How do you figure out what key you should sing in? Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. shares the 3 easy steps to make the right adjustments…
As a singer, you’re probably well aware of your vocal range. You feel comfortable singing in a particular key, and you know the high notes and low notes you’re going to struggle with. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you’ll always be limited in your vocal repertoire. If you’re singing with a band, you’re lucky in that you can ask your bandmates to play a song in a different key, resulting in a lot more options for songs to sing!
Sometimes, though, finding the appropriate key to sing in can be challenging. And you don’t want to make it any harder on your band! Here are some tips to help you through this process of finding the right key to sing in.
Know Your Range
First things first: you’ll need to know the limits of your vocal range. Picking a song that is too low or too high for your voice will feel very uncomfortable for you to sing, and the audience will likely notice your stress. By knowing the general idea of the highest note you can sing and the lowest note you can sing, you right away should be able to tell when looking at a new piece of sheet music if it will sound good within your voice type. If you’re not sure of how to find your vocal range, start off on the piano, singing up and down the scales, and see where you feel comfortable singing!
How to Find Your Range
Here’s a great video that guides you through the process of finding your range:
Test Out Different Keys
I always try out a few different keys when I am singing a new song. I encourage students to try singing a song in three different keys before you make a decision. You can try singing the song in three similar keys, close in pitch, or challenge yourself and try a lower key or a higher key. Sometimes a song may sound more interesting if it is flipped around. Trying something completely different can give the song a fresh, new element. Have fun with this and explore!
Listen to the Song
After experimenting with a few different keys, I suggest recording yourself and listening to how the song sounds. If you can hear yourself feeling and sounding vocally fatigued, perhaps this key is not for you. If you hear yourself missing notes or not quite reaching them, you will want to try a more comfortable key. These are just some of the indicators that will help you when choosing a good key to sing in.
Listen to your gut as well; if you are feeling any pain or discomfort when singing a song in a particular key, find a more suitable one. I also encourage you to go more in depth with learning about the style of the song you are singing. For example, an opera aria meant for a soprano may not sound the best in a low key like a jazz standard will. For these specific styles, try to stay as true as you can to the song and its original key.
Here’s a recap of the steps for finding the right key to sing in:
Finding the appropriate key to sing in may take some time and effort, but in the long run it will be worth it! If you need further help, I encourage you to schedule a lesson with a TakeLessons vocal instructor, who can give you guidance on finding the right key for your next audition or performance. Good luck!
Photo by Nicole Alexandra