if the third note of the scale is 2 whole steps away from the root, it is major.
if the third note is 1 and a half steps away from the root, it is minor.
hence, major third, minor third.
=]
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
if the third note of the scale is 2 whole steps away from the root, it is major.
if the third note is 1 and a half steps away from the root, it is minor.
hence, major third, minor third.
=]

So what you're saying is, I have to identify the notes in the piece, determine the scale, and then I can determine they key signature?
exactly.
but it can be major or minor.
if its in the key of C, its also in the key of A minor.
it just starts on a different note.
(A minor is the relative minor of C)
so just find all the notes usede in the song, and try to find a major scale pattern.
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
exactly.
but it can be major or minor.
if its in the key of C, its also in the key of A minor.
it just starts on a different note.
(A minor is the relative minor of C)
so just find all the notes usede in the song, and try to find a major scale pattern.

I know and am comfortable with relatives, but thanks for clearing that up man.
And also, if you can hear the song, its fairly obvious of if it's a major or minor key. But if it's a written test, the above methods work
It's like Superman reading the teachings of Jesus. The two greatest musicians on Earth hath combined forces. I officially quit music, as it has reached it's zenith with that cover.
I guess you mean if a song is in a major or minor key given the key signature?

I would suggest looking at the chord progression, at the cadence (usually the songs resolve to the tonic note, so look at the cadence and check), and see if harmonic minor/melodic minor/harmonic major scales are used often, and the alterations often give it away too (like a 7th sharpened to resolve better to the root, meaning it is in minor)..

I don't usually do this stuff though...
Quote by VIRUSDETECTED
How do you know if the key signature is major or minor?
In addition to the tests given above, look (or listen) for a #5. In the key of C this would be a G#. The #5 is the leading tone in the signature's relative minor key and is a strong indication that, in this example, you're in A minor as opposed to C major. The modification of the 5 to the leading tone #5, by the way, is the origin of our harmonic minor scale.
All things are difficult before they are easy.
- Dr. Thomas Fuller (British physician, 1654-1734)
Quote by Freepower
For everything you need to know - gpb0216.
Quote by gpb0216
In addition to the tests given above, look (or listen) for a #5. In the key of C this would be a G#. The #5 is the leading tone in the signature's relative minor key and is a strong indication that, in this example, you're in A minor as opposed to C major. The modification of the 5 to the leading tone #5, by the way, is the origin of our harmonic minor scale.

Right...

Also maybe look for a sharpened 4th (#4) which some times is used in major, or a flattened 6th which is used some times in jazz I think...
In classical music a minor key can be identified by the #7 (of the minor key). This is because the tune will be using the harmonic minor, which is usually much more obviously minor than the natural minor which can only be shown to be minor with a harmonic context.

This is similar to what gpb0216 said, but he talked about a #5 in reference to the major key, when it is usually refered to as a #7.
Quote by 12345abcd3
In classical music a minor key can be identified by the #7 (of the minor key). This is because the tune will be using the harmonic minor, which is usually much more obviously minor than the natural minor which can only be shown to be minor with a harmonic context.

This is similar to what gpb0216 said, but he talked about a #5 in reference to the major key, when it is usually refered to as a #7.

but for example: paganini's 24th caprice.
i think it's exactly in C major, i don't remember perfectly at the moment, and he DOES use the harmonic 7th.
and still the song sounds happy. for me, that's still major. but in theory, is it minor even though the whole song sounds happy?
Quote by RCalisto
but for example: paganini's 24th caprice.
i think it's exactly in C major, i don't remember perfectly at the moment, and he DOES use the harmonic 7th.
and still the song sounds happy. for me, that's still major. but in theory, is it minor even though the whole song sounds happy?

I've never heard the piece, but is the #7 used all the way through. If not it may just be an accidental, which probably doesn't have as great effect as lots of #7s would, so the piece could still as a whole seem 'happy'.

Otherwise i'm not sure, classical pieces are usually very complex and i probably don't know enough theory to say whether it is major or minor without looking at it. Is there any way you could post some if the music?
although this is wrong in many places, you can get the idea. but yeah that must be it.
what are accidentals tho? can i find that in the theory FAQ?
Attachments:
24th_caprice_ver2.zip
I misread the title as "Time signature question", then upon reading the post I laughed uproariously, only to find I was mistaken...

Anyway, the easiest way to determine whether it is major or minor is to listen to it, short of looking at the last chord or chords at the ends of phrases. If you got your theory, then you could look for the sharpened 7th that would appear if it were minor, else its not that easy to see.
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Little children should be felt, not heard.
Quote by 12345abcd3
In classical music a minor key can be identified by the #7 (of the minor key). This is because the tune will be using the harmonic minor, which is usually much more obviously minor than the natural minor which can only be shown to be minor with a harmonic context. This is similar to what gpb0216 said, but he talked about a #5 in reference to the major key, when it is usually refered to as a #7.
Tough crowd. Very well, look for an accidental that raises by one half-step either:
• the fifth scale degree of the key signature's major key, or...
• the seventh scale degree of the signature's minor key.

These two tones / notes are one and the same.
All things are difficult before they are easy.
- Dr. Thomas Fuller (British physician, 1654-1734)
Quote by Freepower
For everything you need to know - gpb0216.
Quote by quinny1089
well technically not a #7 - it would be a (natural)7.

Though i understand your thinking, raising the b7 of the natural minor by a semitone...

Well, G# isn't "natural" when used in Aminor. I guess you mean in relation to the major scale?

Quote by gpb0216
Tough crowd. Very well, look for an accidental that raises by one half-step either:

* the fifth scale degree of the key signature's major key, or...
* the seventh scale degree of the signature's minor key.

These two tones / notes are one and the same.

Although if you are looking for a 5th degree sharpened, you don't have to confuse it with a 6th degree flatted, which is used in the Major harmonic scale, in a major key...
Check out what note it ends on. Or the chord. It should give you the theme.

If theres a minor chord at the start then one at the end, im willing to its minor. (excluding within piece key changes)