Musical Keys


This lesson on the How To Guitar website is on musical keys. Musical keys are a music theory used to understand which chords, notes and scales can be playing during a section of music. Most modern popular songs have one key throughout the entire song however more technical music such as classical may have many different key changes within one song.

The Musical Key of C Major

This book is based around the C-Scale and the key of C Major. The reason is because on the piano, the C-Scale includes every white key with no sharps or flats (black keys). This makes this key a bit easier to learn than one that includes any sharps or flats. When you learn the C scale and the workings of the key of C, you can then transfer it to any other key or scale meaning that you actually only have to learn one scale and key on guitar. Once you know one key, you know them all. Remember I told you that the guitar repeats itself over the fretboard? You can utilize that to transfer scales and keys all over the fretboard making the guitar very easy to learn in comparison to an instrument like the french horn. I will be getting to this in a few pages and will show you how to learn and play many scales and chords in every key possible. When you get to that point and can play in time, you will be a guitar player and can begin developing your own style.

All The White Keys on a Piano

C major (often just C or key of C) is a musical major scale based on C, with pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C. Its key signature has no flats/sharps. Its relative minor is A minor, and its parallel minor is C minor. Some instruments, such as the piano, are tuned in C. C major is one of the most commonly used key signatures in music.

The Root Note

This is the C major scale in the open position from root note to root note. In music theory, it is important to know that scales typically start and end on the root note. The root note in the key of C is the musical note C. This comes in handy when you are writing and improvising solos and melodies. Starting and ending a solo or melody on the root note is utilized very often in popular music.  It makes the melody “resolve.” There are seven different notes in a major scale. In C, they are C-D-E-F-G-A-B.

musical keys

Playing the Duplicate Notes

The following example shows the C-Scale in the open position showing every note that can be played in this position and ignoring starting or ending on the root note.  Try playing it through. Don’t forget to set your metronome at 72bpm to start and play it perfectly in time. Get faster by slowly turning up your metronome every day.

c major scale extended

Other Keys

The following shows how many sharps are in each key’s signature at the left of the staff.


G Major = one sharp.

D Major = two sharps.

A Major = three sharps.

E Major = four sharps.

B Major = five sharps.

F# Major = six sharps.

C# Major = seven sharps.


F Major = one flat.

Bb Major = two flats.

Eb Major = three flats.

Ab Major = four flats.

Db Major = five flats.

Gb Major = six flats.

Cb Major = seven flats.

Musical Keys

Thanks for sticking around and checking our lesson on musical keys here on How To Guitar. An understanding of musical keys will let you learn songs faster because you will be able to identify which key is being played and therefore be able to deduce which notes and chords sound best in the musical piece. It will also let you compose music easier for the same reason.

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