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Wouldn’t it be easy if EVERY song was in the key of C major?

We wouldn’t have to worry about those pesky sharps and flats. Life would be simple!

But life isn’t simple, and there are 12 key signatures we could play in (and that’s just the major keys!)

Why We Need To Change Key

One of the biggest reasons why we might need to change keys (or transposing, as it’s called) is because of the singer.

Not everybody has the same vocal range, and some people just cannot sing in certain keys. I used to play in a band, and whenever the singer wanted the song changed, it would take me forever to sit down and figure out how to transpose every chord into the new key.

It doesn’t have to be that hard! In fact, there’s a really easy way to do it — and it’s super fast.

A lot of people comment on our videos asking why I refer to some chords as the 1, 4, 5, etc.  Well, you’re about to see why!

Thinking In Numbers

By assigning numbers to each chord in relation to the root note, it becomes super simple to move between keys. 

Here’s an example. I have a song in the key of F# Major (yuck!). The chords are F#-D#m-C#-B. Now, I need to transpose that into the key of C (because C is awesome). By assigning numbers to the chords I can make the process incredibly simple and fast.

Here’s how. F# is the root so it is the 1 chord. D#m is six notes up from F#, so it is the 6 chord. C# is the 5th, so it’s the 5 chord, and B is the 4 chord.

So instead of thinking of the original progression as F#-D#m-C#-B I can think of it as 1-6-5-4.

The key of C is 6 half-steps below the key of F#. But that doesn’t matter, because I don’t have to count intervals now. All I need to do is play that 1-6-5-4 progression in the key of C. So it becomes C-Am-G-F. Easy!

I could choose another key. How about F Major – it’s now F-Dm-C-Bb. Super simple!

I would really encourage you to try this out for yourself. It’s a great way to move out of your comfort zone and learn some new keys.

Have fun!

Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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