The Dread Key of A

SirionSirion Posts: 3,115
So, I'm trying to come up with as many riff ideas as I can these days. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them ends up being in A (or rather in A position, since I am actually tuned down). I'm trying to mix it up, but it is such a guitaristic key. The baryton range of the guitar is still prominent in the tonic (my pet peeve with D position), and extends a bit further down still, but you also have enough range above the tonic to reach the all-important dominant. And you can do pedal points. A lot of pedal points.

Still, having more tonal variation is good, both in the context of a gig and to make sure that the ideas actually sound different. Has anybody else felt like they've got stuck in a rut on this matter, and do you have any suggestions on how to proceed to avoid it, when writing riff-based dino music?
«1

Comments

  • Amy used to give me shit for writing riffs in A, E, F#, and D.  So a wrote a riff/song in F, and trying to belt over it damn near killed her voice. 

    So my opinion is, if you write in common keys WHO CARES???  The number of people who have the pitch awareness to pick up on that is infinitesimalWrite a great riff. It doesn't matter what key it's in.
    In the midst of the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.
  • inmyhandsinmyhands Posts: 11,652
    Between the ages 6 to 15 I wrote and sang in the key of "F". At 16 I had to switch "D" and transpose my earlier songs. By stretching my vocal limits I stayed in "D" into my mid 40's. When I finally admitted to myself that my high notes were sounding like shit I switched my new material and transposed my older tunes to "A". Now I'm closer to Hoyt Axton than John Lennon but I can live with that.
  • TravisWTravisW Posts: 988
    One thing I've done is develop ways to get more comfortable riffing off of fretted strings. Sometimes, I'll get into C# or G. One tune, I dropped to D only to play most of the song in F#m. Now, these types of riffs are likely to have a different character to those that allow you to play around with a handy open root, but the upside is that it breaks you out of muscle memory and forces you to try to flesh out the idea of the riff. 
  • Dr NickDr Nick Posts: 3,606
    In the Whitesnake bio, Keith Olsen pokes fun at Adrian Vandenberg for being incabaple of writing in any key other than A, so if nothing else you're in good company!
    I had to write a song as the "theme" for a kids camp last year, and it went down so well I've got to do it again. It was in Bm, and I'm desperately trying to use ANY key other than Bm again.
    Unfortunately the idea that has gained traction is in...Bm.

    So I'm working out whether Cm or Bbm will work, just to be annoying. 
  • OskyOsky Posts: 1,056
    Dr Nick said:
    In the Whitesnake bio, Keith Olsen pokes fun at Adrian Vandenberg for being incabaple of writing in any key other than A, so if nothing else you're in good company!
    Brian May likes writing in A too .... A LOT! It didn't do him much harm!

    I really like B, quite a bit of Billy Idol''s stuff is in that key. Love F# too.
  • It makes me wonder as rock/metal guitar players how important is it to learn every key known to man? 
  • MAdXMAdX Posts: 1,994
    edited January 2019
    For some strange reason, the nine songs on our upcoming album are in seven different keys... The good thing is you really learn how to solo in different spots on the neck, and get more even wear on your frets... haha
    Post edited by MAdX on
  • EugenicScumEugenicScum Posts: 5,323
    Tony IommE
    RitG Blackmore
    Halvor HosAr.

    It's fine.
    Check out my band: Bevar Sea
  • Some guys like say, Blackmore mostly play in the same key. And we totally dig them nevertheless. I think it was Bob Daisley who said that Gary Moore could play in any key. Randy Rhoads probably could as well. There's no rule for this.

    If you think learning to write songs or solo in every key will make you a better musician, then by all means do it. I guess it can't hurt to learn more stuff, but I don't think it's a must.
  • SirionSirion Posts: 3,115
    My problem with the whole thing is that writing in one key tends to create similar-sounding ideas, at least when writing with the guitar: The key of A/Am, for instance, has certain possibilities on the fretboard. In A, for instance, going to the deep E at some point is almost unavoidable, whereas the equivalent is not a possibility when writing in E/Em. Since Blackmore was mentioned, I think that a lot of the material in F#m and Gm tends to sound similar, since it is easy to get stuck in the blues box in those keys. I say stuck, even though we all obviously love what Blackmore did with it, but a lot of his riffs ARE built the same way.

    (There is, of course, a lot more to this, such as the range of the singer, but for now I am talking merely about guitaristic effects.)
  • Andy GAndy G Posts: 1,015
     Randy Rhoads probably could as well. There's no rule for this.

    I read somewhere that Randy chose to write each of the songs on Blizzard of Ozz in a different key in order to further set them apart.


  • eduardoritoseduardoritos Posts: 3,630
    The Thumb Plays E trick is a must if you can riff up tones like G, C...

  • Andy G said:
     Randy Rhoads probably could as well. There's no rule for this.

    I read somewhere that Randy chose to write each of the songs on Blizzard of Ozz in a different key in order to further set them apart.


    I have never checked if this is true, but if it is I wouldn't doubt it at all it was a deliberate thing. Randy was proficient, schooled enough musician to be able to pull that off.

    I once read an interview with Ozzy that he was totally impressed with Randy because he would actually sit with him and figure out what pitch worked for Ozzy's obviously limited vocal abilities. Something like that had never happened to him before, as in Sabbath they would just work with whatever riffs Iommi was coming up with. Randy figured what worked best for the singer.
  • eduardoritoseduardoritos Posts: 3,630
    Andy G said:
     Randy Rhoads probably could as well. There's no rule for this.

    I read somewhere that Randy chose to write each of the songs on Blizzard of Ozz in a different key in order to further set them apart.


    Wolf Hoffman do so; many songs on Bm, C#m, etc.
  • OskyOsky Posts: 1,056
    Brian's love of A in Queen was never a problem as all four of the band wrote material so the mix of keys on their albums was wide and I think they benefited from that. Having Freddie's piano tunes in the mix meant lots of stuff in piano-friendly (and guitar unfriendly) keys like F and Eb, John wrote some stuff on keys too. All of which were a nice counter balance to Brian and Roger's guitar based compositions.
Sign In or Register to comment.