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  #1  
Old 12-27-2020, 04:08 PM
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Cecil6243 Cecil6243 is offline
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Default Most common key in Guitar music?

Is there a key that shows up more often than others or does it depend on the particular genre of guitar music as blues vs. rock vs. pop etc.

Thoughts?
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  #2  
Old 12-27-2020, 04:33 PM
1neeto 1neeto is offline
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Originally Posted by Cecil6243 View Post
Is there a key that shows up more often than others or does it depend on the particular genre of guitar music as blues vs. rock vs. pop etc.

Thoughts?

E or Em and G on rock. C or A on singer songwriter/pop stuff. At least that’s my personal observation.
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Old 12-27-2020, 10:44 PM
Cobby Cobby is offline
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For what it's worth (key of E) (not much really), but you got me curious so I went through my repertoire (about 300 songs) and tabulated the keys (roughly, since I ignored key changes). These are mostly 60-70s pop rock folk and country:

D 17.7%
G 12.7%
C 12.4%
A 11.4%
E 9.4%
F 8.0%
Em 7.4%
Am 5.4%
B 3.7%
Dm 2.7%
Bb 2.3%
Eb 1.7%
Db 1.0%
Bm 1.0%
C#m 1.0%
Fm 1.0%
F# 0.3%
Cm 0.3%
F#m 0.3%
Gm 0.3%
Ab 0.0%
Bbm 0.0%
Ebm 0.0%
Abm 0.0%

It's mostly determined by finding a good key for the singer - then selecting a finger-friendly key (sometimes using a capo, so I'm not very often actually playing Eb chord shapes, for example). But I do play in F and B more often than most I think. Anyway, I was surprised that D was my most common key. I think I would have guessed G or A.
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Old 12-27-2020, 11:28 PM
1neeto 1neeto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobby View Post
For what it's worth (key of E) (not much really), but you got me curious so I went through my repertoire (about 300 songs) and tabulated the keys (roughly, since I ignored key changes). These are mostly 60-70s pop rock folk and country:

D17.7%
G12.7%
C12.4%
A11.4%
E9.4%
F8.0%
Em7.4%
Am5.4%
B3.7%
Dm2.7%
Bb2.3%
Eb1.7%
Db1.0%
Bm1.0%
C#m1.0%
Fm1.0%
F#0.3%
Cm0.3%
F#m0.3%
Gm0.3%
Ab0.0%
Bbm0.0%
Ebm0.0%
Abm0.0%

It's mostly determined by finding a good key for the singer - then selecting a finger-friendly key (sometimes using a capo, so I'm not very often actually playing Eb chord shapes, for example). But I do play in F and B more often than most I think. Anyway, I was surprised that D was my most common key. I think I would have guessed G or A.

I totally forgot about D in rock music. But your list is intriguing to say the least. And there’s also modal keys which are quite popular in rock but they’re usually “laymanned” into a major or minor key.
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Old 12-28-2020, 02:57 AM
dan! dan! is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobby View Post
For what it's worth (key of E) (not much really), but you got me curious so I went through my repertoire (about 300 songs) and tabulated the keys (roughly, since I ignored key changes). These are mostly 60-70s pop rock folk and country:

D17.7%
G12.7%
C12.4%
A11.4%
E9.4%
F8.0%
Em7.4%
Am5.4%
B3.7%
Dm2.7%
Bb2.3%
Eb1.7%
Db1.0%
Bm1.0%
C#m1.0%
Fm1.0%
F#0.3%
Cm0.3%
F#m0.3%
Gm0.3%
Ab0.0%
Bbm0.0%
Ebm0.0%
Abm0.0%

It's mostly determined by finding a good key for the singer - then selecting a finger-friendly key (sometimes using a capo, so I'm not very often actually playing Eb chord shapes, for example). But I do play in F and B more often than most I think. Anyway, I was surprised that D was my most common key. I think I would have guessed G or A.

This is the most wonderful post! (I love data as well as 60s-70s pop rock folk and country.)

Can you post your 300 song list?

Would you talk about why you think the key spread wound up this way? Is it just the songs you like? Is it what’s easy for you to play? Is it what’s commonly written and pop charted?
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  #6  
Old 12-28-2020, 02:17 PM
Cobby Cobby is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dan! View Post
Can you post your 300 song list?
OK. Here's the list:

America
Horse With No Name
Sister Golden Hair
Anderson, Leroy
Sleigh Ride
Animals
House of the Rising Sun
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Armstrong, Louis
Hello Dolly
What a Wonderful World
Association
Never My Love
Badfinger
Day After Day
The Band
Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The Weight
Bangles
Walk Like An Egyptian
Beach Boys
Catch a Wave
God Only Knows
Sloop John B.
Surfin’ U.S.A.
Beatles
Across the Universe
All My Loving
And I Love Her
Baby You’re a Rich Man
Back In the U.S.S.R.
Because
Blackbird
Carry That Weight
Come Together
Cry Baby Cry
A Day in the Life
Day Tripper
Dear Prudence
Dig a Pony
Eleanor Rigby
The End
Fixing a Hole
For No One
From Me to You
Golden Slumbers
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Help!
Here Comes the Sun
Here, There and Everywhere
Hey Jude
I Am the Walrus
I Call Your Name
I Feel Fine
I Saw Her Standing There
I Want to Hold Your Hand
I Will
I’m Only Sleeping
I’m So Tired
I’ve Got a Feeling
If I Fell
In My Life
Julia
Let it Be
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Money (That’s What I Want)
Norwegian Wood
Nowhere Man
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
Oh! Darling
Penny Lane
Revolution
She’s a Woman
Something
Strawberry Fields Forever
Things We Said Today
Ticket to Ride
Two of Us
When I’m Sixty Four
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
With a Little Help From My Friends
Yellow Submarine
Yesterday
You Never Give Me Your Money
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Belafonte, Harry
The Banana Boat Song
Berry, Chuck
Roll Over Beethoven
Big and Rich
Deadwood Mountain
Bloom, Bobby
Montego Bay
Bluegrass
John Henry
Monnroe’s Hornpipe
Bread
Everything I Own
Buffalo Springfield
For What It’s Worth
Buffet, Jimmy
Margaritaville
Cash, Johnny
Folsom Prison Blues
I Walk the Line
Ring of Fire
Cassidy, Eva
Fields of Gold
Chantays
Pipeline
Clark, Petula
Downtown
Climax Blues Band
I Love You
Credence Clearwater Revival
Bad Moon Rising
Down On the Corner
Proud Mary
Croce, Jim
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
I Got a Name
I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Teach Your Children
Davis, Jimmy
You Are My Sunshine
Denver, John
Country Roads
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Diamond, Neil
Holly Holy
Sweet Caroline
Dion
The Wanderer
Dire Straits
Money For Nothing
Donovan
Mellow Yellow
Sunshine Superman
Doobie Brothers
Black Water
Doors
Light My Fire
Love Me Two Times
People Are Strange
Riders on the Storm
Drifters
On Broadway
Under the Boardwalk
Dylan, Bob
Blowing In the Wind
Eagles
Desperado
Hotel California
The Last Resort
Lyin’ Eyes
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Take It Easy
Emerson Lake and Palmer
Lucky Man
Everly Brothers
All I Have to Do is Dream
Bye Bye, Love
5th Dimension
Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In
Up, Up and Away
Five for Fighting
Superman
Flack, Roberta
Killing Me Softly
Fleetwood Mac
Landslide
Fogelberg, Dan
Run For the Roses
Foundations
Build Me Up, Buttercup
Gaye, Marvin
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Gibson, Don
Oh, Lonesome Me
Gilberto, Astrud and Getz, Stan
The Girl From Ipanema
Guess Who
No Time
These Eyes
Guthrie, Arlo
City of New Orleans
Harris, Richard
MacArthur Park
Harrison, George
My Sweet Lord
Heart
Dreamboat Annie
Hollies
The Air That I Breathe
Holly, Buddy
Peggy Sue
That’ll Be the Day
Horton, Johnny
Battle of New Orleans
North to Alaska
Jackson 5
I’ll Be There
Jefferson Airplane
White Rabbit
Jethro Tull
Wondering Aloud
Johnson, Jack
The News
Jones, Rickie Lee
The Moon is Made of Gold
Joplin, Janis
Me and Bobby McGee
King, Ben E.
Stand By Me
Kingston Trio
Greenback Dollar
Krauss, Allison
Down to the River to Pray
Lauper, Cyndi
Time After Time
Lennon, John
Imagine
Watching the Wheels
Lightfoot, Gordon
Carefree Highway
If You Could Read My Mind
Summertime Dream
Sundown
Little River Band
Lady
Lobo
I’d Love You to Want Me
Me and You and a Dog Named Boo
Loggins and Messina
Danny’s Song
Lovin’ Spoonful
Daydream
Mamas and Papas
California Dreaming
Creeque Alley
Dream a Little Dream of Me
Martin, Dean
Houston
McCartney, Paul (Wings)
Band on the Run
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
McGuire, Barry
Eve of Destruction
McLachlan, Sarah
Angel
Ice Cream
McLean, Don
American Pie
Vincent
Miller, Roger
King of the Road
Mitchell, Joni
Both Sides Now
River
Monkeys
Daydream Believer
Moody Blues
Forever Afternoon
Nights in White Satin
Story In Your Eyes
Morrison, Van
Moondance
Murphey, Michael
Wildfire
Nash, Johnny
I Can See Clearly Now
Nelson, Rick
Garden Party
Nelson, Willie
Always On My Mind
On the Road Again
Newton-John, Olivia
I Honestly Love You
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Mr. Bojangles
Orbison, Roy
Blue Bayou
Dream Baby
Pretty Woman
Page, Patti
Tennessee Waltz
Peter Paul and Mary
Freight Train
Puff the Magic Dragon
Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Pink Floyd
Another Brick in the Wall
Brain Damage / Eclipse
Comfortably Numb
Goodbye Blue Sky
Hey You
Is There Anybody Out There?
Nobody Home
Wish You Were Here
Police, The
Every Breath You Take
Presley, Elvis
Always On My Mind
Burning Love
Can’t Help Falling In Love
Heartbreak Hotel
In the Ghetto
Love Me
Love Me Tender
Loving Arms
Promised Land
That’s All Right
Trying to Get to You
What Now My Love
Prine, John
Angel From Montgomery
Procum Harum
Conquistador
Queen
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Rabbitt, Eddie
Driving My Life Away
I Love a Rainy Night
Redding, Otis
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay
Righteous Brothers
Unchained Melody
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
Robbins, Marty
Cool Water
Robinson, Smokey
You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me
Rogers, Kenny
Lucille
Ronstadt, Linda
When Will I Be Loved?
Seger, Bob
Turn the Page
Shannon, Del
Runaway
Shocking Blue
Venus
Siberry, Jane
Everything Reminds … My Dog
Something About Trains
Simon and Garfunkel
Bookends
The Boxer
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Cecilia
El Condor Pasa
Feelin’ Groovy
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
Homeward Bound
Kathy’s Song
Mrs. Robinson
Old Friends
The Only Living Boy in New York
Scarborough Fair
Sound of Silence
Simon, Carly
You’re So Vain
Simon, Paul
Kodachrome
Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard
Smith, Sammi
Help Me Make It Through the Night
Soggy Bottom Boys
I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow
Sound of Music
My Favorite Things
Statler Brothers
Flowers on the Wall
Stevens, Cat
Moonshadow
Morning Has Broken
Wild World
Stewart, Rod
Have I Told You Lately
Stills, Stephen
Love the One You’re With
Sting
Fields of Gold
Stray Cats
Stray Cat Strut
Stylistics
You Make Me Feel Brand New
Taylor, James
Fire and Rain
Shower the People
You Can Close Your Eyes
You’ve Got a Friend
Temptations
My Girl
10cc
I Wanna Rule the World
Thomas, B.J.
Another Somebody...Wrong Song
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
3 Dog Night
Joy to the World
One
Tokens
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Tommy James and the Shondells
I Think We’re Alone Now
Traditional
Abilene
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Turtles
Happy Together
Ward & Bates
America the Beautiful
Warwick, Dionne
I’ll Never Fall In Love Again
Watson, Doc
Deep River Blues
Weber, Andrew Lloyd and Rice, Tim
I Don’t Know How to Love Him
Who, The
Behind Blue Eyes
Williams, Hank
Jambalaya
Young, Neil
Heart of Gold
Youngbloods
Get Together
Zombies
She’s Not There
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  #7  
Old 12-28-2020, 03:05 PM
Cobby Cobby is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dan! View Post
Would you talk about why you think the key spread wound up this way? Is it just the songs you like? Is it what’s easy for you to play? Is it what’s commonly written and pop charted?
So, first of all, as 1neeto says, the keys have been "laymanized" since some of them are indeed modal.

The keys I reported are just the keys I do these songs in. The first step is to find a key that is good for the singer. Most of the time, that's me, but I also have other singers in mind sometimes. But, since my voice is lower than the typical pop-singer, I often have to change the key from the original.

Sometimes, there's not much leeway but often a range of possible keys would work. The next step is to think about what I want to do on the guitar. If I'm going to fingerpick, then I'll usually want to be in G, D, A or sometimes C. So if the best key for singing is Eb say, that would usually end up being capo 1 D or capo 3 C. If Bb is the best vocal key, that almost always becomes capo 3 G (but sometimes capo 1 A).

My guitar style is often bass-driven. I usually work out a bass-line and intersperse a chord here and there. So that will influence my choice of key.

This is what leads me to play in B more often than most. Sometimes the bass line will have a lot of 7ths - B is a good choice for that since the 7ths of the three main chords in B are all open strings (B (seventh is A); E (seventh is D) and F# (seventh is E)). Creeque Alley by the Mamas and Papas is an example of a song that works well in B because of this.

I also love F more than most guitar players. I choose F for the opposite reason for choosing G,D and A for fingerpicking. I like F for the times when I don't want open strings ringing out. These are often rockier songs. When I do this, I usually won't play the standard open C chord, it'll be barred on the third fret or else C7 but not playing the top E.

So the keys are just a result of all of these decisions and the little trade-offs between the vocals and the guitar part. If the vocals have some leeway then you'll usually fall into some of the more common keys like D,G,A,C or E. If not then the capo comes out. If it's a special case then maybe B. If it's a rock song, then maybe F. (or maybe the more traditional rock E). Sometimes it's not just the lead vocal, sometimes it's finding a good spot for the harmony vocal too. Sometimes, the guitar part just needs to be in a certain key. Then maybe the vocal has to stretch a little, or I need to break out the baritone or tune down a step. (like You've Got to Hide Your Love Away: the guitar has to be in G - it just doesn't seem to work right anywhere else. But G is a bit too high for me vocally. But in this case, the guitar wins and I stretch the vocal. But. If I have my 12-string handy - I keep that tuned don a step, then doing in F with the G chord shapeds is perfect...) Anyway - you get the idea...
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Old 12-28-2020, 10:01 PM
The Bard Rocks The Bard Rocks is offline
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I have read where the most popular keys (C, D, G) vary depending whether is it a man, woman or duo doing the singing.

In general, I'd vote for G. This is helped out by bluegrassers. If you defined key as the fingerings used behind a nut or capo, you might get different answers.
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  #9  
Old 12-29-2020, 02:28 AM
dan! dan! is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobby View Post
So, first of all, as 1neeto says, the keys have been "laymanized" since some of them are indeed modal.

The keys I reported are just the keys I do these songs in. The first step is to find a key that is good for the singer. Most of the time, that's me, but I also have other singers in mind sometimes. But, since my voice is lower than the typical pop-singer, I often have to change the key from the original.

Sometimes, there's not much leeway but often a range of possible keys would work. The next step is to think about what I want to do on the guitar. If I'm going to fingerpick, then I'll usually want to be in G, D, A or sometimes C. So if the best key for singing is Eb say, that would usually end up being capo 1 D or capo 3 C. If Bb is the best vocal key, that almost always becomes capo 3 G (but sometimes capo 1 A).

My guitar style is often bass-driven. I usually work out a bass-line and intersperse a chord here and there. So that will influence my choice of key.

This is what leads me to play in B more often than most. Sometimes the bass line will have a lot of 7ths - B is a good choice for that since the 7ths of the three main chords in B are all open strings (B (seventh is A); E (seventh is D) and F# (seventh is E)). Creeque Alley by the Mamas and Papas is an example of a song that works well in B because of this.

I also love F more than most guitar players. I choose F for the opposite reason for choosing G,D and A for fingerpicking. I like F for the times when I don't want open strings ringing out. These are often rockier songs. When I do this, I usually won't play the standard open C chord, it'll be barred on the third fret or else C7 but not playing the top E.

So the keys are just a result of all of these decisions and the little trade-offs between the vocals and the guitar part. If the vocals have some leeway then you'll usually fall into some of the more common keys like D,G,A,C or E. If not then the capo comes out. If it's a special case then maybe B. If it's a rock song, then maybe F. (or maybe the more traditional rock E). Sometimes it's not just the lead vocal, sometimes it's finding a good spot for the harmony vocal too. Sometimes, the guitar part just needs to be in a certain key. Then maybe the vocal has to stretch a little, or I need to break out the baritone or tune down a step. (like You've Got to Hide Your Love Away: the guitar has to be in G - it just doesn't seem to work right anywhere else. But G is a bit too high for me vocally. But in this case, the guitar wins and I stretch the vocal. But. If I have my 12-string handy - I keep that tuned don a step, then doing in F with the G chord shapeds is perfect...) Anyway - you get the idea...

Awesome.

I suppose statistically I’m in a similar boat. Lower vocal register as well as a heavy overlap with your library.

It’s always interesting to me which songs work well in multiple keys. There’s always some (“Over the hills and far away” jumps to mind) that only sound proper in their original key.
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Old 12-29-2020, 10:38 AM
Big Band Guitar Big Band Guitar is offline
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With my limited vocal range I don't give very much thought to the key. I just find the key that works for me and play it.

In the big band I don't sing so I just play what is on the paper.

A little chord theory goes a long way.
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Old 12-29-2020, 11:13 AM
SCVJ SCVJ is offline
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I read that John Prine said "thank God for capos, or all these songs would be in G..."

Or something like that.
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Old 12-29-2020, 01:13 PM
davidbeinct davidbeinct is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCVJ View Post
I read that John Prine said "thank God for capos, or all these songs would be in G..."

Or something like that.
He said exactly that. I heard the interview rebroadcast on NPR.
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Old 01-06-2021, 10:36 AM
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In 2015 Spotify analyzed 30 million songs on their service and determined the most popular keys. The winners in order were G, C and D Major.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-pPP1PyYuY8...s1600/keys.png
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Old 01-08-2021, 02:36 PM
Earl49 Earl49 is offline
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There are the guitar-centric CAGED keys. These five keys are easy first position chords using open strings, and are what we usually learn first. After that it depends on what style you play. Bluegrass uses G and D mostly because of fiddles and banjo tuning. Then the capos come out for any other key, especially the flats.
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Old 01-13-2021, 10:56 AM
Big Band Guitar Big Band Guitar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl49 View Post
There are the guitar-centric CAGED keys. These five keys are easy first position chords using open strings, and are what we usually learn first. After that it depends on what style you play. Bluegrass uses G and D mostly because of fiddles and banjo tuning. Then the capos come out for any other key, especially the flats.
I sometimes sub with a Bluegrass band. The key they use the most is B. I asked Why B? The reason was the banjo player bought a capo that would not work in the C position. I don't own or use a capo but it was no problem I just made some notes on the cheat sheets they provided the night before the gig, they were all noted for G or C anyway.
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