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 Visitors’ FAQs: Key

  • FAQ: When I'm making up riffs and solos how do I find out which key I'm supposed to be in?

  • A: First of all, be aware that there is a difference between “key” and “key signature”. For instance, if you play a solo in D Dorian Mode, we can talk about playing in the key of D. But the key signature is C major! This is because D is the tonal centre of the scale/mode, but the notes used are all derived from C major, of which D is only one note. In fact the key of C major generates 7 modes, D Dorian being mode 2.

    It’s a good idea to be aware of both “key” and “key signature”. To decide what key you’re in, listen for the “tonal centre”, the note that feels like “home” within a key. In D Dorian, this would obviously be D. Then play all the notes in the scale starting with the tonal centre. In D Dorian this would be D, E, F, G, A, B, C. The absence of sharps/flats will immediately tell you the key signature is C major.

    If you’re playing in blues/rock format, again listen for the tonal centre. Then play your blues/minor pentatonic scale beginning on that tonal centre.
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Disclaimer: All content is the author’s interpretation of standard music theory, & should be confirmed & validated by your music trainer, tutor or appropriate professional.

Hi from me -  the author - Maurice D’Abruzzo!

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