I'm creating a list with the keys of the songs we play in the band, and I found a song, where I'm not sure what it is. Note that this is just an example.

In general, I'm finding for a way how to get the key of a song.


The song is Amsterdam from Nothing But Thieves and the chords can be found here.

Just to be complete, here are the chords (without repetitions):

Verse: Bb Dm Gm Dm

Chorus: Eb Gm Bb Cm

Is the key one of the major chords of the chords above and can be kind of randomly selected by the creator of the song, or is there some rule or guideline to know the key?

  • 1
    Look up the concept of "diatonic chords". Sep 14, 2019 at 11:51
  • Vtc as it doesn't fulfil the criteria in the help centre. If you asked how keys are decided upon, it may be allowed to stay.
    – Tim
    Sep 14, 2019 at 13:09
  • @Tim I changed the question (but kept the example); hope this is according to what you expected. Sep 14, 2019 at 13:11
  • @Your Uncle Bob Looking for a key that contains all the chords as diatonic sometimes helps. It might have helped in this case. But it wouldn't work for e.g. a simple Blues.
    – Laurence
    Sep 14, 2019 at 14:38
  • @LaurencePayne Listening to the track to hear which chord is being pounded into out heads doesn't always work either. Sep 14, 2019 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


Your bare list of chords doesn't reveal how long each chord lasts, and how much emphasis it gets.

Listening to the track, we hear B♭ pounded into our heads for much of the first section. The chorus centres more on Gm. These are two very connected keys, relative major and minor. So connected as to be almost the same key. In notation, they have the same key signature.

For the practical purposes of your set list, I think it's pretty safe to call the song as being in B♭.

Today's pop and rock songs often get WAY further away from an established key than this. At least all the chords in 'Amsterdam' are diatonic to B♭ major/G minor. Very often a song will use non-diatonic chords. A song in C major may well include B♭ chords, and still be firmly 'In C major'. Even a simple Blues contains two non-diatonic chords!

We aren't in the functional 'circle of 5ths' realm here.

  • 'So connected as to be the same key sig.'
    – Tim
    Sep 14, 2019 at 13:06
  • No, I stand by 2the same key".
    – Laurence
    Mar 8, 2020 at 21:15

It is my understanding that the key of a song is determined by the note or chord that serves as the main, probably final resolution. However I should point out that a song may have sections that modulate to another key, sometimes to the relative minor (same key signature) and other times to another less strongly related key - perhaps for long enough to make a new key signature appropriate. To complicate matters there is pretty common use of non-diatonic notes and chords that don't actually change the key of the song because the don't alter the tonal center of it.


The key of the song can be chosen by the singer of the song. Frank Sinatra needed to sing the melody in the best part of his range so he would often tell the arrangers of the song to transpose the song away from where the song-writer left off to the key that best fit his voice pitch. From the chords you provided I would have assumed that E flat major was the key with I = E flat and V = B flat. If the key was B flat then I =B flat and IV= E flat , but where is V = F major ? ( missing in action )


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