#1
I want to know what key a song is in WITHOUT knowing the chords beforehand. What notes should I listen to to find the key? I mean the beginning notes usually work with what the vocalist sings or what the guitar plays but sometimes it doesn't work.

How can I find the key?
#2
What's the point of knowing the key without knowing the chords? What use is that?

I guess a lot of songs start off on the "I" chord - and thus the key of the song, eg if it's Am, then the key is Am, BUT there are a lot of exceptions. Songs can start on the "IV", "V", "vi", or other chords. You just gotta look at the chord progressions and figure it out.

Although, you can tell by listening to a chord progression what key they are in because the "I" chord usually sounds the most "restful" and like the music has "settled" there, or gives the feeling of completeness at the end of a song.

Trying playing a Chord progression like Em, Am, C, D... then let a G chord ring... You know it's in the key of G, if you let any of the other chords ring before G it doesn't sound "finished" so to speak.
Conor
#3
Quote by ckly
Although, you can tell by listening to a chord progression what key they are in because the "I" chord usually sounds the most "restful" and like the music has "settled" there, or gives the feeling of completeness at the end of a song.


This is the correct answer. Listen for the resolution then figure out what chord it is by ear. After that, the other chords will be much easier to figure out as you will have context.
Nothing that is worthwhile in life will ever come easy.
#4
Without any theory or understanding to take it further, then the only thing that's going to tell you is the note that it feels "resolved" to.

Nothing else will do what you need without some needed understanding.

When finding the note that something resolves to, all that's required is your ear. Now if you ask me how can you be certain of that note, you're on your own there, but the more that you work on this the better your ear is going to become.

Best,

Sean
#5
Quote by ckly
Trying playing a Chord progression like Em, Am, C, D... then let a G chord ring... You know it's in the key of G, if you let any of the other chords ring before G it doesn't sound "finished" so to speak.


Nice example dude, let me test my theory knowledge on that one.

Sean (or other theory nerd), the reason that the G feels resolved in this progression is because of the D chord, it creates a V - I cadence? Is this correct?

And also, if it were to go to the Em instead of the G at the end, would it feel resolved because of err....voice leading? That's most likely incorrect, but give me the theory term for why it sounds good with the tonic of each chord stepping up C - D - E.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#6
Quote by AlanHB
Nice example dude, let me test my theory knowledge on that one.

Sean (or other theory nerd), the reason that the G feels resolved in this progression is because of the D chord, it creates a V - I cadence? Is this correct?

And also, if it were to go to the Em instead of the G at the end, would it feel resolved because of err....voice leading? That's most likely incorrect, but give me the theory term for why it sounds good with the tonic of each chord stepping up C - D - E.


I'd agree with that. I don't think it feels like G at all until the D chord to G, however. I think up till that point, it feels unresolved. Hit a B7 (V ) and you're golden, to go back to Em...but when you throw that D...it's a definite V-I to G...

As an aside, if you'd have gone instead of D, to a G, you've pulled the key to resolve on C. That V I cadence or a ii V cadence in the new key are very powerful indicators.

I'm thinking voice leading is a fair term, using walking bass line to move the form. I mean if you look at so many forms of melody it's all in steps, and occasional skips, thats what the ear wants to hear and feels familiar with and accepts readily.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Jul 6, 2011,
#7
Quote by Dig_a_Pony
I want to know what key a song is in WITHOUT knowing the chords beforehand. What notes should I listen to to find the key? I mean the beginning notes usually work with what the vocalist sings or what the guitar plays but sometimes it doesn't work.

How can I find the key?


Find the notes for whole song or logical phrase. When you find e.g. C,D,E,F,G,A,B this can be C major or A minor key. Now, the most important thing will be the last tone of the song. It this is A, then the song is in A minor key, if it's G, then it's probably C major key.

There are exceptions, especially if the song composer doesn't know much about music.

Anyways, its not so complicated, especially if you are listening to a song that already has chords. Then you can simply hear and write what you hear.

If you have one melody (one voice) then you have freedom to arrange chords as you like. (but you must follow the rules)
Last edited by JimBill at Jul 9, 2011,
#8
Quote by JimBill
Find the notes for whole song or logical phrase. When you find e.g. C,D,E,F,G,A,B this can be C major or A minor key. Now, the most important thing will be the last tone of the song. It this is A, then the song is in A minor key, if it's G, then it's probably C minor key.

There are exceptions, especially if the song composer doesn't know much about music.

Anyways, its not so complicated, especially if you are listening to a song that already has chords. Then you can simply hear and write what you hear.

If you have one melody (one voice) then you have freedom to arrange chords as you like. (but you must follow the rules)




Don't spread false information please.

And TS, the easiest way to decide what key something is in if you don't have any chords or notes is simply to listen to where it sounds resolved as has been stated in this thread already. And there are NO rules you have to follow in music btw.
You'll Never Walk Alone!
#9
Quote by Muffinz


Don't spread false information please.

And TS, the easiest way to decide what key something is in if you don't have any chords or notes is simply to listen to where it sounds resolved as has been stated in this thread already. And there are NO rules you have to follow in music btw.


Sorry Muffinz, it seams that you don't know much about music theory. In you want to learn some or have some question, please send me PM.

Music is like math, everything is defined and has rules
#10
Quote by JimBill
Sorry Muffinz, it seams that you don't know much about music theory. In you want to learn some or have some question, please send me PM.

Music is like math, everything is defined and has rules


You will quickly find yourself a laughing stock here/discredited if you persist with an attitude like that.

If you think that there are "rules" to music theory, you are sorely mistaken and or a troll.

I am not even going to bother with your link. My guess is you're a hired gun, (probably from Bangladesh) off a freelancer site who's been tasked to find PR3 pages and create backlinks and forum comments, and you're getting paid .10 a backlink. The goal is to make sure that your sig link stays up long enough to be paid. Your broken English and your lack of knowledge is a dead giveaway.

Further more, Muffinz was correct and he doesn't claim to be great at theory.

If you'd like to persist in this, I'd be happy to debate you publicly, but, it must be in a particular topic in this created for that purpose, so that this one isn't hijacked, and so that people who wish to avoid seeing it have the option to stay out of it.

Music is like math, but it's (theory) not a rule, it's a point of observation that helps us understand it as a whole. It's a tool that opens up options within our own creative means and let's us know why it works as well. Our ears are the ultimate "rule" of music. We decide whether music will have tension, the degree of tension, and resolution.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Jul 9, 2011,
#11
Sorry jim, but it seems like you overestimate yourself.
If the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A and B there's a fat chance its either C major or A minor, but it mostly depends on context. A composer can use these notes in D minor with a natural 6th as accidental to get a more dorian feel. Quite arrogant to think that this composer doesnt know anything about music theory. It is the people that dont know why a composer is NOT sticking to the rules that are lacking knowledge.
Your example about the last note is also not correct since a composition in C major per definition resolves to C, although it ends on an A. A composer for example can end with a deceptive
cadance, often the vi or A minor in C major. How you got to G to C minor is a mystery to me using the notes of C major in your example.
Moreover, i'd rather talk about conventions than rules, since the latter implies you have to obey them, that's BS. Music is a way to express emotions and if you cant handle that some people do that in an unfamiliar way to you, it's your problem, not theirs. Actually it emphasises how little you know about the real meaning of music.
#12
Quote by DearMoose
Sorry jim, but it seems like you overestimate yourself.
If the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A and B there's a fat chance its either C major or A minor, but it mostly depends on context. A composer can use these notes in D minor with a natural 6th as accidental to get a more dorian feel. Quite arrogant to think that this composer doesnt know anything about music theory. It is the people that dont know why a composer is NOT sticking to the rules that are lacking knowledge.
Your example about the last note is also not correct since a composition in C major per definition resolves to C, although it ends on an A. A composer for example can end with a deceptive
cadance, often the vi or A minor in C major. How you got to G to C minor is a mystery to me using the notes of C major in your example.
Moreover, i'd rather talk about conventions than rules, since the latter implies you have to obey them, that's BS. Music is a way to express emotions and if you cant handle that some people do that in an unfamiliar way to you, it's your problem, not theirs. Actually it emphasises how little you know about the real meaning of music.


Yes, there are lot of possibilities. The guy who asked a question should start with example C major and A minor.

It is very interesting that no one wanted to give this guy a help, and now when I wrote an answer, you all have something to say.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your comment, but you better use your energy to explain this to Dig_a_Pony. I am clear with this.

Cheers
#14
Listening to the resolving note only works if its a perfect cadence you're listening for.
The song can still be in a different key than the 'resolved' chord/note, such as when using an interrupted cadence which resolves on anything other than I.

Which is why using the word resolve is totally misleading, as its often used in place of 'perfect cadence'.

A perfect example is the end of 'seven days in sunny june' by Jamiroquai...
Always waiting for that bit of inspiration.
Last edited by W4T3V3R at Jul 9, 2011,
#16
Quote by W4T3V3R
Listening to the resolving note only works if its a perfect cadence you're listening for.
The song can still be in a different key than the 'resolved' chord/note, such as when using an interrupted cadence which resolves on anything other than I.

Which is why using the word resolve is totally misleading, as its often used in place of 'perfect cadence'.

A perfect example is the end of 'seven days in sunny june' by Jamiroquai...


You may be confusing the term "resolved" for the term "ending chord or note".

I'm not talking about a final note, that is played. I understand what you mean by interrupted cadence or deceptive cadence, I've heard plenty of songs that ended on the IV and left it feeling unresolved as part of artistic expression. I get that. I'm talking about the note, that IF it were played, resolves the song and makes it feel "home". I'm also not talking about instances where the song briefly moves into different keys several times, like Satin Doll.

Best,

Sean
#17
Every cadence resolves, where it resolves at is the thing to look for. If it was me, i would have said 'look where the chord progression ends on a perfect cadence, and that is usually the key of the song'
I meant even if a chord sequence ends on the ii, its still resolved. Because that is how that style of cadence is resolved.
Always waiting for that bit of inspiration.
#18
Quote by W4T3V3R
Every cadence resolves, where it resolves at is the thing to look for. If it was me, i would have said 'look where the chord progression ends on a perfect cadence, and that is usually the key of the song'
I meant even if a chord sequence ends on the ii, its still resolved. Because that is how that style of cadence is resolved.



I think we are talking about two different things.

Best,

Sean
#19
Quote by Dig_a_Pony
I want to know what key a song is in WITHOUT knowing the chords beforehand. What notes should I listen to to find the key? I mean the beginning notes usually work with what the vocalist sings or what the guitar plays but sometimes it doesn't work.

How can I find the key?

i dont think you can do that. you need to know the chords to a degree. usually, you tell the key by what the progression resolves on. and *hint* its usually the last chord. BUT, sometimes its not. sometimes you kind of have to do some detective work and figure out what it resolves on. sometimes the first chord in the progression is the resolving chord as well.

basically for popular music, look at the first and last chord in the progression. 9 times out of 10 they will lead you to the key of the song. some can be deceptive though like sweet home alabama. most people tend to think its in D but it atually resolves to G making it in G major.

one thing i do is if im playing with a group and dont know the song, ill play along and find the chords first. from there i can usually find the key. the more you do it, the faster you get at finding the key. some songs are easy like 12 bar blues. its pretty easy to find the key for that. some other progressions are pretty simple too. but you need to know the chords and have some knowledge of standard progressions. thats how people seem to just pick it up by ear. they can recognize the type of progression and spotted some chords and then picked it up in under a minute. takes practice.

for practice, play along with the radio. try to figure out the progressions to whatever comes on.
#20
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear

basically for popular music, look at the first and last chord in the progression. 9 times out of 10 they will lead you to the key of the song. some can be deceptive though like sweet home alabama. most people tend to think its in D but it atually resolves to G making it in G major.

i remember reading an article that stated that the band argued forever whether the song was in D or G

really though this is a good approximation, alot of pop type songs start and / or end on the tonic. usually all i do is find a couple notes from the song, generally by the time i've picked out 3 notes i've figured out what key it's in by relationship of the notes to everything else going on. after that i work out the chords.
#21
Quote by JimBill
Music is like math, everything is defined and has rules


which you clearly do not understand. i really hope you're trolling. if not, don't advise anyone on theory. ever.

sources: experienced theory instructor
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