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A melody without a key

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New Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1
Topic starter  

I've been playing guitar for a long time, but I'm still a beginner when it comes to my music theory knowledge.

I have had this little tune or melody stuck in my head that I like to play on my guitar, and I would like to write a more complete song with it, but I can't seem to find the key that it belongs in. In fact, I don't know that it has a key, but this is where my limited knowledge of music theory leaves me high and dry.

The melody consists of two barre chords, played with a downward strummed arpreggio and then pick the 2nd then 3rd string on the upward return motion. Do not hit the first string or high E.

The chords are a Db/C# minor with it's root on the 5th string, and then up to a Ab/G# major root on the sixth. It has a sort of gypsy sound when strummed as I described above, and I would love to continue writing it, including writing a solo riff to it. But I have looked over all of the keys, and I can't find one that has these two chords with the correct minor and major placement. Any push in the direction of a gypsy mode or scale that will fit with these chords would be greatly appreciated. Please help in anyway that you can, I really appreciate your time.

Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 11


hopefully someone knowledgable will come along to help.

In the meantime.

I think you are using C# harmonic minor scale.

Notes would be C#/Db D#/Eb E F#/Gb G#/Ab A C

Stacking thirds would give

C#/Dbm D#/Ebdim Eaug F#/Gbm G#/Ab A Cdim

Hope that helps,

Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

Yes - those chords would be a common i - V progression in the key of C# minor (from the harmonic minor scale).

Eminent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 25

If we write out the chords in E major we have:
E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim

For natural minor (relative minor) we start on the 6th of the scale:
C#m D#dim E F#m G#m A B

So you're playing a i v progression with the G#m altered to G#major (common technique since it's the V dominant chord). This alters the G#m by raising the B to B# (C).

So for soloing I'd just use natural minor and raise the B# to C when you are playing over the G# major chord.


Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

...for soloing I'd just use natural minor and raise the B# to C when you are playing over the G# major chord.

That's actually overthinking it. The chords are C#m (C#-E-G#) and G# (G#-B#-D#). Since neither one has a B note in it, the easiest route is to use the harmonic minor (C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A-B#) throughout. You could also use the C# melodic minor throughout... because neither chord has an A note in it.

Keeping track of what the underlying chord is is never a bad idea. But if I were playing over that progression, I'd use the ascending melodic minor over the C#m (the A# will form a C#m6 against the chord, which is a bit more pleasing to the ear), and the harmonic minor over the G# - the A natural note their will give you a b9, adding to the tension you'll resolve when you return to C#m.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

Eminent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 25

I don't agree but yes there are many different ways to play over the chords.


Honorable Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 646

Minor key with a major V is harmonic minor by definition. That's what harmonic minor is.

Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com