What does it mean to write a song in a certain key ?


To understand the answer to this question you need and understanding of these concepts:
  • Key center
  • Tonality
  • Chord progressions in functional harmony
  • Cadence
A song is regarded as being in the key of C major if the pitch C is its key center, if the notes in the song chiefly fall in the C-major scale (as opposed to the C-minor scale, or one of the other scale-modes based on C), and the chord triad of C major serves the function of the tonic chord throughout the chord progressions in the song.
There are exceptions to everything. A song would generally be regarded as being in the key of C major if it started out in C major, even if it ended in another key. Some songs stay in the same key all the way through, and some songs change keys. Or it could start in C major but incorporate chords borrowed from other keys, use melody notes outside of the notes in the C major scale, or it could leave the key of C major entirely at one point, only to return to C major before it ends.


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