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Working with Vocalists

22 July, 2019 - 10:18
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If you are trying to accomodate singers, your main concern in choosing a key is finding their range. Is the music you are working with too high or too low? Is it only a step too high, or does it need to be changed by a third or a fifth? Once you determine the interval needed, check to make certain this will be a comfortable key for your instrumentalists.


A church choir director wants to encourage the congregation to join in on a particular hymn. It is written in four parts with the melody in the soprano part, in a range slightly too high for untrained singers. The hymn is written in the key of E flat. Lowering it by a minor third (one and a half steps) will allow the congregation to sing with gusto.

Figure 6.17 The hymn is originally in E flat. The melody that goes up to an F is too high for most untrained vocalists (male and female). 


An alto vocalist would like to perform a blues standard originally sung by a soprano or tenor in B flat. She needs the song to be at least a whole step lower. Lowering it by a whole step would put it in the key of A flat. The guitar, bass, and harmonica players don't like to play in A flat, however, and the vocalist wouldn't mind singing even lower. So the best solution is to lower it by a minor third (Major and Minor Intervals), and play in the key of G.

Figure 6.18 (a) The key of this blues standard is comfortable for a soprano or tenor, as shown in this excerpt. (b) An alto or baritone can deliver a more powerful performance if the music is transposed down a minor third. 

Exercise 6.3

You're accompanying a soprano who feels that this folk tune in C minor is too low for her voice. The guitar player would prefer a key with no flats and not too many sharps.

Figure 6.19 Tune in C minor too low for some sopranos voices.