Objectives: In this chapter, you’ll learn what keys are and write out the notes in all 12 keys.
A key (in music) is a group of notes that a song or musical idea is based on. This is usually referred to as the tonal center. Keys are almost identical to scales. However, while a scale is a group of notes played in a specific order, a key is the use of a scale where the notes can be played in any order. For example, a song in the key of C uses the notes from C major scale and has a tonal center of C major. A song in the key of B♭ uses the notes from the B♭ major scale and has a tonal center of B♭.
Here's a C major scale:
And here's a song in the key of C (using notes from the C Major scale):
You would say a song is in a certain key, but you wouldn’t say a song is in a certain scale. To use both in a sentence, you might say, “This song is in the key of C, so use a C major scale to improvise.”
- A key is the tonal center of a piece of music
- A scale is a group of notes played in a specific order while a key makes music from a scale
Listen to each sample and then decide if it’s best described as a scale or a key.