• Here’s How Top Players Explore Other Key Centers

    in Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning how top players explore other key centers, this lesson is for you.

    Several years ago, one of the things that marveled me about advanced keyboardists is their ability to play in a given key (let’s say C major):

    …and still incorporate ideas (ranging from scales, to intervals, to chords, chord progressions, etc.) from related and foreign keys.

    Eventually, I discovered that advanced classical, jazz, and gospel musicians explore the ideas from related and foreign keys and I’m here to show you how a variety of key centers can be explored from a given key.

    But before we get started, let’s take a look at the concept of key.

    A Short Note On The Concept Of Key

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…the term key is used to describe an environment created by a collection of eight notes, geared towards the establishment of a particular note (known as the tonic) as the key center.”

    The entire keyboard layout:

    …is a product of the duplication of these twelve notes:

    Each of these notes can become a key when an environment of eight tones is created, with the goal of establishing the given note as a key center.

    For example, the note C:

    …is just a note, until an environment of eight tones is created, where C:

    …is established as the key center.

    A collection of all the white notes on the keyboard from C to C:

    …produces an environment where C:

    …is the key center, hence, it is known as the key of C.

    How To Explore Other Key Centers From A Given Key

    The Tonic As The Second Tone

    The tonic can be considered as the second tone. The tonic in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …can be considered as a second tone.

    C is the second tone in the key of Bb major:

    Playing the Bb major scale:

    …from C to C:

    …produces a relationship between the key of C and the key of Bb major.

    The C scale derived from the consideration of C as the second tone of a scale is known as the Dorian scale:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The key of Bb major:

    …can be explored from the key of C major using the C Dorian scale:

    …where C functions as the second tone of the scale.

    The Tonic As The Third Tone

    The tonic can be considered as the third tone. The tonic in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …can be considered as a third tone.

    C is the third tone in the key of Ab major:

    Playing the Ab major scale:

    …from C to C:

    …produces a relationshbip between the key of C and the key of Ab major.

    The C scale derived from the consideration of C as the third tone of a scale is known as the Phrygian scale:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The key of Ab major:

    …can be explored from the key of C major using the C Phrygian scale:

    …where C functions as the third tone of the scale.

    The Tonic As The Fourth Tone

    The tonic can be considered as the fourth tone. The tonic in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …can be considered as a fourth tone.

    C is the fourth tone in the key of G major:

    Playing the G major scale:

    …from C to C:

    …produces a relationship between the key of C and the key of G major.

    The C scale derived from the consideration of C as the fourth tone of a scale is known as the Lydian scale:

    “In A Nutshell…”
    The key of G major:

    …can be explored from the key of C major using the C Lydian scale:

    …where C functions as the fourth tone of the scale.

    The Tonic As The Fifth Tone

    The tonic can be considered as the fifth tone. The tonic in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …can be considered as a fifth tone.

    C is the fifth tone in the key of F major:

    Playing the F major scale:

    …from C to C:

    …produces a relationship between the key of C and the key of F major.

    The C scale derived from the consideration of C as the fifth tone of a scale is known as the Mixolydian scale:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The key of F major:
    .
    ..can be explored from the key of C major using the C Mixolydian scale:

    …where C functions as the fifth tone of the scale.

    The Tonic As The Sixth Tone

    The tonic can be considered as the sixth tone. The tonic in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …can be considered as a sixth tone.

    C is the sixth tone in the key of Eb major:

    Playing the Eb major scale:

    …from C to C:

    …produces a relationship between the key of C and the key of Eb major.

    The C scale derived from the consideration of C as the sixth tone of a scale is known as the Aeolian scale:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The key of Eb major:

    …can be explored from the key of C major using the C Aeolian scale:

    …where C functions as the sixth tone of the scale.

    The Tonic As The Seventh Tone

    The tonic can be considered as the seventh tone. The tonic in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …can be considered as a seventh tone.

    C is the seventh tone in the key of Db major:

    Playing the Db major scale:

    …from C to C:

    …produces a relationship between the key of C and the key of Db major.

    The C scale derived from the consideration of C as the seventh tone of a scale is known as the Locrian scale:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The key of Db major:

    …can be explored from the key of C major using the C Locrian scale:

    …where C functions as the seventh tone of the scale.

    Final Words

    The following keys:

    Bb major

    Ab major

    G major

    F major

    Eb major

    Db major

    …can be explored from the key of C major:

    …if we change our perception of the tonic as the first note. Considering the tonic as the first note is ideal. However, there is need to explore other considerations of the tonic as the second, third, fourth…and seventh note as well.

    In subsequent lessons, we’ll take a look at creative ideas we can come up with.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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