One of my piano students recently asked me, “How do you find the key of a song?” I looked at her and said, “That’s a very good question.” The answer is not that easy to find as well as not that easy to figure out unless you have more information about the song and the documentation surrounding it. But there are quick things that you can do to figure out what key a song is in or what key a song should be in.
The first method may be kinda silly but if you don’t know then ASK someone who does. Maybe someone has already played that song and you can ask them. This is especially true in a Band Setting, where you have to depend on the other people in the band in the first place.
Secondly you could use the key signature of the song or look on a repository like Ultimate Guitar and look for the chord chart. This most likely will have the key on it, and you could identify the key that way.
The third method is using the Major Chord Method. Each song will have 3 major chords in it. The 1, 4 and 5 chords are always MAJOR chords, while the 2, 3 and 6 chords are ALWAYS MINOR chords. If you can identify these 3 major chords, you can infer the KEY from that. For example if your song has A, D, and E as the major chords, then the song MUST be in A. And so on. Here’s a chart from Ultimate Guitar that shows this information:
Key 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 C C Dm Em F G Am B-dim D D Em F#m G A Bm C#-dim E E F#m G#m A B C#m D#-dim F F Gm Am Bb C Dm E-dim G G Am Bm C D Em F#-dim A A Bm C#m D E F#m G#-dim B B C#m D#m E F# G#m A#-dim
This chart is very helpful in determining the key of the song. Now I’ve mentioned Major and Minor chords, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. I’ll have to come back to it soon. But needless to say this chart needs to be looked at and memorized as it would help in easily identifying the key. I’ll revisit the differences in a Major and Minor Chord in a later post or see my recent post. Now when you find your key, just keep on playing and working it as you Play It By Ear!