View Full Version : what key is this songlet in?

05-07-2013, 03:04 AM
Hey guys,

I wrote a little song, just by noodling around. It goes (F Dm Dsus4 Em) x 2, (C Cmaj7 Am C) x 2. I'm trying to work out what key it's in. All the chords are in the key of C, but the first F feels like the tonic chord to me. So perhaps it's in F? But in F, E should be Edim, and when I replace the Em by Edim it sounds horrible. What's up with that?

Not that I need to know what key it's in. I was just curious.

Thanks all.

05-07-2013, 04:40 AM
In the key of F with Em and Cmaj7? Doubtful.

The chords are built from notes in the key of C; the progression ends with a C chord; the song's probably in the key of C.

05-07-2013, 04:57 AM
But what do you mean about Cmaj7? Are you saying that the V chord can only be V7 not Vmaj7?
Sorry I am a total noob with respect to songwriting

Ken Middleton
05-07-2013, 06:24 AM
The only key that has all those chords is the key of C major.

05-07-2013, 06:36 AM
Ken is the expert, so I agree with C major.
Also songs tend to resolve to the root chord, so the last chord in the progression is the root. (as TheOnlyUkeThatMatters stated)
Another trick that some times works is just play a scale over the chords (in this case the C major scale) and see how it sounds.

05-07-2013, 03:25 PM
Any key you try to call it you're looking at at least one "chromatic" note being borrowed. I'd agree with Ken and call it C - but after playing through it a couple of times I think you're really looking at a key change between the first and second sections. The first section has a very minor feel and I'd almost call it Dm - the second section is pretty much your standard C.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, but I'm not an expert so feel completely free to ignore me completely!


05-07-2013, 05:24 PM
great answers. thanks guys!

Johnny GDS
05-07-2013, 06:54 PM
If you look at the chords of C major:

Cmaj Dmin Emin Fmaj G7 Amin Bdim

Then the song really is in the key of C. The Dsus4 doesn't use any extra notes outside the key of C either (just subs a "g" note for the "f" note in Dmin). The first part of the progression doesn't begin or end on Cmaj, but it is still derived from that key.

The first part "sounds" right (in my opinion at least) because of the root movements from chord to chord. If a there was a bass line played that was just the root notes of the chords, it would be F-D-D-E. The last chord Emin really leads the ear back to the Fmaj chord and makes the progression sound cool and "right" because of the sequence of notes guiding your ear back to the Fmaj chord. The bass note "E" at least somewhat "leads" the ear into the F chord.

Also the Dsus4 chord is basically a Dmin chord with the 3rd (f) dropped and the 4th (g) added, which also really leads the ear into the Emin chord because g (the added note) is the 3rd of Emin, so it makes the somewhat un-traditional progression (in the key of C) make sonic sense on yet another level by anticipating the next chord.

The Edim chord sounds wrong because it has a Bb in it, which doesn't exist in the key that the rest of the chords are derived from. On uke most people play a dim7 shape as a diminished chord, which has yet another foreign note (Db) which adds to the "wrongness" of the sound.

I agree that the first part does have a particularly minor sound to it, mainly because it is 50% minor chords, 25% major chords, and 25% neutral (not major or minor) chords. Its kind of cool in the sense that it doesn't have a really strong final resolution point until the 2nd half of the song.

Anyway, I guess that's my 2cents worth of silliness, and sorry for this analytical overkill. I love getting analytical on music, but I guess at the end of the day its just sound that we are attempting to organize in ways that we like, and there are as many opinions about what sounds good or right as there are people (at least people who may be interested in such things)! I do think its a cool progression though.

05-08-2013, 03:34 PM
Wow excellent analysis Johnny GDS. Thanks! Also thanks for the compliment!

05-08-2013, 06:35 PM
But what do you mean about Cmaj7? Are you saying that the V chord can only be V7 not Vmaj7?
Sorry I am a total noob with respect to songwriting

Cmaj7 has the note B in it, and the note B isn't in the key of F. Em also has the note B. In the key of F, B is either a sharp 4th or a flat 5th---either way, not friendly to the ears.

In the key of C major, the note B is the 7th note of the scale---ear friendly!