The way I figured out the key of a song is by first listening. This takes a bit of practice, but by just listening you can learn to hear the “tonal center” (“the key”) of a song.
Once I can hear the tonal center, I pick up a guitar and with one slide up the neck I’ll land on the note that matches the “tonal center”. That’s it. It takes me anywhere from 3 seconds to 10 seconds in most cases.
But if your a harmonica player that doesn’t play another instrument what can you do?
Well this is not easy at first for beginners… but here’s what I recommend.
Firstly, become comfortable as a harmonica player with first position and second position (If you don’t know what that is yet? That’s ok the advice I’m about to give may still work). Also become comfortable with playing your major and minor scales.
(I just decided I’ll just give the easy trick and pretty soon I do a full length video for intermediate and advanced level harmonica players to really explain this properlyl…Why. Anyone who could understand what I’m writing will probably already have this key thing mastered…so I’m going to attempt to be helpful to beginners).
[size=14pt]The only trick I know that works for an absolute beginner, who knows, very little about music theory is this (BTW this is what did when I was a beginning harmonica player)[/size]
[size=14pt]Get all 12 harmonicas. Pull each harmonica out of your case, one by one, and play along with the song you want to figure out the key to. When you found a harmonica that sounds in tune, jam along with the song…[/size]
If it’s a Blues Song you’ll probably want to play in second position. If it’s a melodic song you’ll probably want to play in first postion.
OUCH… There’s so much more to say… And I know this is might be a bit confusing if you don’t know anything about harmonica theory… I’m having a challenging time explaining this in writing and this is all covered in depth on my DVDs… (I’ve inadvertantly come to making a plug for my DVDs and I’m feeling a tad awkward about it)… but it’s true… My DVDs will leave you with an understanding of music theory that is practical and very clear.
So where do we go from here…A few things are come to mind:
Firstly, I will make a short free video about this whole key thing sometime before Christmas and I’ll put it on my blog (and announce it on the forum).
Secondly a request to our community: Does anyone feel confident about explaining how a beginning harmonica player can figure out how to figure out the key of a song so they can jam along.
[font=Verdana]Are there any resources that someone would like to turn us on to?[/font] (i.e. I know that in more than one of Jon Gindick’s books he has written out the keys of lots of popular songs… this was very helpful to me as a beginner… Does anyone know of any resources they want to share with us)
Last suggestion. Find a musician friend (who knows about this stuff) and ask them to figure out the key of a song that you want to jam along with.
I confess this is a bit of a clunky post but I hope it helps you.