Getting in the Right Key

Think you can't sing? Think again. Can you hum or sing the pitches as you tune your guitar? Can you sing along with your car radio? You can? Great! Now we know you can sing. It's good to get that out of the way. Come on in and wail away.
Post Reply
BADEAR1
newbie
Posts: 18
Joined: October 31st, 2012, 11:31 am

Getting in the Right Key

Post by BADEAR1 » June 1st, 2013, 4:23 pm

Hi All
I can sing in tune and seem to be able to sing in a number of keys as well. Which is my best key I'm not quite sure yet but i do have a problem. Though I sing in tune I seem unable to 'hit' my chosen key when asked to sing. I'm either either above or below the choosen key by a semitone, perhaps even 3 semitones either side of the chosen key and I dont know why I'm doing this. I'm booked for a little charity concert in a fortnight and feel rather nervous for I'll look a right fool if I start too high or to low. I need a solution pretty quickly and hope there's someone 'out there' who can help. Thanks for reading my post.
Joe

User avatar
NoteBoat
Musically Insane
Posts: 5674
Joined: August 9th, 2003, 8:48 pm
Location: SW of Chicago
Contact:

Re: Getting in the Right Key

Post by NoteBoat » June 1st, 2013, 5:08 pm

Singers don't' "have a key". Singers have a RANGE.

Let's say a song is in the key of C, and the lowest note is C, and the highest note is D. That's a range of a major ninth. If you don't have a range of a major ninth, there is NO key in which you can sing the song.

But let's say you can sing a range of about a tenth - from the A below C to the C an octave above. You can't do the song in the original key - it's too high for you. But you have the range to sing the song, as long as the highest note isn't above C, or the lowest one below A. You could sing the same tune in the key of A (from A to B), or Bb (from Bb to C). One of those keys might be better for you... or the other might; But you could do it in either key.

When a singer says "my key is A" they either mean 1) I know that tune, and the range, and this really is the best key for me, or 2) I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I hear other singers say stuff like this, so I want to sound like a pro.

Figure out your range, compare it to the song, and choose a key you can do. In the best circumstance, that will be a key that doesn't test your limits at either end.
Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

User avatar
Hobson
Senior Member
Posts: 794
Joined: May 15th, 2009, 10:46 am
Location: Near Tombstone, Arizona, USA

Re: Getting in the Right Key

Post by Hobson » June 2nd, 2013, 5:32 am

+1 on that explanation and one thing to add.

Joe, you seem to be seeing that when asked to sing with no accompaniment you don't always pick the right starting note. No surprise. Very few people have perfect pitch. That means that very few people can pick the right note out of thin air. Maybe if you've done the song enough times or done some practicing to find, say, middle C and work from there, you can do it. Otherwise, don't worry about it. If you start to sing and discover that you've started too high, just admit it and start over.

Or for official public performances, get yourself a pitch pipe or something else to give you the pitch.
Renee

User avatar
Nick
Administrator
Posts: 9694
Joined: June 17th, 2002, 11:04 am
Location: Alexandria, VA USA
Contact:

Re: Getting in the Right Key

Post by Nick » June 2nd, 2013, 7:28 am

I was in the studio with David Hodge a year or two ago, singing the vocals for Complete Idiot's Guide to Something or Other. There was no intro to the track, just the count off. As a lark I just started singing the song. Lo and behold I nailed the starting note and sang the track. That was weird.

But yes as explained above, I don't magically pick the key, I just listen to the notes being played and join in. Sometimes you'll need to pick the note out from something played or sung prior to your entrance. It may help you to sing the song to yourself along with whatever is playing before you come in.
Click below for all my guitarnoise articles and reviews

http://www.guitarnoise.com/author/nicktorres/

My songs (Some not suitable for minors)

http://www.soundclick.com/nfshakespeare

BADEAR1
newbie
Posts: 18
Joined: October 31st, 2012, 11:31 am

Re: Getting in the Right Key

Post by BADEAR1 » June 11th, 2013, 11:18 am

BADEAR1 wrote:Hi All
I can sing in tune and seem to be able to sing in a number of keys as well. Which is my best key I'm not quite sure yet but i do have a problem. Though I sing in tune I seem unable to 'hit' my chosen key when asked to sing. I'm either either above or below the choosen key by a semitone, perhaps even 3 semitones either side of the chosen key and I dont know why I'm doing this. I'm booked for a little charity concert in a fortnight and feel rather nervous for I'll look a right fool if I start too high or to low. I need a solution pretty quickly and hope there's someone 'out there' who can help. Thanks for reading my post.
Joe

I know what you're getting at. Yes! like most people who can sing even moderately there are limits to ones 'range'. Of course I'm aware of that. There are keys/tunes or whatever you want to call them which I can sing comfortably; tunes which if sung in a different 'key' become flat or strident, depending whether I'm at the low/high end of the musical scale. And because I can sing in several 'keys'? (well I thin I can) that kind of exacerbates my problem; I just cant seem to hit the tune's chosen key at the drop of a hat, I'm either too high/too low. In other words I need a reference point from somewhere

BADEAR1
newbie
Posts: 18
Joined: October 31st, 2012, 11:31 am

Re: Getting in the Right Key

Post by BADEAR1 » June 11th, 2013, 11:28 am

Nick wrote:I was in the studio with David Hodge a year or two ago, singing the vocals for Complete Idiot's Guide to Something or Other. There was no intro to the track, just the count off. As a lark I just started singing the song. Lo and behold I nailed the starting note and sang the track. That was weird.

But yes as explained above, I don't magically pick the key, I just listen to the notes being played and join in. Sometimes you'll need to pick the note out from something played or sung prior to your entrance. It may help you to sing the song to yourself along with whatever is playing before you come in.

Thank you Renee that's a great relief to know it's a problem with lots of singers. It would seem I was worrying unnecessarily? Yes, I've noticed that if I do a few 'intro' strums on the guitar - before I start singing - all becomes well and I carry the song to a successful conclusion. So that's my tack for the little charity 'do'. Just hope it'll 'be alright on the night. Thanks for your input!

Post Reply