At each point in your ever-developing career, it’s essential to always put forth your best presentation. This includes knowing how to choose a song key that enables you to sound your best and feel comfortable. In general, it’s important to base your choices on your current ability rather than what you hope to be able to achieve in the future.
Since the first melody note of a song is not likely to be the highest or lowest, make sure that the starting note you choose permits you to sing the entire song comfortably by analyzing the song for its lowest and highest notes.
Exercise: Finding the Best Key
- Select a song you’re familiar with but haven’t yet performed.
- Sing through the song and find the highest note; write down where it occurs in the lyrics.
- As you sing through the song, find the lowest note as well and mark that down.
- If the highest and lowest notes are comfortable, this is a good key. If the highest or lowest notes are either too high or too low, you’ll need to adjust the key as follows:
If the highest note in the song is too high … adjust your starting note to a lower pitch. You can do this incrementally, moving down a half or whole step at a time until the song sits comfortably in your range.
If the lowest note in the song is too low … adjust your starting note to a higher pitch.
When you adjust the start pitch of the melody this changes the key of the song. If you lower or raise the key and you are still having problems, it’s possible that the song demands more range than you have at this time.
You can find out the name of the key and the starting tone from a trained musician if you don’t have a background in music theory, and then write it down. Or, you can use a pitch pipe to help you figure out your starting note. This information will enable the instrumentalists in the band to play the appropriate chord or pitch that will cue your starting note.
on August 26, 2014 at 12:20 PM said:I often use backing tracks and sometimes need to change the key up or down 4 half steps. I am always concerned that when I change a key, I will end up in a strange, not common key. Should that be a concern? Thanks!
on August 26, 2014 at 1:12 PM said:Dear Linda, When working with backing tracks there is no concern about keys unless the track sounds strange from the pitch shifting. With live musicians it could be a bit of an issue but they should be able to find a key that works for both you and them.