#1
Hi,

I was wondering if anybody could help me out regarding a littlte Theory.

First of all let me say that I haven't the best Musical Hearing when it comes to recognizing pitches, chords etc. And I am also not very good at theory.

I write some riffs for creating Songs later on. Mostly I do that by just recording them and then write them out in Guitar pro cause I wouldn't be able to recreate them otherwise.

Now I would like to now an easy way how I can figure out which Key a Riff is in. 

If it would be any help I could post a Tab from one of my Tabs/Riffs.

Let me say that I read some threads regarding this topic but didn't really find one that helps me. I mainly use Powerchords or Single Notes and sometimes Chords I didn't really know which Chord it actually is.

Heavy Greetz
Last edited by EachHit at Mar 17, 2017,
#2
Seems like you might be asking without knowing what a "key" really is (given that you don't even know what some of your chords are).  IOW, if you posted one of your riffs, and we said it was "in E major", what would you make of that?  What would that tell you? How would that help? (We have to work from what you already know.)

But by all means post one of your tabs - or one of those unknown chords - and we'll go from there.  
Last edited by jongtr at Mar 17, 2017,
#3
jongtr 
Quote by jongtr
Seems like you might be asking without knowing what a "key" really is (given that you don't even know what some of your chords are).  IOW, if you posted one of your riffs, and we said it was "in E major", what would you make of that?  What would that tell you? How would that help? (We have to work from what you already know.)

But by all means post one of your tabs - or one of those unknown chords - and we'll go from there.  

Hi,

thanks for the answer.

I think I don't know the exactly description what a Key is but as far as I understand it has something to do in which Scale the Chords (Riffs) are in. Ihave here 2 Tabs as an example. One only contains Singlenotes and one has only Powerchords. From the most Powerchords I know the Pitch I guess. 
If somebody would tell me just in what Key a Riff is in wouldn't help me very much. But if I could understand how I can figure out the Key myself that would be very helpful to me cause I think that would make my Songwriting a little easier.

Heavy Greetz
Attachments:
Key Test 2.gpx
#5
get your guitar and play around till you find the "home" note where everything feels most right, then figure out if a major or minor chord sounds better

it's really that simple 
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#6
Quote by Hail
get your guitar and play around till you find the "home" note where everything feels most right, then figure out if a major or minor chord sounds better

it's really that simple 

Hey,

sadly that's exactly what I am not capable to do. That's why am looking for a "theoretic/mathematic" way on how to do that.

That may sound strange to people who have a pretty good sense for Music and Pitch but something in my Ear/Brain doesn't allow me to do that I guess ;-)

Couldn't Guitar Pro or a similar program just tell me the Key of a series of Riffs/Notes?

Heavy Greetz
#7
The thing is, you can't tell which key your song is in just by looking at what notes are used (or at least you can't be sure about it). You need to find the home note, the tonic. I'm sure you will be able to find it - there's absolutely no magic to it and it doesn't even require a good ear. You just need to first understand what a tonic sounds like. After you know the sound you are looking for, it will not be difficult to find.

Now let's try it. Play the C major scale, but end it with a B instead of a C. It sounds pretty tense and it doesn't sound complete - it sounds like it "wants" to go somewhere. You have created tension that wants to be released. Now play C and it should sound complete. You have resolved the tension and it sounds like you have come back home. This means C is our tonic so we are in the key of C.

If you end a melody or a chord progression with the tonic, it will sound complete. If you don't end it with the tonic, it will make you expect the song to continue (some songs don't end with the tonic and it kind of leaves the ending open - sometimes this sounds cool, but the most "conventional" way is to end with the tonic).

Let's try this with some actual music. Listen to the piece and try to find the pitch that sounds like home. Then find that pitch on your guitar.



The first phrase and the second phrase are almost identical.

First phrase: F# F# G A A G F# E D D E F# F# E E
Second phrase: F# F# G A A G F# E D D E F# E D D

Let's listen to the first phrase. What if the tune ended this way? Does it sound complete or does it make you expect for the song to continue? Is there tension that wants to be released?

What about the second phrase? Does the way it ends sound tense or does it sound complete?

Do the same thing with the B section.

Another way would be to listen to the recording, then pause it and hum the note that you would end the song with. Then find that note on the fretboard. That's usually what I do and it always works.

Here is another (a bit older) thread about a similar topic. Read my post (it has pretty similar advice, but I talk about a different song) and see if it helps.

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1719848#5


BTW, "I don't have a good ear" is not an excuse. First of all, finding the key of a song doesn't require a good ear. Also, if you don't have a good ear, you need to train your ears. That's how you get a good ear. This just means you need to start practicing your aural skills. Sure, some people naturally have perfect pitch, but most people need to train their ears to become good at playing by ear or recognizing musical concepts by ear or whatever. It's a skill that needs to be practiced. There is no magic to it.
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
#8
you've been trained your entire life to hear the tonic, cadence, and tension and resolution. you just don't know it yet. odds are, every single song you've listened to since you were born has followed the exact same conventions of tonal harmony.  you just have to tap into resources you don't realize you have 
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#9
Quote by EachHit
Second File

For any riff like this which is based off of an open string (in this case the low B string), the note of that open string is almost always going to be your home or tonic note. All of the other notes in your riff (C#, D, E, F#, G, next octave C#, D, E) are from the B minor scale, therefore the key your riff is in is B minor.
Do you want to try with the other example yourself now and see what you think?
#10
Thanks for the detailed Answers.

I will give the Tips a try and see if it helps. But to be honest I think that will be pretty tough for me cause it seems that my hearing is kinda weird in some cases. 

But let me ask a Question about how to find a Key. Let me take my Second File as an Example.


I think the Powerchords of the File are B, D, E, F#, G#. Didn't I just need to find the Scale in which these Notes exist and that could be my Key in most Cases? That was what I was doing but I wasn't sure if this is working.

Somewhere I have a List with Major Scale Keys and their corresponding Notes

that's what I thought that the Riff could be in 

A Major:  A B C#/Db D E F#/Gb G#/Ab

But if the Riff is really in B Minor I seem to be wrong.

Is there any Site where I can learn the Basics of Theory and Ear Training for very bloody Beginners? I am from Germany so I am having a little bit of Trouble understand everything in the right Way.

Heavy Greetz


 
#11
Quote by EachHit

I think the Powerchords of the File are B, D, E, F#, G#. Didn't I just need to find the Scale in which these Notes exist and that could be my Key in most Cases? That was what I was doing but I wasn't sure if this is working.

Somewhere I have a List with Major Scale Keys and their corresponding Notes

that's what I thought that the Riff could be in 

A Major:  A B C#/Db D E F#/Gb G#/Ab

But if the Riff is really in B Minor I seem to be wrong.
 

The thing with finding the major scale that fits the notes/chords that you are playing is that it just isn't accurate. Not all songs are in major keys and also, sometimes the notes you play will fit many different scales and sometimes you use notes that don't fit the key signature so how are you going to deal with that? This is why you need to learn to hear what the tonic is.

When it comes to metal riffing that uses a low open string, usually that's the key.


If you hum a note, can you find it on your fretboard (by trial and error)? If yes, then you have a good enough ear to find the key of a 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
#12
MaggaraMarine 

Quote by MaggaraMarine
The thing with finding the major scale that fits the notes/chords that you are playing is that it just isn't accurate. Not all songs are in major keys and also, sometimes the notes you play will fit many different scales and sometimes you use notes that don't fit the key signature so how are you going to deal with that? This is why you need to learn to hear what the tonic is.

When it comes to metal riffing that uses a low open string, usually that's the key.


If you hum a note, can you find it on your fretboard (by trial and error)? If yes, then you have a good enough ear to find the key of a song.

Thanks for the answer. I guess I need to find something about the Tonic so I fully understand what that is.

I can hum a note and find it on the fretboard. But that takes me sometimes quite a while. Just lately I jad a melody in my head and I didn't found the note which was in my head following the Note I played before. After a while I realised it was the same note like the one I played before. And that happens to me quite a lot.

Heavy Greetz
#13
miles.be for ear training

as far as theory goes, i wouldn't even worry about it right now tbh. learn your intervals with an ear trainer, and just listen to what sounds good. if you learn what's supposed to sound good before discovering for yourself, you start overestimating the power of theory compared to just doing stuff. there are only 12 notes in western music, and with guitar you can only play so many of those at once with it sounding good. just experiment, it's not rocket surgery, and you know if something sounds good or bad

stop underestimating yourself. when you listen to music you like, do you have to ask other people if it's good or not?
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#14
Quote by Hail
miles.be for ear training

as far as theory goes, i wouldn't even worry about it right now tbh. learn your intervals with an ear trainer, and just listen to what sounds good. if you learn what's supposed to sound good before discovering for yourself, you start overestimating the power of theory compared to just doing stuff. there are only 12 notes in western music, and with guitar you can only play so many of those at once with it sounding good. just experiment, it's not rocket surgery, and you know if something sounds good or bad

stop underestimating yourself. when you listen to music you like, do you have to ask other people if it's good or not?

Hi,

You may be right that I underestimate myself. I have a buddy who is pretty good in writing music and putting Music together that feels right and that frustrates me sometimes when I see how easy it is for him. He just knows and feels what is right without knowing anything about Theory.

I tried the method that was mentioned in another Post. I listened to a Song and tried to find the Tonic.

Took a Song from an Album I had listened to quite a lot:


It's the first song. I hummed a note (frequencies) which I felt was right and I come up with a B. The 7th fret on the second String on my Baritone Guitar felt right to the note I was humming but I am not sure if this really is the tonic.

Heavy Greetz
#15
EachHit This might depend on how you have your guitar tuned.  The keynote of the above track is C.  (And the key is C minor, with the other chords being Ab, Gm and Fm, I think.)

Another tip for finding the tonic is that another note that you can often hum throughout a tune that seems to fit will be the dominant, the 5th step of the scale.  IOW, if you find a note that seems to sound right through all (or most of) a song, that note is likely to be either the 1st or 5th note of the scale,  You can then test which is right by other means.

But I also agree with Hail that much of this is really not necessary.  As you replied to my first post, what you really want to know is "which Scale the Chords (Riffs) are in."   That simply means the collection of notes implied by the notes in the chords or riffs.  You don't need to know which of those notes is the key note (which is what most of the above debate is about.) 

I cant read gpx files, but if, as you say, the power chords are B, D, E, F#, G# that gives you 5 notes of a scale already.  
The 5ths of the chords (the other notes in each power chord) will add other notes: F#, A, B, C#, D#.  
The first issue there is that there is a D and a D#, and scales are not normally supposed to have more than one version of any one note (ie a natural plus a sharp or flat version of the same note).  However, the roots are the important notes, so we can kind of disregard the D#.
So those other notes provide a complete 7-note scale: A B C# D E F# G# (in alphabetical order).
So your guess of "A major scale" is correct.  
What more do you need to know?  What difference does it make if the keynote (of those 7) is B and not A?  It's not going to change what you play, it's all the same 7 notes. 
If you want to improvise on your sequence, you use those same notes. Why wouldn't you?  Why would you want to add anything else?
(Some chord or riff sequences wouldn't provide such a complete scale, which leaves any missing notes open; optional.)

If the keynote is B (and it seems likely it is), that just means your tune is "In B dorian mode". That's the name for the A major scale notes when B is the keynote.  
It doesn't mean you need to change anything you have, or add anything else.  The notes are all the same.  The scale patterns are all the same.  
It's true that it would help to know which are the B notes in all your A major scale patterns - but your ear should lead you to those, especially if you try playing those scale patterns over a B bass drone.  But then, when improvising, you don't really need to start or end on B anyway. (It's just nice to know where B is )

As I mentioned, the D# 5th of the G# power chord is the odd note out in this scenario.  But it's not a "wrong note" (unless you think it sounds wrong), it's just a chromatic.  If the keynote is B, then D# provides a (fleeting) major 3rd, in contrast to the minor 3rd D.  Nothing wrong with that.

Improvisation, then, depends very little on knowing the KEY, as long as you know the notes in the chords, riffs or melody.  Because those are the notes you use.  You don't need to know the name of the scale or mode those notes make  up, as long as you can find them all on  your instrument.  If you know chord shapes - and where to play the riffs or melody - you don't even need to know note names.  You just solo with whatever notes are in your riffs/chords.

Of course, without some knowledge of notes (or your fretboard) you are limited to the positions where you play your chords.  But that's a good limitation.  You shouldn't escape those positions by applying some theoretical concept (because then you don't understand the connections), but by working out other places to play those notes.  Other shapes for each chord you know.  Places on the fretboard where all the chords can be played close to one another (different shapes for each chord, as opposed to moving the same shape up and down).

And if it's composition you're more interested in, similar rules apply.  You have a complete scale already.  Any more chords you need could all be made from those same notes.  You are free to change key if you want (eg for a chorus or bridge) but you don't have to.  You're also free to add any chromatic notes if your basic 7 are too boring. (But many great songwriters feel no need to.)
Songwriting skills really come from studying other people's songs, where you pick up tips about structure (verse/chorus/bridge/etc) which chords go well together, how hook riffs or melodic phrases work.  Theoretical understanding (the jargon at least) is not necessary. As Hail says, you know all the rules already, in your subconscious, because all the music you've heard has taught you.  Your ear knows it all - if you can listen to properly to what it tells  you.  That's usually the beginner songwriter's problem - being confident in trusting your ear, and being sure about what it's telling you.  Being able to name all those sounds is handy (for talking about them), but it doesn't help with songwriting.  You just need to learn more songs.

And you don't need to do that by ear!  The wonder of the internet means you can look up the chords for just about any song that exists - and look up tab for riffs. (It's just a shame that tab for vocal melodies is hard to find, because you learn a hell of a lot from vocals.)

My advice: FORGET THEORY!  FORGET EAR TRAINING! Just LEARN SONGS, any way you can.  That both teaches you theory and trains your ear, in the most practical and useful (and enjoyable!) way possible.
Last edited by jongtr at Mar 20, 2017,
#16
jongtr
And the key is C minor, with the other chords being Ab, Gm and Fm, I think.
More chords than that, and some chordal borrowing, but yes to key

EachHit
agreed partly with the above, theory can tell you what you're doing and perhaps why some things might sound good together, but writing music can be more of an exercise in taste. Listening to more music, noting specifically what parts you like, and putting these bare-bone ideas into your music will help with that.
#17
Quote by jongtr
EachHit This might depend on how you have your guitar tuned.  The keynote of the above track is C.  (And the key is C minor, with the other chords being Ab, Gm and Fm, I think.)

Another tip for finding the tonic is that another note that you can often hum throughout a tune that seems to fit will be the dominant, the 5th step of the scale.  IOW, if you find a note that seems to sound right through all (or most of) a song, that note is likely to be either the 1st or 5th note of the scale,  You can then test which is right by other means.

But I also agree with Hail that much of this is really not necessary.  As you replied to my first post, what you really want to know is "which Scale the Chords (Riffs) are in."   That simply means the collection of notes implied by the notes in the chords or riffs.  You don't need to know which of those notes is the key note (which is what most of the above debate is about.) 

I cant read gpx files, but if, as you say, the power chords are B, D, E, F#, G# that gives you 5 notes of a scale already.  
The 5ths of the chords (the other notes in each power chord) will add other notes: F#, A, B, C#, D#.  
The first issue there is that there is a D and a D#, and scales are not normally supposed to have more than one version of any one note (ie a natural plus a sharp or flat version of the same note).  However, the roots are the important notes, so we can kind of disregard the D#.
So those other notes provide a complete 7-note scale: A B C# D E F# G# (in alphabetical order).
So your guess of "A major scale" is correct.  
What more do you need to know?  What difference does it make if the keynote (of those 7) is B and not A?  It's not going to change what you play, it's all the same 7 notes. 
If you want to improvise on your sequence, you use those same notes. Why wouldn't you?  Why would you want to add anything else?
(Some chord or riff sequences wouldn't provide such a complete scale, which leaves any missing notes open; optional.)

If the keynote is B (and it seems likely it is), that just means your tune is "In B dorian mode". That's the name for the A major scale notes when B is the keynote.  
It doesn't mean you need to change anything you have, or add anything else.  The notes are all the same.  The scale patterns are all the same.  
It's true that it would help to know which are the B notes in all your A major scale patterns - but your ear should lead you to those, especially if you try playing those scale patterns over a B bass drone.  But then, when improvising, you don't really need to start or end on B anyway. (It's just nice to know where B is )

As I mentioned, the D# 5th of the G# power chord is the odd note out in this scenario.  But it's not a "wrong note" (unless you think it sounds wrong), it's just a chromatic.  If the keynote is B, then D# provides a (fleeting) major 3rd, in contrast to the minor 3rd D.  Nothing wrong with that.

Improvisation, then, depends very little on knowing the KEY, as long as you know the notes in the chords, riffs or melody.  Because those are the notes you use.  You don't need to know the name of the scale or mode those notes make  up, as long as you can find them all on  your instrument.  If you know chord shapes - and where to play the riffs or melody - you don't even need to know note names.  You just solo with whatever notes are in your riffs/chords.

Of course, without some knowledge of notes (or your fretboard) you are limited to the positions where you play your chords.  But that's a good limitation.  You shouldn't escape those positions by applying some theoretical concept (because then you don't understand the connections), but by working out other places to play those notes.  Other shapes for each chord you know.  Places on the fretboard where all the chords can be played close to one another (different shapes for each chord, as opposed to moving the same shape up and down).

And if it's composition you're more interested in, similar rules apply.  You have a complete scale already.  Any more chords you need could all be made from those same notes.  You are free to change key if you want (eg for a chorus or bridge) but you don't have to.  You're also free to add any chromatic notes if your basic 7 are too boring. (But many great songwriters feel no need to.)
Songwriting skills really come from studying other people's songs, where you pick up tips about structure (verse/chorus/bridge/etc) which chords go well together, how hook riffs or melodic phrases work.  Theoretical understanding (the jargon at least) is not necessary. As Hail says, you know all the rules already, in your subconscious, because all the music you've heard has taught you.  Your ear knows it all - if you can listen to properly to what it tells  you.  That's usually the beginner songwriter's problem - being confident in trusting your ear, and being sure about what it's telling you.  Being able to name all those sounds is handy (for talking about them), but it doesn't help with songwriting.  You just need to learn more songs.

And you don't need to do that by ear!  The wonder of the internet means you can look up the chords for just about any song that exists - and look up tab for riffs. (It's just a shame that tab for vocal melodies is hard to find, because you learn a hell of a lot from vocals.)

My advice: FORGET THEORY!  FORGET EAR TRAINING! Just LEARN SONGS, any way you can.  That both teaches you theory and trains your ear, in the most practical and useful (and enjoyable!) way possible.


Thanks for the long answer.

It will definetly take a while until I get everything you posted.

I'm hope that I may come to the point where I just feel what I can play next or somehting similar but right now I need a little Anchor when I do songwriting. My iidea was to tab out my Ideas and specify the Key so I could find parts that may fit together a bit faster. I catalogues my riffs my Tempo and also tried the Key. But what I seem to have totally overlooked is that there are more than just the Major Keys.

I also wrote down all the Notes from each Powerchord and Single Notes I had tabbed out from my Ideas. But I had a lot of Ideas where there are Whole and half Steps of the same Note (E.g D and D#).

The whole "Catalogueing" of my Ideas is only a way to give me some Guidelines. When I know in which Key an Idea is I can find a Part that may fit or just improvise with the Chords I can use in that Key.
I guess it's just a crutch for me to get started.

Heavy Greetz 
#18
Sorry for the overlong post!  All I was really saying was - you have your scale already (made up from the notes in your chords).  You're just looking for a name for it, as if that is going to give you more information than you already have.  It will, but that information (essentially just terminology, jargon) may not be as helpful as you think.  
You have everything you need already to be able to develop your composition.  Your ear is good enough to come up with a riff in the first place that sounds logical and musical.  Your ear can do all the rest.
(Still, I do accept that the false sense of security that knowing some jargon gives you does make one feel pleasantly smug and intelligent.  Not knowing the names of things can make you feel lost, even if you aren't.  Who cares if the music is any good, as long as you can name all its parts? )
Last edited by jongtr at Mar 21, 2017,
#19
Don't label stuff. If a song uses the notes A B C D E then the song is in the key of those notes. Take those notes, superimpose them over the entire fretboard, and play with it.

Labeling all this jargon is just gonna take away from the goal. You want to jam over some chords or a riff. Take the notes in the chords, make them into melodies.
#20
Chords in each Key.  Goto Jguitar.com to see how each chord is formed

 
key 1   2     3        4    5    6          7 
C    C  Dm  Em     F   G   Am     B-dim 
D    D  Em  F#m   G   A   Bm     C#-dim
E    E  F#m G#m  A   B   C#m   D#-dim
F    F  Gm   Am    Bb C   Dm     E-dim 
G   G  Am   Bm    C   D   Em     F#-dim
A   A   Bm   C#m  D   E   F#m   G#-dim
B   B   C#m D#m  E   F#  G#m  A#-dim
#21
Quote by kkelly9
Chords in each Key.  Goto Jguitar.com to see how each chord is formed

 
key 1   2     3        4    5    6          7 
C    C  Dm  Em     F   G   Am     B-dim 
D    D  Em  F#m   G   A   Bm     C#-dim
E    E  F#m G#m  A   B   C#m   D#-dim
F    F  Gm   Am    Bb C   Dm     E-dim 
G   G  Am   Bm    C   D   Em     F#-dim
A   A   Bm   C#m  D   E   F#m   G#-dim
B   B   C#m D#m  E   F#  G#m  A#-dim


diatonic chords in each key*

very few songs from the last, like, century will stay within this formula
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#22
Quote by kkelly9
Chords in each Key.  Goto Jguitar.com to see how each chord is formed


key 1   2     3        4    5    6          7 
C    C  Dm  Em     F   G   Am     B-dim 
D    D  Em  F#m   G   A   Bm     C#-dim
E    E  F#m G#m  A   B   C#m   D#-dim
F    F  Gm   Am    Bb C   Dm     E-dim 
G   G  Am   Bm    C   D   Em     F#-dim
A   A   Bm   C#m  D   E   F#m   G#-dim
B   B   C#m D#m  E   F#  G#m  A#-dim

Hi, that seems to be the List I have saved and which I used to "sort" my Ideas. But I guess that I didn't pay attention to the major and diminished  labelling. I will have a look at the Jguitar Site.

Heavy Greetz
#23
Quote by EachHit
Hi, that seems to be the List I have saved and which I used to "sort" my Ideas. But I guess that I didn't pay attention to the major and diminished  labelling. I will have a look at the Jguitar Site.

Heavy Greetz

You VERY rarely need those dim chords.  Not unless you're playing jazz, in which case you'll find their two 7th versions (m7b5 and dim7) frequently.  In rock, you can safely do without them, 99% of the time (maybe more).
The tension they provide (which is useful) is contained within the more common and practical V7 chord.  E.g., G7 in key of C, which is Bdim with a G bass, and is a whole lot easier to play too.

What's a whole lot more common in a rock or pop major key than viidim chords is a bVII major chord - such as D in key of E, or G in key of A.