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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Figuring Out The Key of a Song


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/46193

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CynthiaB - Posted - 04/12/2017:  09:43:58


I've googled how to figure out the key of a song, but all of the results pertained to guitar or piano.  I want to participate in jams eventually, so how do you determine the key of the song?  I'm only in my second year of learning to play and previously I've had sheet music.  Obviously I can't use sheet music with a jam, so I hope someone can give me some pointers. 

Fiddler - Posted - 04/12/2017:  10:25:10


Ask the guitar player. Learn the shape of the guitar chords. That is one clue that I use.



Second, ask the banjo player. Learn how they tune. If I see a capo on the neck, I figure that they are likely in A or D. No capo -- G. But, then this depends on the banjoist and the banjo itself. So, this is not always reliable.



Third, ask another fiddler. "What key are we in?"



Most of us don't know the key of a tune just by listening. (Well, this is not entirely true. I can "hear" G and A. But, I mistake G for Bb. This comes from years of listening!) We have learned the key for a tune from others or it is the "traditional" key for the tune. (Turkey in the Straw is a G tune. Soldier's Joy is a D tune. etc.)  When I was learning, I would ask others what key the tune was in. In many cases, this did not match with any sheet music I had!



You can also got to the Slippery Hill website and look up the tune you wanting to play. You'll find the key or keys it is traditionally play in.



So, the bottom line - ask, if you are with other musicians.

Tobus - Posted - 04/12/2017:  10:38:54


Watching the guitar player's hands is probably the most common "cheat" for determining not only the key, but the chord progression.  You just have to learn to identify their chord shapes and hope the guitar player isn't one of these guys who plays strange studio chords all the time.  Also, pay attention to whether he is using a capo or not.  If he's playing G, C, and D chords you may think he's in the key of G, but he may actually be in Ab, A, Bb, or B if he's using a capo.



But yeah, it's usually good form at jams to announce the key before people start playing.  If you go to a jam and they aren't doing that, just pipe up and ask the key before they start.  Once you do that enough times, they'll learn to tell you what key they're in before they strike up.

bees - Posted - 04/12/2017:  10:39:20


It is customary at a jam to announce the key of the tune/song before launching into it. Failing that, you can look and see what chords the guitarist is playing if you know your guitar chords, or, just ask the person sitting beside you. Depending a bit on the jam, there are generally a limited number of potential keys with the most common D, G, A, and C. Bluegrassers will get into B, Bflat etc. Blues use E a lot.





From recordings and such is a little bit harder. I start playing individual notes, increasing in pitch by half-tones, until I find one that fits in nicely with the music. Then I start playing pentatonic scales with that note as a root to see if it fits. If it doesn't fit I make the note I found either the third or the fifth of the scale and keep playing pentatonic scales until something fits and then you've found the key. If it sounds minor, play minor pentatonic scales.



It takes a bit of practice and if new to fiddle and you don't have good intonation it gets a lot harder. I use my mandolin a lot to find my way into unknown keys. Also, some recordings are just plain off pitch and really tough to sort out.



I guess I type slow - several responses already...



 



 



 


Edited by - bees on 04/12/2017 10:42:43

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 04/12/2017:  11:38:26


Yes, it takes a bit of practice to learn to do this, but listen for the Do tone in the tune's Do-Re-Mi.   If it's Old Time, the Do note will be pretty obvious.   Find that tone on your fiddle.  There's the key.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/12/2017:  12:24:51


if its a simple fiddle tune in a simple fiddle key ie: G,D,or A,  noodle around quietly to yourself and figure out if the C is natural or sharp, if it's natural that would be the key of G, if its sharp that would be the key of D or A,... next (if the C is Sharp) figure out if the G is sharp or natural, if it's natural that would be the key of D, if it's sharp that would be the key of A



Disclaimer: this will ONLY work for very simple fiddle tunes in G,D or A Major...Mostly...Sometimes...Almost



PS: F's are always sharp in those Keys..........unless they're not ;0)

DougD - Posted - 04/12/2017:  13:16:43


Boy, you people have a touching faith in guitar players (speaking as one whose chord choices have probably led many astray due to recordings and transcriptions in books). I usually got the key right though. Also I certainly think of C as a common key, but perhaps jammers have decided that's too hard.



Some good advice here, and I think in most jams it will be obvious from the other instruments or comments. For figuring out tunes on your own, many (but not all) tunes begin on the note of the key (the tonic) and even more likely end on it - if it begins and ends on D, chances are its in D. Sometimes you have to figure out what notes are being used in the tune and see what scale they belong to (is there an F#, or a C#, for example). I can generally "hear" the key, but I've been playing way too long, and I'm not sure that always comes with experience anyway.



Good luck.

oldtimer - Posted - 04/12/2017:  14:03:33


For almost all traditional fiddle tunes, the last note of the melody is the key.

stay tooned,
Glenn Godsey

amwildman - Posted - 04/12/2017:  14:42:28


Without an instrument to hand to check, I can name at least 3 super common irish tunes that break that rule.

boxbow - Posted - 04/12/2017:  14:44:01


I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all here.  Sometimes it's obvious, particularly in the common OT keys as mentioned.  What genres are you hoping to get into?  Once a tune gets into too many chord changes, I'm better off not knowing and I just find where the simplest possible harmony lies on the fingerboard.  From there, eventually, if I can spare the attention, I'll figure out what key I'm in and/or where the melody is.  Hopefully, it's the same as everybody else's.  For OT and a lot of simpler jam stuff it's nice to know the key and whether that gets called out ahead seems to be a matter of group etiquette.



I believe this awkward part is terrific ear training.  It's a big part of the skill of picking up tunes on the fly.  It will yield to experience and patient effort.  On my top 10 list of what's important to me as a fiddler.  Learning to hear.

 

mswlogo - Posted - 04/12/2017:  15:03:17


By process of elimination.



The most common structure for Fiddle Tunes is AABB. 32 measures (or bars). Also known as a Square Tune.



Listen for the A repeat and the A to B transition and the B back to A transition. They are often all similar.



First listen a couple times through.



Then noodle along as best you can.



Find that last note of the A part and/or the B part. Last note of B part is more significant.



That last note it most often the root note of the Key.



But be careful that the last note might (and often is) a pick up note(s) into the the Start of A or Start of B. Pick up notes are often 1 or two shorter notes.



The "Ending" note is often a longer note, like a 1/4 note is the ending note follow by two 1/8 note pick up notes.

The Ending notes will FEEL like an ending. The Pick Up is like a wind up to start the tune again. What feels like and ending is the ending. Find that note.



As you are noodling take note of how many Sharp notes or Flat notes are being used.



So lets say it ends on a big fat D note. Well it could be in D or Dm.



Well D has an F# and C# and Dm has no #'s and has a Bb.



So if you hear F# or C# and no Bb then it's probably D.



If you hear no #'s and a Bb then it's probably Dm.



This is not guaranteed to work because not all tunes follow this and there can be accidental notes and Modal Tunes (which are kind of an ambiguous Key).



When you run into Ambiguities, it's probably Modal :)



You should know your circles 5ths by heart. At least Bb through E.



You can also try to noodle along playing just the root note of the chord they are in. Listen and Watch Guitar/Bass just for the chord changes. You don't have to memorize their finger pattern. But just focus on the change.



Most fiddle tunes have mostly 1,4,5 chords. In D that's D,G,A. Tunes typically end on the 1 Chord (also coincident with that fat ending root note). So if you suspect D, try D,G or A on each chord change until you sort it out.



Stay on the note you pick and play it on the down beat (foot tap). Unless you know it's wrong, try another. And wrong notes might not sound all that bad !!



If nothing fits, try another Key.



The chord the tune ends on is typically the root chord of the Key. D Chord for Key of D.



Oh, and don't be a shamed to ask. Often tunes can be played in various keys so there is no harm in asking. But challenge yourself on some tunes and ask on others.

Often if one person is brave enough to ask, others will ask on subsequent tunes.

If you know the key to start with you can often pickup more of the tune because you're not spending so much time noodling in the wrong key and finding the correct key.





 



 


Edited by - mswlogo on 04/12/2017 15:18:23

TuneWeaver - Posted - 04/12/2017:  15:57:07


quote:

Originally posted by Fiddler

 

Ask the guitar player. Learn the shape of the guitar chords. That is one clue that I use.




Second, ask the banjo player. Learn how they tune. If I see a capo on the neck, I figure that they are likely in A or D. No capo -- G. But, then this depends on the banjoist and the banjo itself. So, this is not always reliable.




Third, ask another fiddler. "What key are we in?"




Most of us don't know the key of a tune just by listening. (Well, this is not entirely true. I can "hear" G and A. But, I mistake G for Bb. This comes from years of listening!) We have learned the key for a tune from others or it is the "traditional" key for the tune. (Turkey in the Straw is a G tune. Soldier's Joy is a D tune. etc.)  When I was learning, I would ask others what key the tune was in. In many cases, this did not match with any sheet music I had!




You can also got to the Slippery Hill website and look up the tune you wanting to play. You'll find the key or keys it is traditionally play in.




So, the bottom line - ask, if you are with other musicians.







There is NO better advice than that stated by Fiddler (Fiddler, don't let it go to your head...OK?)



 

CynthiaB - Posted - 04/12/2017:  17:34:04


I want to thank all who responded.  Your remarks are exactly what I was looking for.  I' m sort of amazed that a good deal of it makes sense to me because I don't yet have a lot of theory behind me.  It gives me a place to start though and that's just what I need!


amwildman - Posted - 04/12/2017:  18:30:45


There is nothing intrinsically ambiguous about "modal" tunes. The only thing ambiguous is the word modal itself. The typical non-major scales used in traditional music are dorian, aeolian, and mixolydian. There are only really 3 of them, and are usually very clear. Things only become unclear when the tune *diverges* from the usual patterns. i.e. major phrases in a minor tune, revolving around the 5th instead of the root etc.

If somebody chooses to ignore a specific scale and lump all non-major tunes under the 'modal' umbrella, that's fine. The differences don't matter to those who only play melody. But.......there is a really cool world of increased understanding and comprehension available to those who want to dig in.

Fiddler - Posted - 04/12/2017:  19:34:24


quote:

Originally posted by Lee M

There is no better advice than that stated by Fiddler (Fiddler, don't let it go to your head...OK?)

 







I am reminded of the addage: "Free advice is worth exactly what you paid for it."



My students don't pay attention to me either.

buckhenry - Posted - 04/13/2017:  03:33:16


quote:

Originally posted by CynthiaB


 

how do you determine the key of the song? 








Learn to hear and sing the key note DOH in every song you listen to. Also practice other ear training exercises.....eg, singing scales, arpeggios, intervals etc.





It does take repetitive practice, but you will eventually get it if you persevere...    

AZJohnB - Posted - 04/13/2017:  06:46:26


Check out theeh current issue of Fiddler Magazine for a well done article by Phil Berthoud titled "What Key is that tune".

Dick Hauser - Posted - 04/13/2017:  08:56:42


Lots of fiddle tunes seem to be played in the same key, or just one or two keys.  Before learning a tune, a person can use the "Fiddler's Companion" to get information about a tune.  One piece of information is the key(s) the tune is the tune is normally played.  You could prepare a list with the titles/keys the tunes being played.  You could also write the key/chord progressions in a notebook.



Try playing along with the printed/written chord progression for each tune.  This will help you remember the key and the chord progression.  Being familiar with the chord progression will help with improvisation and playing backup.  Lots of fiddle books include the chord progression(s) along with the musical notation.   You have to become familiar with both the key AND the complete chord progression.  

fujers - Posted - 04/13/2017:  10:22:59


Man some really good advice hear if I may I'll render mine. Every chord you hear has It own sound. G sounds different than a A a C sounds different than a F.



If you can distinguish the difference between how a chord sounds you are half way there. I don't know what other instruments you play..lets say you play guitar..most people on this site do. Listen to how a G sounds..hear how it rings..now platy an A..hear the difference..they both have two different sounds don't they. You can hear the different sounds from all chords.



Take a song that is in G and you know it's in G..listen to the other chords as they change. Most music in this key goes G,C,D. or 1,4,5. Now can you hear how the chords work.



Getting your ear tuned just by hearing a tune my take you a while but you can do it. Me, I would start by just listening to a simple tune in G and listen to the chord changes.  It's good to know the starting key or you may get lost. Lets say you start with a tune that starts in the key of G. Know you know it's in G because you all really established that..the tune is in G. So now you are looking for two other keys..remember 1/4/5 so you are looking for two other keys..the 4/5. Listen to how they change or sound. Don't they sound different. Listen to song over and over and over again untill it sticks in your brain. You know the same way you learn how to play fiddle..over and over and over again. Where it stops...well it don't stop..it's over and over and over again. Jerry  

buckhenry - Posted - 04/13/2017:  17:07:24


quote:

Originally posted by Chops Chomper

 

 It's good to know the starting key or you may get lost. 









Jerry, this is what we are trying to work out.......''how do we determine the key of a tune''...? Now just say you have no idea how to read guitar chords, or maybe you are behind the guitarist and can not see the chords, or as very often happens the guitarist puts a capo way up the fret board and you ain't got time to count the frets...Or...it maybe a tune you have never heard before...If you can *HEAR* the key note..... ( DOH ) you know the key immediately, then all you have to do is determine the quality of the key eg, major, minor or it could be in a mode, listen carefully and you will find the scale notes of the key..... 



 



 

buckhenry - Posted - 04/13/2017:  17:42:52


quote:

Originally posted by AZJohnB

 

Check out theeh current issue of Fiddler Magazine for a well done article by Phil Berthoud titled "What Key is that tune".







Can't find that article....but this is what i am talking about...........





rhythmic.ca/music-tutorials/ti...-ear.html

fujers - Posted - 04/13/2017:  20:37:17


Henry, Like I said. If you can hear how to tell a G from an A and a D from a G you are on your way to understanding the difference between chords. Listen to a G...doesn't make it's own sound than lets say Bb..it should because it is a different chord than G. Every chords has own it's sound .Now I can't say I can hear correctly a tune with a bunch of chords in it...but I do al right with tunes that are not to ladden with chords.



I to look at a guitar player if I need to...at least ones who know the tune..if they don't... I rely on my ears...ears are pretty powerful don't you think. As far as capo...I don't pay much attention to them...I just listen to where they are trying to set up shop...that tells me all. If you ever get in this position where you can't tell where someone is trying to set a capo....just listen to where he is going..that will give you all the clue you need. If you can't read guitar chords, base lines or piano..It's going to be a long road for you ...a very long road...It's almost the same road I took many many moons ago.



But heah, Like I said...listen to the chord changes it will do you good. Listen to difference. Jerry



 



 

buckhenry - Posted - 04/13/2017:  23:15:04


Yes Jerry, but what  ya gonna do if you don't know the difference between G and A or Bb, and the chord changes have'nt been played and you gotta find the key before the tune begins.....? That's right, use ya ears and find D O H....................hum it, sing it, play it.....D O H.......

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 04/14/2017:  07:06:53


Learning to recognize I IV V VIm and II changes by ear and which chords belong with which other chords and where a tune resolves to all build a musical picture of a tune or song and what key it is being played in. By practicing your scales and arpeggios in the groups they work together by KEY your ear will begin to develop an understanding of what goes where and your fingers will follow suit..... Example C_F_G_Am are the I IV VI VIm in the key of C then move on to another key set...... Oldtime and 'grass are mostly two three or four chord format songs and tunes....... listen to learn... Learn the keys of G C D and A first because a big chunk of OT and folk songs are in those keys..... R/

fujers - Posted - 04/14/2017:  08:57:21


Henry, It's kinda of tuff for the new comer to hear chords..it was hard for me but in time I got it. All I can say is that you have to know the difference of sounds that each chord make. If someone was to play in C I know what chord it is just by the sound it makes. I can't explain the sound how it sounds but I know. You have to hear the difference between chords or notes.



It's kinda like a musician can take a pencil and paper and hear a song he has never heard and just write down the chords correctly...it's called ear training. I've had to do the same.



I really don't know what to tell you about someone who can't tell the difference with simple chords...I guess he or she needs to learn this stuff because he will need it in the future.



Ears play a big part in this. Without your ears you can;t play...but with your ears you can play just about anything you want



I could go on and on on this subject,,but If you don't know what I'm talking about..it's like talking to a ghost



All and all. Train your ear..to hear the difference between just to notes or chords..then move on to mores chords. You can do it. Jerry



 

buckhenry - Posted - 04/14/2017:  15:32:08


quote:

Originally posted by Chops Chomper

 

Henry, It's kinda of tuff for the new comer to hear chords..




 









But this thread is about finding the K E Y......!



Hearing chords is another topic...!



Just find D O H...!

buckhenry - Posted - 04/14/2017:  15:39:21


quote:

Originally posted by Chops Chomper

 




I could go on and on on this subject,,




 









Please do, I am all ears. I want to hear how you go about this stuff...............

michaeljennings - Posted - 04/14/2017:  15:46:00


A little theory can go a long long way.

I admit to the advantage of playing fretted instruments for decades but a couple of the "tips" in previous posts are right on the money. [ Brand new to the fiddle BTW... one of my early set ups for retirement later this year so I don't end up in a BarcaLounger with a beer on my belly watching re-runs]

Taking the time to "study or even sit with a guitarist and getting used to standard chord progressions as Richard suggests will certainly help you navigate a tune.... Many of us are used to " # charts" [I,IV,V, VIm] when playing a new tune with a group of folks..... knowing those relative intervals/chords in most keys simplifies the process, especially when working with a vocalists and providing accompaniment in their preferred range/key.

Finding the tonic is another great suggestion to find what the actual key is.

I played Guitar in Irish sessions for a couple of years when we had one going locally up here, lots of fiddles, occasional banjo, whistle or OM, but I was usually the only rhythm instrument there. No problem asking "Where[key] are we starting this set?" if the tunes were new to me.

Study some theory
Develop a familiar ear
ASK!!!!!!! [won't be long and the new folks will be asking you!]

buckhenry - Posted - 04/14/2017:  17:14:51


quote:

Originally posted by michaeljennings





Finding the tonic is another great suggestion to find what the actual key is.

 





It is the quickest way....!?



All you need to do is find ONE note, you don't need to know nothin' 'bout chords or progressions...!?



 

fujers - Posted - 04/14/2017:  17:35:11


I've all ready told you..and the fellow up above gave some good examples. I really don't know how to explain it any better than I did...maybe I missed something I don't know. It took me awhile to understand how it goes myself...and then one day I said...ok I got it now..or something like that.



All I know is you have to listen to the notes or chords. Here's a nice example. When you play a scale and you hear notes of whatever scale you play...don't you hear the difference each note makes...kinda the same thing but you use chords instead. You can tell the difference between a G and a A can't you..thats sorta what you do. If take a simple G chord it has it's own sound unlike an E chord witch vibrates at a different frequency...now I'm getting technical man I hate that stuff



You can tell by just listening...ahh thats a G chord..doesn't sound like an E chord..it defendable man I know that's  a G. If you train your ear just to hear a G and then train your ear to hear a A or a D and so on.I all ready played guitar I kinda knew these things..but I didn't hear the chords...I just played.... I didn't pick up on this stuff until I seen someone..just sitting in front of a jukebox writing chords changes.... I said if he can do it ..I can too...and it took me forever it seemed and I ain't noone who ever took music lesions or anything..it's kicking my butt now....but to late to teach old dogs new tricks..as they say...I don't find that really true. I guess that about as good as I can explain it. I guess if I where a professor of music I could explain it in three words. But I ain't..I'm just an ole country boy. Listen to the chords. Jerry

michaeljennings - Posted - 04/14/2017:  20:58:42


quote: Agreed it is the quickest to find the key of the song.... other than asking. Learning common chord progressions for each key helps with the rest of the tune.

Originally posted by halbut

 
quote:


Originally posted by michaeljennings





Finding the tonic is another great suggestion to find what the actual key is.

 








It is the quickest way....!?




All you need to do is find ONE note, you don't need to know nothin' 'bout chords or progressions...!?




 







 

buckhenry - Posted - 04/14/2017:  21:29:33


I agree with you Jerry; listening to the frequency of the chords is an important skill, but that's a long way to go about  finding the key, no wonder you found it hard..



And some tunes don't begin on the tonic chord, they may end on it, but you gotta find the key before the end of the song.....!?



Find the chords that fit the progression after you have found the key note, and that is another skill to learn....



And, writing down chord changes from the jukebox is easy when you can hear intervals....

alaskafiddler - Posted - 04/16/2017:  15:32:12


quote:

Originally posted by CynthiaB

 

I've googled how to figure out the key of a song, but all of the results pertained to guitar or piano.  I want to participate in jams eventually, so how do you determine the key of the song?  I'm only in my second year of learning to play and previously I've had sheet music.  Obviously I can't use sheet music with a jam, so I hope someone can give me some pointers. 







Being able to quickly determine the key on the fly, is a great skill to learn, and the perhaps most fundamental aspect of playing by ear. IMO it isn't a lot complex theory stuff, need to involve doing math calculation;  many folks mostly learn it from necessity, doing. One situation that many are familiar with, helped hone those skills; is in putting themselves in this exercise, doing this: 



If your were to play a recording... you don't have any info, other than listening to determine what key the recording is in...



So with the recording,.. pick up your instrument try and muss out what key, and uses a bit of process of elimination.



One aspect as mentioned by others, is listening for what the possible tonal center is; that is the pitch which sounds like it is strongest or feels like the tune revolves around, or has a sense of home or resolve. Little bit of hunt/peck up or down, just for the one pitch that seems to most fit. I find it often easier to use more of the lower notes. Initially this should get it down to just a couple of possible harmonically related notes, Most music the 2 strongest notes in the song/tune is the tonic and the fifth. (though possibly a third). Those are also very similar harmonically related scales, differing only by a note or two.



Another aspect is learning to listening for the overall... major-ness or minor-ness. (or other modal-ness).



Those two aspects often narrow it down quite a bit. Take your best guess of the likely two, play along with that, see if works...if not try the other.   More process of elimination (and building ear) might include learning getting familiar with certain quality of sound structure, in things like pentatonic scales (outline the key/mode) -  to a bit about how different keys/modes are related (and differ), - these familiarities can help narrow it down even more.  It's a bit of music theory, but doesn't need to involve full formal complex theory and calculations. Just in recognizing what the fifth to the tonic is; and then the third to the tonic (those are often the most significant determinations); and the layout of notes..  might also hear how major sixth notes, or minor seventh play a strong role.



(Note: this is not about learning to memorize absolute pitches notes/chords as in any absolute/perfect pitch training way). 



Many tunes/songs, with just a little practice, it should be fairly easy quickly get it down to one of a few very closely related.  Eventually can learn to hear other clues, similar things happening, that help focus it down to likely key; often very quickly for most tunes/songs. Playing with other musicians (and singers) is then is similar. (IMO this improves other aspects in the ability to play by ear, pick up on the fly)



The more you do it...  the better and quicker you get. So put on some recordings; it can be random, not even a song you want to learn, just to exercise finding the key. (focus more on just listening to what sounds right, rather than calculated formulas)


Edited by - alaskafiddler on 04/16/2017 15:45:07

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/16/2017:  23:43:10


i think  the Key or Tone Centre is probably one of  the foundations of music, along with Rhythm and Cadence

gapbob - Posted - 04/17/2017:  05:02:30


Cannot hear chords.  Hear notes and patterns, find some notes that are on the beats, then find more.  Hearing chords is a good shortcut to learning a tune, but in many ways, the chord then replaces the tune—they are not the same.  On some of the fiddle musics around, it seems it is more important to learn a chord so you can play arpeggios from those chords, allowing for licks-based playing.  Folk musics that are dance-oriented tend to be more notes-oriented, at least for the fiddler, the accompaniment needs to know chords, of course.


Edited by - gapbob on 04/17/2017 05:03:31

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/17/2017:  12:04:55


a player needs to know accompaniment and melody (rhythms included) to know how they act together, then they may choose to alter, or leave them as written/arranged, switch between backup and lead, or improvise etc, but finding the key centre is essential for any of these options, i think knowledge of  cadences (harmonic and rhythmic) would be a good way to identify the key or tonal centre quickly, this  necessitates a knowledge of  "typical" accompaniment, (or lack thereof) for a given musical genre/style or composer,   eg: in jazz you Have to know about and practice ii / V / I cadences, and for trad/folk tunes you have to know about and practice Ionian,dorian, mixolidian, and aolian modes with their "typical accompaniments, for blues you would need a handle on blues scales, their uses and "typical" accompaniments etc, it seems all styles and genres have their own little "rules" that are there for an accomplished player to use.... or not, and finding the key centre quickly, and knowing what to do from that point (for any or all of these) would need a knowledge of these things, and a good ear,.... Again one size doesn't fit all,.... But they all differ from a "standard", and that  "standard" is the way that each individual musician has learned  to hear  the music in the first instance... imo



....or you could  learn the tune and read the key sig from the dots...;o)

abinigia - Posted - 04/17/2017:  13:50:17


A simple question has generated a lot of complicated answers. If somebody wants to know how to find the key of a tune they just need to find Do in the melody. Most people can relate to that. Hum it and find it on the fiddle and you'll see what the name of the note is. That's the key.

farmerjones - Posted - 04/17/2017:  14:21:36


With very few exceptions, the last note of the tune is the key.



Another way of saying, most tunes resolve to the tonic.



 

fujers - Posted - 04/17/2017:  20:36:51


Well, What happens before the song begins

alaskafiddler - Posted - 04/17/2017:  20:46:38


quote:

Originally posted by abinigia

 

A simple question has generated a lot of complicated answers. If somebody wants to know how to find the key of a tune they just need to find Do in the melody. Most people can relate to that. Hum it and find it on the fiddle and you'll see what the name of the note is. That's the key.







Yep, that's essentially, what I was trying to say. Though with actual music playing, recording or jam... probably no need to hum... just essentially just guess... listen on the fiddle (or whatever instrument) to find the note; which should then give a good guess to the key (though could be another related key/scale, try one then the other)  - the more you just practice the guessing, the easier it gets, and sorts itself out. (without needing to know much about theory).

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/17/2017:  23:04:25


What are you going to do once you know the key ...or think you know the key, if you dont know about scales modes cadences harmonies rhythms etc? unless the music is in an extremely familiar genre... or are we just talking about OT fiddle tunes here? which btw are very often modal and enigmatic about the Major/Minor Key signature, and have misled or at least confused many  seasoned musicians who come from a different standpoint

gapbob - Posted - 04/18/2017:  07:26:50


I daresay that few of the fiddlers that came before us knew about scales modes cadences harmonies rhythms etc



They just played the music.

abinigia - Posted - 04/18/2017:  09:52:08


quote:

Originally posted by Chops Chomper

 

Well, What happens before the song begins







Ask someone?

fujers - Posted - 04/18/2017:  10:10:50


I agree with George..I would be a lier if I said it was easy...if that was the case we would all be geniuses. Just by hearing what a G note or chord sounds like...you're kinda on your way. But you have to listen to what a G sounds like to begin with. But like everything else we do... we have to practice and like George said..play. There's not anything going to come to those that don't practice..if you are sitting there waiting for a genie to pop up...that ain't going to happen. If you knew what a chord sounds like...you'll never have to say...what chord are we in...you'll already know. Jerry

Mitch Reed - Posted - 04/18/2017:  10:29:27


quote:

Originally posted by halbut

 
quote:


Originally posted by AZJohnB

 


Check out theeh current issue of Fiddler Magazine for a well done article by Phil Berthoud titled "What Key is that tune".








Can't find that article....but this is what i am talking about...........






rhythmic.ca/music-tutorials/ti...-ear.html







Thanks for sharing.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/18/2017:  11:30:05


Say your'e humming the note C, how many different scales/modes would that give you to figure your way through?



 

fujers - Posted - 04/18/2017:  12:01:28


Well thats good..does it teach you how to hear a G. It might be fine for someone who wants to know what key anything is in. Does it teach you to really hear a chord...I don't think so and fill free to correct me if I'm wrong. But please learn this stuff it will be helpful in the future.



Example. I have played fiddle for a number of years and I know what my strings GDAE sound like. So I really don't need a tuner to tell what my strings should sound like..I mean good lord... I've had this thing stuck under my neck for so long..I should know every aspect of my strings...don't you think. So if I have to tune my fiddle..I just about know what an A sounds like and tune from there. Tuner I use one to fine tune



The guy above made some good points...he listened to the tune first..really listened to the tune..not for enjoyment..he listened to the tune. Hum, I do that too and all I'm looking for is the tonic...like he does. It's no mystery, it's not something that just fell from the sky and it ain't something that came off a boat from some land that time forgot. It's always been here and you just have to know how to use it.



We/use Musicians .Listen to things differently than regular folk. I mean we use our ears for different learning skills that go far above the normal person ability. We may listen to the pitches not everyone can hear...we may listen to birds singing or a train traveling down the tracks...sounds weird doesn't it...but that what we do



I listen just about every evening to sounds birds make...and thinking I'm going to decipher what they say one day



Or I'll listen to sounds that a far away train makes as goes along the tracks...and disappears.  



I don't really play out that much anymore..getting old. But the people I hang with are all professional players. Every single one of them except the drummer..we ain't picking on you. These folks can just walk into a room and listen to song and know what key it's in and know all the other chords that come with it. Now I ain't that good and probably never will be. Just to show you...that it can be done. Just by listening. Do this..Listen I mean really listen to the sound a G makes...when you get it..hold it close to you bury it into your brain. This will be the starting point for every other key you hear. Just by hearing this sound..you can reference any other chord from that. I used G as a reference..you can use any chord you fill like as long as you know what that chord sounds like 



Like I said in another post..If you train your ears..you won't have to ask what key the tune is in...you already know



There I said my speech and I'm ready for a nap. Wake me up in two hours..got to feed the chickens. Jerry

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 04/18/2017:  12:19:40


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

 

Say your'e humming the note C, how many different scales/modes would that give you to figure your way through?




 







When you walk into a jam, chances are decent they ain't playing Bartok, Schoenberg John Coltrane or Bulgarian folk tunes.  If it's old time, bluegrass or Irish, you have a better than even chance that the tunes will be in a straight-up major key, with the occasional foray into something minor or mildly modal.



 



On a totally unrelated note, yeah I do sometimes find it hard to suss out the tonic at jams.  It's largely because jammers sometimes mush a tune into nothing more than a succession of notes, with no sense of phrasing.  I just can't discern where the heck the melody begins.  Even if the tune is familiar to me, I can't recognize it.

fujers - Posted - 04/18/2017:  13:07:28


I've never been to jam before it must be fun to see all the people just playing. I imagine theres a lot of cross tuners there. What is the most widely used key they use. I know it run the gantlet..just the most widely used ones.



Can you tell me some of the tunes they play and what key..I appreciate that. Jerry  

imapicker2 - Posted - 04/18/2017:  14:26:24


Great discussion! In the U-Tube posted above, he says that the 1st song is in D minor and--------that most songs are written in a minor key.------. Did I get that right?



Are most songs that you know in a minor key?

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