#1
I've been trying to learn about keys, But get lost trying to find what key a song is in. I've been learning from books but think I must be looking at it the wrong way.

I cannot make sense of certain things like; If a song (hypothetically) contains the chords G D C (in any order), then according to my book, it could be in the key of G major or E minor, so how do you find out which one?

Or if there's a song where half the chords fit in one key and half fit in another, how do you figure which one of the two keys it is in?
Last edited by gary1991 at Oct 28, 2011,
#3
It has a lot to do with feeling...If a key feels like it pulls to a certain chord over and over again (lets say 70% (arbitrary) of the time) then it is most likely in that key. There are a bunch of tricks composers use, however, to make a piece more diversified in sonority that may make finding the key harder and the overall tonal center more...ambiguous. For the most part the last chord of the song (not all the time) will be the primary chord of the key it is in (barring modulation).
#4
A good general rule is looking at what chord the song begins and ends on, if they're both for example G major, and all the other chords during the song would fit in G major, it's in G major. Å

you have to check out the notes of the chords/melodies etc. and see what key they fit into.


Your progression could be in both G major and E minor, since those keys are parallel. Meaning that they both contain the exact same notes. (Try writing an E minor and G major scale down - you'll find the scales are the same, just started from a different root note!).

Every major key has a parallel minor key that is found a minor third interval (3 semi-tones, 3 frets on guit/bass) below itself, and vice-versa for minor keys.
For example, C major and A minor are parallelkeys, D major and F minor, F# minor and A major etc. etc. etc.
Your specific progression doesn't contain any E minor chord but does contain a G chord and starts out on that chord as well, so it's in G major! But you can improvise in both the G major and E minor scale over it.
#5
Quote by jrenkert
It has a lot to do with feeling...If a key feels like it pulls to a certain chord over and over again (lets say 70% (arbitrary) of the time) then it is most likely in that key. There are a bunch of tricks composers use, however, to make a piece more diversified in sonority that may make finding the key harder and the overall tonal center more...ambiguous. For the most part the last chord of the song (not all the time) will be the primary chord of the key it is in (barring modulation).


Yeah this is a pretty good tactic. Find out where the progression resolves to - that will be the key its in. You have to know a little bit about tension and resolutions though.
#6
Just pay attention to what the most important note is.
If you listen to a song and know what note (or chord) the song could end on without adding any kind of tension, then you have probably found the key.
A song can also have several keys, but you wont need to worry about that, unless you're into mode- or scale changes in a song.
#7
Short answer? Resolution

Long answer?


Play these chords for me:

G Em C D7

and then play a A note. Do you hear how it sounds unfinished, unresolved?

Now do this again, but then either slide the A down to the G note, or play a G chord.
In both these last cases, it sounds finished, resolved, doesn't it?

What does this mean? It means that G is your key/tonal center. 'Somehow' this note and the chord you can construct from it (G major) are very important to our hearing. So if you want to find out in which key a song is, you can first look up/find out the chords and derive the two possible scales form there. But, you could also just play the 12 different notes, and look for which one sounds resolved. That one will be your tonic. After a while you don't have to play those 12 notes independently, you'll notice that playing about 3 notes, can give you the key of a song (depending on your hearing you might have to use more or less notes).
#9
Quote by Mausmaus

Your progression could be in both G major and E minor, since those keys are parallel. Meaning that they both contain the exact same notes. (Try writing an E minor and G major scale down - you'll find the scales are the same, just started from a different root note!).

Every major key has a parallel minor key that is found a minor third interval (3 semi-tones, 3 frets on guit/bass) below itself, and vice-versa for minor keys.
For example, C major and A minor are parallelkeys, D major and F minor, F# minor and A major etc. etc. etc.


No.

This is just wrong. C Major and C Minor are parallel keys. C major and A minor are RELATIVE keys.

But just because your keys have the same notes does not mean that a piece of music could be in either one of them. As Keith explains below, the real question is resolution.