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In music, the word key has two meanings:
- Some musical instruments have keys. The keys are pressed by the fingers. Keyboard instruments have keys. They are black and white. Woodwind instruments have keys, although descant and treble recorders do not. The keys help the player to reach holes that could otherwise not be reached by the fingers, and they make it easier to play difficult music with lots of sharps and flats.
- Most music is in a particular key. This means that one of the 12 notes (C, Dflat, D, etc.) sounds like the “home note”. When the piece finishes it normally comes to rest on this home note (also called: the “tonic”). The piece will be built on the notes of the scale that starts on that note. There are two kinds of key (like there are two kinds of scale): major and minor. Sometimes the key of a piece is in its title: “Minuet in C”, Sonata in F sharp major. If the title does not say “major” or “minor” it is normally taken to be major.
The key system is explained in the article circle of fifths.
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