The easy, sing-along, nursery rhymes and folks songs we be taught as youngsters; the “catchy” tunes utilized in promoting jingles; the cheerful, toe-tapping pop and rock we dance to; the uplifting sounds of a symphony: most music in a significant key has a brilliant sound that folks usually describe as cheerful, inspiring, thrilling, or simply plain enjoyable.

How are these moods produced? Music in a specific key tends to make use of solely a number of the many potential notes out there; these notes are listed within the scale related to that key. In main keys, the notes of the size are sometimes used to construct “brilliant”-sounding main chords. Additionally they give a robust feeling of getting a tonal middle, a be aware or chord that looks like “dwelling”, or “the resting place”, in that key. The “brilliant”-sounding main chords and the sturdy feeling of tonality are what give main keys their completely happy, nice moods. This contrasts with the moods normally instructed by music that makes use of minor keys, scales, and chords. Though it additionally has a robust tonal middle (the Western custom of tonal concord is predicated on main and minor keys and scales), music in a minor secret is extra prone to sound unhappy, ominous, or mysterious. Actually, most musicians, and even many non-musicians, can distinguish main and minor keys simply by listening to the music.

Train 4.3.1. (Go to Resolution)

Hear to those excerpts. Three are in a significant key and two in a minor key. Are you able to inform which is which just by listening?



In case you should decide whether or not a chunk of music is main or minor, and can’t inform simply by listening, you will have to do some easy harmonic evaluation so as to determine.


A scale begins with the be aware that names the important thing. This be aware is the tonal middle of that key, the be aware the place music in that key feels “at relaxation”. It’s also known as the tonic, and it is the “do” in “do-re-mi”. For instance, music in the important thing of A serious nearly at all times ends on an A serious chord, the chord constructed on the be aware A. It usually additionally begins on that chord, returns to that chord usually, and encompasses a melody and a bass line that additionally return to the be aware A usually sufficient that listeners will know the place the tonal middle of the music is, even when they do not notice that they comprehend it. (For extra details about the tonic chord and its relationship to different chords in a key, please see Starting Harmonic Evaluation.)

Instance 4.3. 

Hear to those examples. Are you able to hear that they don’t really feel “completed” till the ultimate tonic is performed?

To seek out the remainder of the notes in a significant key, begin on the tonic and go up following this sample: entire step, entire step, half step, entire step, entire step, entire step, half step. This may take you to the tonic one octave increased than the place you started, and consists of all of the notes in the important thing in that octave.

Instance 4.4. 

These main scales all observe the identical sample of entire steps and half steps. They’ve totally different units of notes as a result of the sample begins on totally different notes.

Determine 4.17. Three Main Scales

All main scales have the identical sample of half steps and entire steps, starting on the be aware that names the size – the tonic.

Hearken to the distinction between the C main, D main, and B flat main scales.

Train 4.3.2. (Go to Resolution)

For every be aware under, write a significant scale, one octave, ascending (going up), starting on that be aware. In case you’re undecided whether or not a be aware ought to be written as a flat, sharp, or pure, do not forget that you will not ever skip a line or house, or write two notes of the size on the identical line or house. In case you need assistance holding observe of half steps, use a keyboard, a image of a keyboard, a written chromatic scale, or the chromatic scale fingerings in your instrument. In case you want extra details about half steps and entire steps, see Half Steps and Entire Steps.

In case you want employees paper for this train, you may print out this employees paper PDF file.

Within the examples above, the sharps and flats are written subsequent to the notes. In widespread notation, the sharps and flats that belong in the important thing will probably be written at the start of every employees, within the key signature. For extra apply figuring out keys and writing key signatures, please see Key Signature. For extra details about how keys are associated to one another, please see The Circle of Fifths.



Do key signatures make music extra sophisticated than it must be? Is there a better approach? Be a part of the dialogue at Opening Measures.


What distinction does key make? For the reason that main scales all observe the identical sample, all of them sound very a lot alike. Right here is the tune “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, written in G main and likewise in D main.

Determine 4.19. 

(a) In G Main

(b) In D Main

The identical tune seems very totally different when written in two totally different main keys.

Hearken to this tune in G main and in D main. The music might look fairly totally different, however the one distinction once you pay attention is that one sounds increased than the opposite. So why trouble with totally different keys in any respect? Earlier than equal temperament grew to become the usual tuning system, main keys sounded extra totally different from one another than they do now. Even now, there are delicate variations between the sound of a chunk in a single key or one other, largely due to variations within the timbre of assorted notes on the devices or voices concerned. However at present the most typical cause to decide on a specific secret is merely that the music is best to sing or play in that key. (Please see Transposition for extra about selecting keys.)

Resolution to Train 4.3.2. (Return to Train)

Discover that though they appear utterly totally different, the scales of F sharp main and G flat main (numbers 5 and 6) sound precisely the identical when performed, on a piano as proven in Determine 4.21, or on some other instrument utilizing equal temperament tuning. If this surprises you, please learn extra about enharmonic scales.

Determine 4.21. Enharmonic Scales

Utilizing this determine of a keyboard, or the fingerings from your individual instrument, discover that the notes for the F sharp main scale and the G flat main scale in Determine 4.20, though spelled in a different way, will sound the identical.

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