Remember that G is similar in fingering to D and has many chords in common.
Remember that C is similar in fingering
to G and has many chords in common.
Remember that F is similar in fingering to C and has many chords in common.
that Bb is similar in fingering to F and has many chords in common.
Be aware of the similarities and differences in the
fingering on the scales, thirds and sixes. For example, if you are playing or learning a song with a D and a G chord,
and the F1C5 position comes up, you have just eliminated the possibility that you are in the key of G. This piece would
then be in D. (F1C5 corresponds to an A Major chord)
It's all a matter of elimination.
Note. Keep in mind that not all songs are possible on every accordion. Also, if the song is in the key of
F for example and you have a GFC accordion, the original might have been played on a FBbEb accordion and you may not be able
to play the song exactly as it is on the recording.
Learning a song by ear and figuring out the key of the song is a process of elimination. It helps greatly to be
familiar with the style and typical structure of Tejano / Norteña music and of the song you are learning. For example,
Rancheras and Corridos have a lot in common but Cumbias, Boleros, Baladas etc. may have other common traits. In the
end however, identifying the chords in a song is usually the best step.
Let's say you can figure out that the song has a C chord and an F chord. Looking at the chart above you might notice
that those two chords appear together in both the keys of C and F. So what key is it, C or F? If I told you that
I am almost positive that 99% of the time it would be in the key of F, would you believe me?
So why am I so sure. Well, because I know that Latin music in general commonly uses the one and the five chord.
If this was a rock song, I wouldn't be so sure because Rock commonly uses the one and the four chord.
But only two chords still leaves a little room for error. If you have 3 chords, there can be no doubt. Again
refer to the chart. If the next chord is Bb, (and it usually will be in Norteña / Tejana music) then my theory that
the song is in F was correct. If the next chord is G, then we are probably working with a more Rock or Country or Folk
type song and it is in the key of C.
Two other tricks to learning the key are:
1. The last chord of a song will 99% of the time be the key chord.
The first chord of the first verse, after all the introduction, will usually be the key chord.
By being aware of the one, four and especially five chord in a piece you are not only making it easier to identify the
key, but also, you have opened your possibility of learning by ear, improvisation for that piece and really "hearing" the
When learing songs by ear, start with easy pieces. I like Los Tigrillos or Tigres del Norte. Flaco Jimenez
also has a lot of easy material.