote by TobusRex
Self taught here , terrible, and need help understanding some things. I know about 10 chords and about tuning. Sorry if this is a really stupid question...what do they mean by key? Is that the most used chord? For example if the most used chord in a song...say Gmaj...does that mean the key is "G"? I heard Billie Joe Armstrong ask a fan which key a song was in after inviting him onstage, when the guy answered Billie let him play with the band. Very cool!

Does the key refer to tuning? Would E standard mean the key is E?

And could somebody explain intonation to me while you are at it?

Thanks much for your patience and help.


For brief answer, see https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1680275, post #4 in that thread.

The guitar tiuning only affects the hand shapes you use to create a chord or scale or interval. It does not affect how you create music in a given key (see above post).

All shapes on guitar arise from how the guitar is tuned.

e.g. if we tune the guitar so that the open 5th string sounds the same as the 7th fret of the open 6th string, then the hand shape that is a vertical line across any fret creates a sound that is 7 semitones apart.

In standard tuning, the open 5th string sounds the same as the 5th fret of the open 6th string, and then the hand shape that is a vertical line across any fret creates a sound that is 5 semitones apart.

Therefore to create a sound 6 semitones apart, in std tuning, just adjust the vertical line ... move up by one fret on the 5th string (vertical line = 5 frets. So, 5 + 1 fret slide = 6 semitones)

cheers, Jerry
#8
You guys are awesome for helping. It all seems pretty complicated! I have learned the pentatonic scale which is helping a little at least.
#9
Quote by TobusRex
You guys are awesome for helping. It all seems pretty complicated! I have learned the pentatonic scale which is helping a little at least.


The concept really isn't complicated ... it's just that the description can seem over-bearing, especially when you're learning the both the concept and the jargon and music notation used to explain it, for the first time.

Think of the melody of a simple folk tune or lullaby or sea-chanty or anthem ... for example, take the first three lines of the British national anthem "God save the Queen", which is written using the major scale.

God save our gracious Queen ...first word starts on the first note of the scale
Long live our noble Queen ... first word starts on the third note of the scale
God save the Queen ... these 4 words use the second, first, seventh and first notes of the scale.

It started on the first note of the scale and ended on that same note ... making a very clear impression on the listener that this melody is built arouind that starting note ... also known as the key note, also known as the tonal centre. The choice of notes to use were sourced from a scale type known as the "major scale". Important scale note choices to emphasise are the first, third and fifth notes in the scale. Others are "fillers" moving around these.

Any scale name is just shorthand for some pattern of intervals at various distances (usually tones or semitones) from each other. "Major" is a nickname for the interval pattern "T T ST T T T ST". To apply, choose some start note (aka your key note, or tonal centre, when the scale is used to write a melody or chord progression) and then go up a tone (2 frets on same string), then up a semitone from there (up one fret on same string) etc.

You'll also see the major scale written as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ... these symbols are themselves shorthand for describing differ distances in semitones from the start pitch of the scale). "1" coincides your choice of keynote. "2" is 2 semitones above the key note. "3" is 4 semitones above the key note. "4" is 5 semitones above. "5" is 7 semitones above. "6" is 9 semitones above. "7" is 11 semitones above.

As you learn more, you will start to associate a hand shape, and a sound, with any of these intervals, and hence be able to make a conscious choice to land on a particular interval for the sound it creates, when your soloing, or writing.

The symbols are historic, standing for the first to the seventh note of the "primordial scale back in the day when" (don't take this too literally).

By applying the scale pattern to different start notes (key notes) you get the same basic sound, just higher or lower in pitch.

If we think about "God save the Queen" again, if we started that from the pitch C, it would be in the key of C major (notice both the note name, C, and the scale name).

If we started this one fret higher, from the pitch C#, then it is in the key of C# major. And so on.

Another example.

"Natural minor" is a nickname for the pattern "T ST T T ST T T". In symbols, this is 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7. (b3 stands for 3 semitones from start. b6 is 8 semitones from start. b7 is 10 semitones from start.

If we created a melody using this, starting on C, we're in the key of C natural minor (C minor for short). Start from C#, we're in the key of C# natural minor

If I use a scale called "Dorian" (1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7) and create a melody from that starting on C, the melody is in the key of C Dorian. From C#, it's in the key of C# Dorian.

(There is a lot of confusion about anything other than major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor being allowed to appear as part of a key name. Be prepared to be told this ... but it is incorrect).

So, we create a piece of music in a given key by choosing a scale type, applying it from some start pitch (the key note), thus selecting a bunch of pitches at the required semitone distances, and then we use various methods to use these pitches in such a way as to make the melody sound like its weaving from and back to the key note.

If we get the method wrong, we will at best make the melody sound like its in another key, and at worst just have a unhummable melody that no one can remember ( a random jumble).

Finally. some scale types just don't work for creating a melody sustainable over a long time ... many listeners won't like it ... you never hear a song written entirely using the diminished or augmented scales. The reason here is that you need the 1, and the (b)3 and the 5 present in the scale to succeed . Scales that don't match this criteria get used a lot, but not as the main stay of a song, typically.

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jun 30, 2015,