How To Find The RIGHT KEY For Your Singer

How To Find The RIGHT KEY For Your Singer

Tommaso Zillio

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right key for singing

Why do singers always need to change the key of songs when other musicians don’t seem to have a problem?

Musicians never seem to accommodate for the average guitar player’s inability to play in keys other than A minor and E minor (it's our god-given right to play in these keys, and in these keys only, I say!), so why should singers receive preferential treatment?

Why is everyone willing to bend over backward to cover the singer’s feeble reach to high (or low) notes, but innocent guitar players are left needing to actually practice their instruments? What gives?

Well, imagine if certain notes on your guitar physically burned you when you play them. Like, you play a Bb on the 2nd string and zing! you receive a nice 2nd-degree burn on your fingertip.

Now imagine that the notes that burn you are not necessarily the same notes that burn other guitar players. Every guitar player is actively injuring themselves by playing certain notes - notes that are unique to them.

If this were true, you would probably do your best to avoid those notes and stick to keys that don’t contain a lot of them!

Other musicians may also be a little bit more willing to accommodate you.

Alas, as much as you might like to claim that playing in Db major is physically painful, no one is going to buy it...

So, what we need to do, unfortunately, is learn how to accommodate the unique strengths and weaknesses of different singers, and a big part of that is identifying what keys highlight a singer's strengths.

(If you are a songwriter but you are not "in the industry" yet, you probably do not realize how massive this is - and how much of a difference can this make when, say, you are trying to sell your song to some famous singer...)

Whether you write songs for yourself or other people, if you want to learn how to "fit" the song to a particular singers, watch the video below and I’ll walk you through the process.

If you want to learn how to play in more keys than just A minor and E minor, you'll need to expand your knowledge of chords. A good way to do that is to check out my Complete Chord Mastery guitar course

Video Transcription

Hello internet, so nice to see you. This is a video of our series band problems when we use music theory to solve the problem that you can find in your band. And one of the problems that we have here is that you write a song, you have this fantastic melody that we make angels cry if they could listen to it. Take your song to your band. And then your singers tell you Yeah, I cannot sing that high or that low.

That melody doesn't work for me. Oh, my, you forgot one of the important things here. It's your fault. Yes, not the singers full of things that you should write melodies in the vocal range of the singer? How do you do that? How do you know what's your singer vocal range? How do you use that vocal range? I mean, it's not just that it's a maximum and the minimum and you have to stay inside that will be easy. Okay. But there's more different parts of the vocal range of your singer have different emotional qualities.

So what is all that? Well as student of mine, who is also a singer, and he's writing songs for himself, asked me exactly that, how we write songs for our own voice range. And of course, you can apply these to yourself, or to any singer you're working with. And that's what I've answered him.

Speaker 2 1:21
Okay, is there a sweet spot for writing and singing for your voice?

Tommaso Zillio 1:26
But there is the first important point is to know what is your vocal extension? Okay. And we can do immediate I mean, if you want to sing we can do this right now. Okay. The thing is this play one note on your guitar, any note sing that note? You have an octave lower

Tommaso Zillio 2:27
That was pretty good. I fully agree. You're practically on the D just below here and that's pretty good. Let's go high. And let's see where you can go somewhere here

Unknown Speaker 2:51
starting to struggle there, okay. Okay.

Tommaso Zillio 3:00
Okay, then we are here okay. This this is the note. Okay. Okay. So you are on the D above middle C. And on the E flat these are breaking into falsetto. So you have slightly more than two octave of extension, which is are you singing normally? Yeah. Yeah. That's why a person will have more person will ever have in house without training.

That's pretty good. Yeah, you can cover pretty much. You're pretty much about baritone or bass in range. Okay. Elite baritone. Yeah, well, you are going fairly low. Yeah. Okay, but I don't typically stops around F F, F sharp. Okay. If you can get this low, low E and low, low D, you can sing bass, no problem. But if you are not a tenor, because a tenor would typically arrive on this G without too many difficulty you arrive at the E flat so you, yourself bass/bari. Okay? That's normal range for a human male, okay?

But with a with a nice cushion on both sides. Okay, that's the thing, good. Once you know your extension, you know that you can hit those extremes. Only occasionally, you cannot write a melody around those extremes. Because that's an uncomfortable area for you. Okay? You want to write your songs and transpose them so that you get to the high area only when it's emotionally appropriate. Okay, so when is the moment to belt that high note. That note must feel high to you. So it's going to be these G A, B or C essentially, maybe maybe the Okay, please, I'm going to for satin, okay.

Right. And so, you write your song and then you transpose it. So that the emotional areas when you start to add the push a little bit, yeah, okay. Makes sense, right. That will be it then eventually you're going to learn without having to transpose it later, you just know what keys work best for you. Right? Okay. But that's the idea. So you use the emotionally okay? You see, when you start when they really need to push to get that note gate, that's the moment where you have to go into higher range.

Unknown Speaker 5:16
Make sense? Yeah.

Tommaso Zillio 5:18
For the lower range, for most modern music, the lower range is way less used, because it's too cluttered. And there's too many instruments there. And the guitar is playing there. I mean, it's that note guys playing there, the bass is playing around there, the pianist playing there, but also the voice is too much.

So it can be used, again, for emotional effect in specific situations. Okay, so you start thinking like that, you naturally have, let's say, three colors, your middle range, which is where you're perfectly comfortable, which it's around, I will say for you, it's around between these A and these eight, it's gonna did the octave of the fifth string for you. So think fifth string. That's pretty much right now, what I said, if you think it's your comfortable range, you have to go on the D string.

And again, it can probably go up to here, from here to here and say, that's your high range. And everything down below the a is your low range, okay? There are three colors to use. Essentially, the low range is very special and lose the only on specific situation either ending of a song. Ironic situation when you do the low voice for me, people laugh essentially, okay, the high is for the emotional sections, where you like top note of the chorus, stuff like that.

All right, most of the time you stay in your comfortable range, let's say again, A to A, it's pretty much you're comfortable range. Now that most melodies, like a single verse, or a single chorus tend to stay on the comfortable range. So you can always transpose it back to fit that.

Unknown Speaker 6:54
That makes sense. Okay. All right.

Tommaso Zillio 6:56
Excellent. So most likely the best keys for you are a and e and d. Like root root fifth to fifth or fourth to fourth.

Speaker 2 7:05
Yeah, right. It's really funny that you say that because my girlfriend is the one who, who started me on this question, because I'm playing certain songs for her and there's certain songs she goes, that's your key. You need to sing every song in that key. And it's always a minor, right? Because happens to be an A minor.

Tommaso Zillio 7:24
Precisely. Yeah, so yes. So that's how you do it. And if this is simple, you may have any anybody can do that. Yeah, anybody watching guys right now in do this for them. They can just sing until they get the extremes. Find out what's the comfortable you don't have to push down or push high to get right to the range. That's your comfortable range. That's where you have to stay most of the time and you use the high ranger for the emotional but it’s much harder to hit. Well, that's, that's it. It's really simple, really simple. Awesome. Fantastic.

Unknown Speaker 7:58
Thank you so much.

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