Get to Know All About Determining Keys in a Song

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Almost all songs and compositions contain a key, making it an essential component of music. The song’s key is, for example, a collection of tones and chords that are tonally related or compatible. That group is built on major and minor scales, and it provides a very melodious sound when played. There are a total of 12 major and minor keys.

A key also contains a  center note, which is known as the tonic note (or the root) and is the most common note in the song (repeats a lot, and most parts usually start and end with it).

A tonic chord is naturally performed depending on a song key, and understanding them is essential for guitarists, pianists, and other musicians. The tonic, or key, of a song, is the note or chord that the music revolves around. For example, if you were playing in the key of C, the tonic, or 1 chord, would be C major. To see the remainder of the chords in the key of C, look at the guitar chord key chart.

Figuring out how to detect the key of a song is one of the most difficult challenges for a novice guitarist or someone new to guitar theory. Some songs only use basic chords inside a key, making this process considerably easier. Other songs, on the other hand, are less straightforward and require a bit more work to understand. This article deconstructs the most prevalent techniques for assisting with this process.

Use the Key Signature

The quickest approach to figure out a song’s key is to look at its key signature. The key of the song is determined by the number of sharps and flats in the key signature. The key of C has no sharps or flats in its signature (or A minor). Use the table below for reference:

Without a Key Signature

If you don’t know the key signature, use the following steps to determine the key of a song:

  • In many situations, the key of the song will be the chord on which the song closes. This is due to the song’s conclusion finishing on the I chord. This isn’t always the case, though. 
  • You may need to chart the chords to check the key they fit in to validate the key. Laying out the chords and seeing where they fit might help you figure out the key of a song. Unless you know your keys by heart, you’ll probably want to consult a key chart.
  • You may also use a book like the Guitar Key Guide, which provides chords and scale patterns for all major and minor keys. For instance, if you have the chords: C Am D G, then a look at the key chart will make you realize that these chords come from the key of G.
  • It’s worth noting that these chords are also present in G’s relative minor (Em). If the preceding chord sequence had the Em chord, you’d have to figure out what key it was by listening to the music and figuring out where the tonal center was. You’d consider the music to be in the key of Em if it has a melancholy tone to it. G, on the other hand, would be the key if it had a happier vibe to it.

Observe the Patterns

The 4th and 5th degrees of a major scale, as well as the 6th and 7th degrees of a minor scale, are represented by two major chords in a row. The 4th and 5th degrees of a major scale and the 6th and 7th degrees of a minor scale, respectively, would be represented by a C major chord and a D major chord in a chord progression. You may discover the major key by counting up three notes from the fifth, or the minor key by counting up one note: Major (G), Minor (Em)

Alternatively, you can use these apps and websites to find the key to a beat. It’s important to remember that they may not be 100% accurate. 

  • Tunebat 

To determine the key of songs that have already been released, Tunebat is an excellent free BPM and tune analyzer. It’s a fantastic database that offers you access to Spotify song details. This contains the song’s key and BPM, which Spotify determines automatically.

The key isn’t always 100% exact, but it’s generally dependable. This site has access to a vast number of music data since it leverages Spotify data. As a result, you should be able to locate the key to nearly any song that has been published.

  • Mixed in Key 

Mixed in Key analyses your sample library and helps you find the ideal one-shot, loop, vocal, or another sample for your music production, remix, or mashup. It will tell you the key, scale, and tonality of any audio sample in a moment, saving you valuable creative time.

With Mixed In Key Studio Edition, you may confidently build compositions around a sample. You’ll have a good idea of which notes are already present, which will help you compose.

  •  Rekordbox

Rekordbox is a highly complicated DJ tool that can evaluate a track’s key, among other things. You may use it to mix tracks and alter the key of a tune. 

Main features:

  • Complicated software with a plethora of options for professional and budding DJs.
  • Before using the app, you must first create a free account.
  • The software only analyses one music at a time (drag & drop it onto the app’s interface).
  • There are both free and paid versions.


  • GetSongkey

As a songwriter, musician, producer, or DJ, you’ve probably wondered if there’s a way to locate song keys properly. GetSongkey comes to the rescue here.

GetSongkey, for those who don’t know, has millions of song keys for major artists and can quickly discover the key of your samples.

That’s a big step toward figuring out which keys work well together and surprise your audience. Let us also inform you about another unique feature you’re going to experience.

With the integrated Song key notation converter, you can convert any song key to music key, Camelot wheel, or Open key notation in seconds.

Main features:

  • Effortless methods to go through the vast database of vital information
  • Harmonic mixing with a circle of fifths and a Camelot wheel
  • Song key finder – to quickly determine the key in which a song was written.
  • To transpose chord progressions into another key, use the key transposer function.
  • The key of a song may be easily extracted from any chord sequence.


  • Audio Key Chain

Audio Key Chain if you don’t want to install anything on your computer. This online music key and tempo estimation tool let you rapidly determine the key and tempo of your entire song catalog, allowing you to locate appropriate tunes for your mashups. It’s extremely easy to use this tool: simply drag and drop your songs into the dropzone, then click the Upload Tracks button.

Wait until the analysis is complete before sharing the results with your friends and editing the track data. The findings can also be saved to Audio Key Chain’s public collection.

BPM and Keys – How Are They Related? 

The key and tempo are sometimes, but not always, linked. When decreasing BPM (beats per minute), for example, many DJs choose minor keys and vice versa. And, when you think about it, minor keys sound much better with slower music than major keys. It’s common knowledge that minor keys are referred to as “sad” and major keys are referred to as “happy”; lower rhythms go well with sad music, while higher beats work well with cheerful music.

However, the tempo is just a song’s pace (rhythm), but the key is a set of tones and notes that work well together. These two don’t have to go together, and there are no restrictions, but for some reason, everyone likes the previously indicated association.

Songs Without Keys

It is theoretically feasible to compose a song without using a key. Because key refers to tone, a song can potentially be composed without tonality. Following the key is more of a suggestion than a requirement. It is possible to compose a song without using scales and just combining notes, but the results are not promising. When it comes to writing a song, you need all the support you can get, and employing the key and scales is one method to achieve so. Some applications can also assist you with this. You can extract rhythms and notes from mashups performed live by a DJ, make the sounds suitable, and bingo, you’ve got a song. You are a fantastic musician if you can pull this off.

More About Keys

  • When a song has more than 2 keys – Although individuals like to perform and write music in a few keys as possible (changing too many keys might result in discord and chaos), having two or three distinct keys is quite acceptable. Jazz music is a great example of tunes with a variety of keys. Some individuals can’t bear the sound of improv and wild jazz tunes, which can contain amazing key changes played by extremely gifted musicians. However, most popular songs include two or three keys, which are switched between two or three times. Listen to some progressive rock music and you’ll hear it.
  • Happy and sad keys – There are two types of keys: happy and sad, which are connected to the musical scale. The major key is regarded as happy, whereas the minor key is considered melancholy or sad. This isn’t always the case, though. A song, such as Cheerful by Pharrell Williams, can be played in a minor key but with a high bpm (beats per minute) and happy lyrics. That music will be tough to z categorize as sorrowful.

However, major for happy and minor for sad keys have been widely employed throughout history. Listening to music in minor keys elicits gloomy and sorrowful feelings.

  • Importance of a key – One of the most important components of music is the key of the song. It’s no surprise that classical artists included important names in the titles of their works (for example, Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor). Although current music differs from classical music in that it emphasizes simplicity, this does not negate the need to understand the fundamentals of music theory. Your compositions will be a lot more fluid, harmonic, and overall better if you grasp and practice keys. If you’re a musician, your solos, riffs, and improvs will have more “meat” to them, and your playing technique will improve.

Summing it Up

It’s usually a good idea to be able to distinguish keys by ear if you’re learning to make music. It comes in handy while learning to play sheet music or writing a piece of music. However, key finding tools that we have mentioned can save time when maintaining huge libraries.

More to read:

Best Bass Songs That Can Fire Up You 2021


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