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What Key?

saulgoldie 25 Jul 11 - 04:30 PM
Crowhugger 25 Jul 11 - 04:50 PM
PoppaGator 25 Jul 11 - 05:15 PM
Amos 25 Jul 11 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,Songbob 25 Jul 11 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,Jon 25 Jul 11 - 05:44 PM
Richard Bridge 25 Jul 11 - 05:47 PM
Phil Cooper 25 Jul 11 - 05:51 PM
Will Fly 25 Jul 11 - 05:58 PM
Richard Bridge 25 Jul 11 - 06:04 PM
Leadfingers 25 Jul 11 - 08:01 PM
PHJim 25 Jul 11 - 10:11 PM
SteveMansfield 26 Jul 11 - 05:48 AM
GUEST,Jon 26 Jul 11 - 06:13 AM
Allan C. 26 Jul 11 - 06:21 AM
Will Fly 26 Jul 11 - 06:42 AM
BobKnight 26 Jul 11 - 07:29 AM
SteveMansfield 26 Jul 11 - 08:33 AM
Leadfingers 26 Jul 11 - 09:17 AM
Will Fly 26 Jul 11 - 09:31 AM
GUEST,Jon 26 Jul 11 - 09:37 AM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 09:46 AM
BobKnight 26 Jul 11 - 10:16 AM
MikeL2 26 Jul 11 - 10:56 AM
My guru always said 26 Jul 11 - 11:03 AM
saulgoldie 26 Jul 11 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Fyldeplayer 26 Jul 11 - 12:15 PM
Musket 26 Jul 11 - 12:34 PM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 12:55 PM
CupOfTea 26 Jul 11 - 01:01 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Jul 11 - 01:06 PM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 01:42 PM
IvanB 26 Jul 11 - 02:49 PM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 03:11 PM
Mark Ross 26 Jul 11 - 03:44 PM
BobKnight 26 Jul 11 - 03:54 PM
Tattie Bogle 26 Jul 11 - 04:14 PM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 04:25 PM
BobKnight 26 Jul 11 - 04:36 PM
The Sandman 26 Jul 11 - 05:15 PM
The Sandman 26 Jul 11 - 05:32 PM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 10:22 PM
Sian H 27 Jul 11 - 04:21 AM
bubblyrat 27 Jul 11 - 04:42 AM
BobKnight 27 Jul 11 - 06:09 AM
zozimus 27 Jul 11 - 07:02 AM
SteveMansfield 27 Jul 11 - 08:36 AM
Crowhugger 27 Jul 11 - 12:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Jul 11 - 05:16 PM
Crowhugger 27 Jul 11 - 06:17 PM
Jane of 'ull 27 Jul 11 - 07:58 PM
Janie 27 Jul 11 - 08:31 PM
DrugCrazed 28 Jul 11 - 07:31 PM
Crowhugger 28 Jul 11 - 08:55 PM
DrugCrazed 29 Jul 11 - 03:55 AM
goatfell 29 Jul 11 - 09:04 AM
Crowhugger 29 Jul 11 - 11:06 AM
Ebbie 29 Jul 11 - 12:47 PM
Crowhugger 29 Jul 11 - 01:55 PM
PoppaGator 29 Jul 11 - 03:09 PM
GUEST,Jon 29 Jul 11 - 03:26 PM
Crowhugger 29 Jul 11 - 04:08 PM
PoppaGator 29 Jul 11 - 04:44 PM
Crowhugger 29 Jul 11 - 05:46 PM
DrugCrazed 29 Jul 11 - 06:40 PM
Crowhugger 29 Jul 11 - 06:43 PM
DrugCrazed 29 Jul 11 - 07:44 PM
Crowhugger 29 Jul 11 - 10:27 PM
DrugCrazed 30 Jul 11 - 08:32 AM
Ebbie 30 Jul 11 - 02:36 PM
dick greenhaus 31 Jul 11 - 11:18 AM
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Subject: What Key?
From: saulgoldie
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 04:30 PM

Playing several songs recently, I noticed that I was playing a lot in the key of "C." I also heard (somewhere) that "C" is the "people's key." Can anyone shed any light on this? Also, what are a few other of the more popular keys? Is it a failure as a folksiner if I play mostly in one or two keys? Am I bad if I just capo up to play them instead of mastering the fingering for, say "B-flat" or "E-flat?"

I am wondering with regard to songs I might play, and also possibly setting up a diatonic autoharp with, perhaps, two or three keys with some duplicate strings for a richer sound. I know: several questions for several threads. Oh well. Thanks in advance.

Saul


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 04:50 PM

Most singers stick to two keys according to the song and their vocal range. One key for melodies that fit mostly within doh-to-doh and the other for melodies that fit mostly within sol-to-sol. For doh-to-doh I'm great in D to G (not G if the melody has a lot of high dohs though!). For sol-to-sol my voice suits A up to D, again though, not if there are too many high sols.

When singing more than 3 or 4 songs, you can provide a sense of more variety for listeners if you capo up a fret or two (two is easier to tune) as long as you can still reach the notes when you do that.

Another good use of the capo is the change how the accompaniment sounds. If you usually play something in C, capo up 3 frets and try it with chords for A. If it's in D, capo up 2 and try it with chords for C. It's especially useful to do that when there is more than 1 guitar playing, so both contribute a different sound. But if a melody has a wider range of notes than usual, you're more likely to find the highest or lowest notes become unreachable.

I love my capo and wouldn't leave home without it.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:15 PM

On the piano (or any keyboard), C is the one major key that uses no black keys at all; that may be at least part of what makes it "the people's key."

On the guitar (standard tuning), each chord of the most-typically-used keys provides a different arrangement of open and fretted strings. I favor C because I've used it more than any other key over the years, and know many little riffs and tricks unique to that key ~ both on the bass strings (most notably the "walking" bass transitions from one chord to the next) and in the upper registers.

I play in G quite a bit, also, for the same reasons, and use E for blues since it provides several easy-to-play little phrases that are just perfect for that subgenre. (Hammering-on/pulling-off the G strings at the first fret just about defines the ambiguously-flatted third so characteristic of blues music).

I don't have "perfect pitch," and when I hear guitar playing that includes familiar sounds, I can often identify chord "shapes" with a degree of certitude without knowing whether or not the guitar might be capoed up a fret or two. Or, in other words, I can "hear" the C, F and G(7) chords in a song like "Freight Train," "Creole Belle," etc., without being sure whether the actual key is C (i.e., with no capo) or if the guitar is capoed up a fret or two or tree, making the actual key C# or D or Eb.

Is it "wrong" to use the capo? Not at all, sez I. Much of the art in acoustic/folk guitar playing involves the creative use of open strings, and playing in a key like B-flat, without a capo, eliminates most such possibilities. The more keys you can master, the better, but within limits. It's probably enough to know A,C,D,E, and G (and at least a few of their relative minors ~ Am and Em for sure), and then to use the capo selectively as required.

A couple of associated observations:

If you want to play jazz guitar, you do need to play in all-barre-chord keys, especially Bb, in order to make life easier for any horn players in your group. Also, you're much better off with an electric guitar than acoustic, and should learn to play three- and four-string chords, not always playing all six stings at once.

As noted above, I tend to favor the key of E for blues and C and G for everything else. I can't help but notice, of course, that many players in the folk world tend to favor the key of D as strongly as I do C, and I have long had a strong impression that guitar players whose first-choice key in standard tuning is D also seem to like open and alternate tunings more that C-and-G adherants like myself. Thoughts?


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:40 PM

I don't know of any data indicating there is anynaturalresonance in the human organism for the key of C versus any other scale, but as mentioned above, the open keys with no sharps or flats on the piano makes it the commonest beginner's key for any tune trickier than "Chopsticks".

A


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:40 PM

Well, "D" is really the People's Key (unless it's "E"), but what the hey, it doesn't matter. Capos are fine, but jazzers don't play all-barre-chord songs, despite playing in "all-barre-chord" keys. They play partial chords and inversions and other things too fierce to mention, and can play barres when needed but choose not to.

That said, the typical vocal range goes, as Crowhugger says, to two keys. If one of your comfort-keys is C, the "other" key is G. If D is nicer, you'll also sing in A. If you have a wide range, you might go from C to E and G to Bb or so (no one plays in B except one of my Sidekicks, and a fine mess it is if I have to play mandolin for him).

Some guitar chord shapes work for some kinds of music -- Blues are pretty much made for E or A fingerings, though there are some nice blues figures in G -- and a capo is a reasonable way to preserve a chord shape while getting into a comfortable key. I have one number I like that plays in E but sings in G, so a capo +3 is my response.

So it's all relative. If you get stuck in a genre that requires certain keys, and those are not your comfort keys, you have to be more creative. Banjo players who do old-time string-band songs are often limited to the fiddle's key, but flexibility through special banjo tunings can be a life-saver at times. I've even started using a Minstrel banjo, and not just for Minstrel-era songs. Those five frets lower (can you say 'five frets' on a fretless banjo?) allow me to use "G" tuning for D tunes, for instance.

So you can do lots in a very few keys, with enough variety to keep your sets interesting, and the capo can be your friend.

Bob


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:44 PM

G and D (ie. 1 or 2 sharps) are the most "sociable" tune session keys.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:47 PM

Always choose the best key for the voice(s).

The choice of inversions is a matter of taste, but there is little doubt in my mind that root D or Dm sound better in single drop D.

The E chord always sounds a bit off if playing in A (standard tuning), sort of bluesy in stead of folky.

Playing in C the F sounds a bit rock and roll.

E always sounds like the start of a 12-bar, somehow.

So I guess that does mostly leave me with variants of D or G plus capo.

Shame F sharp suits my voice! But at least it keeps the melodeons out.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:51 PM

I wind up singing a lot of things in D or F, Bb a close third. No shame using capoes. You can learn playing in keys of Eb or Bb without a capo if you want, but I figure, why? You can make guitar playing as easy or as complicated as you want.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 05:58 PM

I like F: good chord sequences for jazzy stuff in F, suits my voice, nice resonant key. Don't use a capo when playing in F because the bite in the bass strings on the tonic is great.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 06:04 PM

The good thing about the F chord is the way you can hammer on from the E to the F with your thumb.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 08:01 PM

I remember George Deacon doing a workshop on Song delivery - He said " Male singers tend to pitch too low while the ladies tend to pitch too high " - So capo up to our vocal limit for the song you are singing , THEN think about learning the Chords to play without the capo


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: PHJim
Date: 25 Jul 11 - 10:11 PM

As has been mentioned, C and G are good keys for bass runs and capoing to the second fret gives you D and A which are handy for playing with fiddles or mandolins. Drop D tuning is great for the key of D and if you use a capo like a Shubb, you can capo the first five strings and leave the bottom string open for a drop E using D shapes. The nice thing about this is that you don't have to retune and you can use regular chord shapes above the capo.
Someone also mentioned that E and A are good for blues. G and D are pretty good too.
Swing tunes are usually played with closed chords that are altered and many substitutions are used.

I've heard C called the "people's key", G called the "key of astonishment" (Gee!) and A called the "Canadian key" (Eh?).


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 05:48 AM

I've heard C called the "people's key", G called the "key of astonishment" (Gee!) and A called the "Canadian key" (Eh?).

Personally I've never come across any reference to any key as being 'the people's key' in anything other than a jokey context.

Recent citations include

B flat as the people's key (said at a session just last Sunday by a D/G melodeon player),

G as the people's key (The 'I've been working on the railroad' song gets very screechy in G),

and so forth.

Guest,Jon said that G and D (ie. 1 or 2 sharps) are the most "sociable" tune session keys, but that's only true in certain contexts and instrumental mixes. Irish and Scottish music spends a heck of a lot of the time in A, quite a bit of Central French music hangs around in C (although more bagpipes and gurdies are appearing in G/D rather than C/G), klezmer hangs around in weird scales all of its own, etc.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 06:13 AM

I think re the Irish and Scottish music, it often conforms to 1 or 2 sharps, eg A mix?


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Allan C.
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 06:21 AM

I have encountered countless songbooks and sheet music that almost by default have songs in B flat or E flat or some other such key that would be unfriendly to most guitarists. Frankly, I'd rather have a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than to play the chords as presented. I feel sure such songbooks were put together by people who had no regard for guitarists. Do I transpose? Hell yes! Do I capo up in order to accomplish the transpositions? Yes, if need be.

Sorry for the rant, but this topic reminded me of all that.

I think what others have said pretty much expresses my own thoughts. Many songs can be accomplished by using "basic" chords. Capo-ing is not only necessary at times, but also can produce more pleasing notes. For instance, I melody pick quite a bit and often find that the melody is much easier to pick when using certain chords. A capo often allows me to play in keys that are more conducive to using those chords.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Will Fly
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 06:42 AM

I feel sure such songbooks were put together by people who had no regard for guitarists.

Well, they may well have been put together by people who had some regard for singers... :-)

If it's a song you're dealing with, then key is paramount, and the most important thing is getting the key that suits your voice, regardless of the written key.

Once you've established the key, then how you voice it is up to you. By 'voicing' I mean the choice of chords, regardless of key. So, if the key that suits your voice for a song is F (say), and you like playing chords in C, then capo-ing it on the 5th fret, singing in F and playing (voicing) in C will be your combination.

But... sometimes it's more fun and gives a more original sound to play it in the real voicing. If your song's in F, then you might play it in F - you'll certainly sound a little different that way.

All depends on what style of material you like to play, of course.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: BobKnight
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 07:29 AM

One or two keys? I sing in E, F, G, A, B,C, and D. Is that unusual - I don't know? I try to go for the optimum key for each song. I use a capo a lot, but vary it between playing off a G shape, a D shape, and a C shape - just for variety of sound.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 08:33 AM

I think re the Irish and Scottish music, it often conforms to 1 or 2 sharps, eg A mix?

Fair enough if that's the case - not particularly my area of interest/expertise.

If it's a song you're dealing with, then key is paramount, and the most important thing is getting the key that suits your voice, regardless of the written key.

At the session on Sunday someone started singing unaccompanied, and was doing very well and fine thank you until some eejit on a silver flute tried to join in with the tune, found the original singer was on a tonic of somewhere between D and C# ... and played along increasingly loudly until the singer was pretty much forced to pitch-shift up to D. Personally I'd have deliberately gone flatter and/or changed the song words to tell her to butt out, but there ya go ...


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 09:17 AM

Steve - That flute player was bloody rude ! I am a NOTORIOUS noodler at singarounds , but usually shut up if the singer is unaccompanied (Often not even starting if its a Trad Song) and would not dream of trying to make a singer sing in MY key .


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Will Fly
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 09:31 AM

Sheer bad manners, Steve - or, at best, thoughtless.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 09:37 AM

It depends on the situation I suppose but as far as I'm concerned, the general rule is to leave the unaccompanied singer to do their song even if you are in tune with them.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 09:46 AM

It depends what makes those keys work well for you, Bob. Do some of the melodies stick within half an octave? Are you content to have the occasional low note come out a bit breathy or rumbley instead of cleanly? If you can comfortably and pleasingly sing the same song in both E and B, yes probably a bit unusual for an untrained, un-warmed-up voice.

I wouldn't be surprised if, upon analysis, the lower keys have a doh-to-doh melody and higher ones sol-to-sol melody, or vice versa depending on your vocal range. Maybe you have two octaves of very comfy range rather than the more common 1.5 octaves. Another reason for more flexibility in keys is a voice with no break so you needn't concern yourself with avoiding it.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: BobKnight
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 10:16 AM

You tell me-Crowhugger. Check me out on www.youtube.com/bobknightfolk

As for breaking - if I don't sing about 10-12 songs a day, my voice breaks all over the place. Especially in the first 4-5 songs until I "knock the edges off" as I call it. :) I have quite a high voice.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: MikeL2
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 10:56 AM

hi An interesting thread this...

There is lots of good advice above , most of which I would agree with.

You need to experiment with chords and keys to enable you to both play and sing comfortably.

As is said above, to some extent it depends upon what type of music you wish to sing and play as to what keys you choose and what chords and inversions you use.

As Will and others above said you should try in the main keys to play different inversions at various positions on the guitar to get a more interesting and varied backing.

If you want to play jazz (modern jazz) you will need to be able to master a wide number of chords, part chords, inversions and riffs and to be able to play in virtually any key - and generally not use a capo. Though I have played with an occasion player who has used one.

The main thing is to be comfortable with what you do and the main thing is to enjoy it.

Someone once said (???) "The guitar is the easiest instrument to play badly and one of the most difficult to play well".

Where you fit in is mainly up to you.

Go for it..

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: My guru always said
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 11:03 AM

I sing unaccompanied in lots of different keys, occasionally all in the same song *grin*

Definitely adds variety.....


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: saulgoldie
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 11:33 AM

This thread has been very interesting, indeed. I greatly appreciate all the insights from fellow 'Catters. Larnt a LOT!

Saul


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: GUEST,Fyldeplayer
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 12:15 PM

I'm liking D and Bm this season.

I thinks its important to find the best chord voicing -

I usually try three approaches - standard D postion, D chord around the 5th fret and maybe capo and play in A.

When I played in open C I would often invert the whole process and start on the G chord - suitably capoed.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Musket
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 12:34 PM

The only rule I have, (and more to do with my particular voice..) is that I never start a set in Gmaj. Once I sing in Gmaj, I have great difficulty beginning the next song if it is in anything else!

Where I am covering popular songs at an event as opposed to playing my folk set, I find that if I have the music for a particular singer, then I know where to pitch my capo. For instance, Elton John wrote some wonderful songs that sound nice with just a guitar but I know that if I look at the music and play those chords, then I need to put my capo to the third fret and his arrangements then match my voice.

If I am playing in DADGAD, capo to the second fret suits me too.

I must admit, at some clubs I have been a regular at, I sometimes used my capo to disenfranchise a friendly but noisy melodeon player who insisted on "helping" with a song, often uninvited. That way, he couldn't really take offence.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 12:55 PM

I enjoyed some good songs there Bob, thanks for your link. Great voice you have, and such clean guitar playing! As I listened, besides being very impressed, I wondered what's the lowest note you can sing (vs. choose to sing) fairly cleanly? You do seem to prefer your high end, which made me wonder about your lower limit.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: CupOfTea
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 01:01 PM

As a 21-chord autoharp player who took up that instrument particularly to deal with the "what key do I sing it in?" question, Saul's question about the key of C hit home with me. Initially the 21 chord autoharp was a crutch to keep me singing in the same key from verse to verse through longer songs. This has worked very well for me for 3 decades.

Years of trying things in the keys they're written in, when working from the sheet music, singing acapella to learn the song, then working with the instrument lead me to realize that I am most comfortable singing (most. but not everything) in C. Woefully average, I guess, but knowing WHICH key I prefer does give me a strong clue to what key I should have my 2nd string autoharp chopped to as a diatonic 'harp.

OTOH, if I decided to forego having a diatonic 'harp to sing with and choose to concentrate on picking melody for dance tunes, then I'd go for the keys most used for the tunes: G, D, A. It seems like with songs, ya shift the key to what's comfortable for the singer, though if you are playing with other instruments (or singers) that have key limitations/ranges, compromises come up.

One thing nobody has ever explained adequately to me is why you DON'T want to transpose a song. "it sounds much too different" Ok, I can buy that... but can we have some examples where this makes a seriously qualitative difference to how it sounds, please? Perhaps this is something only evident to those with sophisticated vocal training, but I would love to know, as voice lessons aren't in my immediate future.

A thing I've enjoyed in my mostly learning instruments on my own is that every time I delve into something new, I learn new things about how music works, and bits of music theory sink in to beyond the "merely theory" stage. The only failure as a folksinger (Although I did really like the "folksiner" concept- it has possiblities!) is to NOT SING AT ALL.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 01:06 PM

The People's Key? In my experience that's always the term applied to G. That's what Alex Campbell always called it. Of course it didn't mean he always stuck to it.

Capos give you all the keys - but they also allow you to use all the different fingerings you get to use with the whole range of chords - which makes it much more interesting, especially if yo're playing with another guitarist. So you play in G, but one of you capos up and uses D chords, and it sounds far better then if you're both playing the same shapes.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 01:42 PM

One thing nobody has ever explained adequately to me is why you DON'T want to transpose a song.

Wow, Joanne, I have never heard that...Do you recall who said it, or where you heard it? I don't think I've led a musically sheltered life. I've been singing since I first grew teeth, strumming at least since age 7, then piano lessons, spent 30+ years adulthood messing about with any instrument I might get my hands on to see if I could get it to go. Whether at home, campfires, coffee houses, song circles, choirs, handbell festivals, barbershop competitions...transposition is everyday life. Is the idea that transposing is bad possibly a tacit tune session courtesy, to be thoughtful of those who don't have that particular skill?

There are two other situations where I can imagine it wouldn't be a popular option: 1. Classical music--never saw it done except for beginners. People read their music, which is often complex and written to be do-able by certain instruments in certain keys. And pre-computer era it was a LOT of labour to transpose, for example, an orchestra's worth of parts plus conductor's score. So it's in the culture not to do it. Might evolve with time, might not.
2. For people with perfect pitch: The few I know who have it are bothered by hearing music in a new key once they've become familiar with it in one key; the new one sounds out of tune to them.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: IvanB
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 02:49 PM

Transposing a song (or tune) up tends to "brighten" it, while downward "darkens" it. One might not want to transpose for that very reason, but then it might be the very reason to transpose, too.

About 30 years ago I sang in a choir which tended to do a lot of renaissance music a cappella. Our leader was very prone to change a key by a semitone one way or the other, for the effect. For all but one of us, who were good at reading music by intervals, whatever the starting note, this was no problem. But we had one woman who had perfect pitch and it just about drove her nuts. She was fine if we transposed by a third or so, but a semitone made things really difficult for her.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 03:11 PM

'Up to brighten, down to darken' is for sure partly true. Some exceptions: On most pianos I find F down to D makes it brighter, something about how D major sounds on the piano. And on stringed instruments or piano, the brightness partly depends on the chord voicings--a chord topped by the 3rd sounds brighter than the same chord topped by the higher 5th with the 3rd somewhere lower in the chord. Many variables affect sound and its perception.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 03:44 PM

I think it was the Central Park Sheiks who had a song called IF THE KEY OF D IS THE PEOPLES KEY, THEN WHAT IS THE KEY OF THE BOURGEOISIE?

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: BobKnight
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 03:54 PM

Crowhugger - the lowest note I choose to sing is probably the lowest notes on "I Saw Her On The Bus" or "Doon By The Watterside." I'm nowhere near an instrument to check at the moment. I can sing lower, but not with any great power. It's OK when I'm doing harmonies, but not good enough for solo work. As I said, and as you've noticed, I have quite a high voice. Thank you for you're very kind words about my singing and songs. :)


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 04:14 PM

One of my friends has a saying "You're singing in Church keys" by which he means too high (and don't I know it having quite a low voice!) I've now got quite good at dropping an octave when it gets too high, or shunting up when when it's too low, just as my dear old dad used to do in church every week!
Yes, and thats the other thing: what key suits a female voice, and what suits a male voice best are often about a 4th or 5th apart!


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 04:25 PM

I understand what you're saying, Bob. Though I think it might be worth the risk to experiment a lot more with songs that have gentler themes because the way you can colour your voice at the low end has the potential to add such depth.

Saul the beauty of this thread is that it's pure Applied Music Theory. Umm but wait...isn't--purely applied--an oxymoron? Point is, there's a wealth of totally practical advice and nary a speck o' "dry theory" to be found. I love that kind of thread, easily accessible.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: BobKnight
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 04:36 PM

Crowhugger - probably all those years of playing with bands, and a different type of music where it's all about "projection." Again, quite a few of the venues I've been playing are folk clubs,etc where it really is "acoustic," no PA, but of course with a microphone I can choose to let the mic "carry" the lower end.:)


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 05:15 PM

I sing in B flat c, d, a, g, e, f, a flat, a minor, d minor.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 05:32 PM

I often hammer on e to f with my head


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 10:22 PM

Bob, it seems we've been in the same boat. My low end, well everyone's to some extent, doesn't carry as well as the high end. Thanks to the teaching that I received as a member of a barbershop chorus and some quartet coaching too, I've been learning how to get the low end to ring more like the high end does. I'm still practising to make it more consistent, but when I'm warmed up and if I'm singing a song I learned after I started to understand how to do this, I can get it fairly right fairly often.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Sian H
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 04:21 AM

When I sing unaccompanied folksongs I tranpose to place the song within my own natural range. When I sing acappella with my group, we have to transpose to a key that fits all the harmony parts into our natural ranges. Starting the song even just a semi-tone out will risk the high part singers sqeaking or the lower parts growling. Hope that's helpful.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 04:42 AM

Since I always use double-dropped D tuning (much easier for old,arthritic,hands !) , I tend to play most things in D or G ; some "session" tunes are OK in A , just about. The chord of F is virtually impossible, of course, and B minor was tricky to begin with, and C sounds dreadful if you inadvertantly sound the bottom E ( now D) string , but otherwise it ( DDD) is a good tuning ; since I "pick" all my tunes around D tuning,it is easiest for me to capo the fifth fret if others want to play / sing something in G .To summarise then : G,D,and three minor keys ,E,A,and B, are fine in Double-Dropped D, but C and F are out !!


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: BobKnight
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 06:09 AM

I think it was Dougie McLean, the Scottish singer/songwriter and guitarist, who described "F" as, "That well named chord."


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: zozimus
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 07:02 AM

I think C being the peoples key may date back to the time when pianos or claviers did not have any black notes, so every tune was in the key of C. The joke was "why did J.S Bach have so many children? the answer being "he had no stops on his organ", stops being black notes, or sharps and flats. When these instruments were updated to contain black keys, Bach composed works for the Well Tempered Clavier, which would be the first tunes played in different keys.
The idea of G being the peoples key I would imagine comes from Bluegrass, to suit Banjo pickers playing in open G.
I always felt those annoying song books with tunes written in E flat reflect the fact that person writing the music played French Horn or some other instruement that was resstricted to E flat.
Mandolin Maestro Jethro Burns developed his style by playing along with Jazz/Standards records in awkward keys like A flat or E flat "cos that the way it was writ" and who was he to change it.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 08:36 AM

I think C being the peoples key may date back to the time when pianos or claviers did not have any black notes, so every tune was in the key of C. The joke was "why did J.S Bach have so many children? the answer being "he had no stops on his organ", stops being black notes, or sharps and flats. When these instruments were updated to contain black keys, Bach composed works for the Well Tempered Clavier, which would be the first tunes played in different keys.

Well that's a most interesting interpretation of events to be sure.

Just on the off chance that you're not joking, have a look at Ross Duffin's excellent book How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony, which, amongst many other interesting things about the development of Western music, covers the circumstances in which Bach wrote the Well Tempered Clavier.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 12:50 PM

What I love about good barbershop is its adherence to natural intervals so that, when well sung, the four parts create overtones and 5 or 6 notes can be heard.

I once visited some rehearsals of The Elmer Iseler Singers. One evening the director stopped them and said to the 2nd sopranos, "that C# is in a D chord, not an F# chord" whereupon restarting they tuned it up a smidge, a wee smidge that many people wouldn't even notice, and the chord no longer sounded excellent but truly exquisite. But that kind of detail is not possible with piano, organ or any tempered accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 05:16 PM

"...the lowest note I choose to sing is probably the lowest notes on "I Saw Her On The Bus" or "Doon By The Watterside."

Of course that might be any note, depending on what key the tunes were set in.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 06:17 PM

Simply follow the link he provided further up to find out,
:-)


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Jane of 'ull
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 07:58 PM

This is interesting, I've always liked the sound of guitars played with a capo quite high up the neck it creates a brighter sound.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Janie
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 08:31 PM

Nothing to add, just want to say thanks to all who have posted. Learning a lot.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 07:31 PM

You lucky gits, all of you. I can mentally transpose but find it very difficult to actually play/sing it in a different key, because it can make my ears hurt. I hate relative pitch.

N.B. This is NOT the same as perfect pitch. I can sing you an A or D on request, but I can't just tell you what note you're playing/singing. It just means I have a good memory for what key I first heard it in. Makes song sessions very interesting


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Subject: Perfect vs relative pitch
From: Crowhugger
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 08:55 PM

DC, you have my condolences, the problem you describe would frustrat me to no end. It sounds more like a relative pitch thing.

Over the years my music teachers explained perfect pitch to be like this: Accurately singing a specified note out of the blue, and/or accurately identifying a note you hear.

Relative pitch is knowing how much higher or lower a note is in relation to another note--essentially interval singing or recognition ability. People with poor relative pitch often have problems singing a song in a different key than they learned it in, because once doh is on a different note, they aren't sure where to put the other notes.

Both can be learned! A web search on 'ear training' yields many sites with progressive exercises you can do online over and over if need be.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 03:55 AM

I'm getting better at doing it in different keys (I'll have to deal with it if I'm planning on going to sessions more often, especially the local carols), but I still "know" it's different.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: goatfell
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 09:04 AM

there are people who sing in that new? key'AFF' or OFF


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Subject: To become comfortable with transposed music
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 11:06 AM

DC, it'll really help your ear if you work on transposing while singing rather than playing.

Here's one possible approach: Using an overly-familiar song like Happy Birthday, sing it in your usual key. Then sing in a key higher or lower by a 4th or 5th--whatever is easiest. If you find this extremely difficult, try it up or down just a semi-tone or tone. That may be harder or may be easier. Use what's easiest and play with it until you get accustomed to how it feels. Another week, do the same with another overly-familiar song; for me the next choice would be Frère Jacques, then The Water Is Wide, then The Fox, but use just one verse for now. If singing the whole verse transposed throws you off, use just one line. The most basic musical line I can think of to start with is the one for "nyah nyah-nyah nyah nyah".

If you find you just can't get through a whole verse or even one line, record yourself singing it (a line or a verse), then use a music editor like Audacity to transpose it. (Beware, you'll sound like a chipmunk when it's more than 2 or 3 semitones higher! But that's okay for this application.) Play it back and sing along with yourself till you get used to the new key. Then go back and forth between the original and transposed versions until you can sing both easily; then until you can sing both without the recording.

Eventually you'll start to understand the melody as relationships of distance between the notes instead of a particular pitch followed by another particular pitch.

Any amount of joyful play of this type will help make it easier, so have a laugh with it. Do it with a friend if you can!


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Ebbie
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 12:47 PM

"B flat as the people's key (said at a session just last Sunday by a D/G melodeon player)," STeveMansfield

I once read that in an unrehearsed group more people can reach the notes, high and low, in B# than in other keys. Might that make it the 'People's Key'?

Sometimes in a small singaround I will ask a singer to repeat a verse or two of the song they just sang but in a higher or sometimes lower key. My ear likes a song that is sung just at the inner limits of comfort. In other words, often, a song sung in a totally comfortable key for the singer can sound 'muddy' while bumping it up a fret or two gives it a pleasing silvery edge.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 01:55 PM

That "silvery edge" is resonance. Most people naturally have more of it in their higher range; one of the first goals of voice lessons is often to bring that quality into the lower notes as well.

I've only ever heard "the people's key" refer to G on the basis that the first chords often learned are G, D or D7 and C. But that was Ottawa in the 1970s.

As for Bb, yes, it's true most 2nd (lower) sopranos and 2nd tenors can easily reach all the notes of a doh-to-doh melody in that key.

Many 1st (higher) sops and 1st tenors will have a weak or growly sound on the lowest notes. Altos and bass-baritones will be able to reach (without straining or training) the same melody in E or F , or a sol-to-sol in Bb.

In other words, there isn't a one-size fits all; even one-size-fits-many depends on who are the many and what is the song.

Hymns are a good example of a whole genre of music typically (though not Always) arranged according to the assumption that all women sing 1st soprano range and all men sing tenor, at least for the melody. Check out a hymnnal or two: Look at the lowest and highest notes in various melodies compared to the key used. It's interesting to see the choices made by different editors.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 03:09 PM

"I once read that in an unrehearsed group more people can reach the notes, high and low, in B# than in other keys. Might that make it the 'People's Key'?"

B-Sharp? Didn't we have a long and (mostly) interesting discussion about that recently?

For all practical purposes, B# = C: there's no "black key" between the notes B and C. (However, per the earlier discussion, there is an esoteric music-theory explanation for the existence of B#.) Anyway, this brings us right back to the earlier assertion that the People's Key is C. ;^)

This has been a great thread, just as helpful and interesting, and a good bit less pedantic, than that talk about B-Sharp a month or so ago.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 03:26 PM

Looking through keys in the abc standard, B# locrian exists and has 7 sharps.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 04:08 PM

Considering the context--specifically Ebbie's initial reference in that post to Bb--maybe B# was a typo?


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 04:44 PM

Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was a typo and that she was talking about Bb (which is a very popular key among horn players).


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 05:46 PM

And among barbershoppers--women when it's sol-sol melody and men when it's doh-doh.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 06:40 PM

Crow, the grounding in classical music I have means I can do all that. I just have to focus on it. The ear pain is no longer hitting me, mostly because there's a lot less stuff for me to get intimately acquainted with (The Snow Is Dancing by Debussy is one that I still haven't forgiven my friend for transposing it).

The easy way of explaining it is something like this. If you sing a song twice, then when you want to sing it again and let me start, we'll be in the key we learnt it in. I can change that key the first few times, but once it's in there, it'll probably stay there.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 06:43 PM

DC, a song will stay exactly in the key learned in, or within, say, a semitone either way? Just curious...


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 07:44 PM

Pretty much. A good example is Let Union Be. I know it in G, and I could sing it in whatever key you want me to. But if you just said "Sing Let Union Be!", it'll be in G, within a semitone(ish).


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 10:27 PM

Cool! I'm usually off by up to 3rd from the usual key if I pull a song out of the blue from current repertoire. If it's one I learned a long time ago and haven't sung recently, all bets are off. The key I choose out of the blue depends a great deal on my energy level, whether I've eaten recently, even time of day--earlier=lower. I believe it also varies according to what else I've heard recently. I have to consciously ensure the allows me to get all the notes, so I quickly go through the song in my mind once I think I have the starting note, to make sure it's do-able.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 08:32 AM

What I noticed was how "common" songs didn't make the ear hurt. Stuff like Yesterday is done so many times in different keys my ear just didn't mind.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: Ebbie
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 02:36 PM

So true. So True. I did mean Bb- thanks for the vote(s) of confidence.


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Subject: RE: What Key?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 11:18 AM

To a vast number of folk, it's whatecer key is specified in Rise Up Singing


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