Finding Song Keys On Guitar

Learn How To Find The Key Of Any Song On Guitar!

Being able to find out what key a song is in is a very good skill to have as a guitar player. There are a few things that you can work on to start being able to find out what key a song is in. Knowing what major scales sound like and being familiar with what chords are in a given key are two things that can really make finding out what key a song is in easier. This lesson will focus on songs that are in major keys only.

The first thing that you need to be able to do is to pick out the root note of the key of the song that you are trying to learn. When we are talking about the root note of a key we are just referring to the first scale degree or the tonic of the key. For example, the root of a G major scale would be a G note. If you are practicing the major scale on a regular basis and getting that sound in your head, it will be easier for you to focus in on which note is the root of a particular key. When you get used to listening for the root, or tonic, of a scale, your ear will be drawn to that note when you start to hunt around for notes on the fret board for possible keys.

A good exercise to develop your ear is to play a song on your stereo or headphones where you know the key. Play the major scale over that song and listen to what it sounds like. For example, if you like a song and you know it is in the key of G, put that song on and play a G major scale along with it.

Once you think you have found a possibility for the key of a song, you should look at some of the chords that are in the song to confirm your suspicions. Here is where you have to put in some hard work. You really have to study your keys and start to memorize which chords are in each key.

Let’s stick with the key of G major for an example. The chords in the key of G major are G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D major, E minor and F# diminished. This may seem like a lot of information but you will find that the more song you learn, the more you will start to recognize which chords belong to a given key.

In the video we use the song “Time of Your Life” by Green Day as an example. The first chord in that song is a G major. The next chord is a C major. If you look at the chords we listed for the key of G major you will see that the fourth chord is a C major. This is a great hint that we are in the key of G major. D major is the third chord in the progression. Look at the fifth chord in the key of G major. It is a D major. At this point it is pretty safe to say that this song is in the key of G major.

Learning how to find out what key a song is in may be difficult at first, but the more you do it the easier it will become. Make sure to get the sound of a major scale in your head and study what chords are in each key.

Once you have a good handle on figuring out the keys of songs, you may want to work more on your ear training, or learn how to play ‘Time Of Your Life’ by Green Day!

This Lesson Has 10 Comments

  • Jared says:

    This is a cool lesson because using the g major scale with Time of your life you can realize that green day uses the I-IV-V chord progression.

  • Bluebeep says:

    Thanks for the awesome video! When trying to figure out a key I also find myself hunting around and figuring out the chords until I have a good feeling that it’s the key. I’m getting better :)

    I found another article that shows you how you can figure it out by ear. I don’t know 100% but it works quite well to get you closer to the key. Here’s the article:

    Hope this helps someone!

    • Jay says:

      This information is very uufesl, interesting and unique in nature. You have hit on some seriously solid points upon which I can relate. I really like your style and thank you for this great content.

  • Alexander says:

    Found this extremely helpful, thanks

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    • Surendar says:

      I realize I am biesad , but one of the most valuable aspects of my early musical education was ear training. That’s why I designed this program. I felt that ear training really gave me a leg up as a musician and I wanted to offer that to guitar learners specifically.

  • iman fatihah says:

    thanks to nate i have known a lot of things about playing the guitar. :D

  • Thublao Basumatary says:

    thanks alot to know about playing guiter

  • Cyborg Johnny says:

    I have already had a natural gift for picking up keys and songs for all my life. Sometimes I forget that not everyone can pick songs up as fast as I can (usually one beat away from playing along in real time). BUt it’s a good lesson and I liked it.

  • abhijeet says:

    thanku man..! your lessons are very good.


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