• The “What Key Am I In” Game 1

    in "What Key" Game

    This is the first episode of a series of posts that I’ll do from time to time called “What Key Am I In?”

    Basically, I give you chords and you tell me the major key they’re from.

    Here’s a list to help you out:

    The first degree of a scale is associated with the major seventh chord.

    The second degree of a scale is associated with the minor seventh chord.

    The third degree of a scale is associated with the minor seventh chord.

    The fourth degree of a scale is associated with the major seventh chord.

    The fifth degree of a scale is associated with the dominant seventh chord.

    The sixth degree of a scale is associated with the minor seventh chord.

    The seventh degree of a scale is associated with the half-diminished seventh chord.

    Recap:

    The 1st and 4th degrees are major seventh chords.

    The 2nd, 3rd, and 6th degrees are minor seventh chords.

    The 5th degree is a dominant seventh chord.

    The 7th degree is a half-diminished seventh chord.

    So what key am I in?

    • I have an “A minor 7” chord.
    • I have an “E minor 7” chord.
    • I have a “G major 7” chord.

    (scroll down for answer but don’t peak until you think you’ve got one!)

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    …………………. Are you ready?
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    Answer: G major

    Explanation: Since minor seventh chords are found on the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th tones, I used the process of elimination to rule out keys that didn’t have “A” or “E” as their 2nd, 3rd, or 6th tone.

    This left me with the key of C major and G major.

    C major has an E minor7 as its 3rd chord and an A minor7 as its 6th chord.

    G major has an E minor7 as its 6th chord and an A minor7 as its 2nd chord.

    The chord that gives it away is the “G major7 chord.”

    C major doesn’t have a G major7 chord… only a G dominant7 chord.

    So it was this one little nuance that gave it away.

    G major takes this round of “What Key Am I In!”

    Until next time,
    JG

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 36 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 jojo

    keep these coming. This was neat.

    Reply

    2 nhgo

    at first i was going to guess C but the Gmajor did give it away. exactly what he said.

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    3 musallio

    cool game..loving it..

    What key am I in If I play (using same rules you gave):

    F#min7
    C#min7
    DMaj7

    ?

    Reply

    4 AK BEN

    AMaj7

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    5 Anele Vic Mamase

    A

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    6 lmitchell108

    I got the correct answer but had to do my process of elimination on paper by creating a grid. Is there a “trick” for coming up with an answer in my head or is it just experience and practice?

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    7 Jukebox

    The above is in A Major… what about this one?

    What key am I in if i play…

    D half-diminished
    G Minor
    B flat Major

    (a) C Minor
    (b) E flat Major
    (c) Both of the above

    (here’s a hint… know the pattern.)

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    ………………………….. Got it???
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    The answer is BOTH!

    See, Because major and minor scales overlap at the sixth note, chords also overlap. for example, if you begin to play the C Major scale from a register woth a lot of treble room, by the time you reach “A” and continue up the board, listening to it may begin to souund a lot like “A Minor…” because it is! Here’s a handy way to remember the Major and Minor scales:

    “W” = a whole step–siply stated, moving from one note to another on the keyboard, with one note between. e.g., from “E” to “F sharp;” “E” is in the middle.

    “h” = a half step–logically, moving from one note to another note on the keyboard, with no notes between. e.g., from “E” to “F;” two white notes, nothing in the middle.

    for Major: W__W__h__W__W__W__h
    >for all 12 keys!
    for Minor: W__H__W__W__h__W__W

    Can you see the pattern?
    Two whole steps, then a half, then three whole steps, then another half. As this goes on forever on the keyboard, not only can you play this theory and NEVER be wrong, you can play this and it will continue from one end of the board to the other in any key… cool huh?

    Now for chords. they too have an overlapping effect in the same position. In this case, the sixth chord. as stated above so well by the H.A.P. staff, the major chords’ degrees are mentioned… but the melodic minor chord thoery, beginning from the sixth note, would be like this:

    1. Minor 7th
    2. Half-Diminished
    3. Major 7th
    4. Minor 7th
    5. Minor 7th
    6. Major 7th
    7. Doninant 7th

    …See the pattern? They allways overlap. again the same rules apply as in the key center scales (one-key scales). It is the same for all 12 keys, and can be played continuously throughout the keyboard.

    BIG SHOUT OUT to my boy Jermaine…we grew up together… ‘member Youth On The Move for Christ? Pastor Fluker? Portia James? Quaker Meadow?

    Reply

    8 Jukebox

    Small correction… “F” is between “E” and “F” sharp.

    Reply

    9 Jukebox

    uuh…no. first time explorer.

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    10 Jermaine

    @Jukebox (Rodney)…

    Good to see you on here. I just replied to your e-mail.

    Take care bro,
    JG

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    11 Nicholas

    Man this is becoming like baby stuff to be mow

    Thanks JG

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    12 ct

    Very interesting lesson. I have and still is learning alot of information on this blog. Keep it up! You’re helping me and a lot of other people who wouldn’t be where we are in our music playing.

    Reply

    13 joseph

    It’s a pretty nice lesson/game every music learner should be interested in. Helps one appreciate the key of a piece by mere seeing what chord is played.

    Reply

    14 joseph wilkins

    thank the lord for you and keep on sending me lessonso keep on preaching the word God bless you and your family.

    Reply

    15 Kenneth

    Hi. Came here to clear up a few things. However, there is a statement in the original post: “A minor seventh as its 3rd chord”(for G major). If this is actually correct, it could use an explanation.

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    16 Jermaine Griggs

    Kenneth, you’re absolutely right. While the answer is still G major, “A minor 7” is the 2nd tone of G, not the 3rd tone. Luckily both the 2nd and 3rd create minor chords so this didn’t alter our end result. The Gmaj7 is the giveaway as C major only has a Gdominant7, diatonically. Good catch Kenneth.

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    17 alrobnett

    Does the game imply that the occurrence of an accidental always indicates a key change? I think of diminished chords as being versatile in the extreme, able to slip in anywhere. Otherwise, the occurrence of a diminished triad would seem to imply that the key must be a half step above one of the notes in that diminished triad.

    Reply

    18 Stephanie

    Who wants to help a sister out? If you have a song and the key is C and the chords are C – Gm7 – Bb and F. What makes it the key of C? Any help would be great!!

    Reply

    19 Jermaine Griggs

    From an intuitive perspective, if you press down C during this entire progression, it will ring true as the key. if you press down F, it will not. If you press down Bb it will not. If you press than any other note, it will not come close to the sound “C” gives you as the true key center.

    In this progression, you are borrowing chords from other keys. This is very common. True, there are diatonic chords native to the key of C but if we only played those 7 chords over and over, everything would sound the same. Sure, we can voice chords different and make use of inversions, but borrowing chords from other keys gives us variety. So it can be said, we “spent some time in the key of F” in this progression. That G minor 7 is the 2nd tone of F… the Bb major chord is the 4th of F and if you really look at it, it’s not that different from the G minor 7 chord (3 of 4 notes match). Then we’re off to F. But it’s all in how the chords are functioning. The “F” chord in this example is not functioning as a tonic chord or a chord of rest. You only get that when you return back to the C major chord.

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    20 Tim Goodson

    One way to think of it is as the key of C minor with a “constantly reoccurring Picardy 3rd” and a borrowed major 4 chord (F major). That progression is fairly common in pop music. Another way to think of it is to ask the question, “after playing this progression, what chord could I end with for full resolution?” Answer would probably be C. Rule of thumb is that the best resolution chord is probably the tonic.

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    21 Floyd

    my first time trying this, and man ic i hav alot to learn i couldn’t get one right…omG!
    Yet it waz good to try. I right like this..

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    22 Thomas

    Did you not say at the beginning that the first degree of the scale is associated with the major seventh chord? That is what threw me off. I assumed that any major chord could be used, but I forgot that G major seventh has an F#, and an F# does not appear in the C major scale. Good one JG.

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    23 Jerry

    Very interesting analyses. Please analyze also
    the precise Mode (Dorian vs Aeolian and other
    modes) instead of merely “Minor Tonality” or key.
    Ionian Mode of course is “Major Tonality” or key.

    Reply

    24 Andre'

    Very helpful

    Thank you,
    Andre

    Reply

    25 strippers glasgow

    Greeting from across the world. excellent post I will return for more.

    Reply

    26 Oriokot

    Wow!!! Jermaine that’s a very powerful tool. thanks

    Reply

    27 Omar

    Nice really nice…..thanks to you..

    Reply

    28 jared

    Jermaine,
    This is good stuff. I tend to see things in terms of.
    chordal scales. Stephanie’s question does look more like ‘F’.
    With a raised forth in ‘F’ (lydian dominant) it seems to resolve.
    Of course, if it’s played as a blues that might also shed some light . . .
    Jared

    Reply

    29 caleb

    jermaine you are the best.

    Reply

    30 Musa

    Even though I don’t understand this, but I am hopefull that one day I will understand as others…

    Thanku

    Reply

    31 wesley

    man not enough information

    Reply

    32 wesley

    also use easier words

    Reply

    33 prince

    I am enjoying this guy JG. Never in my wildest of dreams did I ever think that I would find music theory so practical, yep u heard right, theory so practical. This dude teaches us theory but In a way that really really challenges u to be very practical. Almost quit piano, but now will die playing it thanx to Jermain

    Reply

    34 Jean

    Hey jermaine

    How are you great excise but. The way this something that will always keep brains ticking I just new G Major it just stood out for me anyway continue to do what your doing you are a great teacher every man women has their talent but he did not just give it us to keep it to ourselves but to put to use in Matthew 25 14 30 he talks about the the talents one had five he and immediately he went on a journey another had five he went and traded with them and was able to add another five the one that had had gained another two but the one who had gain one went and buried it so to this is tha when God blesses us with talents he want us to build upon it use yes he will take it way stay bless

    Reply

    35 Tim Goodson

    Any way you could give us a lesson on how fancy chords function? I know how to figure out and play stuff like a Cm7b5 or DbM11 but I’d love to learn how to fit some of those type chords together. I’m a worship leader/pianist and would love to alter some chord progs and spice things up, but sadly I’m quite white. Haha. Love the lesson bro!

    Reply

    36 Sis B

    Thank you for this…though I am a bit lost, but I believe I will get it eventually.
    I love your website – better than most I have visited. God bless you.
    The day I have money, would like to buy all your materials — trying to learn how to play the piano, to help in church – still new to this :-)

    Reply

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