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Zebra Keys

Music Theory

Lesson 12 - 12 Keys of Music

printable version

I. Index


1.  Introduction
2. 12 Possible Keys in Music
3. How to Tell What Key a Particular Song is In
4. Examples of Songs Played in Different Keys
5. The 12 Keys of Music
6. Conclusion


II. Content


1. Introduction
In music, the key identifies the tonal center or home base of a song. This tonal center or home base is a note that the whole song revolves around. Every note in the song wants to gravitate towards the home base note. For example, if a song is in the key of C, then every note in the song gravitates towards C. If a song is in the key of F, then every note would gravitate towards F.


2. 12 Possible Keys in Music
There are 12 possible keys any particular song can be played in. This is because of the 12 notes on the piano keyboard, A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, and G#/Ab. A song can be played so that any one of these twelve notes will be the tonal center or home base.


3. How to Tell What Key a Particular Song is In
There are several ways to tell what key a particular song is in. Let's take a look at three things that can help you determine the key of a song.
  • Key Signatures
  • What Melody Note a Song Ends On
  • What Chord a Song Ends On

Key Signatures

Key signatures can provide a clue as to what key a piece of music is written in. Key signatures tell you what sharps or flats will appear in a song. Key signatures appear directly after the clef signs. The number of sharps or flats in the key signature can give you a clue as to what key a song is in. For example, if a song has no sharps or flats in the key signature, the song may be in the key of C. If a song has one sharp in the key signature, it may be in the key of G. If a song has one flat in the key signature, it may be in the key of F. Below is a chart of key signatures and what key it may correspond to.












What Melody Note a Song Ends On

What melody note a song ends on can also be a clue as to what key that song is written in. For example, if a song ends on C, it may be in the key of C. If a song ends on F, it may be in the key of F. If a song ends on G, it may be in the key of G, and so on.

What Chord a Song Ends On

What chord a song ends on can also be used to help you figure out what key a song is in. For example, if a song ends on a C chord, it may be in the key of C. If it ends on a G chord, it may be in the key of G. If it ends on an F chord, then it may be in the key of F, and so on.


4. Examples of Songs Played in Different Keys
Below are examples of "Deck the Halls" being played in three different keys.

("Deck the Halls" in the key of C)










("Deck the Halls" in the key of F)










("Deck the Halls" in the key of B)










5. The 12 Keys of Music


Below is a list of all the possible keys of music. Enharmonic keys are counted as one key.

Key of C

Key of Db / C# (enharmonic keys)

Key of D

Key of Eb

Key of E

Key of F

Key of Gb / Key of F# (enharmonic keys)

Key of G

Key of Ab

Key of A

Key of Bb

Key of B / Key of Cb (enharmonic keys)


6. Conclusion
In this lesson, you learned that in music, the key identifies the tonal center or home base of a song. A song can be in any of the 12 keys. You also learned three things that can help determine what key a song is in.




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