So i'm trying to understand chord progressions

for example Dani California-by RHCP

the song starts out with an Amin chord' but the solo is in Dmin

i thought the first chord establishes key of the song

so shouldn't the song be in the key of Amin????????
Establishes the key of the song overall, but not necessarily every part of the song. If you look at the chords in the solo section , it's the same as the chorus: F C Dm. Key changes are not unusual.

Also, the verse is the same chords as "Last Dance with Mary Jane" by Tom Petty.
Listen to "Dream Evil" by Dio. The opening riff is in one key, and it immediately changes key in the very next riff (the verse). The rules are meant to be broken. You're on the right track, but music can be anything. One of the main reasons for learning music theory is to understand how to break it! The band I'm in changes key, time signature, tempo, etc. several times within one song. In fact, we do it so much that we decided to call ourselves "Time Traveler". Listen to HOW those songs break the rules. What is the new key IN RELATION to the old key? Use that relation and try applying it to your own song!
The idea of "rules" is only in the sense of what's done "as a rule".
IOW, it's about common practices, not laws that must be followed.
Most of the time, a song will begin with the tonic chord. Not always. (Key can be established other ways.)
It's much more common for a song to end on the tonic chord - although that's still not a law that can't be broken. (If a composer wants to leave you hanging, he/she will end on a non-tonic chord.)
Last edited by jongtr at Jul 16, 2015,
Key and time signature changes aren't against any rules. There really are no rules to be broken. Key changes are not even against any "common practices". Actually changing the key was the common practice in most classical pieces. You don't learn theory to be able to "break the rules". You learn it to understand music. It helps you with figuring out what's happening in your favorite songs. But yeah, the original question has already been answered. Key changes are pretty common in all kinds of music.
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Theory: Not rules, just tools.

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"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

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^Done I happened to be missing a good sig. And it's true, the only thing that determines what's right and what's wrong is your ears. If something sounds good no one cares if it's theoretically "correct".
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Theory: Not rules, just tools.

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The music from which "rules" derive is full of stuff like key changes, meter changes, key borrowing, chromaticism... the fact that standard curriculum music contains these things is why they have names in the first place.
"Theory" is just observations of what has been commonly applied by famous composers ... and at different stages of our musical history, fads changes as to what was deemed "proper" or not. Bear that in mind, especially if you are reading books discussing (pre-) classical period. Those guys were famous for a reason, but their approach may not apply to what you want to do.

Ultimately, any note(s) can be used against any note(s) ... it's all about how you handle the fall-out when these clash (or avoid in the first place). This is what gives energy to music, and creating in the listener a sense of wanting the music to go somewhere next.

As Jet say, these are just tools to guide you.

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 17, 2015,
"Rules" are simply about what sounds right for a particular style - the common practices that define that style.
If you want to play baroque music, you need one set of rules.
If you want to play bebop jazz, you need another set.
If you want to play blues, you need another set.
If you want to play death metal, you need another set.

(There is some overlap between all those, but not a lot.)

So you follow rules if you want to sound right, but you have to know what kind of music you want to play first. And the rules for that kind of music might not be written in theory books. (Often they are, but you may have to dig deep... If you care that is, or can't work out the rules by just listening).

And in every kind of music, there are distinctions between what is "written" (what you must do, whether it's actually written down or just understood) and the amount of expression or improvisation allowed or expected. Some musics allow very little improvisation, beyond expression in delivery. Some musics demand extensive improvisation, although always within accepted conventions. (Only free jazz attempts to avoid all guidelines - but is still considered as "jazz", so there are some predefining characteristics.)
Last edited by jongtr at Jul 17, 2015,