View Full Version : singing key

10-23-2009, 03:38 PM
Hopefully I didn't miss this on the forum (I searched!).

As someone with no musical training or experience whatsoever, I took up da uke and I have been practicing.

In the past year, I've gotten proficient at some of the techniques and can change chords as well as use a few different strums. Now, its time to move into singing along with the music.

I want to figure out what key I should play in so that I can sing. However, I don't know how this works.

The keys are ABCDEFG. So is A the lowest and G the highest? If a song is in C and is too high for my voice, does that mean I should transpose the chords into B and try it? Or is D a lower key?

I'm assuming that you play and sing in the same key. Correct me if I'm wrong!

Thanks for the help!

10-23-2009, 11:52 PM
I'll try to help you out without using too much technical theory (partly because I just don't know it well enough). The key actually doesn't really have any relation to the range. The key a song is in just says which 7 of the 12 possible notes are going to used, for both the melody and to form the chords (although, as a side note, there can also be "accidentals", which are notes that aren't in the key). The reason why the key doesn't coincide with the range is that you can use those 7 notes in any octave, and the lowest or highest note in the melody can be any one of those 7 notes. Generally the melody ends on the same note as the key it's in, but the rest of the melody, while usually sticking to those 7 notes, can be anywhere, higher or lower.

As for transposing, it just depends how far out of your range it is. For example, if you're trying a song in C and the high note is 3 half steps higher than your comfortable singing range, transpose it down 3 half steps to A. Same thing if it is a few steps to low; transpose it however many steps gets the lowest note within your comfortable range. As for how to transpose, there are plenty of resources that will explain it better than I can, but basically just move each chords root up or down the same amount, and keep the same chord type (minor remains minor, 7th remains 7th etc.).

Hope that points you in the right direction at least.

10-24-2009, 12:47 AM
Carmoil has explained how it works very well. I have almost NIL knowledge of musical theory, but when I started singing to the uke, I had to learn to transpose tunes to a convenient key. Some keys are just too difficult to play (for me), so it is often a compromise. It has to suit my limited vocal range, and also be playable. I downloaded and made the Tikki King transposing wheel - it changed my life!

Incidentally, the more you sing, the wider your vocal range will become. Especially if you really fill your lungs, and make an effort to produce the required notes. I can now make a passable job of songs I thought I would NEVER be able to sing.


10-24-2009, 02:12 AM
As stated above, it's not as simple as "I sing well in F." The key dictates the type of chords used, but NOT the range (high notes to low notes) of the song. So one song in F might be very comfortable to sing, but another may not.

You may find it helpful to develop a sense of what your range is: what's the lowest note you can comfortably sing? The highest? Where's your "sweet spot" - ie, the area where your voice is strongest?

From there, you can move the key of the song you're working on to try to put the melody of the song within your range. If a song feels high for you, try lowering the key by several steps. If it feels too low, try moving it up.

This site makes it very easy to move the keys of songs:


I use it both to manuever songs into my vocal range, and also to find keys with chords that are easier to play. For example, I find it easier to play the uke in the key of C than the key of B, because the most common chords in C (C, F, G, Am, Dm, Em) are easier to play than the most common chords in B (B, E, F#, G#m, etc.).

Hope this helps!

Ukulele JJ
10-24-2009, 04:02 AM
The keys are ABCDEFG. So is A the lowest and G the highest? If a song is in C and is too high for my voice, does that mean I should transpose the chords into B and try it? Or is D a lower key?

The previous responses have been spot-on. I just thought I'd work on this part for a bit. This may just confuse you all the more. :D

The notes (and keys) "wrap around". So instead of ABCDEFG, think of it as:


<-- lower higher -->

You're right that moving to the "left" is lower and the "right" is higher. So if you're in C and you want to move it just a little bit lower, you can move it down to B:

Start in C
Move down to B

If you want to move it a bit higher, put it in D:

Start in C
Move up to D

But as you can see, the same notes appears lower and higher, due to the wrapping around. So you can also sing the song a lot lower and still put it in D!

In that case, the chords would all be the same, and it would still be in D (as if you moved a bit higher), but you'd be singing the melody almost a full octave lower:

Start in C
Move the melody waaaaay down to D

Finally, I do have to mention that there are really more keys (and notes) than just ABCDEFG. It's actually:

... A - A#/Bb - B - C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A ...

If you're familiar with the piano keyboard (http://www.eng.cam.ac.uk/DesignOffice/mdp/electric_web/AC/02277.png), then the "regular" notes are the white keys, and the sharp and flat notes are the black ones.

Each black note can be thought of as a "sharp" (#) version of the note to its left, or a "flat" (b) version of the note to its right. That's why I'm using the slash: A#/Bb. The note in-between A and B can be called either A# or Bb.

It's a weird, apparently arbitrary arrangement. But it explains why, on uke, moving from C down to B is a half-step (one fret lower), but moving from C up to D is a whole-step (two frets higher). It's because there's actually a note between the C and the D, but not between the C and the B.


10-24-2009, 10:50 AM
Wow. I had no idea how to answer this question and make sense. You guys did a spectacular job with your replies.

10-24-2009, 11:20 AM
Good explanations! I think I knew this but this has helped me understand thing better.

10-24-2009, 01:41 PM
I appreciate all the efforts involved in these thoughtful answers to my question.
Very helpful
Thanks to all of you!