Have you ever listened to Dmitri Shostakovich? He composed during the time of Joseph Stalin. Joseph Stalin was actually worse of a guy than Adolf Hitler. We always hear so much shit about Hitler but not so much about Stalin. Ive always wondered why that is?

If you know please indulge me.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Final String Quartet is in the key of E flat minor.

It has 6 movements. I can listen to the whole thing which lasts 36 minutes. If you want something a little bit more upbeat just to get a taste and an earful of the key and how it sounds check out the third movement – intermezzo.

It was his last piece and is said to be a meditation on the desk and mortality. It’s been said that he was thinking about his own death at this time. All movements are played adagio. Pretty ballsy if you ask me.

Below is the relative major key of E flat minor…F  sharp Major.

I dare you to write a piece in this key.

I double dog dare you. 😉


F# Major

The Notes in the F# Major Scale are as follows:

F# G# A# B C# D# E#

Progression Examples:

  1. F# D#m
  2. F# B F# Bmaj7 C#7
  3. C# A#m7 F#maj7 E#m7b5
  4. D#5 G#5 D#5 C#5
  5. F# A#m7 C#5 D#m7
  6. F# G#m7 C# C#7
  7. F# D#m G#m7 C#7
  8. F# B E#m7b5 A#m D#m G#m7 C#7

If you’ve never used this key, try it. It will give you something you’ve probably never heard before or even played before. And it’s relative minor is E Flat Minor!

Listening examples 

Scriabin‘s Fourth Sonata, The key was the favorite tonality of Olivier Messiaen, who used it repeatedly throughout his work to express his most exciting or transcendent moods, most notably in the Turangalîla Symphony.

Shostakovich – String Quartet no. 14 in F# Major. Awesome. Beautiful.

Optional Assignment: Write a melody on staff paper using the scale. Use quarter notes and half notes only. Now go back and see if you can harmonize it with chords.


E Flat Minor

The Notes in the Eb Minor Scale are as follows:

Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db

Progression Examples:

  1. Ebm Abm Bbm
  2. Eb5 Bb5 C5 Bb5
  3. Fdim Bbm Ebm
  4. Ebm Bbm Ebm Abm
  5. Ebm Cb Fdim Ebm
  6. Ebm Abm Cb Bbm
  7. Ebm Gb Db Dbsus4
  8. Ebm Abm Db Gb Cb Fdim Bbm7

These pieces are noted for being dark and mysterious (a characteristic of this key).

Listening examples

Dmitri Shostakovich’s final string quartet. No. 15

Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Elegie, Op. 3, No. 1

Étude-Tableau, Op. 39, No. 5

Oskar Böhme‘s Trumpet Sextet, Op. 30 is written in E-flat minor.

Optional Assignment: Only if you do not have a whammy bar, detune each string on your guitar a half step down. You are now in Ebm. Experiment with this new tuning. You will play the chords in Em but you will actually be in the key of Ebm.


See you next time!