How to Know What Key You Are Playing In

It's not always easy to look at a new piano piece and know straight away what key your piece is in.

Sometimes a piece will have a key signature that looks like it is in a major key but it ends up being in a minor key.

You can't always tell by just looking.

There are a few main tips that will help you always know what key you're piano piece is in. Once you've mastered these easy steps, you'll have a lot fewer challenges with this and will enjoy being able to jump right into practicing and learning your piece faster!

Let's find out the first thing you need to do to so you can identify what key you are playing in.

Step 1: Look at the Key Signature

The Key Signature will always be on the far left side of each line of music throughout your piece.

It will have either sharps or flats in it, or if it's in the Key of C Major or A Minor, there will be no sharps or flats.

If you're having challenges remembering which keys have what specific sharps or flats in them, take a minute to refresh your knowledge of key signatures in general as this will help you with the next step.

Next let's see where you need to start in determining what key your piece is in.

Step 2: Look at the Very First Chord

Look at the first chord in the first measure of your piece.

If you don't find a chord in the very first measure, combine the notes that you find in that measure together, so that they do actually make up a chord. Now play them all together. Does the chord sound "sad" or "happy"?

Minor chords usually sound a bit sad and major chords usually sound happy.

Most times, this first chord or group of notes will establish the sound of the key so you can pretty easily know if you're playing in a minor key or a major key.

Now let's find out the next place to look to see if your guess was right!

Step 3: Look at the Very Last Chord

Just like you did with the first measure, go to the last measure of your piece and notice the chord or group of notes contained there. Play them and see if the emotional sound of the notes matches the first measure. They usually do.

Now, what sound came from those notes? Was it a happy sound or a sad sound?

Again, since most times the first and last measures match in terms of key and mode, you can be sure that if both measures sound happy, you're in a major key, and if both chords sound sad, you're in a minor key.

It's that easy! Let's review before we move on to practicing this concept together.

Step 4: Quick Review

There are 3 main things that you need to do to determine what Key your piano piece is in.

1) Look at the Key Signature before playing anything and figure out what possible keys you can be in with the noted sharps or flats that are there.

2) Look at the first measure of the piece and play those notes; if it's a chord, play the chord, and if the notes are separated, group them together so they make a chord and play that. Notice whether the chord sounds happy or sad.

3) Repeat what you did in the very first measure with the last measure, and again, notice whether the notes sound happy or sad.

The main premise is that chords and notes that bring about a sad feeling are mostly minor keys compared to notes that bring a happy feeling are major keys.

Are you ready to now practice doing this with me in real time? Great...let's go practice!

Step 5: Come Practice With Me!

The advantage of this video and all of my videos is that you can watch through the entire thing at one time, take a few parts and do them several times over and over, and save it to come back to if you have any questions later on, especially when learning a new piece.

I'll show you where you find key signatures in pieces, what major and minor chords sound like, and how to put notes together to make a chord.

Come practice with me and you'll know from now on how to easily find out what key you're new piano piece is in!

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