How to Tell The Difference Between Major and Minor | Hub Guitar

How to Tell The Difference Between Major and Minor

One question that trips a lot of people up is whether the music is in a major or minor key.

How Major and Minor are Related

This confusion is easy to understand. After all, every major key has a minor key with the same notes.

Two Keys – Same Notes

Note SetPossible Keys
C D E F G A BC Major, A Minor
G A B C D E F♯G Major, E Minor
F G A B♭ C D EF Major, D Minor
D E F♯ G A B C♯D Major, B Minor
B♭ C D E♭ F G AB♭ Major, G Minor

Fundamental Differences

There are at least three big differences between each of the major keys and its corresponding minor key.

Tonal Center

The defining difference between C major and A minor is that the tonal center of C major is C and the tonal center of A minor is A. This means that, in C major, chords and melodies will tend to return to rest on the C note, whereas in A minor they will tend to resolve and rest on the A note.

The Sound

Music created from the major scale harmony sounds upbeat, strong, and somewhat happy. Music focusing on the minor mode sounds a bit more serious (sometimes even pretentiously so) and sad.

Colorful Harmony

Another important difference is that the minor key will tend to have extra non-diatonicStrictly speaking, any structure comprised of seventh notes. But almost always used to describe 7-note scale structures, usually the major scale or the minor scale, but sometimes other modes as well. notes in both the melody and the chords. This may be less true for rock, pop, dance and electronic music but is still quite true for most other styles. The dead giveaway is in the chords in minor scale harmonies. The key of A minor can have Emaj, or E7, whereas those chords would not appear as often in the key of C major. That’s because in the key of A minor, the tone G may sometimes appear as G♯.

What If It’s Both?

One of the most common tricks in songwriting is to create a contrasting section of the song using either the relative major or relative minor. But for this to work, one of the two keys has to be used more heavily.

Examples of Major and Minor Music

Songs in the Major KeySongs in the Minor Key
Happy Birthday (to You)Greensleeves
John Lennon, ImagineScarborough Fair
Scott Joplin, The EntertainerBon Jovi, Livin’ on a Prayer
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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