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A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD

Rick Fielding 11 Aug 01 - 02:31 PM
Jeri 11 Aug 01 - 02:41 PM
Mudlark 11 Aug 01 - 02:58 PM
Rick Fielding 11 Aug 01 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,slim 11 Aug 01 - 10:19 PM
JennieG 12 Aug 01 - 01:30 AM
Bill D 12 Aug 01 - 11:34 PM
Seamus Kennedy 13 Aug 01 - 03:30 AM
Rick Fielding 13 Aug 01 - 12:12 PM
GUEST 13 Aug 01 - 12:47 PM
Seamus Kennedy 13 Aug 01 - 01:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Aug 01 - 01:21 PM
GUEST,Michael Cooney 14 Aug 01 - 01:56 PM
Seamus Kennedy 14 Aug 01 - 10:33 PM
Justa Picker 14 Aug 01 - 10:41 PM
Rick Fielding 14 Aug 01 - 11:59 PM
Jeri 15 Aug 01 - 08:23 AM
Rick Fielding 15 Aug 01 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,Garydon 15 Aug 01 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,Garydon 15 Aug 01 - 01:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 01 - 01:31 PM
Justa Picker 15 Aug 01 - 02:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 01 - 03:18 PM
Rick Fielding 15 Aug 01 - 05:36 PM
MandolinPaul 16 Aug 01 - 12:14 AM
John Hardly 16 Aug 01 - 07:39 AM
Marion 06 Mar 03 - 06:05 PM
Dave4Guild 06 Mar 03 - 06:29 PM
Marion 06 Mar 03 - 06:35 PM
BanjoRay 06 Mar 03 - 07:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Mar 03 - 08:17 PM
Night Owl 06 Mar 03 - 09:03 PM
Walking Eagle 07 Mar 03 - 10:50 AM
Rick Fielding 07 Mar 03 - 12:37 PM
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Subject: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 02:31 PM

Warning! Non-standard music teaching approach coming up! There are OTHER MORE COMMONLY ACCEPTED WAYS to do this...

...this is simply a way that I use to help people who ask: "How can I play along with the CD if I don't know what key it's in?"

OK, assuming that you are at the beginner or moderate stage of guitar (or banjo or mandolin etc.) prowess, here goes:

Get a music book and write down the 1, 3, and 5 notes of every MAJOR chord. (hopefully the song you're trying to play ISN'T in a complicated looking sharp or flat key...but we can deal with that)

You'll have:

Chord of C. "C,E,G" or chord of D. "D,F#,A or chord of G. "G,B,D" etc. til you've done 'em all.

Put on the CD. Now as you listen to it, play each note on the high (E) string of your guitar, fret by fret. (don't forget the open "E" note) Do each note about a second apart.(you need to memorize the names of the notes from open to the 11th fret)

If you've got an average (but untrained) ear, some notes are gonna make more sense than others. Chances are when you hit the note that REALLY IS the right key it'll simply sound "like it fits"

OK, you've played the CD, taken your time to hit each note on the first string, and the one that really stands out is....say... "F".

Go to your chart. Play the chord that starts with F. Chances are that's it. Key of F. See if the first chord of the song IS F. Fine you've nailed it.

But....supposing it DOESN'T sound like F is the key? No problem, look for another triad (that's what those groupings of three notes are in the chart you've made) with the F note in it. How about Bb? Try that as the first chord. (you may even have to capo up to the third fret and play a "G" chord to get the Bb sound, but that's okay.)

That sound right? You got it then. Song's (probably) in Bb.

But maybe not..... Still doesn't sound EXACTLY right to your ear? No problem. We've still got a third option. What other triad has an "F" in it? Oi Vay! it's the Db triad. Oh well, capo on the first fret and play a C chord. Maybe that's the one you're lookin' for.

If the song is in a major key and follows MOST of the rules, your song is gonna be in either the key of F, Bb, or Db.

With a bit of practice you can do this in about 20 seconds, which beats taking your CDs to a teacher to just TELL you what key the songs are in (spend the money on Delmore Brothers albums!)

Now this ain't foolproof, and maybe someone can mention the triads for MINOR keys, but it DOES seem to have helped a lot of the beginner and intermediate folks I've worked with.

Rick


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Jeri
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 02:41 PM

I know this is way too simple, but I just sing the tonic note into an electronic tuner.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Mudlark
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 02:58 PM

Thanks, Rick...Have copied this off to have handy while listening to my Bonnie Raitt and Dilliard albums...


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 03:28 PM

But Jeri, you ain't no novice!

By the way, your fiddle bow is re-haired and beautiful. Thanks a million times for the loan.

"the jazz fiddler"


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: GUEST,slim
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 10:19 PM

Here's what I do. Play a D chord on every fret right up to the 14 and 15. The key is one of them. Just play the first three strings though.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: JennieG
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 01:30 AM

I was trying to find the right key recently and couldn't! The CD I was listening to (John McCutcheon) had been a vinyl LP in a former life before being re-issued on CD. Would the transfer process have altered the pitch of the notes, as it seems to be a tiny bit faster and therefore higher in pitch? BTW a more musically knowledgeable friend also listened to it with me and came to the same conclusion. We both decided the closest key to the song was C although it wasn't spot-on.
Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 11:34 PM

I have an OLD Jean Ritchie album that she told me was recorded at slightly off-speed..(too slow, I think)..she was never happy with the sound...


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 03:30 AM

Guest Slim, good one, but suppose the song is in a minor key?

Seamus


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 12:12 PM

Hi Seamus, if I can answer for slim.....play a three string Dm.

If I can go back to my first post for a moment:

As I said there are many OTHER ways of determining the proper key. The way I described gets a novice into understanding that "intervals" and "triads" (major and minor" need not be theoretical mysteries. A little memorization can be a huge help, and it gets you into theory pretty painlessly and with some immediate practical results.

My problem with learning to read music as a kid (I resisted and DIDN'T) was that I couldn't see WHY it would make a difference. If learning a little theory (and the names of the notes on your first string) can enable you to identify recorded keys within a couple of days of practice, then it provides almost immediate results....and that has to be an enticement.

Rick


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 12:47 PM

ditto Jeri. The tonic note seems to be the easiest one to pick out of a triad...but instead of relying on technological superiority, I just hum it and play notes until I find a match on my instrument. Then on to the next chord to do the same thing...

Then comes the fun part: once you've got the tonic (root), what's the rest of the chord?... m7? m9? sus4? dim? aug? b5add9? mutant chord not of this earth?

When 'they' do that studio gimmick of speeding the recording up or down to make it sound "brighter" (your observation Rick?), that throws a monkey wrench into the works. Now, if the player wants to learn the song off the cd, he/she has to tune up/down to match the recording - or endure playing out of tune with the song...an inconvenience.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 01:19 PM

Right, Rick! Unfortunately, I can't (won't) read music - old and stubborn, so I just slide up the first string till I find the right one. My ear after all these years can tell whether it's major or minor, and I go from there. However if the pitch of the record/tape/cd is slightly off, I tune the whole guitar sharp or flat accordingly. A pain in the butt, but if you want to play along with the rcording.... Great hints, guys.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 01:21 PM

Most tunes end on the key note, and if it sounds wrong when you play the major triad, you just try the minor version, and so forth.

Of course that doesn't work with tunes that don't end on the tonic. And there are tunes in other modes. And you get tunes and even more confusing, sets of tunes with key changes.

And then you look around to see what other people are doing, and you find the instruments are in unfamiliar tunings. Or it's fiddler and such.And when you ask the fiddlers what key they are playing in they say they don't really know, because that's not the way they think. Nothing's perfect.

And then you get musicians who intentionally tune above or below concert pitch, either because they just feel like it, or because they have an instrument in their circle group that can't be readily re-tuned that isn't quite in concert pitch.

And then even when they were playing in concert pitch, the recording process at some point slows it down or speeds it up just that little bit. In which case the only think to do if you want to play along with it is to tune your own instrument to whatever you identify as the key note.

And then you've got Indian music and so forth which uses the notes in betweeen the notes...


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: GUEST,Michael Cooney
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 01:56 PM

I do what Seamus does -- McGrath is right: the final note of the song is USUALLY the key the song is in. (Pardon.)


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 10:33 PM

Years ago, my partner and I tuned a half-step down just to suit our voices. (We don't do it now, we've grown up.) So we'd play an "E" chord, but really be playing "F." and so forth. Well, we had a fiddler with perfect pitch play with us for a few months, who didn't know all our arrangements, so he watched our chording on the guitars while playing with us. It drove him nuts! He'd be seeing one chord, and hearing another, and trying to fiddle the right one. He didn't last.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Justa Picker
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 10:41 PM

Get it from the bass, and work your way up.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 11:59 PM

"getting it from the bass" is obviously going to work the same as from the high string, but I discovered a few years ago that most novices had much more trouble "hearing" the notes from the bass.....for whatever ocular reason.

By the way, apropos of mothing. Many of the old string bands tuned "up" when in the studio to get a brighter sound. there are rumours that some even tuned "up" to Ab or D# or Db etc. so that others would have trouble "lifting" their arrangements.

One quote has Bill Monroe complaining that the day after he played a song on the Opry, it was in he Stanley Brothers repertoire....and he had to race them to record it.

Rick


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Jeri
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 08:23 AM

Rick, there's something interesting going on here. Some folks seem to think in chords, and others think in melody. In other words, some find the chords and just fit the melody into them, and others find the melody and fit the chords around it. What works for one type of person may not work very well with the other.

Maybe this is a left vs. right brain thing, or maybe it just depends on what a person learned first. I play fiddle, which is primarily a melody instrument. I learned a bit of clawhammer banjo before playing fiddle, and I tended to ignore the chords and just play the melody and strum a couple of appropriate notes (yeah, they were chords or parts of them, but I didn't think "D7," I just thought "those sound right). I never learned very many chords, mostly because of laziness on my part, but it shows what my brain was focusing on.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 12:45 PM

Hmmmmmm, excellent point Jeri. I'd be interested to hear what folks think about the "chords" vis a vis "melody" thing. Can you (or anyone else who's interested) start a thread on it that might get a few more in? This title is a trifle "tuningocentric". I would, except I've been a thread starting machine lately and I don't want to monopolize.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: GUEST,Garydon
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 01:06 PM

I'm an intermedate guitar player. I have trouble finding the cords to songs esspecially off CDs. I've just been putting my electronic tuner in front of the speaker and reading the 1st couple of cords that read on the tuner from the beginning of the song. Then working with what I call standard cord progressions to find the other cords that seem to fit in the songs along with the cord changes. It feels laborious to me but I eventually get it and am usually pretty close when I play with others. But then I am very thin on music therory too.

Always appreciate the suggestions and style of others here on at mudcat

Gary


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: GUEST,Garydon
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 01:07 PM

I'm an intermedate guitar player. I have trouble finding the cords to songs esspecially off CDs. I've just been putting my electronic tuner in front of the speaker and reading the 1st couple of cords that read on the tuner from the beginning of the song. Then working with what I call standard cord progressions to find the other cords that seem to fit in the songs along with the cord changes. It feels laborious to me but I eventually get it and am usually pretty close when I play with others. But then I am very thin on music therory too.

Always appreciate the suggestions and style of others here on at mudcat

Gary


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 01:31 PM

Starting a new thread around chord/melody is a good idea - but it breaks the continuity a bit, so I'll post this here, and wait for someone else to do the business, and put in the appropriate links back and forth from here. (The trouble is people tend not to read through the earlier thread.)

I think in terms of chords, but never chord sequences. By that I mean, once I know what key it is, I'll be choosing from a known set of chords, which I'll pull in to make the appropriate sound, but I'll be thinking in terms of the tune, and looking instinctively for a chord that has that note, and which fits in (which isn't the same thing) And my personal prejudice tends to be for as few chords as possible.

That's when I'm playing a guitar, which I mostly do. If in a session I pass the guitar across to the guy who plays the mandolin so he can do a song, and I pick up his mandolin, I'll think in terms of getting the right note, largely because I don't really know the chords too well on the mandolin.

But as I said, I never think in terms of chord sequences as such, and get completely lost when people start talking in those sort of terms.

Takes all kinds. But I think in folk music and in other sorts of music the tune should be regarded as more fundamental than the chords. There was a quote from the late Isaac Guillory on a Mudcat thread which I just dug out: "Here's one from those days when the melody went where it will and the chords just followed." I think that's the right way round, and it was a brilliant example of how Isaac could give a whole lesson in a sentence sometimes.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Justa Picker
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 02:19 PM

The ability to detect chords is also something that is facilitated further if you have good relative pitch to begin with. It is also something, that the more you do it, the finer your "instincts" become.

When I was actively involved with bands professionally over the years, my job usually involved doing the arrangements or "lifts" for the band. It got to a point where once I had a lock on a given recording, I could clearly hear and know what the chord changes were to a given song. But it drove me nuts when I'd go out and listen to other cover bands, and hear wrong chord changes when they'd perform. If I knew the band leader I'd point it out to him...and more often than not they'd say "Thanks. You're right. I wasn't sure of this or that chord." Then again, there have been many a major argument and screaming match had in rehearsals where two people debate what a given chord is, with both sides adamantly claiming they're right and the other is wrong. (I seem to remember listening years ago to outakes from a Trogs recording session, where the engineer had let the tape roll, and two guys in the band were going ballistic towards each other over how the song they were trying to record, went.)

But definitely lifting chords is akin to exercising. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Of course, the more extensive your existing knowledge of chords and their respective sounds are, the easier this is as well.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:18 PM

I've just started up that thread about tunes and chords. Tunes rule OK? Or chords?

So maybe that's the place to go to talk about that. I suppose for stuff about tuning as such, here is still the place.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 05:36 PM

Tunes RULE!!!!???

McGrath, I'd pictured you as a distinguished man "of a certain age" (possibly even in a kilt), I didn't know you were part of Mudcat's "youth movement"!

Awesome, Kewl, and far

Ol' Rick

PS. Thanks for starting the thread.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: MandolinPaul
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 12:14 AM

Great advice, Rick. I've done variations on this for years.

Paul


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: John Hardly
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 07:39 AM

Great advice!



I too am a chord progression guy, though I play melody notes fingerstyle. In fact, I learned so much based on the chord structure tha I have trouble memorizing a fiddle tune if I DON"T know where a note lies in the chord.

I have found that I, like JP, use the Low E string to determine the key from a cd but I do so because I'm generally trying to figure out what the GUITAR player is playing and, barring some alternate tuning (even DropD) I can detect the fingering the guitarist is using (even with a capo), because the lowest note is close-ended.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Marion
Date: 06 Mar 03 - 06:05 PM

Here's something fun to do if you watch TV. When a commercial for a CD comes on (the kind of commercial where they play short clips of several songs), grab your guitar and see how many of the songs you can find keys for in the short time they last.

Marion


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Dave4Guild
Date: 06 Mar 03 - 06:29 PM

I have found that sometimes the last chord of a particular piece of music may be a better chord to determine the tonic. Or should that be the lost chord?


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Marion
Date: 06 Mar 03 - 06:35 PM

That's true, Dave4Guild, but not very useful if you want to be able to play along immediately to something that's new to you. What good is knowing the key when the song is over?

Marion


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: BanjoRay
Date: 06 Mar 03 - 07:16 PM

A lot of old time CDs tell you hoe the instruments are tuned and what key the tunes are in. Try and find the key by listening with a tuned up instrument in your hands - then look up the answer. You'll soon learn how it's done.
This does NOT apply to tunes recorded in the old days, where they seemed to tune their instruments up to a random pitch, or the recording process took a good pitch and turned it into something slightly different. In these circumstances, it's every man for himself (or the PC equivalent)
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Mar 03 - 08:17 PM

Perhaps the online sleeve notes for the Mudcat CDs ought to include that.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Night Owl
Date: 06 Mar 03 - 09:03 PM

McGrath......include "every man for himself".....??

or the chords???? bg

Thanks for refreshing another GOOD thread Marion!!


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 07 Mar 03 - 10:50 AM

This is great advice for those of us just getting a handle on our guitar playing. Thanks for the discussion approach to this thread. This is Mudcat at it's best! Sharing what we know.


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Subject: RE: A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Mar 03 - 12:37 PM

Hang the guitar (or the spare) on the wall right behind your favourite couch. Yep, that place where you spend so many hours reading, watching TV, etc.!

When the mood strikes....just grab that guitar and play along with "Law and Order" or Judging Amy, or any of those "Doctor Shows" (Heather chooses what's ON TV)

Or.....

Spend one day, figuring out the keys on about twenty CDs that yer likely to want to play along with over the next while. Just jot the keys (and any WEIRD chords) down on a slip of paper and leave it there.

Cheers

Rick


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