A question about key signature

Posted by: Planobilly

A question about key signature - 09/16/20 03:11 PM

Why would a song be considered to be written in F# when no other chords in the song are in that key?

Example, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. F# G F# G A C D A is the chord progression. The guitar solo is out of a F# minor scale more or less. That scale contains at least F# A and D.

It is pretty obvious what key something is in if it mostly stays in key. It is not so obvious when most of the notes are out of key.

Is this just a question of ease of writing in standard notation or first notes defines the key?

Thanks,

Billy
Posted by: bobcflatpicker

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 03:16 PM

More knowledgeable folks will answer but I would say the beginning chord defines the key.
Posted by: Matt Finley

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 03:20 PM

It can be all over.

Readability is my overriding goal.

Sometimes jazz composers write in C because it's too difficult to figure out what key is best overall when it modulates frequently. Just write with lots of accidentals in the notation.

Other composers change the key signature for the bridge etc. and back in the last verse.

But if I had to pick a key signature that would work best overall, I surely would not choose F# unless I had to.

Bob is right, sometimes the first chord of a song is the correct key signature. Unfortunately, this fails as often as it works.
Posted by: eddie1261

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 03:32 PM

F# minor with a modulation to the 3, which in an F minor scale is an A natural. Because when it comes back to the verse it reverts back to the F# minor that is the home key.

If you want a study in modulation, listen to Sergio Mendez' Never Gonna Let You Go. It changes key 22 times.
Posted by: rharv

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 04:30 PM

Like Eddie said, it works because of relative minors.
It changes from major to minor throughout the song.

The mysterious part is obviously the minor (F#)
Then when it goes to A it is an old classical move; go from relative minor to the major (adds mood like triumph, success etc)
Then revert back to the relative minor for the mystery effect again (or sad or however you perceive it in a given piece).

Point is it could be in either the key of F#(m) or A.
My training says instead of where it starts, in this situation look at where it ends.
One instructor told me in this particular minor/major situation to simply hit the right bass note when it ends.
In this case it would be the A .. but since it does technically start in F#m I wouldn't challenge it.
The chords want you to feel the minor/major change (the effect).

What makes this one interesting is the C and G chords, as these don't fit the basic scale and are a more unique change than the F#m to A in my opinion.

However neither is new
1-b3-4-1 is a common progression (A-C-D-A section; play that alone a few times and it becomes familiar) much like A-C-D-E ..

The half step modulation from F# to G isn't new either, but used in an unfamiliar way.
Combining the two creates a mood.
I actually wrote a song using F#m-G-F#m-Em (I added the Em at the end, but same effect basically).

As far as key, I can picture either being correct, but it would be F#m and not F# (implying major).

I like how this guy puts it -

Quote:
I often hear people discussing music theory as if it were a bunch of rules to be followed or broken. But to me this misses the point.

I like to compare music theory to gravity, and to ask people, “have you ever broken the law of gravity?” It’s a silly question and often gets silly answers, but I hope my point is clear: the law of gravity is not a rule to be followed or broken; it just is.

Like music theory, the law of gravity doesn’t tell you what to do, it merely tells you about cause and effect. Gravity doesn’t care whether or not you drop a rock you are holding; it just tells that *if* you let go of that rock, it will fall. You can choose whether or not to let go based on whether or not you want that rock to fall. Similarly, music theory doesn’t care whether or not you resolve a dominant chord to the tonic or not; if just tells you that *if* you resolve it that way, the result is satisfying in a particular way. You can choose whether or not to resolve it based on whether or not you want that particular sense of satisfaction.

Keep this in mind as you study music theory. No “rule” of music theory ever tells you what you must do; it merely helps you understand the effect of various different things you might try.


source - https://outsideshore.com/category/music-theory/


/just my thoughts on it
Posted by: bobcflatpicker

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 04:48 PM

A good example of a song not necessarily being in the key of the first chord is "Sweet Georgia Brown".
Posted by: Planobilly

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 04:50 PM

Hey Matt...this may have been written in F# for no better reason than that was the first chord.

When the original demo was made none of these people played well enough and Sly Stone had to play all the instruments. Grace Slick did teach Jefferson Airplane how to play the song. She was married to the drummer.

The half step up or down is pretty common in any key. F# to G in this case. It is easy to hear and recognize.

The A C D A by it could be in the key of A but there is no C major in the key of A.

This song became very popular for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the singer/songwriter was a very good looking fashion model. Looking back it was a prototypical vision for the Haight Ashbury LSD drug culture.

It is still being used in 2020 in TV commercials and film.

Billy
Posted by: eddie1261

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 05:02 PM

Originally Posted By: Planobilly
The A C D A by it could be in the key of A but there is no C major in the key of A.


Billy, pick up your guitar and play this progression.

C for 4 beats
Eb for 4 beats
F for 4 beats
Ab for 2 beats
Bb for 2 beats

Repeat a few times.

You are playing major chords with the notes of a C Aeolian (minor) scale as the roots.

There is no C in the key of A MAJOR. The keys of A have 7 modes. 4 of the A modes have a C natural in it. They just aren't the major flavor scales. Here's a chart. With an A as the root, 2,3,6 and 7 have a C natural.

Posted by: Planobilly

Re: A question about key signature - 09/16/20 09:18 PM

Thanks Eddie, I get what you are saying.

What I am saying is if you tell me we are playing in F# major and F# is the only triad used in the whole song, the key does not give me any useful information. Then if I have to sight read it everything becomes an accidental except the F#.
Posted by: eddie1261

Re: A question about key signature - 09/17/20 05:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Planobilly
Thanks Eddie, I get what you are saying.

What I am saying is if you tell me we are playing in F# major and F# is the only triad used in the whole song, the key does not give me any useful information.


Sure it does, and that's where a basis in theory comes into play. There are logical places to go from the root. Picking C for the easiest example, if your root chord is C, the logical next steps on that scale are the 4th (F), the 5th (G), the minor 2nd (Dm), the minor 6th (Am), and the major 3rd (E).

I wrote a song once as an exercise, in C, where the intervals of the notes never changed. So the chord progression was C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, G7 (with no G, just B-D-F) and then back to C.

But there's where it gets sticky. Those notes that I said made up the G7 are also the top 3 notes of a G#dim. So the theory purists would refer to that walk up a major scale as M m m M M m Dim M (octave).

So your starting chord really does give you a road map. Of course really interesting writing doesn't follow a formula. If it did every song would be so similar it would be boring. Just think of how many songs use that 1-5-6m-4 thing that Pachelbel wrote. These guys show this very well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I&ab_channel=random804