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When is a Song Major or Minor?

jools28

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[ADMIN EDIT] posts moved to a new thread, please always start a new thread for a new topic/question]

Hi all, Sorry to dredge up this old post but no one replied to my last one and this has had lots of responses. I've found a song that has confused me. I have a version in G major and a version in E minor-I know they are the same key signature, but how do I know what it's really in? From what I can tell they both follow the same chord progression. I like to know what key a song is in to be accurate but I can't find out as some sources say G major and some E minor. I guess it doesn't really matter if they are the same anyway, but I'm just trying to figure out how they can be in both keys. Shouldn't minor sound different and follow a different progression? Majors and their relative minor still confuse me but I'm sure a song can't be in both or what would be the point in having a relative minor?
 
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Pete Effamy

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You've long since passed the point where you need to start at the beginning of music theory. The questions that you ask can't be properly explained because you don't know any terminology.

A basic way of describing relative majors and minors is that yes, they have virtually all the same notes but the notes are used in different groupings. One groups the notes for a minor sound and the other major. Without knowing what tune you're referring to I can't answer that part of your question. Are you sure you have versions in major and minor? Some tunes work well - or can be manipulated by changing the original harmony, or even the melody slightly - in both major and minor keys. Greensleeves is one such tune. It can be played in a major or minor key.

I suggest you get an Associated Board theory book and try to work through grades 1 and 2. I think a lot of the fog will clear just with those first two grades.
 

nigeld

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Hi all, Sorry to dredge up this old post but no one replied to my last one and this has had lots of responses. I've found a song that has confused me. I have a version in G major and a version in E minor-I know they are the same key signature, but how do I know what it's really in? From what I can tell they both follow the same chord progression. I like to know what key a song is in to be accurate but I can't find out as some sources say G major and some E minor. I guess it doesn't really matter if they are the same anyway, but I'm just trying to figure out how they can be in both keys. Shouldn't minor sound different and follow a different progression? Majors and their relative minor still confuse me but I'm sure a song can't be in both or what would be the point in having a relative minor?
What is the song?
 

Pete Effamy

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Ah, another thought. Jazz tunes are always being re-harmonised by players - sometimes the first chord of the tune is not the key chord (home key). Night and Day does not start on the home chord for example.

Whilst the statement that many a great jazz player lived that couldn't read or write a note of music, or understood the terminology is true, it's misleading; as they understood the sound completely and could interpret it in their own way and respond with whatever sound came to mind.
 
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Wade Cornell

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You can "notate" in many different ways including making something difficult to read with lots of sharped and flattened notes. You can have something written in Cb or B and it's the same, but easier to read in B (5 sharps as compared to 7 flats). Short pop tunes that have changes won't usually bother properly notating a key change (although the chord changes may be notated above) so they just notate a sharp or flat as necessary to have the right pitch for the written (unchanged) key. As Pete says above the more important aspect is to understand the sound as there are different ways of writing the same thing. Hearing what notes you are about to play is the only way to make good music, especially on sax as it's an imperfect instrument. On a keyboard you can just hit a note and it's in tune. The sax takes embouchure and body/breath manipulation to produce a note correctly. This is where beginners can be frustrated if they hear the note to be played and/or don't read music or understand that music notation is just a traditional means for producing music and not an end in itself. What matters is the sound you produce. Does it fit or doesn't it? Did you mean to play the note you played or didn't you? Is it the same as written, or what you conceived of if improvising?
 
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jools28

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Hi, the song is Wings by Birdy-some sources say it's in G major, some E minor. Here's the 2 versions I found-https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0126534

I'm not sure if I'm actually allowed to post links so if not you can just google "Birdy Wings musicnotes" and the 2 versions should be there.
 
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jools28

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I suggest you get an Associated Board theory book and try to work through grades 1 and 2. I think a lot of the fog will clear just with those first two grades.
Try to work through grades 1 and 2-Ouch...
 

Pete Thomas

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A very basic way to work out what key a song is in is to look at the last note/chord. This is usually the key you're in as most songs resolve at the end.
This is my opinion also - the final cadence (cadence = phrase end) gives you the best clue.

But there are some exceptions to this, notably the Tierce de Picardie in which a minor tune, that feels minor all the way through, just happens to have a major chord instead of the minor at the last cadence. In this case the major chord has the same root as what would otherwise have been a minor chord (ie NOT a relative major)

Many songs also have different key centres, a famous example being Autumn Leaves. which swaps between major and minor key centres - the first four bars is major, the second four is minor. Both very obvious by the cadences from a V7 chord in each case.

And as it emnds on a satandard V7 - Im cadence we call it in the minor key.

Another exception might be a blues. Often there is a minor melody over major chords. In this case it is I think best to think of it really as major melody but with (accidental) flattened blues notes
 

tenorviol

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The anacrusis (pick-up) D at the start would usually (not always) be the dominant with the first chord of the first full bar being the tonic to establish the key. So, the D would lead you think that you're going to hit a chord of G, but it's not, it's an Emin chord. As others have said, see what the final chord is and as PT says, watch out for Tierce de Picardy
 

Pete Effamy

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The anacrusis D at the start would usually (not always) be the dominant with the first chord of the first full bar being the tonic to establish the key. So, the D would lead you think that you're going to hit a chord of G, but it's not, it's an Emin chord. As others have said, see what the final chord is and as PT says, watch out for Tierce de Picardy
It’s a G6 chord I think. I know there are 8ve E’s in the bass but the D to G movement in the melody says G major and so does the C and G chords after. The simple nature harmony of the rest of it implies someone trying to be clever with the first chord and Jazzy, but it’s not clever.
 

Pete Thomas

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With no wish to be obtuse, people are throwing music theory about here that the OP won’t understand at all.
Not a problem, thread answers are general information for anyone that might find the thread useful and informative.

Plus it is only by findiing and rearching what you don't understand, that you can get to understand more things...
 

Pete Thomas

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I wish my posts hadn’t been moved to a new thread, they were tailored to what was asked by the OP
There wasa a new topic opened in a thread about something else, hence that new topic and answers got moved. If some posts were about the original (different topic) it's best to report them and then they could be moved back. This would keep everything relevant with relevant topic titiles.
 
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jools28

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It’s not that much work!
It's not the work it's the suggestion I need to go back and try and work my way through grades 1 and 2 theory. At least you didn't suggest I give up music altogether yet ;) Maybe it's my fault for the way I word things on here, I find theory challenging but I didn't realise I knew basically zero theory. :oops:

Ok, it’s not in Em, it’s an all-too-typical guitar magazine-type chart unfortunately
So the site made a mistake? Thanks for letting me know what it's in for sure :) You see why I was confused now?

Thanks Dave and Pete Thomas I had forgotten to check the last chord to tell the key signature. I will check out those songs too-oh how I hate exceptions to the rule lol.

P.s sorry for not making a new thread :oops:
 
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