How to know which key a lick is in


kjpro
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kjpro
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10/17/2010 4:55 am
Hey guys, how do one figure out the key of a lick?
# 1
shahnen
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shahnen
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10/17/2010 6:54 pm
there are a couple ways i do (i think they are kinda unorthodox tho) whenever i learn a lick i test it out over various types of chords. I have my friend play a chord and i play the lick and just listen to how it sounds. You could also write out the notes in the lick and then depending on the number of sharps or flats you could find the key (if you understand the circle of fifths) sometimes licks have a few outside notes. not all licks are going to fit into a certain key. i recomend just listening when you play it. Keys and scales to me are just suggestions, you just gotta listen and have fun with it.
# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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10/17/2010 11:31 pm
Originally Posted by: kjproHey guys, how do one figure out the key of a lick?

Key means the scale a piece of music using as it's basis.

So, you write out the notes of the lick & see which scale they are part of. I cover this in these tutorials on improvisation:

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=876
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=483
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=491

But those are more focused on figuring out the key from a group of chords. And a group of chords has lots of notes that usually clearly imply one distinct scale & therefore key. Still the same approach can work for a lick. The limitation might be that a lick might only have a few notes. So, it's possible a lick could imply a number of different keys.

Example:

E |-----------------------------|
B |--5-8-5----------------------|
G |--------7--------------------|
D |-----------------------------|
A |-----------------------------|
E |-----------------------------|

This lick contains the notes E, G & D. Those could be in E minor, A minor, G major, C major, etc. And any other scale that happens to contain those 3 notes.

You can't say it's only one & not another, until or unless you put it in a musical context.

Do you have a specific lick in mind?
Christopher Schlegel
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# 3
kjpro
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kjpro
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10/18/2010 3:09 am
Yes I do, But i can't figure how to tab it.
# 4
hunter1801
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hunter1801
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10/18/2010 4:10 am
Well you can just say what song and about how far into it the lick is. Don't have to give the actual lick if you can't
# 5
kjpro
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kjpro
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10/18/2010 9:55 pm
E------5--3--1-------------------------------
B---------------4--2-------------------------
G----------------------4---2--4--------------
D---------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------


E------5--4--2-------------------------------
B---------------4--3--1-----------------------
G-------------------------2-------------------
D-----------------------------4----------------
A---------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------

What key are these in? Thanks for the previous answers, but I'm still a bit puzzled.
# 6
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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10/20/2010 10:05 pm
Originally Posted by: kjpro
What key are these in? Thanks for the previous answers, but I'm still a bit puzzled.

I can see why that might be tricky. You don't have notes from a pure major or minor scale. Let's take a closer look:

E |--5--3--1-----------------|
B |-----------4--2-----------|
G |-----------------4--2--4--|
D |--------------------------|
A |--------------------------|
E |--------------------------|

The notes are:

E |--F--|-----|--G--|-----|--A--|
B |-----|--C#-|-----|--D#-|-----|
G |-----|--A--|-----|--B--|-----|
D |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

So, you've:

A - B - C# - D# - F - G - A

Next you need to understand the scale degrees, the interval intervals between the notes.

E |--b6-|-----|--b7-|-----|--1--|
B |-----|--M3-|-----|--#4-|-----|
G |-----|--1--|-----|--2--|-----|
D |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

A (1)
B (2nd)
C# (major 3rd)
D (sharp 4th)
F (minor 6th)
G (minor 7th)
A (1 - octave repeated)

So you've got an altered scale. Altered from pure major or minor. Based on the scale degrees, you've got a Whole Tone Scale here.

It's used in Romantic Classical (late 19th century), Impressionist & Modern music genres. It also is often used in jazz as an altered V7 chord scale.

Next!

E |--5--4--2-----------------|
B |-----------4--3--1--------|
G |--------------------2-----|
D |-----------------------4--|
A |--------------------------|
E |--------------------------|
The notes are:

E |-----|--F#-|-----|--G#-|--A--|
B |-----|-----|--D--|--Eb-|-----|
G |-----|--A--|-----|-----|-----|
D |-----|-----|-----|--F#-|-----|
A |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

So, you've:

A - D - Eb - F# - G# - A

Writing out the scale degrees here can depend upon which note you pick as the root (1). The first one was easy because the whole tone scale is symmetical. It could have been any of them & the interval intervals between the notes is always just a whole step, hence the name!

Let's try it two different ways. First with the A as the root.

E |-----|--M6-|-----|--M7-|--1--|
B |-----|-----|--4--|--b5-|-----|
G |-----|--1--|-----|-----|-----|
D |-----|-----|-----|--M6-|-----|
A |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

A (1)
D (4th)
Eb (flat 5th)
F# (major 6th)
G# (major 7th)
A (1 - octave repeated)

This is a weird mix. It's not really any scale per se. It's an altered form of major: A major with a flat 5th & no 2nd or 3rd. I don't think this way is valuable because it doesn't contain a 3rd, so we don't have a clear way of thinking of it as major or minor. But you can easily just play the major (C#) or minor 3rd (C) as needed or if needed.

Now let's try the F# as root.

E |-----|--1--|-----|--2--|--m3-|
B |-----|-----|--m6-|--M6-|-----|
G |-----|--m3-|-----|-----|-----|
D |-----|-----|-----|--1--|-----|
A |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E |-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

F# (1)
G# 2nd
A (minor 3rd)
D (augmented 5th or minor 6th)
Eb (major 6th)
F# (1 - octave repeated)

Another weird one! But at least you've got a minor 3rd. So it could be called an altered F# minor scale. F# minor with no 4th, a minor & major 6th.

Hope this helps!
Christopher Schlegel
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# 7
kjpro
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kjpro
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10/21/2010 6:34 pm
Thanks much Chris, you've been a great help.
I now know why I couldn't figure it out. One last question though,
can I use them both over an A major?
# 8
drf46
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drf46
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10/22/2010 1:08 pm
Hi,
Here's a lesson I did in January of 2008 that relates to your question.
http://guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=11389

Doug
# 9
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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10/22/2010 6:34 pm
Originally Posted by: kjproThanks much Chris, you've been a great help.[/quote]
You are welcome.
[QUOTE=kjpro]
One last question though, can I use them both over an A major?

You can play anything you want over any chord or key. Obviously, they will sound "weird" or "outside" or "slightly out of key" because they have notes that are both in (part of the A major scale) and out (not part of the A major scale).

A better way to frame the question is: is this the sound that I want in this part of my music (song, song part, etc.)?

In other words, only the composer/musician can decide what notes should go together in a piece of music. The determining factor is if it fits the intention of the composer/musician.

Otherwise, it's like starting to write a new song and the first thing you do is ask yoruself, "Should I start my new song in a minor or major key?" At this point it's wide open. It's not as if there is "no right or wrong answer". The problem is you don't have enough info.

In order to answer that question you have to specify your intention. Do you want it to sound happy or sad? Ah! Now we have some useful info, we are getting specific about what you want. Major scales are happy sounding; minor scales are sad sounding. See? After you start to focus your intentions about what kind of sound you are trying to achieve, then you can aim for the right answer; meaning the right tool to use, the right scale or notes.

The reason we have, study, learn & use such a wide variety of scales & chords is to have them all in our "tool kit", to be familiar with the unique sound of each note, scale, chord and how it sounds with, or against other ntoes. So, that when we want or need the specific sound of such & such a note, scale or chord, we can "pull it out of our tool box" when you need it.

Make sense? :)
Christopher Schlegel
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# 10
kjpro
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kjpro
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10/25/2010 7:48 pm
Thanks for your help guys.
# 11

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