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Find the Key of a Song with Guitar Tabulature

Aug 20, 2008
Guitar tabs are an informative guitar- favorable mode of setting riffs down, but they generally are not as much informative as sheet music. Guitar tabs often rely on backing tracks with some descriptions and analysis to support them. This is because they do not have key information and timing??" but if you are fortunate, the description will give you the key.

A lot of tabs advertised in magazines include the key at the top of the tab. But if you have a tab without the key, you will not be able to say what key it is in? Well, don't worry at least you have the notes, which is a great start. One method is to write down all of the notes and compare them to scales that you have in your brain. A good chance of figuring the key out will be there, if you can recognise 8 various notes but if you only have two the case may be otherwise.

For instance, if you pick out 8 notes and they are A, B, C, D, E, F and G that gives you some good hints. The first 2 choices are the key of C and the key of a small-scale. I found this out by ordering the notes and comparing them to the tones in different scales.

Other possible actions include the several modes of the C Major scale. Such as:
A Aeolian ( same as the A minor-scale above),
F Lydian, G Mixolydian
D Dorian, E Phrygian
B Locrian

Experience is important to figure out the modes in use. Particularly, you can check the chord that is being played as it will probably give you a hint. For example Em or Em7 would direct towards a Phrygian scale instead of standard major.

Of course you may run into some very complex scales that aren't just very simple to spot by looking at the notes, or even someone is simply "cheating" in which the song is being played chromatically or without reference to a particular scale. In short terms, the all-important thing is to have knowledge about the backing chords that will help you here.
About the Author
Z Roberts is the founder of 50 Blues. He has recorded 50 of the best professional blues backing tracks.
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