In music theory, the key of a piece usually refers to the tonic note and chord, which gives a subjective sense of arrival and rest. Other notes and chords in the piece create varying degrees of tension, resolved when the tonic note and/or chord returns. The key may be major or minor, although major is assumed in a phrase like "this piece is in C." Popular songs are usually in a key, and so is classical music during the common practice period, about 1650–1900. Longer pieces in the classical repertoire may have sections in contrasting keys.
The methods by which the key is established for a particular piece are not easy to explain, and vary considerably over the period of music history; however, the chords most often used in a piece in a particular key are those containing the notes in the corresponding scale, and conventional progressions of these chords, particularly cadences, serve to orient the listener around the tonic.
The key signature is not a reliable guide to the key of a written piece. It does not discriminate between a major key and its relative minor; the piece may modulate to a different key; if the modulation is brief, it may not involve a change of key signature, being indicated instead with accidentals. Occasionally, a piece in a mode such as Mixolydian or Dorian will be written with a major or minor key signature appropriate to the tonic, and accidentals throughout the piece.
Pieces in modes not corresponding to major or minor keys may sometimes be referred to as being in the key of the tonic. A piece using some other type of harmony, resolving e.g. to A, might be described as "in A" to indicate that A is the tonal center of the piece.
An instrument may be said to be "in a key", an unrelated usage meaning it is a transposing instrument.
A key relationship is the relationship between keys, measured by common tones and nearness on the circle of fifths. See: closely related key.
Other articles related to "musical keys, key, keys, musical":
... Musical keys → color ... Rimsky-Korsakov synesthetically experienced colors for musical keys (musical keys →color) ... For example, for him, the key of C major was white, and the key of B major was a gloomy dark blue with a steel shine ...
... Key coloration is the difference between the intervals of different keys in a single non-equal tempered tuning, and the overall sound and "feel" the key created by the tuning of its ... Historical irregular musical temperaments usually have the narrowest fifths between the diatonic notes ("naturals") producing purer thirds, and wider fifths among the ... Each key then has a slightly different intonation, hence different keys have distinct characters ...
Famous quotes containing the words keys and/or musical:
“without luggage or defenses,
giving up my car keys and my cash,
keeping only a pack of Salem cigarettes
the way a child holds on to a toy.
I signed myself in where a stranger
puts the inked-in Xs”
—Anne Sexton (19281974)
“I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,
When in a wood of Crete they bayed the bear
With hounds of Sparta: never did I hear
Such gallant chiding; for besides the groves,
The skies, the fountains, every region near
Seemed all one mutual cry. I never heard
So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)