• # Who Else Wants To Understand These Key Relationships (Part 2)

Today, we’ll be looking at the relationship between closely related keys.

We covered the first part of this lesson in a previous post, where we covered enharmonic, parallel, and relative key relationships. In this sequel post, we’re taking our studies a step further by exploring closely related keys.

Whether two given keys or more are closely related or not, depends on their respective key signatures. Consequently, we’re getting started with an overview of the term key signature.

## Key Signature

A part from the keys of C major and A minor, every other key has a certain number of sharps and flats that distinguishes it from other keys. The key signature of a given key is the number of sharps or flats in that key.

The scale of a key is one reliable tool that let’s you know the number of sharps or flats in that key. Using the scale of C major:

…we can see that the key of C is all white – neither sharps nor flats. Therefore, the signature of C major is said to be “No flat; no sharp”

Using the cycle of fifths chart:

…you can determine the keys that come after C, in terms of key signature in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.

In a clockwise position, from the 12 o’clock position to 6 o’clock position would show you sharp keys from G to F#.

Key G:

…has one sharp on F.

Key D:

…has two sharps on F and C.

Key A:

…has three sharps on F, C, and G.

Key E:

…has four sharps on F, C, G, and D.

Key B:

…has five sharps on F, C, G, D, and A.

Key F#:

…has six sharps on F, C, G, D, A, and E.

Key signature makes a key unique. The only key that has four sharps in music, is the key of E major and that’s its signature – four sharps.

In a counter-clockwise position, from the 12 o’clock position to 6 o’clock position would show you flat keys from F to Gb

Key F:

…has one flat on B.

Key Bb:

…has two flats on B and E.

Key Eb:

…has three flats on B, E, and A.

Key Ab:

…has four flats on B, E, A, and D.

Key Db:

…has five flats on B, E, A, D, and G.

Key Gb:

…has six flats on B, E, A, D, G, and C.

We’ll be doing an extensive discussion on the key signature in another post. Nevertheless, use what we’ve covered so far as a reference, because like I clearly stated in the introduction, the relationship between closely related keys has a lot to do with key signature.

## “What Are Closely Related Keys?”

Closely related keys are keys that differ in key signature from a given key, either by one sharp or one flat. In this segment, I’ll show you two methods that you can use to determine keys that are closely related to a given key.

### Method #1 – Use Of Cycle of Fourths/Fifths Chart

Using the cycle of fifth/fourths chart:

…closely related keys can be determined.

Here’s how it works…”

Closely related keys to a given key are in adjacent sectors to the left and right of the sector of the given key. For example, the key of C major, which is at the 12 o’clock sector, has F major (11 o’clock) and G major (1 o’clock) as its closely related keys.

In addition to these outer sector keys, the minor keys in the inner sectors are also closely related keys. We covered relative keys in a previous post. So, the keys of  D minor, A minor, and E minor are also closely related keys.

Put together, the key of C major has five closely related keys…

F major

G major

A minor

D minor

E minor

The same procedure can help you determine keys that are closely related to the key of D minor. The key of D minor is at the 11 o’clock sector and has G minor and A minor as its closely related keys.

In addition to these inner sector keys, the major keys in the outer sectors – the keys of  Bb major, F major, and C minor are also closely related keys.

Altogether, the key of D minor has five closely related keys…

G minor

A minor

Bb major

F major

C major

I’m sure you can figure out keys that are closely related to any given key, whether major or minor. Let’s see what the second method has for us.

### Method #2 – Use Of Scale Degree Triads

The major scale has seven notes and each note can be seen as a degree of the scale. Using chord formation in thirds, we can form triads from every degree of the major scale.

Here are scale degree triads formed from each degree of the C major scale…

On the first tone, is the C major triad:

On the second tone, is the D minor triad:

On the third tone, is the E minor triad:

On the fourth tone, is the F major triad:

On the fifth tone, is the G major triad:

On the sixth tone, is the A minor triad:

On the seventh tone, is the B diminished triad:

The quality of these scale degree triads can help you determine the keys that are closely related to a given key. The quality of the following scale-degree triads:

C major
D minor
E minor
F major
G major
A minor

…in the key of C major should give you an idea of keys that are closely related to this key (which share exactly the same quality with the scale degree triads.)

 Scale Degree Triads Closely Related Keys C major C major D minor D minor E minor E minor F major F major G major G major A minor A minor

Attention: Leaving out the B diminished triad of the seventh degree is intentional, and this is due to the fact that there are no diminished keys in music. There can only be major and minor keys. Now considering that there is no key called the key of B diminished, we’re focusing on scale degree triads of major and minor qualities.

## Final Thoughts

Whether you believe it or not, while playing in a given key, relationship between closely related keys are inevitable. A vast majority of the people who do electronic transposition to a given key on the keyboard, let’s say C major, do not know that in actuality they have a knowledge of closely related keys.

While playing a song in the key of C major, you’ll most likely use triads and chords from closely related keys – D minor, E minor, G major, etc., and it’s rare to have a piece of music stay in chord 1 from beginning to end. Instead, chord progressions are made from one degree of the scale to another.

Musicians, who are familiar with these closely related keys, interject some chord progressions.

A 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of D minor progresses from the E half-diminished seventh chord:

…which is chord 2, to the A altered chord:

…which is chord 5, before resolving to the D minor ninth chord:

…which is chord 1.

The 2-5-1 chord progression to D minor described above can be used while in the key of C to progress to chord 2 – the D minor ninth chord, and this is possible because of the relationship between the keys of C major and D minor

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#### Chuku Onyemachi

Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group
Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.