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What's your opinion about changing a song's key to fit the vocalist?
Old 17th January 2013
  #1
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
What's your opinion about changing a song's key to fit the vocalist?

Hi
Recently at a rehearsal a bass player lamented about dropping song keys to fit the singer, claiming it essentially ruins a song in general , I disagree but want your takes on this. Do professionals often or seldom change keys to fit the performer? Does the loss of low open strings trump finding a singer's sweet spot?
Old 17th January 2013
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
Meistersounds CH's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
it depends. sometimes its better to tune down a halfstep/wholestep.
Old 17th January 2013
  #3
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Silent Sound's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Most people won't really notice if the song is in a different key. But they will notice if the song is in a key the singer can't reach.
Old 17th January 2013
  #4
Gear Addict
 
erosconpollo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I reckon the singer always is the first consideration. However, it can be a good thing to challenge the vocalist, to go outside their normal comfort range. The end result may actually be better.

But I wouldn't do it just for the bass player. I'd challenge him instead!
Old 17th January 2013
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
Meistersounds CH's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Sometimes its difficult to transpose guitar riffs. it will (in some cases) sound radically different/worse.
Old 17th January 2013
  #6
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Singers have sweet spots where their voices sound best. You want to keep them in that range as much as possible. You look at the highest note in the entire song and find out whether they can reasonably pull it off. If not, you drop the key until it works. Musical instruments have sweet spots too, but they're a secondary consideration behind the vocalist.
Old 17th January 2013
  #7
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andsonic's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsowa ➑️
Singers have sweet spots where their voices sound best. You want to keep them in that range as much as possible. You look at the highest note in the entire song and find out whether they can reasonably pull it off. If not, you drop the key until it works. Musical instruments have sweet spots too, but they're a secondary consideration behind the vocalist.
This.
It seems to me that changing the key is becoming a lost art. A couple of years back, I worked with a singer/songwriter who had written a song that wasn't in their vocal range. After working the song to death, and auto-tune tweaks up the (bleep), he finally lowered the key (after 6 months fighting my suggestion). Now the song works perfectly.

Sent from my PC36100
Old 17th January 2013
  #8
Gear Guru
 
Musiclab's Avatar
If the singer sounds bad it kinda doesn't matter about what the rest of the song sounds like. If the song is one of those open chord rock tunes, your options are
in no particular order
1. Fire the singer, 2. capoing. 3. tune down. The whole Led Zep Celebration Day concert has at least Jimmy Page tuned down a step. It's a pain in that it messes with your guitar but if you set it up tuned down, use a slightly heavier gauge string if need be.
One thing though, if you do tune down, recognize the key you are actually playing in, there's nothing so dumb as a guitar or bass player tuned down a step calling the open low six string note an E when it's actually a D.
Old 17th January 2013
  #9
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fhames's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
The singer is the single most important element of a song. Gtr licks, bass notes or kybrd gymnastics are not.
Old 17th January 2013 | Show parent
  #10
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henge's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsowa ➑️
Singers have sweet spots where their voices sound best. You want to keep them in that range as much as possible. You look at the highest note in the entire song and find out whether they can reasonably pull it off. If not, you drop the key until it works. Musical instruments have sweet spots too, but they're a secondary consideration behind the vocalist.
Gotta agree. The singer is what people hear.
Old 17th January 2013
  #11
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ksandvik's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Yep. There's no sin to change keys so the singer sounds better. Unless we are dealing with an open-string guitar riff and using capos sounds/looks silly.
Old 17th January 2013
  #12
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kennybro's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Totally in with the majority, here. Fit the key to the singer.
Old 17th January 2013 | Show parent
  #13
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unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by fhames ➑️
The singer is the single most important element of a song. Gtr licks, bass notes or kybrd gymnastics are not.
+1
Old 17th January 2013
  #14
Deleted User
Guest
My band often uses a capo on the 3rd fret ( i guess that would be G standard ) to help the lead singer pull off songs that are normally in the key of E
Old 17th January 2013
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I've never heard a song with solid vocals and thought, "Man, this sure would sound better in a different key."
Old 17th January 2013
  #16
Deleted 6ccb844
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by larrykane ➑️
Hi
Recently at a rehearsal a bass player lamented about dropping song keys to fit the singer, claiming it essentially ruins a song in general , I disagree but want your takes on this. Do professionals often or seldom change keys to fit the performer? Does the loss of low open strings trump finding a singer's sweet spot?
Play it in whatever key you feel like, but if your vocalist sucks because of it.. It will reflect on you all.. If you change the key like someone else says no-body knows..

This is called being a band, helping each other out with strengths and weaknesses.
Old 17th January 2013 | Show parent
  #17
Deleted 6ccb844
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2pulse ➑️
I've never heard a song with solid vocals and thought, "Man, this sure would sound better in a different key."
As a singer, my voice works well at a higher octave around D - F.. That's my sweet spot, just like anything else..

I can sing an octave below and an octave above in any key nearly.. But I just want it to sound the best it can, not do the equivalent of fret wanking with my vocals and have parts where the tonality of my voice sounds weird.. Like me singing Barry white, I'm not a baritone.. It sounds odd
Old 17th January 2013 | Show parent
  #18
Gear Addict
 
Raj Smoove's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsowa ➑️
Singers have sweet spots where their voices sound best. You want to keep them in that range as much as possible. You look at the highest note in the entire song and find out whether they can reasonably pull it off. If not, you drop the key until it works. Musical instruments have sweet spots too, but they're a secondary consideration behind the vocalist.
+2

Sometimes singers have to force it to pull a song off in certain keys that don't fit their range. When you get that right key the tones just open up and everything falls in place.
Old 17th January 2013
  #19
Gear Guru
 
Musiclab's Avatar
when I work on a production with a singer one of the things we take a minute and figure out what key the singer sounds best.
Old 17th January 2013
  #20
Raising Jake Studios
 
Nonlinear's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Some guitar and bass riffs cannot be transposed without losing the feel - especially if they employ open strings.

However, vocals are usually the most important feature in a song. They should be challenging but not straining in either direction - you need to find the "sweet spot" for the best performance.

You CAN have both (on a recording). Record the backing tracks first - then change the key with your DAW or tape deck to best suit the vocalist and record their part(s). You can change it back afterwards or leave it.

Studio Karaoke, if you will. It's a VERY common technique.
Old 17th January 2013 | Show parent
  #21
Deleted 6ccb844
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nonlinear ➑️
Some guitar and bass riffs cannot be transposed without losing the feel - especially if they employ open strings.

However, vocals are usually the most important feature in a song. They should be challenging but not straining in either direction - you need to find the "sweet spot" for the best performance.

You CAN have both (on a recording). Record the backing tracks first - then change the key with your DAW or tape deck to best suit the vocalist and record their part(s). You can change it back afterwards or leave it.

Studio Karaoke, if you will. It's a VERY common technique.
Transposing songs normally affect's the quality of the audio, you should get that stuff sorted out before you enter the studio IMO..
Old 18th January 2013
  #22
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BillSimpkins's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
To all you guitar players out there: If the singer does bad, you all look bad. Lift the singer up as high as you can. I don't care if you strum chords or play E-flat harmonic minor runs at 1000 notes per second. Lift your singer up and you'll be better off.
Old 18th January 2013 | Show parent
  #23
Deleted 6ccb844
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillSimpkins ➑️
To all you guitar players out there: If the singer does bad, you all look bad. Lift the singer up as high as you can. I don't care if you strum chords or play E-flat harmonic minor runs at 1000 notes per second. Lift your singer up and you'll be better off.
+1
Old 18th January 2013
  #24
Moderator
 
psycho_monkey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by larrykane ➑️
Hi
Recently at a rehearsal a bass player lamented about dropping song keys to fit the singer, claiming it essentially ruins a song in general , I disagree but want your takes on this. Do professionals often or seldom change keys to fit the performer? Does the loss of low open strings trump finding a singer's sweet spot?
no-one ever notices if the bass riff isn't 100% as the record; everyone notices the singer!
Old 18th January 2013
  #25
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climber's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Why wouldn't you make it best for the singer?
Old 18th January 2013
  #26
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Wolf LeProducer's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
This is what they used to do way back in the 1980s and 1990s before Auto-Tune was invented.
Old 18th January 2013
  #27
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audiogeek's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
LOL figures a bassist would make this asinine request.

As everybody else here is already saying, the singer is always the most important element. Period.
Old 18th January 2013
  #28
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C//AZM's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
With Midi, it's quite easy, with recorded instruments, not so much however I have changed the keys of quite a few songs as the songs changed hands from one artist to another. Back in the day, I also have worked on a few songs where we varisped a song down a major second and kept it there through recording and mixing to fit the singer.
Old 18th January 2013
  #29
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madgansound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
This is done in the 'professional' world all the time. In the rock genre with bands and their singers things can be a little different due the music typically revolving around guitar and bass. Open position chords and riffs utilizing open strings are facilitated typically by dropping/raising the string(s) tuning to help with key centers. With more traditional styles of music, transposition is much more normal. Hell, when I was learning music years ago it's what you did! Learn a song then transpose it to all keys on the fly. I believe it was called being a musician? Not as common of an art anymore - LOL.
Old 18th January 2013
  #30
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Always.
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