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Encyclopedia > Key (music)

In music theory, the term key is used in many different and sometimes contradictory ways. A common use is to speak of music as being "in" a certain key, such as in the key of C or in the key of F-sharp. Sometimes the terms "major" or "minor" are appended, as in the key of A minor or in the key of B-flat major, and so on. Although the concept of musical key can be a complicated subject when examined closely, broadly speaking the phrase in key of C means that C is music's harmonic center or tonic. Note that the letter-name "C" does not indicate a single specific pitch but rather all pitches with the letter name C (sometimes called a pitch class). The terms "major" and "minor" further imply the use of a major scale or a minor scale. Thus the phrase in key of E major implies a piece of music harmonically centered on the note E and making use of a major scale whose first note, or tonic, is E. Although the term "key" is commonly used this way, actual music can rarely be described so simply. This overview of the term also makes many assumptions and may not hold true for all forms of music. KeY is a formal software development tool that aims to integrate design, implementation, formal specification, and formal verification of object-oriented software. ... Music theory is a field of study that investigates the nature or mechanics of music. ... Harmony is the use and study of pitch simultaneity, and therefore chords, actual or implied, in music. ... The tonic is the first note of a musical scale, and in the tonal method of music composition it is extremely important. ... Pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound. ... Music notation is a system of writing for music. ... In music and music theory a pitch class contains all notes that have the same name; for example, all Es, no matter which octave they are in, are in the same pitch class. ... In music theory, the major scale is one of the diatonic scales. ... A minor scale in musical theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic. ...

Contents

Keys and tonality

The key identifies the tonic triad, the chord, major or minor, which represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section. Although the key of a piece may be named in the title (e.g. Symphony in C), or inferred from the key signature, the establishment of key is brought about via functional harmony, a sequence of chords leading to one or more cadences. A key may be major or minor; music can be described as being in the Dorian mode, or Phrygian, et cetera, and as such are usually considered to be in a specific mode rather than a key. When a particular key is not being described in the English language, different key naming systems may be used. Tonality is a system of writing music according to certain hierarchical pitch relationships around a key center or tonic. ... Typical fingering for a second inversion C major chord on a guitar. ... This key signature – A major or F# minor – consists of three sharps placed after the clef In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the... A diatonic function, in tonal music theory, is the specific, recognized roles of notes or chords in relation to the key. ... In Western musical theory a cadence (Latin cadentia, a falling) is a particular series of intervals or chords that ends a phrase, section, or piece of music. ... Due to historical confusion, Dorian mode or Doric mode can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales. ... Due to historical confusion, Phrygian mode can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales. ... This article is about modes as used in music. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... When a particular musical key or key signature is not described in the English language, there are two main systems that are used instead: Fixed do solmization - used in Italian and French key references. ...


Although many musicians confuse key with scale, a scale is an ordered set of notes typically used in a key, while the key is the center of gravity, established by particular chord progressions. In music, a scale is a set of musical notes that provides material for part or all of a musical work. ... A chord progression, as its name implies, is a series of chords played in an order. ...


The chords used within a key are generally drawn from the major or minor scale associated with the tonic triad, but may also include borrowed chords, altered chords, secondary dominants, and the like. All of these chords, however, are used in conventional patterns which serve to establish the primacy of the tonic triad. In music theory, the major scale is one of the diatonic scales. ... A minor scale in musical theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic. ... A borrowed chord is a chord borrowed from the parallel key. ... In music, an altered chord, an example of alteration, is a chord with one or more diatonic notes replaced by, or altered to, a neighboring pitch in the chromatic scale. ... Secondary dominants are a kind of chord used in musical harmony. ...


Cadences are particularly important in the establishment of key. Even cadences which do not include the tonic triad, such as half cadences and deceptive cadences, serve to establish key because those chord sequences imply a unique diatonic context. In Western musical theory a cadence (Latin cadentia, a falling) is a particular series of intervals or chords that ends a phrase, section, or piece of music. ... See also: function and functional. ...


Short pieces may stay in a single key throughout. A typical pattern for a simple song might be as follows: a phrase ends with a cadence on the tonic, a second phrase ends with a half cadence, then a final, longer, phrase ends with an authentic cadence on the tonic. For other uses, see Song (disambiguation). ... In music a phrase (Greek φράση, sentence, expression, see also strophe) is a section of music that is relatively self contained and coherent over a medium time scale. ...


More elaborate pieces may establish the main key, then modulate to another key, or a series of keys, then back to the original key. In the Baroque it was common to repeat an entire phrase of music, called a ritornello, in each key once it was established. In Classical sonata form, the second key was typically marked with a contrasting theme. Another key may be treated as a temporary tonic, called tonicization. In music, modulation is most commonly the act or process of changing from one key (tonic, or tonal center) to another. ... In Baroque music, ritornello was the word for a recurring passage for orchestra in the first or final movement of a solo concerto or aria (also in works for chorus). ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... In music, tonicization is the treatment of a pitch other than the overall tonic as a temporary tonic in a composition. ...


In common practice period compositions, and most of the Western popular music of the 20th century, pieces always begin and end in the same key, even if (as in some Romantic-era music) the key is deliberately left ambiguous at first. Some arrangements of popular songs, however, will shift up a half-step sometime during the song (often in a repeat of the final chorus) and thus will end in a different key. In music the common practice period is a long period in western musical history spanning from before the classical era proper to today, dated, on the outside, as 1600-1900. ... The expression romantic music and the homophone phrase Romantic music have two essentially different meanings. ... In popular music an arrangement is a setting of a piece of music, which may have been composed by the arranger or by someone else. ... A refrain (from the Old French refraindre to repeat, likely from Vulgar Latin refringere) is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the chorus of a song. ...


Instruments in a key

Certain musical instruments are sometimes said to play in a certain key, or have their music written in a certain key. Instruments which do not play in the key of C are known as transposing instruments. The most common kind of clarinet, for example, is said to play in the key of B flat. This means that a scale written in C major in sheet music will actually sound as a B flat major scale when played; that is, notes sound a whole tone lower than written. Likewise, the horn, normally in the key of F, sounds notes a perfect fifth lower than written. A musical instrument is a device constructed or modified with the purpose of making music. ... A transposing instrument is a musical instrument whose music is written at a pitch different from concert pitch. ... Two soprano clarinets: a Bâ™­ clarinet (left, with capped mouthpiece) and an A clarinet (right, with no mouthpiece). ... Sheet music is written representation of music. ... The musical interval of a major second — also called a whole-tone — is the relationship between the first note (the root or tonic) and the second note in a major scale (and also a minor scale). ... For other uses, see Horn. ... The perfect fifth or diapente is one of three musical intervals that span five diatonic scale degrees; the others being the diminished fifth, which is one semitone smaller, and the augmented fifth, which is one semitone larger. ...


Similarly, some instruments may be said to be built in a certain key. For example, a brass instrument built in B flat will play a fundamental note of B flat, and will be able to play notes in the harmonic series starting on B flat without using valves, fingerholes, or slides or otherwise altering the length of the vibrating column of air. An instrument built in a certain key will often, but not always, have its music written in the same key (see trombone for an exception). However, some instruments, such as the diatonic harmonica and the harp, are in fact designed to play only one key at a time: accidentals are difficult or impossible to play. Image of a trumpet, foreground, a piccolo trumpet behind, and a flugelhorn in background. ... A fundamental is something that cannot be built out of more basic things, which other things are built upon. ... Pitched musical instruments are usually based on a harmonic oscillator such as a string or a column of air. ... The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. ... A harmonica is a free reed wind instrument. ... For other uses, see Harp (disambiguation). ... An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note. ...


In general string instruments tend to be tuned in sharp keys (such as C, D, A, and E); and wind instruments tend to be tuned to flat keys (such as F, B-flat, and E-flat).


In rare cases, all instruments in the choir will be in the same key, regardless of range. Prior to 2000, for example, in music for a drum and bugle corps, all brass lines were not only in the key of G but all instruments—soprano, alto, baritone, euphonium, and contrabass—were in the treble clef. This made it much easier for arrangers to switch parts around to experiment with different tone colors, but the drum corps is probably the only musical ensemble with all ranges of instrumentation in the same key and clef.[citation needed]


The key determines what the music is played in. It can be in major or minor.


The main concept of Keys in composition and the effects thereof In Western musical composition, the key of a song has important ramifications for its composition:

  • As noted earlier, certain instruments are said to be designed for a certain key, as playing in that key can be physically easier or harder. Thus the choice of key can be an important one when composing for an orchestra, as one must take these elements into consideration.
  • In the life of the professional clarinettist, for example, it is common to carry two instruments tuned a semitone apart (B-flat and A) to cope with the needs of composers: Mozart's well-known clarinet concerto is in A Major. To play it on a B-flat instrument would be difficult, and to rewrite all the orchestral parts to allow the piece to be played in B-flat major would be an enormous effort. Even so, it is not unheard of for a piece published in B-flat to include notes a semitone (or more) below the range of the common B-flat clarinet. The piece must then be played on a more exotic instrument, or transposed by hand (or at sight) for the slightly larger 'A' clarinet. There are clarinets with an extended range, with a longer bore and additional keys. As a last resort, it is also not unheard of for a player to roll up a page of the score and insert it into the end of the instrument in order to lengthen it.[citation needed]
  • Besides this though, the timbre of almost any instrument is not exactly the same for all notes played on that instrument. For this reason a song that might be in the key of C might sound or "feel" somewhat different (besides being in a different pitch) to an observer if it is transposed to the key of A. This effect is more pronounced on instruments like the piano, where certain notes have more strings or a thicker string associated with them. However, it is observed that some musicians overstate this element, and in fact this is a joke in the movie This Is Spinal Tap where the guitarist, in response to a question about a particular piece, says that it is "in D minor, which is the saddest of all keys, I find. People weep instantly when they hear it, and I don't know why."
  • In addition, since many composers often utilized the piano while composing, the key chosen can possibly have an effect over the composing. This is because the physical fingering is different for each key, which may lend itself to choosing to play and thus eventually write certain notes or chord progressions compared to others, or this may be done on purpose to make the fingering more efficient if the final piece is intended for piano. This is especially true of composers who are not piano virtuosi.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) was one of the most significant and influential of all composers of Western classical music. ... A clarinet concerto is a concerto for clarinet and orchestra (or concert band). ... In music, timbre, or sometimes timber, (from Fr. ... This Is Spin̈al Tap (which is officially spelled with a non-functional umlaut symbol over the N) is a 1984 mockumentary directed by Rob Reiner and starring members of the semi-fictional heavy-metal glam rock band Spinal Tap. ...

See also

Diatonic Scales and Keys
flats sharps
major minor major minor
0 C, a
1 F d G e
2 B g D b
3 E c A f
4 A f E c
5 D b B g
6 G e F d
7 C a C a
                    lower case letters are minor                        

the table indicates the number of sharps or flats in each scale This key signature – A major or F# minor – consists of three sharps placed after the clef In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the... In music theory, a diatonic scale (from the Greek diatonikos, to stretch out; also known as the heptatonia prima; set form 7-35) is a seven-note musical scale comprising five whole-tone and two half-tone steps, in which the half tones are maximally separated. ... In music, a scale is a group of musical notes that provides material for part or all of a musical work. ... Image File history File links Circle_of_fifths. ... Figure 1. ... Figure 1. ... In music theory, the major scale is one of the diatonic scales. ... A minor scale in musical theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic. ... In music theory, the major scale is one of the diatonic scales. ... A minor scale in musical theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic. ... C major (often just C or key of C) is a musical major scale based on C, with pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C. Its key signature has no flats/sharps (see below: Diatonic Scales and Keys). ... Also see: A major, or A-sharp minor. ... Also see: F minor, or F-sharp minor. ... D minor is a minor scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B-flat, C, and D (natural minor scale). ... Also see: G minor, or G-sharp minor. ... Also see: E major, or E flat minor. ... B-flat major is a major scale based on B-flat, consisting of the pitches B-flat, C, D, E-flat, F, G, A, and B-flat. ... Also see: G major, or G-sharp minor. ... Also see: D minor, or D-flat major. ... Also see: B major, or B-flat minor. ... E-flat major is a major scale based on E-flat, consisting of the pitches E-flat, F, G, A-flat, B-flat, C, D, and E-flat. ... Also see: C major, or C-sharp minor. ... A major is a major scale based on A, consisting of the pitches A, B, C♯, D, E, F♯, G♯, and A. Its key signature consists of three sharps. ... F-sharp minor is a minor scale based on F-sharp, consisting of the pitches F-sharp, G-sharp, A, B, C-sharp, D, E-sharp and F-sharp (harmonic minor scale). ... A-flat major is a major scale based on A-flat, consisting of the pitches A-flat, B-flat, C, D-flat, E-flat, F, G, and A-flat. ... Also see: F major, or F-sharp minor. ... Also see: E minor, or E flat major. ... C-sharp minor is a minor scale based on C-sharp, consisting of the pitches C-sharp, D-sharp, E, F-sharp, G-sharp, A, B-sharp and C-sharp (harmonic minor scale). ... D-flat major is a major scale based on D-flat, consisting of the pitches D-flat, E-flat, F, G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, C, and D-flat. ... B-flat minor is a minor scale based on B-flat, consisting of the pitches B-flat, C, D-flat, E-flat, F, G-flat, A-flat and B-flat (natural minor scale). ... Also see: B minor, or B flat major. ... G-sharp minor is a minor scale based on G-sharp, consisting of the pitches G-sharp, A-sharp, B, C-sharp, D-sharp, E, F-double sharp and G-sharp (harmonic minor scale). ... G-flat major is a major scale based on G-flat, consisting of the pitches G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, C-flat (enharmonic to B natural,) D-flat, E-flat, F, and G-flat. ... E-flat minor is a minor scale based on E-flat, consisting of the pitches E-flat, F, G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, C-flat, D and E-flat (harmonic minor scale). ... F# major is a major scale based on F#, consisting of the pitches F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E# (enharmonic to F natural) and F#. Its key signature consists of six sharps. ... D-sharp minor is a minor scale based on D-sharp, consisting of the pitches D-sharp, E-sharp, F-sharp, G-sharp, A-sharp, B-sharp, C-double sharp and D-sharp (harmonic minor scale). ... C-flat major is a major scale based on C-flat, consisting of the pitches C-flat, D-flat, E-flat, F-flat, G-flat, A-flat, B-flat and C-flat. ... A-flat minor is a minor scale based on A-flat, consisting of the pitches A-flat, B-flat, C-flat, D-flat, E-flat, F-flat, G-flat. ... C# major is a major scale based on C#, consisting of the pitches C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, B# (enharmonic to C natural) and C#. Its key signature consists of seven sharps. ... A-sharp minor is a minor scale based on A-sharp, consisting of the pitches A-sharp, B-sharp, C-sharp, D-sharp, E-sharp, F-sharp, G-double sharp and A-sharp (harmonic minor scale). ...

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