After learning to play a few progressions and songs in key F, I got stuck there. I tried several times to learn the other keys but it was just a waste of time to me. I managed to get the basics of the other keys but I would never play them whenever I had to play a song in those keys. The transpose function on the keyboard, was my friend.
I once came across a tutorial that thought me something great. Something that helped me discover my own easy way of learning all twelve keys. The fact that I say easy does not mean you’ll master it in an hour or two. You’ll get the flow, but to master them, you need to practice this for sometime.
What you need to know
You need to understand intervals. We won’t go too deep into this; just to the point you need.
Interval is simply the distance (steps) between two keys. The interval between two adjacent keys is called a semi-tone. Two semi-tones make a tone. (In effect, a tone is two half steps e.g. from F to G)
Major, Minor, Diminished — that’s enough
Now let’s talk about major, minor and diminished chords. I’m pretty sure you play them all the time but let’s look at them from the “interval” angle.
Major chords (such as C major) has four half-steps between the first note and the second note. Then three half-steps between that, and the third note. Let’s take C Major for instance. The interval between the first note (C) and the second (E) is 4 half-steps (semi-tones). The interval between (E) and (G) is 3 half-steps. So anytime you play a chord with such intervals, you’re playing a major chord.
Minor chords are the inverse of major chords. They have 3 half-steps in between the first and second notes, and 4 half steps in between the second and third. Let’s take a look at C minor.
These chords have three half steps in their first part and three half steps in their second part.
Now the trick
Now let’s say we’re playing key C. Our 1-chord will be C Major. Our 2-chord will be D minor, 3-chord will be E minor, our 4-chord will be F Major, 5, G Major, 6, A minor and 7 B dim. Follow the rules below to make learning all keys easier for you.
- All 1, 4 and 5-chords are Major chords of their first note. That is, 1-chord for C has it’s first note being C, and the chord is C Major. 4-chord has it’s first note being F and the chord is F Major and 5-chord starts with G and the chord is G Major.
- All 2, 3 and 6-chords are Minor chords of their first note. Same idea.
- All 7-chords are diminished chords of their first note.
With these three rules, once you know the sofas for a key, you can easily pick out the chords without having to form it note by note.
How to practice
You have to practice, yes, but how? Practice for each key, start from C Major, move to F, then to Bb (B-flat), then to Eb (E-flat). We’re moving in the circle of fourth instead of chromatic because the difference between a key and it’s 4th is just a semi-tone. That is, key C is only different from key F because B is replaced with Bb in key F. Due to how similar they are, it’s easy to master F once you’ve learnt C. Then, it’s easy to learn Bb once you’ve learnt F. Practice that way till you’ve exhausted all the keys. By the time you finish learning the first key, which is C, you would’ve known C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, A minor, B dim. You can easily identify them when they appear in other keys.
When you move to F, you’ll quickly realize that you already know the 1-chord, 3-chord, 5-chord, 6-chord, and the rest, you only need to change a few notes by a semi-tone. And that’s how to learn to play all keys.
This is for those who do not know how to get the sofas of a key. If you don’t know how to find do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-doh for any given key, then listen up. This should be quick.
Two semi-tones make a tone, remember? The interval between do and re is a tone, between re and mi is a tone, between mi and fa is a semi tone, fa and so is a tone, so and la is a tone, la and ti is a tone and finally ti and the next doh, is a semi tone. Do this for every key and you’ll get the sofas, then you can go ahead and practice the chords.