• The Most Practical Way To Master All 12 Keys

    in Experienced players,Playing By Ear,Transposing Keys

    I’m often asked the best way to learn all 12 keys and while I’ve advocated many methods in the past, the most practical way is to adapt my “3 x 12” rule.

    Simply put: Take 3 songs you know and learn them in all 12 keys.

    It helps if they are songs that utilize a variety of different chords. That’s why picking 3 is important because between them, you should get a good mix of chords off every tone of the scale.

    And since most songs follow the same patterns, you’d be surprised how few chords you really need to know to play in all 12 keys. Taking 3 different styled songs and learning them in all 12 keys usually gives you plenty.

    The easiest way is to simply start at the original key of the song and move every note up a half step.

    So if a song is in Eb major, you’ll attack E major next by literally taking every note in every chord and moving it up a half step.

    Transposing a song to a new key is no more than moving every note up the appropriate amount of notes.

    If the next key is a half step up, every note of every chord simply moves a half step up.

    However, if you’re trying to move to a new key 4 half steps up, then you need to move every note of every chord 4 half steps up. As long as you move the same distance for every note in every chord, the end result will be the same song in a new key.


    Move these chords in F major to Gb major.

    Hint: Gb major is a half step higher than F major. That means every note is moved up a half step.

    F major 7: F + A + C + E

    D minor 7: D + F + A + C

    G minor 7: G + Bb + D + F

    C 7: C + E + G + Bb

    F major 7: F + A + C + E

    To move this to Gb major, just take every note up a half step, thus giving you the equivalent chords in Gb major:

    Gb major 7: Gb + Bb + Db + F

    Eb minor 7: Eb + Gb + Bb + Db

    Ab minor 7: Ab + Cb + Eb + Gb

    Db 7: Db + F + Ab + Cb

    Gb major 7: Gb + Bb + Db + F

    Is it hard work in the beginning? Sure it is.

    Does it get easier over time? Definitely.

    Because songs repeat the same chords and patterns over and over so as you start seeing the same chords and memorizing them in all 12 keys, you need not work out the transposition from scratch each time; rather, you’ll pull from your memory bank.

    So make this your next goal: 3 x 12

    3 songs in 12 keys.

    It seems simple but it’s quite a hard thing to do. If you can master this, you’ll get to pro status in no time.

    Until next time —

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 42 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Udemeabasi Isip

    Thanks for your information over the years. since I started with you it has been over 8years and I am still learning from your resources. Through you I have been introduced to Kevin Bond playing techniques which were a bit of mystery to us here in Nigeria as no formal books were written on it that was available here in Nigeria. Much Love and God continue to direct strengthen and increase your knowledge. I a Music Director and I have used your materials to train many people. thanks


    2 Humberto

    Hi, Jermaine, I think one advantage of learning a song in all 12 keys is that you may discover you like how it sounds better in a key different from the original in which you learned it. I don’t know if it is a matter of feel or personal taste or whether there is any theory behind it as to whether some types of songs seem to sound better in certain keys. I personally like the sounds of Eb and Bb but don’t ask me to explain why.
    Thanks again for the great tip



    3 chidi

    pls help me with finding song key and building my music ear


    4 Andre'

    This sound like a serious challenge but I am up for it amen


    5 Josh

    Very useful, Now playing the piano is made more easy with each article posted:-) Thanks a lot Jermaine!


    6 Jerry

    Regarding Playing in ALL 12 keys of the Circle of Fifths:
    1. Listen and imagine “eidetically” the song in all 12 Keys.
    “Eidetically” simply means “running through the mind” the
    auditory information or visual information. In addition
    be sure to “image” or imagine the kinesthetic differences
    of hand positions in various keys of the Circle of Fifths.
    The Guitar Tablature positions or Keyboard positions
    and fingering will be easier in some keys and difficult
    in other keys of the Circle of Fifths.

    2. If listening to a composition, “image” if it were actually
    in various keys of the Treble Clef, and Bass Clef. This
    may be practical only for a half or whole step from the
    sound’s actual pitch key. For further distances, such as
    visualizing the actual Key of French Horn notation, or
    of the Eflat instruments, or Bflat instruments, it may
    be necessary to learn the Alto Clef or Tenor Clef images
    like a Music Conductor who knows the exact Instrument
    note as distinct from its “Concert Key” note. (Same Note!)

    3. Let the new key notes “pop” into your mind. Run the song
    “eidetically” or “through the mind” in one key. Then start
    the song in another key. ALL the new Chord Progressions
    “pop” into place, EXCEPT when there is difficulty of chord


    7 johan miliv

    Thanks Jermaine, your generosity with your hard earned knowledge is commendable and unusual. I practice tenor saxophone and much of your information is very useful to me. The value of being able to play by ear was strongly stressed by the great saxophonist Boots Randolph in his book ” Rock and Roll Saxophone “. Your down to earth approach makes thi ngs much easier . Thanks again .
    Best Regards,
    Yohan Miliv


    8 sabbath

    thank for your consistent lessons. they are really making impact for me.
    May God bless. Hope to hear more from you


    9 Snippetsam

    I appriciate this,thank u professor for keyboad jesus bless u.


    10 Noel

    I think this is a practical way to learn the piano and its fun and motivating. Thank you. You have been of help. Bless u.


    11 moses

    God will bless u Mr Griggs. I am the happiest using this site. JUST 4


    12 david jacson

    I love this article keep it up


    13 frank

    Thanks Mr.Griggs.Your program is very informative and i have learned a lot.


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    Hi, i believe that i noticed you visited my site so i came to “go back the prefer”.I am trying to in finding things to improve my site!I guess its ok to use some of your ideas!!


    17 twaea

    thanks so much for this, I could find the answer only if you never give up on me.

    God bless you


    18 Tosha lazarus Clifford

    Thanks to you will go ahead and finally dip in! Been putting this off but now that it’s narrowed down i am up for the challenge!


    19 cleopas

    i rejoice to ryt this one to u but ihave been in this industry 4 one year and im glady coz i hav made it THANK U VERY MUCH U WILL NOT LACK BUY DOING SO MAY HIS GRACE B UPON U AND YOUR FAMILY


    20 Rhoda

    Thanks Grigg, this is very helpful


    21 Angelo Millan

    Hello Mr. Griggs!!!

    If I remember correctly, you had a downloadable program that would teach me to play any song in all 12 keys. I’d like to review this again if it still exists in you’re arsenal Sir. Please send me a link if possible. I feel like I’m drowning in the want – to play different chords, but memmory…well im not great at memorizing . Im better off at hands on, as long as I can clearly understand what hands on work im doing. Maybe now that im older im a slow learner, but … I still love producing my own songs in my home studio!!!
    Sincerely, Angelo Millan angelo2488@hotmail.com


    22 jan

    hello Mr. Griggs,

    bo don ta hopi grandi, that means, your gift from GOD is very big.
    keep on with your work ,




    23 Will

    How would you advise me to a person who is legally blind in my right eye ? I got the hanon DVD 1 and I am on exercise two . I have made time to practice now that school work is not a factor anymore . Please let me know what you think the best practice route would be for me


    24 Emmanuel

    Thanks man you are blessing to me….this is a great clue for moving forwar
    d. Thanks man


    25 Jon


    Thanks for the awesome tips each day/week as they are very useful. Even to a beginner like me, knowing about 12 keys and how and why to play them has added depth to my playing.

    QUESTION (for anyone): In the Alfred song book, they have a G7 chord being “B+F+G”, but I can find no reference in any of your books and other writings to any such chord. Even in the post above, your “7” chords all have 4 notes. Am I missing something? The chord “sounds” right for the song but I can’t correlate it to anything else.

    God bless you & your family,


    26 alagba_seyi

    A G7 chord consists of notes which are G-B-D-F, but in that chord the 5th note of the chord which is D has been left out which is not wrong as it is the 3rd and 7th that majorly determines the chord family. I hope you find this helpful.


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    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but
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    I’ll try to get the hang of it!


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    I’ve always been blessed by your materials. may God keep you..
    my only problem is that, I’m yet to receive the CD in the address I send to you. thank you


    31 Neneth Hammond

    Thank you for giving us more tips in learning the 12 keys. I will try to learn the 12 keys this way. The tips that you’ve been giving help me a lot. Thank you. Jermaine!


    32 Neneth Hammond

    Thank you this will help me a lot in learning the 12 keys.


    33 Bonnie Steinmetz

    Thanks Jermaine/ Once again a great tip for us!


    34 joshua

    Pls, can some one explain the meaning of all these “MAJOR 7 ??


    35 Jermaine Griggs

    Joshua, please search “major 7” in the upper right corner of this blog and many posts will show up about them.

    Also, our free “Complete Guide to Chords” covers them extensively:


    36 ovie

    Thanks sir jermaine Griggs.. Your materials and information have been very useful to. I Really do appreciate.. But if I made add something, when mastering all 12 keys following the 3*12 principle. It is advisable that you do not memorize the position of the chords used or the position of how your hand moved while running a scale used in the song. It is better you memorize the chord itself and the notes (I mean doh reh mi fah soh lah ti doh) of the scale instead of memorizing their positions… Reason? Because when you ‘know’ the chords and notes used, by head not by position, it becomes a matter of just playing the progression (may be 1 4 2 5 6) and this will come with ease since you know what you are doing(.. You know the chords by heart) but when you memorize the position, the problem is that even when you have moved to another key(let’s say Bb) , your hands might get scratchy to return back or play one of the chords in the original key or even the chord of the original key itself (let’s say F”-which is now the fifth tone of Bb) – why? Cos you memorize the position of chords instead of the chords itself.. This tendency of mixing chords of original key and ‘transposed’ key is very high when it comes to very fast songs with chords flying all around.. So I advice that you know the chords used rather than the positions on the keyboard
    Another problem that has to do with memorizing positions is that you get to play the song very well on the original key-if you started with the original key while other keys get little of the fun you enjoyed while you were playing on the original key. In other words, your hands dance around with perfection while playing on the original key but begin to buggle around ‘shakily’ when you move to other keys.. The end story is that exactness and speed might not be there when you play the same song on other keys…. WHY? Simply because you memorize the positions instead of what’s actually going on
    Yes, that’s it.. I hope I have been of help cos that’s what I find joy doing



    Thanks a lot, for your help. May God increase you the more. AMEN.


    38 valentine

    Okies, time to get serious with my piano career am gonna try this and drop a feed back


    39 Bestman

    Am so happy for your lectures, you have really improve my playing


    40 Emmanuel Nkwap

    Thank you Griggs. God bless you


    41 dr driving

    Thank you for sharing about The Most Practical Way To Master All 12 Keys


    42 Mpix

    Thus a deep revelation right there. Good people which gospel piece have a variety of chord on them please? I will take suggestions I just need those three.
    I am looking for the challenge. Not fast passed but reasonable speed so I can learn and absorb.
    If you are game please get in touch


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