2 Ways To Find The Key

2 Ways To Find The Key l LadyDpiano

I was going through my note-taking from Jermaine's teachings and came across some valuable tips. It's about the 2 primary ways to find the key. 


  • Any given time, there is one note you can press down while listening to a song and it will always feel like "home." 
  • Common Tone
  • Home Base
  • Harmonics
  • The I
  • The Tonic
  • True Key

  • Like DNA, every major key has a unique set of chords. For example, take F Major Scale: F G A Bb C D E F. The key of F has 3 different types of chords: major, minor, diminished.
  1. Major Chords: F major, Bb major, C major.
  2. Minor Chords: G minor, A minor, D minor.
  3. Diminished Chord: E diminished.
  • There is only ONE key that has this combination of chords... F major! While C major is close, (C Major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B diminished); it does not contain the exact musical DNA of F major.
  • Like a detective, you can learn to follow these clues to lead you to the right key. Of course, your ear and intuition should be the final judge!
Pro Tips

  • The key of the song is essentially the first tone of the scale, aka - "the tonic." We're looking for a scale to place the song in so we can work our magic with the number system, chords, and patterns (the subsequent steps to playing by ear! Without a reference point (the "key" or "the 1"), we're lost.
  • Every tone of the scale produces a chord. The first tone of the scale produces a major chord (aka - "the 1-chord"). This is the chord you're listening for. It's usually found at the beginning and end of the song (but not always).
  • All songs wrap around to the beginning (usually after the end of the verse or chorus).If you can hum the first chord that's played when the song returns to the beginning, that's likely the 1-chord or the key!
  • It will sound like a common tone you can hold down during the entire song.
  • In fact, even though the song is progressing from chord to chord, pattern to pattern, this ONE tone will never clash with any of the chords, regardless of what's going on in the song. It's always harmonious.
  • If you had to close your eyes and imagine the very last chord of the song...the chord that propels the audience to their feet, clapping and cheering (because even they know it's the last ending chord) -- that's most likely the key of the song, the common "home base" tone we're looking for. 
  • If you're not good at finding the key of a song, the good news is you can work on it DAILY while driving in your car -- no piano needed!
  • It is recommended that you first hum the key with your own voice before jumping on the piano to figure out what key you're humming. If you can heat it, you can sing it, and if you can sing it, you can play it!

More articles I've written:

What If There Isn't A Transpose Button

Nashville Number System Explained

So, you will probably want to look for the 300pg Course Book that is offered from Hear and Play. It's a fantastic music theory resource book that I continually use with my students.

All the best,

-- LadyD

 "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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