How To Find the Right Key To Sing In While Playing Piano
April 5th, 2018 - 14 Comments
Have you ever seen or heard a singer walk up to a piano accompanist and tell them what key they want to sing a tune in, then wondered how in the heck all that works, or how to figure out “YOUR” key for a tune?
That question about vocal ranges and the connection to different keys is a complex one to describe in words, yet not very difficult to understand once it kind of sinks in. I’ll give it a quick try here in this blog video (click the image above to watch)!
So the question is “How do I know, or figure out, what key is best for me to sing a tune in?”
Different songs all have different melody lines that have different ranges between their highest and lowest notes.
For that reason, a particular song will be best played for your particular range in some particular key. i.e. You need to shift the melody line into your range as best you can and then determine what key is needed to fit the melody line there.
So you can kind of sum it up as saying your range doesn’t identify one key that is best for you for every tune, but rather, you should sing tunes in whatever particular key for that tune which will gets that tune’s melody into your range. Does that make sense? For example, I might need to sing the song Misty in the key of F, but I might need to sing the song Jingle Bells in the key of D because those two tune’s melodies are not exactly the same.
So good singers tend to learn what key a particular tune they are wanting to sing is best for them. But it’s not a situation where one key is best for every song, because every song has a different melody line that has a different range.
So that then leads head first into the topic of transposing, which lets you easily (once you get it figured out) “slide” a tune up or down a few notes to get the melody comfortably in your range. Transposing is beyond the realm of what I want to get into in this post – but the main concept is just taking the chord changes to a tune and moving them all up or down the same interval (or number of half-steps) throughout the entire tune.
In the real world, if I am looking at a new tune to learn I’ll sing along with it from a Lead Sheet at the beginning and see if I can sing it in that key without it getting way too high or low for me. If it is uncomfortably high, I’ll just transpose it down a couple of notes until it gets that high part I am having trouble with down into my range. I then will just adjust every chord symbol up or down the same interval and “learn” the tune in that key instead, and will play it there enough times until I get the chord changes memorized. Then – no more Lead Sheet and I have another tune in my basket I can play in a key that works for my vocal range 🙂
So to summarize and wrap this up – just remember: No one has one key that is “their key” to sing in all the time. Rather, you’ll have a favorite key to sing some particular tune in, and that key may be different for different tunes based on the range of that tune’s melody line.
Hopefully that helps clear something that is OFTEN misunderstood.
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