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Dave's Tex - Mex, Tejano, Conjunto Site for the Diatonic Button Accordion - Ahora Bilingüe

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Intro
Intro en Español
**Mission Statement**
**The Tex Mex Accordion**
**The Basics**
**GFC Accordion**
**Señor Maestro Program**
**Major Scales**
**Chromatic Scale**
**Fingerings**
Right hand position
**Preparation for 3rds**
**Music Theory**
**Music Theory 2**
Music Theory 3
**Circle of Fifths**
**Arpeggios for the GFC Box**
Practicing with a metronome
Trinos and Apoyaturas
Thirds and Sixes
**Ear Training**
Music Theory Quiz
Music Theory Quiz 2
Music Theory Quiz 3
Finding the Song Key
Adornos
Remates and improvisations
Bellows Technique
The Basses
Guest Book
Contact Us
About Me
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Finding the Song Key
So you know the scales, now you want to learn a song

Many people figure out songs by ear but can't identify the key they are in.  Learning the song by ear will be a lot easier if you can identify the key of the song early on or even before you start to try it.
Here are some pointers to help you will this process.
1.  Which accordion are you playing?  For the purpose of this site I am basing everything on the GCF accordion.  The relative positions are the same for the other key combinations, but obviously you will be playing in different keys.
2.  Know your scales in single notes, thirds and sixes as discussed on the Señor Maestro page.  Know at least one inversion of all the major chords possible on your accordion.
3.  Know all the notes on your accordion notes. 
4.  Assume the logical which is as follows.
a.  Most Tejano / Norteña songs are in a major key.
b.  There are three major and three minor chords per key.
c.  A lot of songs only use the major chords.
d.  All songs in all kinds of music resolve after the 5 chord, if you can identify that, you know what key the song is in.
Refer to this chart.

chtable.jpg

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.
Remember 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.
2.  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 changes.
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.