Finding key of a piece

Edited: June 4, 2021, 7:01 AM · What is the correct way to find the key of a piece something that you are taught in college. And what is the key of theme from Schindler’s list.
I guess it’s d minor and then it changes to a minor from the middle and goes to end. Correct me if I am wrong.

Replies (12)

June 4, 2021, 7:33 AM · I'm not sure that there's a 'correct' way, but the key signature and the final chord should give you the overall answer. Of course, the piece may modulate on its journey from start to finish, in which case you'd need to look for cadences in the middle, with a pattern of accidentals/alterations.

I have an orchestra copy of the 'Schindler's List' theme and will dig it out to give you an answer for your second question. I hope this helps!

June 4, 2021, 7:48 AM · Some pieces tell you the key in the title. Some pieces tell you the key in the title, but not whether it’s major or minor. Some pieces have a key signature and once you play you can tell the key in the beginning, some after an introduction, and some at the end. Some pieces transpose and don’t stay in the same key. Some pieces don’t have a key at all.
Edited: June 4, 2021, 8:25 AM · Rudransh you're right about Schindler's List Theme. You find the key of a piece or a part of a piece first by looking at the key signature, which leaves two possibilities (major or minor). Then you see on which note the main melody line really comes to "rest". That's the tonic. Don't be fooled by the "main" note used in the melodies, as that is typically the dominant (fifth note in the scale).
Edited: June 4, 2021, 8:39 AM · There isn’t a “correct” way. For this particular piece, I found a number of versions online, and all that I saw were in D minor (1 flat). Yes, it does go to a different key, A minor (no sharps or flats).
June 4, 2021, 9:00 AM · If you can hear cadences then you can find the tonic triad. Ear training and music theory go hand-in-hand. There is no easy answer but youtube will help you.
June 4, 2021, 9:15 AM · Cotton,

Are you referring to something like this where there is a cadence to the A natural? (in the key of A minor I believe although there is an F sharp).


Edited: June 4, 2021, 9:18 AM · I was taught this way:
Major key: half step up from the last sharp (the leading tone) --Ti Do;
3 1/2 steps down from the last flat --Fa Mi Re Do
Minor key: half step down from last sharp or 1/1/2 steps up from last flat
Here is a cheat sheet:
June 4, 2021, 12:03 PM · Ray, that's not a cadence. There must be harmonic motion for a cadence to happen, and in that excerpt there is just an A minor scale over a single chord.
Edited: June 4, 2021, 12:37 PM · Look at the last chord.
Already mentioned; for sharp keys, the key is 1/2 step up from the last sharp.
For flat keys, the key is the next to last flat, except for F, which is one flat.
For the relative minor key; minor third down from the major key.
My problem is kind of the reverse of all that. As a Mariachi section violinist, I have to play memorized arrangements, and the keys change depending on who is the solo singer for that session. After the leader announces the key I quickly run through the scale, and that triggers something in the memory to start on the right note.
June 4, 2021, 12:37 PM · I see Cotton. thanks
June 4, 2021, 2:29 PM · You keep mentioning chord but I believe there is no chord in Schindler’s list as chord is more than one note probably three notes. Correct me if I am wrong.
June 4, 2021, 3:08 PM · Hello again Rudransh! I agree that you are unlikely to have a chord in the violin/melodic part, so you'll need to look at the piano or orchestra parts for the final chord. The chord will confirm, in the vast majority of cases, the overall key and the issue of major or minor: look at the 'middle' note of the three notes forming the chord.

Returning to 'Schindler's List', the arrangement we play in my orchestra is in A minor. From just the first violin orchestra part I'm having trouble seeing where else it goes. To my ears, there seems to be a cadence in C major at bar 34 - that's the relative major of A minor - and there is an agitato section characterised by some B flats together with occasional C sharp and G sharp. I don't know where that takes us in terms of key, but I'm guessing that the accidentals contribute to the kletzmer feel of the piece: I'm not qualified to say that with any authority!

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