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  • Changing Keys

    This is pretty much for our solo/duo people...

    What do you think of changing the keys of songs to suit your vocal range? Most pro musicians including those that arrange for Americon Idol, The Voice, awards shows and the like will ALWAYS find the best key for the vocalist and run with it. 

    I change them all the time but I'm still up in the air about it. I've dropped "Into the Mystic"  by an entire step, "Home" by an entire step and many others. I've also gone the other way...I do "Folsom" in G, I do Country Roads in "A", I do "Slide in E....

    Thoughts?

     

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  • #2
    I do it all the time. I think it's just fine. There's the occasional time it doesn't work because the chord progression sounds odd if not played in the correct position.

    Comment


    • #3
      You are fine. Better to sound good in a different key than to sound bad trying to fit into the original. Singalongs are best in their original key. Same with "Lick My Love Pump."
      <div class="signaturecontainer">Free prog-related metal from Michigan.<br />
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      Comment


      • steve mac
        steve mac commented
        Editing a comment
        Do it all the time G is my go to key, but I try them in their original first. Mainly for my limited v ox but sometimes I change to get a fuller or easier bass or run within the chords.
        Cheers Steve

    • #4

      I do it all the time.  Rarely does a key change so impact a song that I have to stick with the original key.

      Don Boomer

      Comment


      • #5

        I do whenever it works. Some songs really need that open low string for example. But I change keys by a 5th quite often. My belief is the older the song, the more likely people won't notice. 

        Also, why not just make the song your own by changing the melody a little to avoid those notes out of range? I don't care to try to sound like the original artist anymore. Let's get loose! Where's that capo?

        Winner of best guitarist in the house. (my house)!

        Comment


        • Potts
          Potts commented
          Editing a comment

          Bob Dey wrote:

          I do whenever it works. Some songs really need that open low string for example. But I change keys by a 5th quite often. My belief is the older the song, the more likely people won't notice. 

          Also, why not just make the song your own by changing the melody a little to avoid those notes out of range? I don't care to try to sound like the original artist anymore. Let's get loose! Where's that capo?



          Good point! Oh the capo is sooo my friend Bob! You're right though- I normally end up making these tunes mine anyway so there's no need to struggle with perfect arrangments.

           

          Thanks for the comments you guys!


      • #6

        I do so occasionally as long as the chord voicing that are important don't get lost. I also always use 1/2 step down as my standard tuning (when I don't use an open tuning)

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        • #7

          The vocal is the focal point of the song so the key should suit the singer. I can't understand why I didn't change keys when I was younger..Maybe it was pride? There are very few songs that it would really matter or be THAT noticeable if they key was changed a bit. Luckily it was only the very high stuff like Journey etc that I couldn't do but I can now because I'll just change the key I'm still amazed why we didn't change keys to all the really high stuff years ago when almost noone could hit the notes....It's like no one even tought to do it..Just don't do REALLY popular tunes because ya know, they were too high!! LOLOLOLOL!! Idiocy...

          Comment


          • tlbonehead
            tlbonehead commented
            Editing a comment

            sventvkg wrote:

            The vocal is the focal point of the song so the key should suit the singer. I can't understand why I didn't change keys when I was younger..Maybe it was pride? There are very few songs that it would really matter or be THAT noticeable if they key was changed a bit. Luckily it was only the very high stuff like Journey etc that I couldn't do but I can now because I'll just change the key I'm still amazed why we didn't change keys to all the really high stuff years ago when almost noone could hit the notes....It's like no one even tought to do it..Just don't do REALLY popular tunes because ya know, they were too high!! LOLOLOLOL!! Idiocy...


            sometimes the signature guitar riff is THE SONG. If you take that away its really not the same song anymore. I know a local band that does HURTS SO GOOD in E. It takes the whole "being" of the song away.


        • #8
          I try to play in the original key when possible.

          I actually had an argument with a buddy about being in key. He said I'm a hack because of the way I tune and play.

          Basically what I do is tune my guitar down a full step and use the capo all over. I do this because I like to sing as close to the key as possible. And i like to have a wide range in my songs. I either remember where to capo, or I edit my tab to have it tell me what key sounds better for me.

          Because I do that instead of transpose the song in different cords and play in standard tuning all the time he claims that I suck, and don't know how to play guitar at all. Whatever. Music isn't an exact science, it's freedom to me, so I do what I feel is right.

          Comment


          • Notes_Norton
            Notes_Norton commented
            Editing a comment

            Depends on the song. 

            Most songs sound just fine in a different key, but some songs just don't. I haven't figured out why.

            We've dropped a couple because they just sounded bad in a transposed key, but those are few and far in between.

            We prefer to do songs in the orignal key, but that isn't always practical, so we change the key to suit our vocal range if we need to.

            Insights and incites by Notes


        • #9

          Potts wrote:

          This is pretty much for our solo/duo people...

          What do you think of changing the keys of songs to suit your vocal range? Most pro musicians including those that arrange for Americon Idol, The Voice, awards shows and the like will ALWAYS find the best key for the vocalist and run with it. 

          I change them all the time but I'm still up in the air about it. I've dropped "Into the Mystic"  by an entire step, "Home" by an entire step and many others. I've also gone the other way...I do "Folsom" in G, I do Country Roads in "A", I do "Slide in E....

          Thoughts?

           


          I've always done so, as needed...sometimes the original key is fine, sometimes it's not.

          Other musicians can be pretty anal about it, but in nearly 40 years onstage, I've never found anyone in the audience who noticed. Or cared enough to mention it.

          Comment


          • Potts
            Potts commented
            Editing a comment
            My bud who does 150+ gigs a year sets his guitar up and tunes down an entire step. He said he learned it from the Florida Keys guys that literally do 6 or 7 hour gigs.

          • Potts
            Potts commented
            Editing a comment
            I often think that national touring musicians have it so much easier than guys like me. Of course it's because many have paid their dues. But there isn't any national act that's singing 3 hours straight 10 days in a row for long stretches at a time. I WISH I could go out and do 90 minutes.

        • #10

          I do many songs in the original keys but I will do others in keys that suit my range. Usually down but sometimes up. I do Antonio's song a half step up in Bbm. I also do it faster than Michael Franks. Whatever works. BTW here's his version for the lounge lizards out there http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mo6heu6I8s  And for some reason this song was huge in Korea, so if you ever get middle aged Korean patrons, try it out - but I digress!

          I have also discoverd that when I'm doing lounges it's better to put some songs in a lower key even if I can sing them in the original. So even though I can do stuff like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff songs in the original keys, they just sound wrong when I'm belting out "G's" and "A's" (or higher). With a band that's fine, but in a lounge where someone is paying ten bucks for a beer, that's not so fine.

          So Three Little Birds in is G not A, Stir It Up is in G not A, Many Rivers to cross is in Bb not F, and so on.

          I've probably lowered twenty tunes or more just so they aren't so abrasive - even though I am able to sing them in the original key. I actually got the idea from a friend of mine who has to sing everything a fourth or fifth down. I noticed how smooth the songs sounded and how "pleasant" the vocal was. And you can actually belt them out a bit more because of the lower range - YMMV.

          Now does Many Rivers sound good in F? Yes of course it does.. But singing an A full force (over and over) is a great way to upset the apple cart. But as I said, in a band situation or a pub or tavern it sounds great.

          Comment


          • Potts
            Potts commented
            Editing a comment

            Shaster wrote:

            I  

            I have also discoverd that when I'm doing lounges it's better to put some songs in a lower key even if I can sing them in the original. So even though I can do stuff like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff songs in the original keys, they just sound wrong when I'm belting out "G's" and "A's" (or higher). With a band that's fine, but in a lounge where someone is paying ten bucks for a beer, that's not so fine.

            So Three Little Birds in is G not A, Stir It Up is in G not A, Many Rivers to cross is in Bb not F, and so on.

            I've probably lowered twenty tunes or more just so they aren't so abrasive - even though I am able to sing them in the original key. I actually got the idea from a friend of mine who has to sing everything a fourth or fifth down. I noticed how smooth the songs sounded and how "pleasant" the vocal was. And you can actually belt them out a bit more because of the lower range - YMMV.

             


             

            There's a lot of valuable information in this post. Most people wouldn't figure this out on their own- good job Shaster!

             

             


          • tlbonehead
            tlbonehead commented
            Editing a comment

            Shaster wrote:

            I do many songs in the original keys but I will do others in keys that suit my range. Usually down but sometimes up. I do Antonio's song a half step up in Bbm. I also do it faster than Michael Franks. Whatever works. BTW here's his version for the lounge lizards out there http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mo6heu6I8s  And for some reason this song was huge in Korea, so if you ever get middle aged Korean patrons, try it out - but I digress!

            I have also discoverd that when I'm doing lounges it's better to put some songs in a lower key even if I can sing them in the original. So even though I can do stuff like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff songs in the original keys, they just sound wrong when I'm belting out "G's" and "A's" (or higher). With a band that's fine, but in a lounge where someone is paying ten bucks for a beer, that's not so fine.

            So Three Little Birds in is G not A, Stir It Up is in G not A, Many Rivers to cross is in Bb not F, and so on.

            I've probably lowered twenty tunes or more just so they aren't so abrasive - even though I am able to sing them in the original key. I actually got the idea from a friend of mine who has to sing everything a fourth or fifth down. I noticed how smooth the songs sounded and how "pleasant" the vocal was. And you can actually belt them out a bit more because of the lower range - YMMV.

            Now does Many Rivers sound good in F? Yes of course it does.. But singing an A full force (over and over) is a great way to upset the apple cart. But as I said, in a band situation or a pub or tavern it sounds great.


            Speaking mostly in the "loud rock and roll" arena, this is the main reason I don't like hearing bands drop songs excessively. It takes the rough "scotch and cigarettes" out of the vocal tones. But I do understand it working in more mellow situations.


        • #11

          I've been changing keys as a guitar player for nearly every singer I've played with....

          So I'm damn sure gonna do it for myself when I sing.

          Songs like "Soul Sister" still translate well in any key (I do it in C)

          But songs like "shook me all night long" still need that range's power ( I do that in C too) .... although people still like it (it's not a loud powerful rock band it's just a guy w an acoustic) I think it's better in the song's original key.

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          • #12
            I do shook me all night long and sing it bluesy, an octave lower in the original key No one bats an eye. Also, I did Hotel California in Em last nigh and F#m capoed!!!!! Again no one batted an eye It's a VERY popular song here.

            Comment


            • Bob Dey
              Bob Dey commented
              Editing a comment

              I also do Hotel Calif in Emi. The point is that it's a highly requested song. If I tried it in the original key, I would get requests to never do that song again!


          • #13
            Here goes nothing. My voice without amplification is borderline too loud for the size of this tent I'm playing in with this crowd in it. I'm tuning down a half step to hopefully be able to sing more softly. This might be a terrible idea because I haven't rehearsed this way. I'll report back.
            <div class="signaturecontainer">Free prog-related metal from Michigan.<br />
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            • moogerfooger
              moogerfooger commented
              Editing a comment

              I try to do the songs in their original keys. since i have doing more piano than guitar its easier to drop a step without changing the character of the chord progression too much.  I do Hotel in Bmin and its up there for me on the chorus, but not hurtful. maybe ill try it tonight in Emin and see. 


          • #14
            I've been doing it mostly in Em in this ship. I call it the Cruise ship version! No one notices and they all sing along. Potts, a good compromise is capo 3 so it's in Gm. Try that.

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