I think we're agreed that definition questions like "What key is this song in?", "What instrument is this?", etc. are not good questions and will be closed shortly after they are posed. However, many new new/prospective users come to this site with exactly these questions.

It seems that this type of identification question is more commonly posed to/among musicians than to practitioners of other fields, so it is reasonable to expect that people will continue to ask these questions, no matter how many times we refer individuals to the tour page/chat and close such questions.

It would save everyone time and probably encourage new users to ask better questions if we notified them BEFORE posting their question that it wasn't a good fit. It would help curious visitors to have a better first experience with the site than getting their first question closed, and it would save us closing questions - a win-win.

Some ways we could implement this:

  1. A note in the "how to ask" box
  2. A popup message like "Title must be at least 15 characters"

The popup seems likely to draw somewhat more attention, and should be pretty easy to implement. When you type the title, it already sends the title to the server for similar questions. Questions could be filtered for the "What...in" or "What...this" syntax and a warning returned. Alternatively, javascript can filter out such things right in the browser.

  • 5
    I'm also a mod on Android and we get an absolutely absurd amount of (bad) development questions. SE has roundly rejected any sort of popup/warning, and one reason is that it won't help much -- most people who aren't reading the guidelines already will just click through it or not read or not care.
    – user28
    Aug 7, 2015 at 23:16
  • Ok. I don't want to rehash something that has already been covered, but in this case many of these questions take a very particular form and would be easy to filter. See this fiddle: jsfiddle.net/sdeof2ym/6
    – Josiah
    Aug 7, 2015 at 23:23

3 Answers 3


The point is that filtering questions based on any "qualified guess" like the JSfiddle you linked simply does not help at all. You can add a warning if you wish, but forbidding such questions leads to only worse and more confusing situation, people choosing "bad titles" which pass the test etc.

Moreover, in most cases, you do not want to scare and disencourage the people from participating here, you just want them to ask good questions. And no matter what people want, the only way how to do this is to treat the people behind the questions as people, explaining them nicely what is wrong with their question etc.

One thing that may help is to have building blocks for comments on this type of questions -- this makes it easier to comment on them, explaining what's wrong with the question. For inspiration, we have got building blocks on TeX.SE and we are really happy with them: https://tex.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/430/text-building-blocks

  • Comment blocks are a good idea. I have stock comments but it might be good to have standard, friendly statements.
    – Josiah
    Aug 8, 2015 at 19:44
  • Sad but true. (Yes, blatant Metallica reference right in the middle of the music meta. I make no apologies.) Aug 13, 2015 at 18:06

Out of curiosity, do we have a generic question we could refer such questions to about how to determine what key a song is in (which I think would be on topic)?

That said, I realize most people who ask the question just want a quick answer, and may not be willing to put in the work to determine the answer on their own -- assuming they even have the requisite background in basic music theory and ear training, which many may not.


I do believe that even if it does pose a minor nuisance if you can get a new user to ask a question even if it is off topic and you can get them to read the rules and come back and ask good questions then it makes it all worth it.

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