If I try to do a harmonic analysis of a song, and try to find which key a (part of a) song is, I fail a lot. I try to listen which chord feels like 'home', but that is not so clear to me...

Example: Tee Set - Ma Belle Amie, the verse. Chords:

D7 - G - G - Em - A - D

The two options that I can not choose between are G major and D major. In G major, this would be: V7 - I - I - vi - V/V - V In D major, this would be: I7 - IV - IV - ii - V - I

If I ignore what my ears tell me: it starts and ends with a D, which makes me think it is in D, but the bridge is clearly in G, and I don't feel a key change, so that makes me think it is in G. My ears feel at home on the second chord (G), but also on the last chord (D). I tried to analyze songs before by myself, and then look how other people analyzed these songs; sometimes I guess correctly, sometimes I guess wrong, but my guesses are not getting better.

My question is not what the key of this song is, but my question is which approach should I take to find the key of this song, when the common advice of 'listen which chord feels like home' does not work for me.


3 Answers 3


One thing that helps me for that is not only transcribing the chords, but also melodic lines, like the vocals. In this song, the vocals follow a G major scale over the whole verse, instead of a D major scale ("ma-belle-amie" is --> D D C B - no C#), so your annotated chord progression based on G might be simpler for this song.

If you were to improvise over this song, playing a D major scale would clash with the vocals or other instruments on the C#. So the tonic is more likely to be G major. Improvising using the G major scale would help you feel it more like "home"

  • 1
    I agree with you that I hear D7G (ddcb as sosofami) mi = 3rd of the tonic G, than it modulates immediately to to D. The second part is definitely in G (subdominant C, and the cadence IV V I). The middle part is in Bb. Mar 28, 2020 at 18:57
  • 1
    Also, not that it's unthinkable, but in a pop song you're a lot more likely to have a 7 on the dominant than the root. So the D7 would be less expected if this in D than if it's in C. Mar 29, 2020 at 4:01
  • @LukeSawczak totally agree, as well as in a secondary dominant V/V as in this case
    – hirschme
    Mar 29, 2020 at 5:09
  • Right. And I meant to write G, not C above 😅 Mar 29, 2020 at 13:34

Just working with somewhat limited information here, the thought occurs to me that this particular piece may be performed using the D-Mixolydian mode which uses the fifth degree of the G Major scale, (that would be D) as its starting and stopping point. The notes that comprise the D-Mixolydian mode are the same notes that comprise the G-Major scale. The difference being the starting and stopping notes, D-Mixolydian or G-Major. I suspect your ears are giving you valid information after all and that there is another area of study, namely Modes, that you've come across in your attempt to analyze this music. I hope this helps.


I can understand the problem you have with this song as it is really tricky! Even I’ve known it for many years I had to think a little about the tonic too.

It was never quite clear to me what was the verse and what is the refrain.

enter image description here Where we have no problem is the phrase: I’m in love with you. which is a perfect authentic cadence.

I’d say the song begins with the refrain (or is this the verse?) with an up beat of 3 notes ddc ma belle a ... (sosofa) in the dominant V7 I (D7 - G) a-mie

(on the 2nd syllable of a-mie we are at home!)

and ii-V/V (EmA D) this part is ending on a half cadence.

So G is the tonic.

“You are the answer” leads to the subdominant C and this part (verse? chorus?) ends on the home chord G.

To make it even more tricky we have a abrupt “modulation” to the mediant Bb: the bridge is in Bb (the mediant of Gm)

So I agree with your first option:

In G major, this would be: V7 - I - I - vi - V/V - V

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