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How to figure out the key specifically in this song? I know that the key signature has a sharpened F, but this means that it could either be in G major or E minor. The beginning note and the ending note don't start on the tonic of the key.

  • 1
    No, I want to know specifically in this piece how to figure it out. I have looked at other posts already but I still can't figure it out.
    – user46792
    Jun 6, 2018 at 11:56
  • The other post answers this question in general, but questions about "identifying notes/chords/meters/other elements in songs" are off-topic anyway.
    – user39614
    Jun 6, 2018 at 12:01
  • @DavidBowling Thats pretty funny, because the first link is literally my own question haha. But that was more focused on the different modes and what note feels home. Here I want to deduce the signature when you only have the sheet music.
    – user46792
    Jun 6, 2018 at 14:13
  • The question could almost have been 'what the heck is the time sig. for this tune?'
    – Tim
    Jun 6, 2018 at 14:57

3 Answers 3


That song is definitely in G major. The anacrucis at the start leads straight to a G in the first full bar. (1st clue). The last note - even though it looks odd, it must be a note due to wording underneath- is also G. (2nd clue). There are no D#s which would indicate not Em, due to most songs in Em needing and having a sharpened leading note, D# in Em (3rd clue).The repeated first line also ends on G (4th clue). There is no doubt here.

However - were there D#s it could easily have been in Em. The main clue there being ending on E. It could also have been in several different modes of G major, with F# as key sig., but clues would be tonal centre. For example, if the tonal centre (home feeling) was A, then it could have been A Dorian.


The first strong beat is a G. The last note is a G, preceded by an F#. Pretty strong indications that the key is G major.

That last note is a 'breve'. Twice the length of a 'semibreve'. What do Americans call it, a 'double-whole-note'?

  • "What do Americans call it, a 'double-whole-note'?" Yep! At least it's not the dumbest thing our country has ever done...
    – Richard
    Jun 6, 2018 at 23:27
  • Very true......
    – Laurence
    Jun 6, 2018 at 23:39
  • Ironic calling it a breve' - translates as 'short'...
    – Tim
    Jul 25, 2018 at 10:55

The sample you provided is in G major. As you said, if all you know is the key signature then the key could be G major or E minor. But - the last note is a G (except the open notehead indicating the duration is not a familiar semibreve). If you sing or play through the tune, it's definitely in a major key. If it were in E minor, you'd almost certainly have one or more pairs of D# followed E. None of the D's in the tune is a D# - so it can't be E minor.

  • I have read that as well, but I don't understand that. Why would there be d#'s in E minor? E minor doesnt have a D sharp in the key signature right? And also, the last note isnt a G right? Thats a F. What is an open notehead actually?
    – user46792
    Jun 6, 2018 at 12:06
  • 2
    E harmonic minor scale contains a D#; E melodic minor has a D# on the ascending scale. The last note of the tune you supplied is a G because it's centered on the G line. Its duration is an old-style breve. Modern ones look a bit different. There's a wiki article showing the different shapes. Jun 6, 2018 at 12:15

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