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Electric Guitar Manual

How To Find Chords For a Song

LEARN how to find the chords out of a song in a SIMPLE WAY. There will be no musical theme that will resist you: Major and Minor Keys.

First Step to Find the Chords of a Song: Know the Key of the Theme

To get the chords of a song, the first thing we must know is the key in which that particular song is, and have the guitar tuned in concert pitch, or standard pitch. This tone is what any electronic tuner would pick up. In this way we would have the instrument ready to search for the key that is clearly in line with the theme.

If we do not have an electronic tuner, or a tuning fork that marks an A note in concert pitch, the tuning of the guitar would be done randomly. The guitar would sound good when we played alone, but we would not be able to play over the reproduction of any piece of music, since the overall tone of the instrument would be off.

How to Know the Key of a Song

To find out the key of a song, we will have to look for the note that is clearly in line with the theme. Especially at the beginning of the song, at the beginning of the chorus, or at the end of the theme.

How To Find Chords For a Song

You can use the C Major scale to search through its notes. If we cannot find this note in clear consonance, we can try sharps. Once the note is found, it is most likely that that note is the Tonic or key of the theme.

After knowing the tonic, we will sound this note in a major and minor chord during the playback of the song, to check which type of chord best suits the topic in question, and in the process we will know if the key is major or minor. We can use this check for example at the beginning of the theme or chorus, and at the end of the song.

If we know the first chord of the song, it is most likely that that is its key, especially if the song is in a minor key. Or if we know the last chord of the song, it can help us know the key. Very effective especially for themes in Major key.

Better to use an example

For example, the song “Angie” by the Rolling Stones begins with a resounding A minor chord, and its key is A minor. The song “Like A Rolling Stone” begins and ends with a C Major, and its key is C Major. The chorus also begins with a C Major chord.

Sometimes the song may not begin with the tonic, so the most likely thing is that we will find the tonic in the first chord of the chorus of the song, very effective in Major keys.

The Holy Find to Get the Chords of a Song

Once we have found the key, we go to these charts that are the Holy Grail to extract the chords of a song, or to transport the chords of a song to any different key.

All Major Keys
All Minor Keys

The use of these charts is very simple, since we have one chart for the major keys, and another for the minor keys.

Take for example the key of Bob Dylan’s song “Like A Rolling Stone”. A very well-known song with a very simple key, C major. This major key is the only one that has neither sharps nor flats.

This song starts with a very simple chord progression, it would be C – D – E – F – G, and they are all the chords used in the song.

To know which chord is major and which is minor, we go to the bottom of the chart and there we have it.

How To Find Chords For a Song: key of C major

C is major, D would be minor, E would be minor, F is major and G would be major. Some may wonder how these can be known, and the explanation is very simple.

If we look at the C major scale we can see that certain chords can be built within this scale, but not others. That’s why some chords fit in minor, others in major, seventh, etc.

For example, a D major chord would not fit in this key, since one of its notes would be outside the key of C (that note is F#). But for example an A minor chord would fit perfectly in this key, as would many other chords, like all those mentioned above.

Chords in Key of C Major

This does not mean that chords formed by some note out of tune cannot be used, but first we have to learn, and then unlearn. The chord that is most often used with a note out of key would be the third degree in Major in the Major scale, and the fifth degree in Major in the minor scale.

How To Find Chords For a Song: note out of key

How To Find Chords For a Song with the Circle of Fifths

In the Circle of Fifths, we have the same information as in the two previous charts in a reduced, clear, manageable, and very schematic version.

How To Find Chords For a Song with the Circle of Fifths

You will think that this of course has little, but its operation is very simple, and I assure you that you will have no problems using this tool to find the chords of a song, or to compose accompaniments.

Major and Minor Keys in the Circle of Fifths

In the blue circle we have the major keys, scales or chords, and in the yellow circle the minor keys. If we take a major key like C, and we want to know what chords we have to use to play in that key, just have to look around to discover them.

To the right of C, we have its 5th, or fifth degree of the C Major scale (G), and to the left its 4th (F). These chords would be major and widely used in the most popular compositions. If you look at the example song from Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”, those are the three chords that Dylan used to create the chorus of the song.

How To Find Chords For a Song with the Circle of Fifths: chords for key C major

Just below C, and within the yellow circle, we have its relative minor (Am), another chord widely used in most songs, although Bob Dylan dispensed with this chord in the composition of the song we are using as an example.

To the left of A, we have the 2nd of C (Dm), and to the right would be the 3rd (Em).

The chord that we would need to complete the scale would be the 7th, or seventh degree, and we would have it to the left of the 4th, but a semitone lower (Bb), and it would be played in major. This chord is more used than diminished.

In fact, 7th grade is not used much. Since the chords that have the greatest prominence are those that are around the tonic note.

If we want to take the chords from another theme, but it is in another major key, for example in A major, there is no problem. We go to that key and use the same system (image above right). Using the chords that are around the chosen key, plus the note that is next to the fourth degree.

How To Find Chords For a Song with the Circle of Fifths: chords for key A major

Transpose the Chords of a Theme to another Key

If we want to Transpose the chords of a song to another key, we also use the same method, exchanging some notes for others. We rotate the entire structure on the circle, or we rotate the circle to place the tonic on top.

We can also use the Major or Minor scale charts to change keys.

Changing the key of a theme can be useful in certain circumstances. For example, if our singer cannot sing certain notes fluently, we can lower the key until our vocalist reaches a more comfortable breath.

With the minor keys, much of the same thing would happen. The key is located, for example A minor, and we use the chords that are around it, plus the chord that is next to the fourth of its relative major. That is, the flat second of the minor key.

Arrangement of Chords in Major and Minor Keys

This would be the arrangement of the notes for both the major and minor scales, but without defining any particular key, so that they can be used in any position of the circle of fifths.

Arrangement of Chords in Major Keys

Arrangement of Chords in Major Keys: Circle of Fifths

Arrangement of Chords in Minor Keys

Arrangement of Chords in Minor Keys: Circle of Fifths

As you have seen, getting the chords of a song would not be very complicated, once you know the correct key of a musical theme. This way there will be no song that will resist you.

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