How to find the key to a Song

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How to find the key to any song

Probably you have heard someone saying he or she is singing or playing offkey. The major reason for this is because both the singer and instrumentalist are on different keys entirely let’s say key A and key C.

It’s important to note that playing or singing offkey has reduced the music to a big noise because I myself wont be able to sing and will eventually leave the hall for you.

Being good at figuring out the key to a song depends on how better you recognize sounds and in particular a note per time,this is why the just concluded Eartraining drills(please revisit last few posts here if you didn’t participate).

The better you were at those Ear training drills the best you will be at finding keys pretty quickly. For some it will challenging but for some it might be super easy. What ever category you fall in just be patient and keep practicing the art till you master it. It takes me less than 5 secs to figure out the key of a clear/sharp singer but it took me time to get here too.

One way to help yourself is ask a good pianist/instrumentalist to assess you while you try find out the keys of different songs.

Having said that, lets examine the practical approach to finding the keys of songs.

What are the steps to finding the key to a song?

  1. Listen : Listen to the song both rise and falls, the active(tension) and the resting points(resolution). Pay more attention to the resting points as that is where the key shows up most times.

Here is an Example of a resting point from this hymn “Pass me not O gentle saviour”

…while on others thou art calling

Do not pass me BY

“BY” is emphasized here because it is the resting point of the song.

Note that you were singing with more force when you just start the song but as soon as you heading towards the end “BY” we started slowing down till the last word “BY” brings it to a resting halt.

  1. Snipe: Now snipe out that word “BY” in this case, and keep singing the BY just the way it sounds in the song. At this point pause the radio or Cd player you are playing the song from but keep singing the word “BY”.
  1. Hum: Now take that resting point “BY” and Hum it just like you were singing initially.
  1. Trace: Trace the Hum sound on your piano by pressing one note per time chromatically till you get the sound match to your Hum. Start from the middle C(mostly C3) to C#,D…keep going and end at B, if you still can’t get it go down B,Bb,A…till you return back to the middle C. Don’t run the entire piano as it is easy to get frustrated especially when you can’t figure the key yet. In a nutshell,just try get your key match for that Hum sound you are making.
  1. Play: Now that you got the key match to your Hum.Turn on the song and play the major scale of that key you got maybe” key C” while the song is playing. If everything sounds fine then you are very accurate.

For any reason you couldn’t get it you should repeat the steps again till you do. Use different songs but most importantly you should start with simple songs with less instrumentation, Don moen’s or cool rock songs preferred.

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