When you’re composing your songs, should you be concerned with what key it is in?
The answer is yes, and for some good reasons.
Today with Top Music Arts we´re going to show you why you should think about this matter, the most used keys in music, and the most used key for Future Bass. Always helping you along the way with some common questions and all the information you need, so you can bring your creativity to the next level!
First, we need to talk about some fundamentals for us to talk about keys and notes. For those who are starting with music production and making your own compositions.
What’s a key?
Well, in music, a key is basically the name given to a group of chords (notes) that can be used together and still sound good. And they belong to a certain root note, that we call a key.
You might have heard something like, “that song is in the key of G Major” (for example), that means, that the chords and notes of the scale of G Major are going to work with that song and vice-versa.
The most known and used in western contemporary music are major keys and minor keys.
To summarize in an even more simplified way, major keys sound happy, and minor keys sound sad (although it can depend on the context). If you stick to the notes within a particular key (or a scale of notes based on that key), your music will more than likely sound better!
The name of a key (e.g. C Major, G Minor, B Major, etc.) is taken from the first (lowest) note in the key (also known as the “root” note or “tonic”), and the "major" or "minor" part of the name is determined by the intervals between each note.
What´s an interval?
An Interval is a distance between any two notes. Each interval will have a number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. These numbers are the distance between two notes, based upon counting from the first note in your keyboard to the next you selected. Usually within a Scale.
For example, if we count notes (keys of your piano or keyboard), starting from C and ending on G, we count: C, D, E, F, G = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Therefore, the interval from C to G is a fifth (5th).
We can also keep counting past 8, through 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, but usually not past 13.
What's a scale?
A scale is simply an array of musical notes based in a particular key, and ordered by pitch (either ascending or descending step by step like a staircase) And respecting some intervals you end up having the type of scale you want (Major or minor for example, but there are a lot out there!).
So, the ascending scale of C Major would be: C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
The Major scale is by far the most common and most used scale in western music. When we play it in a sequence, the notes of the Major scale make the famous “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do” sound. A sound that we all are familiar with, even for someone who is not that into music, they will recognize it.
This characteristic sound of the Major scale is created by the pattern of intervals between its notes (what we call a scale).
There are seven notes in the Major scale and seven intervals between them. This pattern is very simple, take a look:
Having these main topics cleared, we can talk more in depth about what you should have in mind before choosing your key for your next song of Future Bass.
We want to make clear that there is no right or wrong key!
And you should make your music based on what sounds right for you. But there are people that have been producing music long enough, and their knowledge and experience can help those who are starting in the way of music making.
For choosing a key to write your songs in, you should have to consider two big things, for starters:
What key are other tracks written in?
This question is asked because, with a dance track, the music often needs to be harmonically matched to the other tracks the DJ is mixing it into.This is especially the case when more and more DJs are using Mixed in key, which essentially dictates which tracks will sound good together (harmonically, not necessarily rhythmically).
If I was to go making a track in Abm (minor) when most others are in Dm (for example), then it is not likely to get played as often. Because it wouldn´t be so easy to pair with other songs like the most used keys are.
Most producers even put the key of the song or samples in the audio file´s name (and generally also with the bpm of the song). Also is a healthy way to organize your song files, just add an Am or A (if it´s major) and bpm followed by the tempo of the song.
Spotify did a good pie chart with the keys of all the most popular music played on their platform, and as you can see the top 3 tonalities (keys) were:
- G Major (Relative to E Minor)
- C Major (Relative to Amin)
- D Major (Relative to Bmin)
They made this statistic graphic with all the music in general, not in a particular genre, and as you can see that is saying a lot about the usage of Major (happy sounding key) against minor (sad sounding) keys.
Having in mind that there are keys that are relative to each other (have the same notes in their scale), we can see a clear tendency to hear more major songs than minor.
What sounds best on the most used sound system?
There are a huge variety of sound systems that people listen to dance tracks on, in-ear headphones, home hi-fis (2.1 or 5.1), car stereos, and clubs.
The last one is possibly the most important when it comes to whether a DJ will play your track, and whether clubbers will be compelled to go search it, buy it, or buy a ticket to your show.
It´s also very important to consider what they’ll be listening on at the point of sale too. Probably mostly headphones too, while shopping on the online download stores (like Beatport), or hearing your songs through any platform.
The frequency reproduction in a club and in headphones can be completely different, therefore, figuring out what is the best frequency for bass is not easy.
The most common feature is the bass always sitting around 45-55hz.
This is probably the ideal found from years and years of producing and DJing. You want a bass that will rumble the Sub bass bins, especially with Future bass, where the bass frequencies and the chords are "wobbling" constantly, but also you want it to be audible in a pair of tiny in-ear headphones (don´t even bother trying to hear low frequencies in any in-ear type, they are not good for any mixing).
To get that earth shaking bass, but also something that sounds decent on headphones we need something around maybe… 55Hz. So remember to check the frequencies you are working on!
Unlike the rest of the genres, Future bass is more leaned towards minor keys (tonalities). So having in mind that the more used in music generally are G, C and D Major, for starters, you could use:
1- E Minor
2- A Minor
3- B Minor
And work within the good spots for the bass sections.
By all means, experiment and find what works best for you, start choosing the chords you like within these keys, and start playing to get your melody right!
If you have a preferred key for composing other than these 3 you can let us know why in the comments…
A very subtle production tip that often gets overlooked in Future Bass is the pitching of your Sub bass.
Having your sub bass follow the pitching of your chords can make all the difference when it comes to creating an impactful drop. The sub bass is part of the foundation of your song and having it move along with your chords adds a type of movement that can only be accomplished with pitching.
Copy over the pitching automation from your chords to your sub bass to create this “moving floor”. To take it a step further, you can also add pitched subs to parts of your drop where the supersaws aren’t playing. This works especially well at the end of every 4 bars.
And, especially for DJs, here is the ‘Circle of Fifths’ that Mixed in Key based its system on, so you can always check on the relative tonalities:
If you want to know more about music and chords, you can check our blog post on the 5 most used Chord progressions in EDM