My post today is a response to a question that I received from Samantha:
Ok, you wouldn’t happen to be able to give some life-saving advice would you? I am planning on trying out for The Voice when I am 15 or 16 (right now I’m almost 14) and I’m having a problem with songs. I am working on practicing my songs now so that when I am old enough I can audition and blow the judges away, but on all the songs I sing, I can’t match the pitch of the song. Everyone says I have a beautiful voice, and I think it’s ok, but I can’t match the pitch and I can’t find a version of the song in the pitch I need. I am practicing and working on fixing it, but if you have some advice it would be greatly appreciated.
Great question. What Samantha is talking about is finding music in the right key for her voice.
Now if you were a classical singer, you’d find that a lot of songs are published in several different keys, because over the years they would have been sung by sopranos, and altos, and often tenors and basses too.
For instance, Giordani’s ever-popular ‘Caro Mio Ben’ is available in a High Key for sopranos (Eb Major, the key it was originally written in), and a Low Key for altos (C Major), as well as F Major for tenors and occasionally higher sopranos. The singer chooses the key that is most suited to their voice.
I’m a contralto (a type of alto), so I always buy the low key for myself.
Stepping away from classical music – most contemporary sheet music published these days is only available in the key that the vocalist recorded it in. So for example, Adele’s music is written in lower keys for altos, because she’s a singer-songwriting alto, and Christina Aguilera’s music is written for sopranos who have higher voices like her.
Here’s the thing, though – you don’t have to sing a song in the same key as the artist who recorded it. If there’s a song you love, but find it too high or too low to sing along to, you can change the key you sing it in.
Have a search online for sheet music and look out for those published in different keys for higher or lower voices. Even if you discover that the song you want is only published in its original key (fairly likely with contemporary music), you can transpose it.
To transpose means to change it from one key to another.
If you’re not familiar with music notation, then any music teacher, or your average music student, should be able to transpose a song for you if you provide the original sheet music. Then you would provide the transposed version of the sheet music to your accompanist to play at your audition.
If you’re looking for audio tracks of a song in different keys, a good thing to do is check out karaoke backing tracks. There are heaps of them out there. I often go to iTunes and search for the name of the song I’m looking for, along with the word ‘karaoke’. You’ll often find several versions of a song in different keys.
Example – I just typed ‘rolling in the deep karaoke’ into the iTunes search bar.
Right away there were 50 results! That’s 50 different recorded versions of a single song, and they’re backing tracks, so you can really practice and hear your own voice. Now, some of results above say ‘low voice’ or ‘in the key of Cm’ in their titles, but not all of them do. Most don’t. You need to actually listen to them. The great thing with iTunes is that you can play a sample of each track, and sing along, and work out if it’s a key that suits your voice. It helps to have a keyboard nearby so you can work out the key for yourself, and track higher/lower versions to pick the one that suits you best.
I hope this has helped to answer Samantha’s question, and also provided you with some ideas for finding versions of songs that are in a key that’s suitable for your voice. Please feed back any comments or questions below, and as always, good luck in all your singing endeavours!