How to Find the Key of a Song: A Beginner’s Guide

By Monica | Guitar Techniques

Jul 13
how to find the key of a song

Learning how to find the key of a song is actually a necessary skill for any music players. This particular technicality will enable them to change or transpose the keys so that the song would fit your playstyle. Moreover, it also improves your versatility when it comes to song experimentations. If you are into making song covers, then this skill would benefit you.

In this article, we will feature some of the means of finding a song's keys, especially if they only come on its standard notation. It doesn't matter if you just know its chord progression. You will get things right as long as you follow the procedures we enumerated here. So what are you waiting for? Let's get started!

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How to Find the Key of a Song

how to find the key of a song

In practice, it is undeniable that finding the keys of a particular song is quite challenging. This is the reason why there is a need for you to dedicate some time in harnessing this skill. After all, the more you do a certain thing, the easier it becomes to grasp.

For starters, learning the fundamentals of this skills is mandatory. You won't get anywhere until you got the basic concepts that revolve around musical keys.

#1. Key: What is it

If you are just new to this field, you might still have a blurry concept to what a key is. Fortunately, it is not a jargon that you should fear. Specifically, the key is just the note or the tonal center that is present in a song. Technically, there are 24 keys on the guitar, and each of them is made of various notes. On the same manner, they start and end on different notes as well.

#2. Pay Attention to the Song

pay attention to the song

Learning starts with listening. Therefore, it is pretty essential that you need to have to a good grasp to the song that you have a particular interest in. The familiarity of the parts and chord progression of a musical piece will enable to study it properly.

  • If you want to get the keys of a song, you have to listen to it carefully. You don't have to start with your guitar on your hands. Instead, you should lay down the instrument first and just focus on the piece. In this way, you can have your ears and brain working for you without any distractions.
  • Specifically, you must identify the song's tonal center. Determine which part of the song these tones are landing, and try to focus on them.

#3. Singing the Note

The next step in this process is to hum or sing the note that you spotted while you are listening. You will notice that such particular note will sound good, regardless where you put it in the song. By doing this, you will somehow get the "structure" of the key and how it works in the entire piece.

Do not worry if your singing skills are not great. We never said that your vocals should be exemplary before you can do this. Singing is just a way to have a good "feel" of the keys so that you can strike them perfectly later on.

#4. In Your Guitar

After listening to the song, it is the time that you should get back your guitar. Remember the note that you hummed a while ago and try to find it on the guitar. Of course, this is a trial-and-error process.

  • You don't need to get discouraged if you failed on your first attempts. After all, matching the note that you are singing to its proper note counterpart on your instrument is not a walk in the park.
  • Once you can match these corresponding notes already, things would get smooth for you. In fact, you can deduce that the particular song you are experimenting is played on the key of the note that you discovered.

#5. Minor or Major

If you can already find the note, make sure that you identify whether it is played on its major or minor chord. For example, if you got the E note, check if it is being played on E Major or E Minor on the song.

  • In this part, it is a prerequisite that you know all the guitar chords and how to play them. You can easily identify the type of chord that you are going to use based on the harmony that it creates to the song. If minor chords don't fit well in the composition, try switching to the major chords. The same with the opposite.

Checking the Appropriateness of the Key

checking the appropriateness of the key

We will get a little technical on this aspect. But we guarantee that this is an essential step so that you can improve the accuracy of your keys. Verifying if a particular that you got is right or wrong is a tricky process. You always have to keep in your mind that your first chord might be wrong. Therefore, you have to listen keenly so that you can find the appropriate tonal center of a song.

  • If things get confusing for you, we recommend that you have to look for the song's chord chart. If you can't find it online, then you need to write the chords on your own.
  • Of course, it is very crucial that you know where your major keys are. For example, let us say that you are currently looking for the G major. At this point, you need to know the chords that line with the G major key. In this way, you can easily guide your fingers toward it.
  • Meanwhile, you should know that the tonal center is laid at different parts. Therefore, you have to listen thoroughly to the song, as you can see these nuances take place at its various sections.

Little Reminders

When you are looking for the keys of a song, you need to identify the things that can sway you out of pace.

  • One of these is the non-diatonic chords. By ordinary means, these chords don't happen on keys. The major 2 chord is one example of a non-diatonic key. If this chord is present in a song, it can make an impression that you are playing in a different or wrong key. This is one of the biggest reasons why you have to pay attention to the tonal center of the song.
  • Moreover, you should also be wary about the shared chords of the keys. Of course, you should already know that there are a lot of keys that have common chords. An example of this is the C major key and the G major key. Both of them share common chords. They could confuse you especially if you are looking at them in the chord progression. Once again, looking at the tonal center would give you an advantage.
  • Another thing that you should look out for is the modulation of the key. Specifically, it is a concept that describes the transition of the keys within a particular piece (e.g. E major to C major).

​Meanwhile, here is a detailed video about find the key of a song on the guitar by  Guitarlessons.com

Conclusion

Learning how to find the key of a song is not simple as it seems to be. It requires a trained ears and a dedicated player to do it. Needless to say, there is no such thing as an overnight success for this skill. You have to practice with it daily so that you can gain familiarity with the techniques and concepts. But once you can get the hang of it, things would become easier for you.

Did you learn from this article? If you have any questions, just tell us in the comment section below. We will be waiting! Have fun on learning!

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About the Author

Hi everyone! Im Monica and I am an avid lover of guitars and everything in-between. My current profession is not really music-related. It is quite discouraging but I just don’t want to drop my zeal–especially not to guitars! I created GuitarTrance.Com so that I can keep up with my hobby. Of course, I want to engage with the community as well! Hope we can all get along!