Piano Theory – Find Any Key with this Easy Tip

05/22/2014 2:29 pm

piano theory

Piano Theory Tip

Throughout my years of teaching, I am amazed at how many piano players find it difficult to identify what key a particular piece is in. I also find it odd how many piano players avoid learning music theory! When we are learning to play the piano, it’s easy to just ask the teacher or simply look at the score as many times the key will be displayed in the title. But we know that if we want to be a well rounded piano player, we need to know our keys. Although we can get into specifics of what a key is and all that, I want to offer you today a very practical and easy tip to finding any key in an instant. Today we will focus on keys with sharps in the key signature and then in a future lesson I will show you a tip for keys with flats.

The trick is simple. Sharps are always displayed in the same order so the first thing to do is quickly memorize the order of the sharps which is as follows: F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
Thankfully you won’t come across a key with seven sharps in it often but this trick will even help you with that. All you need to do is go to the last sharp and raise that pitch a half-step. That’s it! Really, that’s all it takes. Let’s take a look at a few examples below to see it in action and how easy it is.

2 Sharps – D Major

In this example, we notice the key signature(how many sharps next to each clef) consists of 2 sharps: F#, C#
All we need to do is look at the last sharp, in this case, C# and go up half-step to D and voila, our key is D Major! See how easy.
D Major Key

5 Sharps – B Major

Now let’s take a look at a key with 5 sharps: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#
The last sharp is A# and again, all we do is go up half-step and we have our key: B Major.
B Major Key

That’s all there is to it. Piano theory does not have to be complicated. We just have to use systems and techniques that work and that we can use when learning a new piece. Do you have any tips when it comes to learning theory? Feel free to share, everyone can always learn a different approach to a similar problem.

Happy Playing
~Adrian Edward