#1
I was reading that it is common to transpose songs to a key to fit the singer's range. It occurred to me, then, that established bands would then likely do their songs in the same key, or keys that are close together, to fit their singer's range.

For example, U2 would tend to do all their songs in whatever key best fit Bono. Clapton would tend to do his songs in the key that fit his range. Pearl Jam would tend to do songs in the key(s) that fit Eddie Vedder. And so on.

So, is it correct that if I look up songs by the same bands, they'll tend to have songs in the same, or similar, keys? Like Tom Petty Songs will be mostly D or whatever? I could see where it could be handy, in terms of remembering what keys songs are in, to know that certain bands tend to do their songs in certain keys.

And let's say the key of D was the key that was most in the singer's comfort zone...would the next closest key in the singer's comfort zone be Db or Eb? Or would you go to the adjacent keys in the circle of 5ths (e.g., G or A) to find the keys that were, say, 2nd best for the singer's range?

I guess there's also the issue of key versus mode...like if a singer -- again let's say Tom Petty -- had his comfort zone in the key of D, then I guess he should not only be comfortable singing D Ionian, but any other mode that used D as the tonic, like doing a song in D minor or D Lydian or whatever, because he'll still tend to start, stop and stick around the D and resolve to it, is that right?

Sorry if these are stupid questions. Though I've been learning guitar for a couple years, I just started thinking about singing in the last week or so.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#3
A good singer can be effective in any key, since good melodies are about hitting appropriate notes and rhythms, not just the ones at far ends of their range. But given the choice, they'll probably prefer keys that let them work with as much of their range as possible.

Key is often arbitrary and really depends on what sounds you're going for. For example, if you want big sounding chords that ring out, you'll probably pick a key that lets you use open position chords (E, A, D, G). If you're writing jazzy stuff, big open chords are probably not a factor.

Sometimes key is the result of a musician's limitations, though I imagine such limited musicians don't often become famous.
#4
Ultimately it doesn't work quite that simply.

The problem is that one song can be in a singer's range in D, but another song is too high for him in D, but works for him in A.

For example, one song might extend from two steps below the tonic to an octave above. But another song might have it's lowest note be the tonic, and go two steps above the octave.

If the top of my range as a singer is the octave above the tonic, then despite the fact that the songs cover the same amount of range (and octave plus two steps) I have to sing the second one in a lower key than the first one.

Bands where the guitarists use a lot of open strings open end up tuning down a half step to accommodate the singer's range if he can't hit all the high notes, especially live.

Singers have a range. Songs also have a range. You have to pick a key that fits the song's range into the singer's range, which won't always be the same key for all songs.
#5
Quote by cdgraves
A good singer can be effective in any key, since good melodies are about hitting appropriate notes and rhythms, not just the ones at far ends of their range. But given the choice, they'll probably prefer keys that let them work with as much of their range as possible.

Key is often arbitrary and really depends on what sounds you're going for. For example, if you want big sounding chords that ring out, you'll probably pick a key that lets you use open position chords (E, A, D, G). If you're writing jazzy stuff, big open chords are probably not a factor.

Sometimes key is the result of a musician's limitations, though I imagine such limited musicians don't often become famous.



This is totally and completely untrue. A singer cannot be effective in every key. It isn't about "preferring keys that let them work with as much of their range as possible" its picking keys that agree with their vocal breaks to allow smooth transitions and an even timbre, as well as comfort in singing. For example, for my particular range I'd much rather singer in Gb major than F major, because the way it sits in my voice I can avoid having several prime notes sit awkwardly in my voice. I would not be singing to the best of my ability in that key in particular, because the major notes of the key sit right around my passagio, and make the strongest notes in the key difficult to navigate.
#6
I don't think we're disagreeing. Effective doesn't mean optimal. Just being able to work around the physical limitations and be creative.
#7
Quote by HotspurJr
Ultimately it doesn't work quite that simply.

The problem is that one song can be in a singer's range in D, but another song is too high for him in D, but works for him in A.

For example, one song might extend from two steps below the tonic to an octave above. But another song might have it's lowest note be the tonic, and go two steps above the octave.

If the top of my range as a singer is the octave above the tonic, then despite the fact that the songs cover the same amount of range (and octave plus two steps) I have to sing the second one in a lower key than the first one.

Bands where the guitarists use a lot of open strings open end up tuning down a half step to accommodate the singer's range if he can't hit all the high notes, especially live.

Singers have a range. Songs also have a range. You have to pick a key that fits the song's range into the singer's range, which won't always be the same key for all songs.

This.

Not every song in D have the same range. And sometimes a song just sounds better when it's played in a lower key (it sounds a bit darker).

Also, some riffs just work in certain keys. That's why E, A and D are really common keys - they use lots of open strings.

My songs are most of the time in E or A because those are easy keys to play in and I kind of automatically play in those keys if I come up with something.

And as I said, different keys have a bit different sound. Some stuff just sounds better when you play it lower. And sometimes it just sounds too muddy and you need to play it in a higher key.
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#8
No, it makes no difference at all, that's mostly up to the one who composes the song. Basically what HotSpurJr said, its the range of notes that matters.
#9
Here's an interesting aside: I listen to a lot of bass heavy electronic music (like 90s drum n bass) and its pretty frequent to use F, F# or G. For the main reason that good club sound systems go that low, but you're risking that it won't adequately reproduce your tonic if you use a lower key.
#10
Thanks, that clears it up.

Tyson's answer tells me I have a lot to learn about the technical (biological?) side of singing. I would have thought that if a singer could sing well in Gb, that the singer should be pretty comfortable in F, too, since they are only a half step apart... Like more comfortable than, say, C#. However, the suggestion that, for two keys just a half step apart, one might be much more comfortable for a singer, because of where the notes "sit," makes me think (?) then that the best "key" for a singer is not always about notes being too high or low, but also that biologically the way the voice box is and everything is working together for a particular singer, that person might just naturally have a very comfortable, pure C# note, but not a C? Somehow the air speed, vibration or whatever, that changes to hit one note rather than another might fall into a an internal "bad spot" in the larynx or nasal cavity or something? So that singer might try to avoid singing in key of F, C or G, which would tend to have more "C's" and would prefer songs in E, F#, or whatever keys might tend to have more C#'s?

Or am I reading to much into that response?

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#12
Quote by krm27
Thanks, that clears it up.

Tyson's answer tells me I have a lot to learn about the technical (biological?) side of singing. I would have thought that if a singer could sing well in Gb, that the singer should be pretty comfortable in F, too, since they are only a half step apart... Like more comfortable than, say, C#. However, the suggestion that, for two keys just a half step apart, one might be much more comfortable for a singer, because of where the notes "sit," makes me think (?) then that the best "key" for a singer is not always about notes being too high or low, but also that biologically the way the voice box is and everything is working together for a particular singer, that person might just naturally have a very comfortable, pure C# note, but not a C? Somehow the air speed, vibration or whatever, that changes to hit one note rather than another might fall into a an internal "bad spot" in the larynx or nasal cavity or something? So that singer might try to avoid singing in key of F, C or G, which would tend to have more "C's" and would prefer songs in E, F#, or whatever keys might tend to have more C#'s?

Or am I reading to much into that response?

Ken


basically there are areas of the voice called passagios that dictate where your chest voice, mixed voice, and head voice come into play. These notes are especially awkward to sing through, as your voice doesn't really know how to transition from register to register without monumental amounts of practice, and even then they will still just be awkward notes to sing. For example, in the key of F, our major arpeggio of a tonic chord is F A C and F, and in Gb it is Gb Bb Db Gb. if for example, C is a passagio note, you dont very well want it on the 5th scale degree, because this is a common note and it will inhibit vocal navigation. By moving it out of the way, the focal notes of the song can be sung much more clearly, less awkwardly, and with more power.
#13
Kind of..

Some bands you will find, such as say, The Gaslight Anthem, tend to write a lot of songs in the same key (heck, same chord progression half the time too), because it fits the singer and it fits the vibe.

But generally, sounding good in D, doesn't mean Db or Eb are going to work for you AT ALL.
Some people just have voices that simply don't work or sound as good when they are singing certain notes, you might drill a song in D, sounding totally rich and full-voiced, drop to Db and suddenly not as much tone, because it don't suit your voice.
Go up to Eb, and you sound all tinny, because this particular song might suit your voice in D.

Then you might write a song in Db, and sound great, jack it up to D, and it might not work at all.

It's all about that particular voice singing those particular notes of that particular melody in that particular key.
#14
@Tyson: I get what you mean but I would only apply this kind of advice if I have to sing right now in front of an audience without really being prepared for it. But in the long run you do have to face your vocal issues. I believe "one register singing" with no sudden shifting/awkward transitions is totally possible even though it IS hard to master. Not to mention that your passagios can move up or down depending on how you will sing the song.
#16
Quote by Jehannum
Is there any reliable way of discovering what your best keys are as a singer?


You could see how high you can go and still sound good doing it, use whatever that note is as the key for your songs.

What this will mean, is you can belt out those epic chorus' that undoubtedly have those 0 notes in them, meaning you can build a mean chorus with some 3rds, 5ths, and also that higher octave harmony that you can hit.
#17
Quote by Jehannum
Is there any reliable way of discovering what your best keys are as a singer?


Did you read all the responses in this thread?

Do you know what your range is?
#18
Quote by Sethis
@Tyson: I get what you mean but I would only apply this kind of advice if I have to sing right now in front of an audience without really being prepared for it. But in the long run you do have to face your vocal issues. I believe "one register singing" with no sudden shifting/awkward transitions is totally possible even though it IS hard to master. Not to mention that your passagios can move up or down depending on how you will sing the song.



incorrect. One register singing isn't a thing, Everyone navigates their passagios, we just become better at it with years of practice and it eventually seems seemless, but still happens. Your passagios stay consistent throughout your range, but you can begin the transition earlier if a piece calls for it, but they stay stagnant. (they do obviously change with age, but thats a different matter)
#19
I have heard my wife practice singing by doing "A-E-I-O-U" and moving up through what I think was a chromatic scale. I do not have a lot of patience for that. As I've been studying guitar, I try to find exercises that teach me multiple skills at once, like learning scales and alternative picking at the same time. Along those lines, I was thinking I might practice arpeggios at different places on the guitar, like:

e-------------------------------------------------------------------------8
B------------------------------------------------------0-----------9-------
G----------------------------------4------------0------------9-------------
D--------------10-----------6-------------2--------------------------------
A--------11------------7----------------------------------------------------
E---12-----------------------------------------------------------------------

And maybe as I do those, sing "Do" for the root, "Mi" for the 3rd and "So" for the 5th.

Basically, play each note and then hit it with my voice, or play a series of three and then try to repeat it with my voice. Then move on to do this for another root note, till I've done all 12 possible roots.

In this way, I would be learning

(1) Where to find major chord arpeggios over the fretboard
(2) Working on my singing voice in general
(3) Working on my solfege
(4) Getting a clear picture what my high / low limits are
(5) Maybe getting a sense where I have "passagio" issues

I could do this for minor chords, add 7ths, do dims, augmenteds.

I could also do a variation that is more limited, like finding all the A's and playing any major second interval I can find from every A on the keyboard, while singing those, too, eventually do all intervals in all notes. I could also change the solfege to pretend first note is, say, "Mi" and then if I'm doing a perfect forth interval, the next note I'd sing as "La" and change that up so I'm using different starting points in the "do-re-mi" scheme to practice the different vowel sounds in each note.

Well, the point is to combine my singing practice with my practice getting familiar with fretboard movements. Something similar could be worked out practicing scales at the same time as singing.

I'm mainly posting this, (1) to see if anyone has thoughts that it may be important to focus on singing by itself without an instrument, or (2) other ideas for how to efficiently practice singing at the same time as other guitar techniques, music theory ideas, etc.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#20
Quote by HotspurJr
Did you read all the responses in this thread?

Do you know what your range is?


I could easily work out my range but I don't really understand the 'chest voice' and 'throat voice' distinctions. Nor do I know where the transitions between them occur in my voice, which would apparently tell me which notes I would struggle on.