ap music theory study guides

2.3 Key Relationships: Parallel, Closely Related, and Distantly Related Keys





โฑ๏ธย ย 2 min read

written by

Mickey Hansen

mickey hansen

Caroline Koffke

caroline koffke


November 2, 2020

2.3: Key Relationships: Parallel, Closely Related, and Distantly Related Keys

When we relate various keys to one another, there are several different relationships that we look for.


We already talked about relative key relationships in Unit 2.1 <hyperlink to 2.1> but there are several others that will help us identify how and why one musical piece can shift between several keys.

Parallel key: a key that shares the same tonic as the original, but has a different key signature. Below is d minor on the left and D major on the right.


Closely Related and Distantly Related keys: remember back to Unit 1.5 <hyperlink> when we learned about the circle of fifths? Closely or distantly related keys are defined by how close or far a key is, located on the circle of fifths.

There are three major ways to discover closely related keys.


A key that is next to another on the circle can show us whether a key is closely related or not.

There are 5 closely related keys for each key signature. Look down at the key of A Major. Let's find all 5!

  1. We can see that its relative minor is f# minor. A key can be both a relative key AND closely related.

  2. What are the major keys on either side of A major? One is D Major.

  3. The other is E major.

  4. What are the relative minor keys of the major keys which just found? The relative minor of D Major is b minor.

  5. What is the relative minor of E Major? C# minor.


The second way to think about closely related keys is the following:


๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿผ A closely related key signature is only one accidental away from the original key ๐Ÿ‘ˆ๐Ÿผ

In the example we used before, A Major has three sharps, D Major has two, and E Major has four.

Take the relative minor keys of the adjacent keys, and we add up the relative keys again to a total of 5.

The last way to find closely related keys is by scale degrees.


By building keys off of every note in the scale (except from the 7th scale degree), you can find your closely related keys. Let's take an example in the key of C minor.


As for the distantly related keys, if they don't fall into being closely related, then you've found them! They would be considered to be located further away on the circle of fifths.


๐Ÿฆœ Polly wants a progress tracker: Which keys are closely related to F# Major? Which are distantly related to Bb minor?

continue learning

Slide 1 of 14

Join Our Community

Fiveable Community students are already meeting new friends, starting study groups, and sharing tons of opportunities for other high schoolers. Soon the Fiveable Community will be on a totally new platform where you can share, save, and organize your learning links and lead study groups among other students!๐ŸŽ‰

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211

92% of Fiveable students earned a 3 or higher on their 2020 AP Exams.

*apยฎ and advanced placementยฎ are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

ยฉ fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.