Songwriter Theory Podcast
Episode 8

How to Figure Out All Notes For Major Keys

Joseph Vadala published on

Accompanying Blog Post With Helpful Pictures: https://songwritertheory.com/how-to-figure-out-all-notes-for-major-keys

 

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Episode Writeup:

Do you know what notes you’re working with when someone says “This song is in the Key of E Major”? If you forget what notes are sharp or flat in a key, do you have any way to figure it out?

This post is going to make sure you can figure out every note in any major key.

And it’s going to be very simple.

First thing to understand is that every major key has 7 notes.

The second thing to understand is that the intervals between each note is the exact same for all major keys.

Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step

Ok, so what are these steps?

A half step is going from one note to the very next note. It is the smallest step possible between notes in western music.

So what is a whole step? 2 half steps.

Now, let’s figure out each note in the key of C major based on our major key steps:

Whole-Whole-Half-Whole-Whole-Whole-Half

The Notes are those with blue inside the circle.

Here is what we did

  1. We started with C as it is the key of C major

  2. We took a whole step over C# to D

  3. We took a whole step over D# to E

  4. We took a half step to F (there is no E#)

  5. We took a whole step over F# to G

  6. We took a whole step over G# to A

  7. We took a whole step over A# to B

  8. We took a half step back to C (there is no B#)

Let’s do this with E Major Now

  1. We started with E (lighter blue) as it is the key of E major

  2. We took a whole step over F to F#

  3. We took a whole step over G to G#

  4. We took a half step to A

  5. We took a whole step over A# to B

  6. We took a whole step over C to C#

  7. We took a whole step over D to D#

  8. We took a half step back to E

Finally, let’s investigate this for the key of Ab Major

  1. We started with Ab (lighter blue) as it is the key of Ab major

  2. We took a whole step over A to Bb

  3. We took a whole step over B to C

  4. We took a half step to Db

  5. We took a whole step over D to Eb

  6. We took a whole step over E to F

  7. We took a whole step over Gb to G

  8. We took a half step back to Ab

That’s all there is to finding notes within a major key!

So just memorize Whole-Whole-Half-Whole-Whole-Whole-Half and you can figure out every note of a major key, given the name of the key!

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