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Old 25-04-2014, 06:19 AM   #1
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track key questions

Hi all, this has been playing on my mind recently and i was hoping some of you could help me sleep tonight.
i have googled and searched the forum but cant find anything that answers my question.

I have been looking in to track keys, how to find them and how to mix them (not necessarily for DJing, maybe for tracks within a song too, just overall).

I have found plenty of charts e.t.c. that show you what chords mean what keys (although it looks like the fundamental frequency would give this away) and what keys go with what other keys.
but i have a couple of unanswered questions.

1.

should it be the first note/chord that decides the key, or the most dominant one? i read it was the latter, but what if they are all of equal velocity, expression, e.t.c. and are equally balanced?

2. (the biggest one playing on my mind)

i also read that when mixing two tracks, if the keys fit it will always sound good. i find this hard to believe though.
for example, say i have two, one bar length tracks, playing single notes not chords (to keep things simple), and the notes are all in 1/4 length, so exactly the same basic 1234 on both tracks apart from the notes played.
if "track A" goes F-A-D-B, for example and "track B" goes F-E-D#-B, then this will cause problems.
according to what i have read, chances are that the first F would decide the key (lets just say its the most dominant note too for now), then you have A and E which should work together for the most part, but then you get D playing with D#, which is just not going to work.
so what am i missing here?


sorry for my clueless question if this is an obvious answer, but my knowledge of music theory is vague.

thank you

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Old 26-04-2014, 04:53 PM   #2
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Re: track key questions

It all depends on what key you're in. If you're in the key of F major, then a B and a D# will sound funny. You don't need to know all that much about music theory to hear when something sounds good or bad to you. If you google "circle of fifths" it will tell you how all the keys are related and which notes will work and won't work.

Also remember, these are just guidelines. You can purposely use dissonant chords if that's the sound you're going for.

Good luck
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Old 26-04-2014, 05:08 PM   #3
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Re: track key questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post

2. (the biggest one playing on my mind)

i also read that when mixing two tracks, if the keys fit it will always sound good. i find this hard to believe though.
for example, say i have two, one bar length tracks, playing single notes not chords (to keep things simple), and the notes are all in 1/4 length, so exactly the same basic 1234 on both tracks apart from the notes played.
if "track A" goes F-A-D-B, for example and "track B" goes F-E-D#-B, then this will cause problems.
according to what i have read, chances are that the first F would decide the key (lets just say its the most dominant note too for now), then you have A and E which should work together for the most part, but then you get D playing with D#, which is just not going to work.
so what am i missing here?


sorry for my clueless question if this is an obvious answer, but my knowledge of music theory is vague.

thank you

i can't answer the first but the second i'll attempt. as mentioned google the circle of fifths or even better the camelot wheel and it's rules.
By mixing two tracks together i'm assuming you mean creating a segue from one to the next dj style, with that in mind that's where the EQs come in to play a bassline doesn't pay chords for isntance, cutting the mids of one track and bringing the mids of another in would help to overcome the issue you mention. I'm a bg fan of harmonic mixing and tbh i've never come across an issue with clashing notes even in the whole time i've been doing it - and i mix all sorts, not just straight up dance music, but stuff that's musically pretty complex too, and the issue just never has arisen, i think it's probably to do with maybe not being in the same key (note wise) but more to do with harmonic minors and majors and double harmonics and stuff. but that's just what i think, i have no sound knowledge on that part at all, just sort of what i understand is going on. i couldn't explain those though btw



also if i'm right the d-sharp major scale has both D and D# in it but the D is called Cx and the C is called B#
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Old 26-04-2014, 07:39 PM   #4
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Re: track key questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
I have found plenty of charts e.t.c. that show you what chords mean what keys (although it looks like the fundamental frequency would give this away) and what keys go with what other keys.
I think I could help more if I knew what you've read on the subject and what you mean by what keys go with what other keys
So, if you have links to that or something, definitely post them up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
1.

should it be the first note/chord that decides the key, or the most dominant one? i read it was the latter, but what if they are all of equal velocity, expression, e.t.c. and are equally balanced?
first note in the melody ? not necessarily because a chord progression doesn't necessarily start on the I chord.
It helps to play an instrument to understand the idea of the "tonal center". Basically, the fundamental is the note that feels like it's the conclusion of the melody. You could find it by noodling around on a keyboard and find the note that gives you that feeling.
I've recorded some quick stuff so you can hear what I'm talking about.
Here are two chord progressions, G-Dm and G-C. I think you can hear what key it's in ?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
2. (the biggest one playing on my mind)

i also read that when mixing two tracks, if the keys fit it will always sound good. i find this hard to believe though.
for example, say i have two, one bar length tracks, playing single notes not chords (to keep things simple), and the notes are all in 1/4 length, so exactly the same basic 1234 on both tracks apart from the notes played.
if "track A" goes F-A-D-B, for example and "track B" goes F-E-D#-B, then this will cause problems.
according to what i have read, chances are that the first F would decide the key (lets just say its the most dominant note too for now), then you have A and E which should work together for the most part, but then you get D playing with D#, which is just not going to work.
so what am i missing here?
Your example doesn't work because none of those two lines are in the key of F (F major scale is F G A Bb C D E)
But you're right, though, even if the two tracks are in the same key, some notes may be clashing and the weirdest would be two notes that are only a semi-tone apart.
So, yeah, although it might work most of the time, you'd still have to be careful.
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Old 27-04-2014, 08:03 AM   #5
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Re: track key questions

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Originally Posted by Benwaa View Post
i can't answer the first but the second i'll attempt. as mentioned google the circle of fifths or even better the camelot wheel and it's rules.
By mixing two tracks together i'm assuming you mean creating a segue from one to the next dj style, with that in mind that's where the EQs come in to play a bassline doesn't pay chords for isntance, cutting the mids of one track and bringing the mids of another in would help to overcome the issue you mention. I'm a bg fan of harmonic mixing and tbh i've never come across an issue with clashing notes even in the whole time i've been doing it - and i mix all sorts, not just straight up dance music, but stuff that's musically pretty complex too, and the issue just never has arisen, i think it's probably to do with maybe not being in the same key (note wise) but more to do with harmonic minors and majors and double harmonics and stuff. but that's just what i think, i have no sound knowledge on that part at all, just sort of what i understand is going on. i couldn't explain those though btw



also if i'm right the d-sharp major scale has both D and D# in it but the D is called Cx and the C is called B#
i dont necessarily mean for DJing, i am just asking for general use.
when i used to DJ a lot i started using the camelot wheel. i scanned loads of my tracks with "mixed in key" and labelled my vinyl sleeves. but i eventually realised that the hassle wasnt really worth it, however, i only DJ for fun, not for a crowd.

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Old 27-04-2014, 08:13 AM   #6
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Re: track key questions

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Originally Posted by Lug View Post
I think I could help more if I knew what you've read on the subject and what you mean by what keys go with what other keys
So, if you have links to that or something, definitely post them up
i am referring to the camelot wheel that benwaa mentioned, here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lug View Post
first note in the melody ? not necessarily because a chord progression doesn't necessarily start on the I chord.
It helps to play an instrument to understand the idea of the "tonal center". Basically, the fundamental is the note that feels like it's the conclusion of the melody. You could find it by noodling around on a keyboard and find the note that gives you that feeling.
I've recorded some quick stuff so you can hear what I'm talking about.
Here are two chord progressions, G-Dm and G-C. I think you can hear what key it's in ?

so it is the concluding note/chord that decides the key?
im not sure i understand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lug View Post

Your example doesn't work because none of those two lines are in the key of F (F major scale is F G A Bb C D E)
But you're right, though, even if the two tracks are in the same key, some notes may be clashing and the weirdest would be two notes that are only a semi-tone apart.
So, yeah, although it might work most of the time, you'd still have to be careful.
thanks!
i didnt think it was a completely flawless technique. nowhere that i found in my searches mentioned that it doesnt necessarily work every time, everywhere suggests that it is a guaranteed working method.

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Old 27-04-2014, 08:14 AM   #7
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Re: track key questions

thank you everyone for your replies so far.

very helpful


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Old 27-04-2014, 10:28 AM   #8
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Re: track key questions

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Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
i am referring to the camelot wheel that benwaa mentioned, here:
ok, cycle of fifths. You can definitely use that to find what key you're in. That version would be more useful I think because it also gives you the sharps and flats for each key :


Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
so it is the concluding note/chord that decides the key?
im not sure i understand
yes, well, it doesn't "decide" the key but it's the noodling way of finding what key you're in. The idea is that the note that gives you that feeling is the tonic. It was just a way of "hearing" what it means.

two other ways of finding what key you're in :
- each key has its corresponding sharps and flats so you could play the notes of the melody, check for any sharps or flats and figure out the key based on that

- looking at the chords :
I'm sorry if I'm talking about stuff you already know here but here we go :
C major scale is C D E F G A B. Each note is given a number and is called a scale degree. So, C is the first degree, D the second, etc.

Basic chords are built by adding thirds ; so a C chord would be C d E f G a b > C E G
Now, this chord has a major third (two tones away from the root) and a perfect fifth (3 and a half tone away from the root).
Putting the notes aside, the idea is the chord of the first degree of the major scale is a major chord

If you use the same scale and build a chord starting from D, you get c D e F g A b. D - F is a minor third (one and a half tone) and D - A is a perfect fifth. It's D minor.
Second degree of the major scale gives a minor chord

Continue like this and you get major or minor chords for each of the degrees of the major scale.
Goes like this : I (major) ii (minor) iii (minor) IV (major) V (major) vi (minor) vii° (minor and diminished fifth)

So, with that in mind, you could check the chords in your song and figure out what key they fit in.

Example : D - E - A
three major chords. There are only three possible major chords in the major scale and they're degrees I, IV and V. D and E follow each other so they have to be IV and V. I is A. key of A.
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Old 27-04-2014, 08:24 PM   #9
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Re: track key questions

WOW thats a lot to take in

thanks for the great reply, this has helped me loads. i will have to keep referring back to this for a while though
and for the record, i did not know the stuff you talked about, i know next to nothing about music theory, its something ive been meaning to learn but never found the time to.

thank you very much, i will try to take all that in

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Old 28-04-2014, 12:49 AM   #10
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Re: track key questions

Oh wow, this thread is definitely a learning experience for me. Thank you all for this and for bringing up this thread!
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Old 28-04-2014, 02:00 AM   #11
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Re: track key questions

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and for the record, i did not know the stuff you talked about, i know next to nothing about music theory, its something ive been meaning to learn but never found the time to.
oh, ok. These are really shortly explained, I hope it makes sense anyway.
I thought I would add something about sharps and flats corresponding to a specific key, and explain where it comes from.
Our twelve-tone system relies on twelve different notes, all a semi-tone apart. C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# and B are all the notes of what's called the chromatic scale.
P.S. : In that well-tempered system, C# (the note a semi tone higher than C) and Db (the note a semi-tone lower than D) are the same sound.

C and D are one whole tone apart because C - C# is 1/2 tone and C# - D is 1/2 tone and 1/2+1/2 = 1
C and E are two tones apart for the same reason (4*1/2=2)
E and F as well as B and C are one semi-tone apart.


The major scale is better defined by its intervals between each degree which are
a whole tone, whole tone, semi-tone, whole, whole, whole and semi
1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2

so, when you take the chromatic scale and apply these intervals, you get your major scale in the key of whatever note you started on.
For C major, it happens to have no flats or sharps.
C c# D d# E F f# G g# A a# B C
- 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2

but starting from E, for example, you'll end up falling on sharps.
E f F#g G# A a# B c C# d D# E
- 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2

that's why you have four sharps in the key of E major : F, G, C and D, all sharp.

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Old 28-04-2014, 06:09 AM   #12
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Re: track key questions

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C and D are one whole tone apart because C - C# is 1/2 tone and C# - D is 1/2 tone and 1/2+1/2 = 1
C and E are two tones apart for the same reason (4*1/2=2)
E and F as well as B and C are one semi-tone apart.
that is odd to me because im so used to each note including sharps/flats being a semitone apart.


thanks for the info

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Old 28-04-2014, 09:59 AM   #13
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Re: track key questions

makes sense when you think of a piano's keys. There's a semitone between each keys

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Old 28-04-2014, 08:42 PM   #14
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Re: track key questions

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makes sense when you think of a piano's keys. There's a semitone between each keys

yea i did think that. its just not very scientific

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Old 29-04-2014, 02:21 AM   #15
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Re: track key questions

haha yes I admit this is going too far into history for me to really be sure of what I'm talking about.
I think those twelve tones come from Pythagoras and his perfect fifth ratio. Most instruments were tuned like that, following the cycle of fifth.

The major scale was probably used in a lot of medieval music, which would be why they decided to name these notes c d e f g a b and simply decided that the other notes that we get by following the cycle of fifth would just be called the name of the note sharp or flat. Speculations only
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Old 29-04-2014, 05:22 AM   #16
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Re: track key questions

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haha yes I admit this is going too far into history for me to really be sure of what I'm talking about.
I think those twelve tones come from Pythagoras and his perfect fifth ratio. Most instruments were tuned like that, following the cycle of fifth.

The major scale was probably used in a lot of medieval music, which would be why they decided to name these notes c d e f g a b and simply decided that the other notes that we get by following the cycle of fifth would just be called the name of the note sharp or flat. Speculations only
interesting

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Old 01-05-2014, 05:26 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
1.

should it be the first note/chord that decides the key, or the most dominant one? i read it was the latter, but what if they are all of equal velocity, expression, e.t.c. and are equally balanced?
No, it's which key most of the chords are in which determines a song's key.

Eg if your composition used the chords, CM7, Em7, F and G it's most likely that your song is in the key of C Major or A Minor. Whereas, if it was CM7, Bm7, F#m7, D and G it's most likely in the key of G Major or E Minor.

The reason for this is because the tonic of each chord (the root note) falls on the scale of C/Am in the first example and G/Em in the second.

Whether the song is major or minor depends on which chords are dominant. Ie: whether major or minor chords are most apparent or used in the composition.

I suggest learning the scale of C Major (Tone Tone Semitone Tone) and C Minor (Flatten the third - Tone Semitone Tone Tone) and the circle of fifths. The circle of fifths is one of the fundamentals of learning music theory and it's a really valuable tool.

[edit]

Also, the best tool I've found for learning / teaching theory, composing and transposing is . There's an App version. But it sucks, I recommend buying the book. The wheel contains every concept of music theory in its design and you can learn a lot once you understand how to use it.

I'd also recommend checking out [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
. His videos are really good and I definitely recommend watching [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
.

If you can remember that Fat Cunts Get Down And Eat Bass or some similar device, you know the circle of fifths. But this video goes into more depth about how to use the circle as a compositional aid.

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Old 18-05-2014, 10:40 PM   #18
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Re: track key questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parricide View Post
1.

should it be the first note/chord that decides the key, or the most dominant one? i read it was the latter, but what if they are all of equal velocity, expression, e.t.c. and are equally balanced?

2. (the biggest one playing on my mind)

i also read that when mixing two tracks, if the keys fit it will always sound good. i find this hard to believe though.
for example, say i have two, one bar length tracks, playing single notes not chords (to keep things simple), and the notes are all in 1/4 length, so exactly the same basic 1234 on both tracks apart from the notes played.
if "track A" goes F-A-D-B, for example and "track B" goes F-E-D#-B, then this will cause problems.
according to what i have read, chances are that the first F would decide the key (lets just say its the most dominant note too for now), then you have A and E which should work together for the most part, but then you get D playing with D#, which is just not going to work.
so what am i missing here?


sorry for my clueless question if this is an obvious answer, but my knowledge of music theory is vague.

thank you
For the first question, there are many musical elements that affect our feeling of tonality -- that is, which note within the scale is the key center or tonic. The pattern of harmonic progression, for example, can make us feel like a certain chord is "home" and therefore its root is the tonic. The relationship of a perfect fifth in a melody can help us hear the lower note as a tonic. There is no one formula that will tell you which note is the tonic. It's whatever we hear as sounding like a final resting place. If the key has one flat, then F might be a good guess, but what if it's minor (in which case it would be D) or dorian (C) etc.

For your second question, of course what "sounds good" is always in the ear of the beholder. If you mix two tracks both in C major, chances are it won't sound too dissonant, but if one track happens to have a C chord and the other a G7 (both in the key of C), it will certainly sound, well, bracing! Only if the two tracks happen to be sharing the same harmony (both G7s for example) will they go together well.

I hope that helps.
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Old 20-05-2014, 02:52 AM   #19
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Re: track key questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by InverSound View Post
IMO you are over-complicating it with theory. I know my theory, but your best way of telling what flows with what is by practice and using your ears. ALso, learn the circle of fifths. This is very important.
Bad contradictory advice. You're advising that he avoid theory by using the circle of fifths. The point is that if Parricide had memorised the circle and learned how to use it, he would have his answers for 1 and 2 already.

Not knowing your theory over-complicates things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by filer View Post
If the key has one flat, then F might be a good guess, but what if it's minor (in which case it would be D) or dorian (C) etc.
It could also be G. It depends whether it's Bb or F#. If it's in F then its relative minor is D. If it's in G, then it's relative minor is E. "Dorian C" is in C Major. If you were to transpose Bb or F# it would no longer be Dorian C, it would be G or F.

Quote:
Originally Posted by filer View Post
For your second question, of course what "sounds good" is always in the ear of the beholder. If you mix two tracks both in C major, chances are it won't sound too dissonant, but if one track happens to have a C chord and the other a G7 (both in the key of C), it will certainly sound, well, bracing! Only if the two tracks happen to be sharing the same harmony (both G7s for example) will they go together well.
Incorrect. If you were to mix a GMaj7 over a C then you could make a CMaj11, CMaj13, GMaj13 or a Dmin13 chord - depending on the rooting of the chords. The result would not be inharmonic and, depending on the style of music you're playing, it could sound quite good. If the right C and G7 chords are played together then the result will not be "bracing" it will be jazzy. Any of the early 90s piano house, or some of the newer deep house music would really benefit from the combination of these chords.

Last edited by Jaded; 20-05-2014 at 03:14 AM..
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Old 20-05-2014, 08:28 AM   #20
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Re: track key questions

hey Sean, it's nothing to do with your reputation. You can read all sort of stuff on the internet and it might be confusing when you're just learning on the subject. Maybe Jaded misunderstood what you meant, but he was just worried that this contradictory information would have parricide confused. You explained your point better now and it is clear now. Really no need to feel offended, especially not on these boards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
It could also be G. It depends whether it's Bb or F#. If it's in F then its relative minor is D. If it's in G, then it's relative minor is E.
If we're talking key signatures, one flat is F
G is one sharp
Quote:
Originally Posted by filer View Post
If the key has one flat, then F might be a good guess, but what if it's minor (in which case it would be D) or dorian (C) etc.
I kinda understand what you mean but including modes in the mix is maybe a bit confusing. Plus, C is the fifth degree in the key of F so it would be the fifth mode (mixolydian).

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