Back In Black - what key

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Patrick
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Back In Black - what key

Post by Patrick » November 19th, 2007, 9:41 am

Does anyone know what key AC/DC's Back In Black is in? The first three chords are E, D, and A5...could this be V-IV-I? ...so does/could this suggest that it's in A? I don't 'need' to know, but since I'm learning this song, I'd like to know a bit about how it has been put together rather than just purely memorizing this song. Thanks in advance.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by NoteBoat » November 19th, 2007, 11:23 am

It's not really a clear-cut thing. Most of BIB is power chords, and one of the reasons so many bands use power chords is that they're ambiguous - they can be either major or minor. That lets a band modulate between keys pretty easily.

If you go through the whole tune and just look at the chord roots, you get: A-B-D-E-G. Looking at the fifths played with those to make the power chords, you have E-F#-A-B-D. So all together, that's A-B-D-E-F#-G, which suggests a key signature of one sharp (G/Em) or maybe two sharps (D/Bm) for the tune as a whole.

A lot of the tune is organized around A, but some parts can be seen as being organized around E and D.
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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by 321Barf » November 20th, 2007, 10:13 pm

It's in the key of Rock & Roll.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by Ricochet » November 21st, 2007, 8:38 am

It's in the key of Gee! :D
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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by REDSTRAT » January 17th, 2008, 11:05 pm

I SHARP-G 2 SHARPS-D 3 SHARPS-A 4 SHARPS-E OH THATS RIGHT EVERY THINGS IN TAB NOW.REGULAR SHEET MUSIC TELLS YOU BY THE SHARPS FLATS OR NEITHER FOR KEY OF C.SO IT WILL PROBALY BE IN THE KEY THE FIRST CHORD IS.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by NoteBoat » January 18th, 2008, 4:22 am

No, it probably won't.

A few years ago I surveyed a lot of music in different genres, and found that rule isn't workable. As I recall, only about half of the tunes I looked at actually started on the tonic chord.

A more reliable guide is the LAST chord in a song - over 90% of the songs I looked at ended on the tonic chord... which means it still isn't a sure bet.

As far as key signatures go, they do NOT tell you what key a song is in! They tell you what notes are sharp or flat. 4 sharps could just as easily be the key of C minor; if you look at sheet music for Miles Davis' "So What" you'll see a key signature of C - but the tune is in D Dorian.

There also seems to be something wrong with your caps lock key....
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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by Viper » January 20th, 2008, 4:08 am

NoteBoat wrote:There also seems to be something wrong with your caps lock key....
I was too afraid to say anything..
Also, what's the difference between D Dorian and C ionian? I've never undestood how the modes are different from each other. To me they always seemed like the same thing, with different tonics
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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by Fretsource » January 20th, 2008, 4:57 am

Viper wrote:Also, what's the difference between D Dorian and C ionian? I've never undestood how the modes are different from each other. To me they always seemed like the same thing, with different tonics
Having different tonics makes all the difference in the world, Viper. All of the notes in modes/scales relate to their tonics in their own distinct way due to the different interval relationships they have with the tonic. This creates a different flavour for each mode.
For example, compare the song, Happy Birthday in C major with Scarborough Fair (or Greensleeves) in D Dorian.
Despite being composed from the same set of notes, Happy Birthday definitely has the strong, bright major (Ionian) feel and Scarborough Fair has a darker, wistful, minor quality, which is one of the characteristics of the Dorian mode. The main reason for the marked difference in this case is the same reason that major and minor songs sound different, i.e., that the important third note of the scale/mode is a major third from the tonic in the first case (C- E) and a minor third (D- F) in the second.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by Viper » January 20th, 2008, 10:58 am

Oh , alright. You just answered a question plaguing me for at least 6 months. Thank you.
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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by artcore » June 17th, 2009, 3:54 pm

Back in Black is in the key of Em, Angus plays the song in an Em pentatonic

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by jbiafra » June 24th, 2009, 12:38 am

btw angus plays open chords, not power chords, not barre chords. this according to his guitar world lessons and interviews.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by dhodge » June 24th, 2009, 6:59 am

Maybe a slightly more accurate way of putting it would be that Angus plays power chords in open position by being (relatively) careful about which strings he strums. For instance, when he plays an A5, he's usually hitting (x022xx), not catching the C# (second fret of the B string) that would turn his A5 power chord into a regular open position A. Likewise with G, he'll normally go for 3x0033, which totally takes out any B notes from the G chord, turning it into G5 (or the G power chord, if you prefer).

His use of these open position power chords is a big part of his sound.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by jbiafra » June 27th, 2009, 11:33 am

oh, yeah, i do remember reading that, but i didn't understand any theory back then, so forgot. thanks. been playing open majors all these years.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by f.maniche » July 25th, 2011, 11:31 am

The Song is in the key of E Mixolydian (Barring some chromatic passing tones). It is the same as an A Major scale with E as the root (tonic).
The solos have been played in E Mixolydian too. As all the notes of a E minor pentatonic scale are present in the E mixolydian mode it seems as though its played in an E Minor pentatonic.

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Re: Back In Black - what key

Post by spiritboy » September 27th, 2012, 4:50 am

I think it's in E minor, certainly sounds that way anyways.

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