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Thread: Difference between scale an key?

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    Difference between scale an key?

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    Originally, I thought that key and scale were essentially the same thing. I thought "key" was just a way of saying that (for the most part) we will be using notes from a certain scale. Maybe, C major, maybe B minor etc… But, the more I’ve studied theory there seems to be a deeper, more fundamental difference between the two.
    For example, apparently you can use multiple scales within one key. I don’t understand why the key of C major would be called C major if you can use notes from other scales… My first thought would be that multiple scales can use the same notes, which makes sense. But, then my next question would be, can you use notes outside of the C major scale in the key of c major?
    I've also heard “it all has to do with the concept of tonality”. I have a vague understanding of tonality, so how specifically does tonality determine what can be played or should be played within a certain key?
    I feel like if I've learned anything in music theory it's that there are a lot of rules, but even more exceptions to the rules. Just saying that so you know I get that your answer probably won’t be as cut and dry as I'm asking haha

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    This is a home recording site, and while there are plenty of people here well-versed in musical theory, it's probably not the best place to seek answers to your questions.

    Probably the most useful thing you could do is get yourself a basic understanding of musical theory. I've pasted a link below that might be helpful.

    "Key" broadly describes the starting point of a series of notes. "Scale" broadly describes the relationship that these notes have to each other.

    While a song can be written in a particular key and scale, e.g. C major, that does not preclude it using notes that are not normally found in that scale, specially when the listener, despite the 'borrowed' notes, will still perceive the key to be C major.

    Understanding Basic Music Theory - Free online course

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    Quote Originally Posted by YoungCapone View Post
    But, then my next question would be, can you use notes outside of the C major scale in the key of c major?
    Yes, you can.
    A scale is what it is. You can't change that or improvise. It has rules.
    You can use variations of some scale in your composition but if someone says 'play me a c major scale' there's no interpretation there. It is what it is.

    A key is the tonal foundation for a composition. It might be where you start, or where you end, or what you keep coming back to.
    There are rules but they're there for you to break, if you wish.

    They way you break those rules may create tension, or some kind of emotion, or serve to guide the listener somewhere.

    If you look into the basics of key changes you'll see that just suddenly changing key with no hints or clues isn't that common, but introducing notes outside of the current key which lead the listener to the next is very common.
    If you're working in C major, sticking to the 'rules', and intend to switch to G major, chances are at some point you're going to lead your listener with an F# in the melody.
    That F# doesn't feature in your C major scale but it tells us where we're going...maybe.

    That's a common transition because it's an easy one - The only note in G major scale that doesn't also feature in C major scale is..you guessed it..F#

    The word 'resolution' is important. It usually means we've added something that shouldn't be there or doesn't make sense but the music that follows reframes it and resolves things.
    Why is there an f#? That sounds odd. Oh - resolution - we're in G major now. It sounds fine.
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    I'm a great believer in Music Theory being vital to any home recordist - because it often explains why things do, or don't work. It also enables better communication with musicians when you record them. So often they turn to you and ask what you think? Got to the Gm or something else? Same with music vocabulary. I'm still learning new stuff all the time. It improves what you do to understand the theory.

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    Search Rick Beato in YouTube. He used to be a music professor and although he can be a bit esoteric at times, he has years worth of theory related vids and a PDF available to purchase. If you spend some time with the vids you will find your knowledge expands greatly-plus youtube will offer similar vids from others that often clarify something by relating it in a different way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steenamaroo View Post
    Yes, you can.
    A scale is what it is. You can't change that or improvise. It has rules.
    You can use variations of some scale in your composition but if someone says 'play me a c major scale' there's no interpretation there. It is what it is.

    A key is the tonal foundation for a composition. It might be where you start, or where you end, or what you keep coming back to.
    There are rules but they're there for you to break, if you wish.

    They way you break those rules may create tension, or some kind of emotion, or serve to guide the listener somewhere.

    If you look into the basics of key changes you'll see that just suddenly changing key with no hints or clues isn't that common, but introducing notes outside of the current key which lead the listener to the next is very common.
    If you're working in C major, sticking to the 'rules', and intend to switch to G major, chances are at some point you're going to lead your listener with an F# in the melody.
    That F# doesn't feature in your C major scale but it tells us where we're going...maybe.

    That's a common transition because it's an easy one - The only note in G major scale that doesn't also feature in C major scale is..you guessed it..F#

    The word 'resolution' is important. It usually means we've added something that shouldn't be there or doesn't make sense but the music that follows reframes it and resolves things.
    Why is there an f#? That sounds odd. Oh - resolution - we're in G major now. It sounds fine.
    I often think of "scales" as subsets. Of a key or another scale. As in the Maj Pentatonic scale is a subset of the Maj scale. The key describes the "map" to me , basically which of a scale or set of notes are to be played sharp/flat or natural. The spacing,(tone, semi-tone, tone plus semi-tone,etc) is where I think of the tonality AKA modal feel.
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    C Major is a Scale in the Key of C. C Minor is also a Scale in the Key of C. C Major is not a Key.

    All Scales in C | Play In Key

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    Quote Originally Posted by YoungCapone View Post
    Originally, I thought
    I wish you would stop asking the questions if you're not going to come back to your threads to answer the questions asked of you. Don't just dump a thread and walk away. Participate.

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