D major

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 17, 2022

Always the latest guitar gear & tricks?

Subscribe to THE newsletter for aspiring guitarists

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

hi there I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

D major (or the key of D) is a major scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Its key signature consists of two sharps. Its relative minor is B minor and its parallel minor is D minor. D major is well-suited to violin music because of the structure of the instrument, which is tuned G D A E. The open strings resonate sympathetically with the D string, producing a sound that is especially brilliant. This is also the case with all other orchestral strings. It is thus no coincidence that many classical composers throughout the centuries have chosen to write violin concertos in D major, including those by Mozart (No. 2, 1775, No. 4, 1775); Ludwig van Beethoven (1806); Paganini (No. 1, 1817); Brahms (1878); Tchaikovsky (1878); Prokofiev (No. 1, 1917); Stravinsky (1931); and Korngold (1945). It is appropriate for guitar music, with drop D tuning making two Ds available as open strings. For some beginning wind instrument students, however, D major is not a very suitable key, since it transposes to E major on B-flat wind instruments, and beginning methods generally tend to avoid keys with more than three sharps. Even so, the clarinet in B-flat is still often used for music in D major, and it is perhaps the sharpest key that is practical for the instrument. There are composers however who, in writing a piece in D minor with B-flat clarinets, will have them change to clarinets in A if the music switches to D major, an example being Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. The vast majority of tin whistles are in D, since they are often used in music with fiddles. It is a common key for Pub session playing. In the Baroque period, D major was regarded as “the key of glory”; hence many trumpet concertos were in D major, such as those by Fasch, Gross, Molter (No. 2), Leopold Mozart, Telemann (No. 2), and Giuseppe Torelli. Many trumpet sonatas were in D major, too, such as those by Corelli, Petronio Franceschini, Purcell, and Torelli. “The Trumpet Shall Sound” and the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah, and his coronation anthem Zadok the Priest are in D major. 23 of Haydn’s 104 symphonies are in D major, making it the most often used main key of his symphonies. The vast majority of Mozart’s unnumbered symphonies are in D major, namely K. 66c, 81/73, 97/73m, 95/73n, 120/111a and 161/163/141a. The symphony evolved from the overture, and “D major was by far the most common key for overtures in the second half of the eighteenth century.” This continued even into the Romantic Period, and was used for the “triumphant” final movements of several symphonies, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Gustav Mahler’s Titan symphony, Jean Sibelius’ Second Symphony and Johann Strauss I Radetzky March. Scriabin considered D major to be golden in color (see chromesthesia) and, in a discussion with Rimsky-Korsakov, he gave an example from one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s own operas where a character sang in D major about gold. The bells of Westminster Abbey are tuned to the key of D major.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

Microphone gain vs volume Subscribe