Guitar Lessons - How to Determine the Key of a Song

By: Bill McRea

The “key” of a song seems like a mystery, but it really is not that big of a deal. You do not need to know music theory to understand or be able to determine the key of a particular song.

By using your ear and a TUNED guitar it is relatively easy to find the correct key of a song and even determine the chords and scale. First of all, what is the “key” of a song and what does this mean. In many cases the key of the song is nothing more than the tone of the first chord or note in the repetitive riff or verse of the song. Typically, if the first chord of a song is a C Major then the song will be in the key of “C”. Most songs revolve around 3 chords that sound good together. In many cases if a song is in the key of C it will include a F and G chord in the chord progression. This is not always true, but it tends to be the case. There are several examples of typical chord groupings or chord progressions that can be found at our web site.

Not much music theory in this bit of information, but how do you determine the key of a song with just your ear and a guitar. Well listen to the song and play the notes of the low E on the guitar from the first fret up to the 12th fret. Play them as you listen to the song and just keep moving up and down the frets until you find the note on the low E string that sounds good with the chord progression being played in the song. This is typically the root note for the chord and the scale for the song.

For example if you find that the note at the 5th fret of the low E sounds best for a particular song then the song is most probably in the key of A. Consult your list of chord progressions for the Key or A and try them while listening to the song. Chances are that it will sound right. Check out site our for more information.

To determine the scale first try playing the relative minor pentatonic scale over the chord progression you’ve determine was correct. In the example above use the A minor pentatonic. In many cases, this is all you will need to figure out the various notes and solos in the song. You may have to try other types of scales, but for most songs the pentatonic scale will work.

Now you have the basis for figuring out your favorite songs. Don’t let the fear of learning “music theory” scare you. You already know what you need to understand how songs are constructed. Trust your ears and your instincts, but most of all “Rock On”.

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Article Source:  Author Bill McRea is the publisher of Guitar Warehouse the best place to Buy Guitar and learn Guitar Playing Techniques. Both sites offer free lesson and product sales.

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