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Unit 2

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

2 min readโ€ขnovember 2, 2020

Caroline Koffke

Mickey Hansen

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?

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Unit 1: Music Fundamentals I: Pitch, Major Scales and Key Signatures, Rhythm, Meter, and Expressive Elements

Unit 3: Music Fundamentals III: Triads and Seventh Chords

Unit 4: Harmony and Voice Leading I: Chord Function, Cadence, and Phrase

Unit 5: Harmony and Voice Leading II: Chord Progressions and Predominant Function