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What is the most efficient way of doing this?

I usually just read the key signature, recognizing the number of sharps or flats.

However, I'm looking at "Isn't it Romantic?" for alto and there are no sharps or flats in the key signature so one can assume it's in C Major, although; the chord changes don't seem inline with C Major.

Is there a better way to quickly determine what key a tune is in upon picking up random sheet music?

As always thanks in advance for your help.
 

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What are the chords?

Perhaps it's using modes on the sax part and keeping it in C by only playing the notes that fit in the chord from one of the modal scales.
 

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or in Am, the relative minor of C? I remember asking this question a couple of months ago and got quite a few good suggestions, including checking what chord/note the tune ends on, as many (though not all) songs are going to resolve to the I at the end so we can all go home satisfied.
 

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Assuming your version's in the usual key, it is in C Major for alto. The first few bars are the common I-vi-ii-V in C Major. The key center does move a couple of times, but is in C Major. You shouldn't rely on key signatures, though, because some composers/arrangers don't use them at all. Plus, if you see a key signature with one flat, depending on the composer (some use the key signature of the mode, some would just use A Minor key signature for A Dorian), it could be F Major (Ionian), D Minor (Aeolian), G Dorian, C Mixolydian, Bb Lydian, and so on. You just have to understand how chords function, and look at the melody.

--JT
 

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I seem to remember seeing some lead sheets, including Aebersols, that have no sharps or flats in the key signature yet the tune is not in C or A minor. The lead sheet uses accidentals to keep the notes right. I don't know why they do that, but they do. I'm glad they don't do it very often.

The last chord in the refrain is your best indication. Unless you are playing "Unforgettable" or "Why Did I Choose You?"
 

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A quick chord/melody check usually does it for me. I have gotten so used to playing off of lead sheets, that I don't even look at key signatures anymore.

Most of the time, I get the melody, and just get a feel for the progression, where is the I chord, and then try to get the progression in my head in roman numeral form. I really only started doing this because I played some gigs in college where they liked to play standards in different keys. As they say in the Boy Scouts, Be Prepared!
 

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The most enjoyable way for me is to run scales or bits of scales(usually just major and minor)over the chord changes (supposing I have a backing or can create one) until I find scales which fit the main key centres. I find this often gives a better "feel" for the piece than analysing the chord changes straight off the bat. If you work from simple to complex scales (ie start with C, G, F etc and go from there) it's quite surprising how quickly the ear will lead you to the key(s)
 

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Well, to start off with, the majority of tunes start on the chord of what key they are in. Some tunes don't. All The Things You Are starts on the vi chord. Autumn Leaves starts in Bb major but it's really G minor. Some tunes start with a ii-V-I.

But what virtually every (non modal) tune does have is a cadence to the tonic chord (either a V-I or V-i). You just have to listen to where it feels like the progression has resolved. It'll probably be near the beginning of the form and/or the very end (like last 2 bars).
 

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If you are playing the "standards", and it would appear so from your example of "Isn't it Romantic?" the last NOTE is a very good indicator of the key.
 
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