Major and Minor Keys. Music theory


The key' of a song refers to its overall tonality, and dictates which scale will be used as the basis of the melody and which chords fit naturally into the arrangement Understanding which chords go together in a key will help you work out the chord structure of songs, and will provide a framework to begin writing your own songs.

Major Keys

In each major key. three major chords occur - as shown below

Key              Major Chords in the Key
C major         C F G
G major         G C D
D major         D G A
A major         A D E

A song or chord progression will normally begin with the tonic (keynote) chord. This is the chord that has the same name as the key. For example, in the key of C major. C is the tonic (keynote) chord. Minor chords also occur in major keys. Some of the most commonly used minor chords in the keys of C and G major are shown right

Key               Minor Chords in the Key
C major         Dm Em Am
G major         Am Bm Em

Although there are no fixed rules about which chords can be combined when you are composing a song or chord progression, if you select chords from the same key they will always fit together well. Below is an example of a chord progression using chords in the key of C major.

|| C | Dm | Em | F | Am | G | F | C ||

Minor Keys

In each minor key. three minor chords are closely related, and most commonly occur in popular songs. For example, in the key of A minor the chords of Am. Dm and Em are the most important Three major chords also occur in each minor key. For example, in the key of A minor. C. F and G major chords occur. As all these chords are within the same key they can be combined in any order (after starting with the tonic/ keynote chord) to make a pleasant-sounding chord sequence. An example is shown below, but you can experiment with rearranging the chords in a different order and then playing them through to hear the musical result

Here are a few chord progressions demonstrating some of the most common chord sequences used in a few of the most popular major and minor keys.

Chord progression in the key of A minor.
|| Am | F | G | C | Am | Dm | Em | Am ||

Chord progression in the key of G major.
|| G | D | C | G | Em | Am | D | G ||

Chord progression in the key of D major.
|| D | Em | F#m | Em | G | A | G | D ||

Chord progression in the key of A major.
|| A | E | F#m | E | D | E | A | A ||

Chord progression In the key of E minor.
|| Em | D | C | D | Am | G | D | Em ||