Understanding Keys / Music Theory Lesson

Author: sleepfreaks

Understanding a Song’s Key

In this article, we will be learning about what “key” is.
Once you know what key is, you will begin seeing what sounds can be used in your songs.

Perhaps you have gone to karaoke before and
raised/lowered the “key” of a song to make it easier to sing.

If the vocalist in a band says “this song’s key is too low so can we raise it”,
you would need to change the melody and chords accordingly.

This information is important to know in various musical situations.

Lets first start by giving this a listen:



We’ve made a melody using just the C major scale notes we learned in our 2nd article of this series.

Now that we have this melody made from the C major scale,
we will try raising the key like you would do at karaoke.

We’ll try lowering the key as well.

Though the pitch is different, it still sounds like the same song.
So what exactly is this “key”?

This is related to our 2nd article on the major scale as well.

With C as our base note, and lining up notes in a whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half step order,
we have created the bright sounding C major scale.


By having C as our main note, and using primarily these sounds,
we can create a song in the key of C major = A major song based around C (bright).

Lets try raising this key by +2 (2 half-steps).
On notated music it will look like so:



Trying this out on the piano roll makes this process alot easier.
After selecting all of the notes, raise everything by +2 (2 half-steps).

Before raising (Key of C Major)

After raising (Key of D Major)

The melody that plays in the key of d major version
is of course made using notes from the D major scale.

D maj

This is the basic way of looking at keys.
Just this knowledge alone brings you one step closer to understanding music theory.

In our next article, we will use this knowledge on key and take a look at the Circle of Fifths.

In addition, we have other videos that touch on key if you decide to take a look! (Japanese)


Article Writer: Kazuma Itoh

講師 伊藤
After moving to the USA at 18 years of age with a scholarship from Berklee, he completed a 4 year study focused on song writing and arranging there.
Using this knowledge, he works across a variety of fields from pop music, film music, and more.