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Country Vocals Lessons: Finding The Right Key

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[MUSIC]
So we've touched a little
bit on melody, what melody means,
what it actually is in a song.
And that is a key ingredient to what
I think is one of the most important
decisions a singer ever makes,
finding the right key.
Unlike a guitar player or a piano player,
a singer can't always
sing a song in any key.
Most instrumentalists can
transpose a melody and
a song into whatever key
they want to play it in.
But a singer is limited by
what their range is, and
we touched a little bit on that as well.
Your range is the notes that you
can actually physically produce in
a useful controllable,
meaningful way as a vocalist.
So, from your lowest,
useful note to your highest, useful note,
that determines your range and
depending on how wide
a range the melody it has, the notes that
are actually contained in the melody,
that will determine what
is the best key for you.
Now, most singers can choose at
least several different keys and
sing a song within a spectrum or
range of keys, but
at some point they're gonna reach a key
where that bottom note is just too low,
it's out of my range, or that top note is
out of my range, so today we're going to
spend a good bit of time because
this is a really critical element.
In the studio when you're
recording vocals and
you know this is a performance
that's going to be captured for
all eternity, and you can't take it back,
and you can't re-perform it,
it will be the record of your
voice singing that song forever.
We will sometimes spend half an hour
making sure that we have the right key.
And the singer will sing
a verse in a chorus or
maybe even the entire song,
even a few times, in one key.
And see how it feels in their voice and
what they're able to do in
critical moments of the melody.
And they may say, okay,
that feels alright, but let me try it,
let me try it a half step lower or
a half step higher.
Or they may be saying, no,
this is just, this is not feeling right,
let's move it to a minor third down.
Let's take it down a lot, so I can see how
it feels in a lower register altogether.
I don't wanna be singing up in
my head voice in my high notes,
I wanna have a more powerful
chest voice sound down there, so
let's move the whole song down a third.
So these are critical questions that it's
legitimate and important for you to ask.
It's important for
you to know your own voice well
enough to know what your range is.
And, then to take the time to know
the melody of the song well enough
inside your range,
to know where you want to sing it.
So, we're gonna talk about that in
relationship with one of my favorite
songs, maybe the song that inspired
me to become a singer to begin with.
I saw The Wizard of Oz when
I was four years old on TV.
When it came on television
that one night a year and
I was glued to the set every year
from the age of about three or
four years old and
Somewhere Over the Rainbow inspired me.
And Judy Garland performing that
song inspired me to become a singer.
It's a beautiful melody, classic melody,
and it's a rangey melody.
And we're gonna look on the keyboard
at what that melody actually is and
how you as a singer determine
where it sits in your
range knowing how wide a range you have
to have for this particular melody.
So the melody of Somewhere Over
the Rainbow starts with an octave.
That's a big jump right there, so
[MUSIC]
I'm gonna play it in a key of B flat.
So the very first interval is from
the low B flat to the octave above.
[MUSIC]
That's a huge jump right off the bat,
it's a challenge for any singer,
but it gives you a good
idea of how much range you have to
have to tackle this particular melody.
So
[MUSIC]
So that's the opening phrase.
We're gonna continue on now.
We've got B flat
[MUSIC]
to
an
[MUSIC]
octave above B flat.
[MUSIC]
Then it jumps down.
[MUSIC]
Okay,
so we just expanded
the range of this melody.
It started out with an octave,
that was already a big range, right?
We just added another minor third from
[MUSIC]
B flat down
to
[MUSIC]
the G below middle C.
[MUSIC]
That's just the first
A section of this song and
we've already got what we would call a
[MUSIC]
tenth in the range of this melody.
That's a pretty wide ranging melody for
a pop song.
So from
[MUSIC]
B flat
to
[MUSIC]
B flat above and
then
[MUSIC]
all the way down to G.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
So the next section
of the song is the B section.
Some day I'll wish upon a star and
wake up where the clouds
are far behind me.
We're still inside the range that we
saw from the low G to the upper B flat.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
away above the chimney tops,
that's where you'll find me.
So we just went, now, another whole
step above what was the highest note.
We just went up to the high C,
the C an octave above middle C.
So here's how you determine
the range of that melody.
This is the lowest note, the low G.
And this, an octave above middle C,
would be the highest note of the melody.
There aren't any other notes in
the song that go above the high C or
below the low G.
So you know that the range
of the melody for
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
is from a low G.
Here's the octave G another fourth
above that, so an octave and a half.
So that means when you're choosing a key
to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow,
you want to be conscious of the fact
that you will have to be able to
sing in whatever key you
pick an octave and a half.
So, let's move it, just for
the sake of example.
Let's move it down to F.
I was just playing it in B flat.
[MUSIC]
Now we're gonna play it in F.
So, the melody starts out with the octave.
Some, F to the octave above.
Where, somewhere over the rainbow,
way up high, there's.
That's a low D,
that's the D below middle C.
That's at the bottom of my range.
There's, I have to really relax my larynx.
There's, I have to have a lot of
air support from my diaphragm.
There's a land that I
heard of once in a lullaby.
Now we're gonna check that middle part.
Someday I'll wish upon a star and wake
up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
away above the chimney tops
that's where you'll find.
There's that octave and
a note above our starting.
So here's the range of
Somewhere Over the Rainbow in
the key of F,
from the low D to the G above middle C.
Where you'll find me,
somewhere over the rainbow way up high,
there's a land that I heard
of once in a lullaby.
Some day I'll wish upon a star and wake
up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like
lemon drops away above
the chimney tops,
that's where you'll find me.
So I can sing Somewhere Over
the Rainbow in either F or in B flat.
But it sits in different
parts of my register.
I bottom out, basically,
with that low D in the key of F.
And I'm up in a nice falsetto
register unless I really wanna
belt it hard on that high
D when I go into B flat.
That's how you transpose
a melody from one key to another
and try to determine where
it sits in your range.
So for this video submission,
now you are going to submit to me you
singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow,
at least just a verse and the high part
if you don't wanna sing the whole song.
You can just sing one A section and
then the B section.
But I want you to play with how
it feels in your voice to sing
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
in these two different keys.
You have a backing track for the key of B
flat and a backing track for the key of F.
It will feel very different.
And I don't want you to hurt yourself.
I don't want you to force anything.
It may be that some of that
melody is out of your range.
If it is, just don't sing that
note if it's out of your range and
uncomfortable or if it hurts in any way.
But play with how it feels in your voice
to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow
in these two very different keys,
B flat to F, that's a fourth apart.
So that will really give you
a good idea of where that melody
sits in your voice and
how it feels in different registers.
I'm looking forward to hearing you sing.
[MUSIC]