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Thread: Singing in Key? What is it & How do we do it?

  1. #1
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    Default Singing in Key? What is it & How do we do it?

    Hello everyone, I've been playing ukulele more and progressed to the point where I could time the simultaneous strumming and singing (however badly it is). It's really cool and exciting....
    BUT......................I have no idea how to sing!!


    Let me provide an example:

    G---------------D-----------Am
    Mama, take this badge off of me...
    G------D--------C
    I can't use it anymore...

    A song we are all familiar with and easy enough for me to play! So I take it that at 'Mama' we strum a G until 'badge,' which we will strum a D until 'me' where we will switch to an Am. I only have a couple months or so of self taught music experience but I also take it that my main trouble is that I can't sing in key...
    According to the song & Mr. Dylan: are we suppose to sing in the..

    key of G during "Mama, take this"
    Key of D during "badge off"
    key of Am during "me" ?

    If so, this leads to me second question- how and what do we need to do to sing in key?


    Thanks
    Last edited by TheUker; 08-03-2011 at 11:07 PM.

  2. #2
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    I don't think you need to sing it like the singer of the recorded version, whether it's Dylan or anybody else. Especially Dylan, he has a sound all his own! Remember, you're changing the CHORDS to play the notes, not KEYSs. You just want to find the sound that sounds right to your ear when you start singing. That's what they mean by singing "in key" or "in tune." If you're a little off, it will get better as you get used to the sound of the music, so try not to think about it so much. Music should be fun, especially the uke, so just expect to progress gradually. Some people never get to be a great singer, most just get to be good, some not even that, but just relax and have some fun.
    Kala Spruce Top Tenor Cutaway,
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheUker View Post
    Hello everyone, I've been playing ukulele more and progressed to the point where I could time the simultaneous strumming and singing (however badly it is). It's really cool and exciting....
    BUT......................I have no idea how to sing!!
    Let me provide an example:

    G---------------D-----------Am
    Mama, take this badge off of me...
    G------D--------C
    I can't use it anymore...
    A song we are all familiar with and easy enough for me to play! So I take it that at 'Mama' we strum a G until 'badge,' which we will strum a D until 'me' where we will switch to an Am. I only have a couple months or so of self taught music experience but I also take it that my main trouble is that I can't sing in key...
    According to the song & Mr. Dylan: are we suppose to sing in the..
    key of G during "Mama, take this"
    Key of D during "badge off"
    key of Am during "me" ?
    If so, this leads to me second question- how and what do we need to do to sing in key?
    Thanks
    Let's see if I can explain this. Singing in key as opposed to off key refers to singing melody notes accurately or matching pitch. Play an open C string and match the sound when you sing the note.

    Keys are based on a series of notes called scales. In standard notation there will be one # marked on the top line of the treble staff at the beginning of each line of standard notation which is the key signature of G major. A G major scale has the notes G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G. You are not changing key every time you change chords in a song. Hope this helps.
    Let's have a laugh after we cry. Let's hope we live before we die. Loudon Wainwright III
    Best Regards,
    Ray



  4. #4
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    My musical background is singing and brass bands. I've never had to wrap my head around chords before so it's been quite the learning curve on the music theory end. I am much more confident in my singing ability than my strumming. You can learn new vocals by playing the notes on a piano then trying to match them, but it was always easier for me to just listen to a performance and match up with that.

    What you're playing on the ukulele is meant to accompany your singing. The ukulele might sound higher or lower than what you're singing, but it should harmonize. Check what you're playing on the ukulele in addition to your singing if something sounds off key. Once you know the song and have an ear for it, you'll be able to tell when your singing doesn't match up.

    If the song was originally sung in a higher or lower register than what you're able to sing comfortably, you can adjust your singing so that you are still complimenting the ukulele but not necessarily matching the vocals note for note.

    Enjoy your uke!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raygf View Post
    Let's see if I can explain this. Singing in key as opposed to off key refers to singing melody notes accurately or matching pitch. Play an open C string and match the sound when you sing the note.

    Keys are based on a series of notes called scales. In standard notation there will be one # marked on the top line of the treble staff at the beginning of each line of standard notation which is the key signature of G major. A G major scale has the notes G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G. You are not changing key every time you change chords in a song. Hope this helps.
    Okay thanks, I didn't note before the song is in the key of G. But what i actually meant is how does one sing in tune.
    Knowing that, how can we apply that to singing the song in tune.
    G chord = G,B,D
    Am chord = A,C,E
    C chord = C,F,G

    How does one sing along with chords in a key, say for example the g chord, am chord and c chords?

    Thanks

    I don't think you need to sing it like the singer of the recorded version, whether it's Dylan or anybody else. Especially Dylan, he has a sound all his own! Remember, you're changing the CHORDS to play the notes, not KEYSs. You just want to find the sound that sounds right to your ear when you start singing. That's what they mean by singing "in key" or "in tune." If you're a little off, it will get better as you get used to the sound of the music, so try not to think about it so much. Music should be fun, especially the uke, so just expect to progress gradually. Some people never get to be a great singer, most just get to be good, some not even that, but just relax and have some fun.
    Well I sort of understand what you are saying but I want to try to understand some of the theory, boring technical stuff to build a foundation and practice from there. And that's another thing- I am terrible at distinguishing between notes and chords - would that be a problem? And is there any way I can improve upon that?
    thanks

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheUker View Post
    Okay thanks, I didn't note before the song is in the key of G. But what i actually meant is how does one sing in tune.
    Knowing that, how can we apply that to singing the song in tune.
    G chord = G,B,D
    Am chord = A,C,E
    C chord = C,F,G
    How does one sing along with chords in a key, say for example the g chord, am chord and c chords?
    You either sing an existing melody, write your own or make it up as you go along. When you match the pitches of the melody you will be singing in tune. You need to be able to hear if you are singing the note accurately (matching pitch). Record yourself and listen or ask someone else to listen and tell you if you are singing in tune.
    Let's have a laugh after we cry. Let's hope we live before we die. Loudon Wainwright III
    Best Regards,
    Ray



  7. #7
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    There's some basic music theory that you are not quite grasping yet. That's okay, we all were their once too.

    First, Keys do not equal Chords. Chords are groups of individual notes; usually 3 or four, but sometimes as much as 10 or as few as 2 (one if you are Freddie Greene). A KEY refers to what ROOT note you are referring to for the major scale used in the song/music.

    The ROOT note for the key you have described is "G". The chords "C", "D", and "Am" are all in the key of "G". They also exist in others. I could go on here and explain all of the 12 keys and such, but just believe me on this for now.

    So, back to your question of singing. Everyone can sing. Some have just done it more than others. You need practice. And not just practice playing and singing. Grab a radio/ipod/cassette player and listen to your favorite songs and sing along. Keep doing it. This will be some of the best "ear training" you can get without a professional's help.

    Now, for your technique, you also want to learn how to sing along to a major scale. Take the Key of "G" for instance. The notes here are G A B C D E F# G. Play those in order, one note at a time on your ukulele (you can find tabs for these tons of places) and sing each note as you go. Keep doing this and try other Keys like "C", "D", "F", and "A" (these are common keys for ukuleles).

    Keep at it and with time you'll develop the ability to hear and sing a melody with just a given set of chords.

    ~DB

    P.S.: Let me know if you want more info on how keys relate to chords. I'd be happy to explain it further.
    Music is 80% physical/technique, 19% mental/theory, and 1% magic/luck.
    SwingUkulele.com

  8. #8
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    I'm not a great Bob Dylan fan, but I'm fairly sure that the chords should change more like:

    G------D--------------------Am
    Mama, take this badge off of me...
    G------D--------C
    I can't use it anymore...

    I'm sure one changes to the D on 'take'. Changing on 'badge' would make it seem as if you were singing out of key for a couple of words.

    Assuming A2 represents a note played on the A string at the second fret, I think the melody of the vocals should be something like the following:

    A2-A2--A0---A0-A0----E3-E0-A0
    Ma-ma, take this badge off of me...
    A2A2---A2-A2--E3A0-E0
    I can't use it an-y-more...

    Playing the single notes should help you to check whether you are singing the right notes, then try it with the chords.

    If you are still not convinced you are singing the right notes with the chords, make a short recording and post it so we may be able to hear where you're at with it. I know someone who sings beautifully, but cannot always start a song in the right key after hearing the chords. If I let her hear the right notes to start the vocals, she's perfect.

    I know none of the above is musical theory, but it's, hopefully, musical sense.
    Last edited by Driftin' Duke; 08-07-2011 at 02:01 AM.
    Life's too short for anybody under six feet three and a half inches tall...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheUker View Post
    Hello everyone, I've been playing ukulele more and progressed to the point where I could time the simultaneous strumming and singing (however badly it is). It's really cool and exciting....
    BUT......................I have no idea how to sing!!


    Let me provide an example:
    Code:
    G---------------D------------Am
    Mama, take this badge off of me...
    G-------D---------C
    I can't use it anymore...
    A song we are all familiar with and easy enough for me to play! So I take it that at 'Mama' we strum a G until 'badge,' which we will strum a D until 'me' where we will switch to an Am.
    A heads-up: Try wrapping any chords/lyrics with the code /code tags (in []). That way they'll display exactly as you intended. (That is, they'll display exactly as they would if you originally wrote everything spaced out in a monospaced typeface like Courier.)

    As a matter of fact, you're (almost) correct as to where the chord changes do come in the song. Here's a link to the actual sheet music: Knockin' on Heaven's Door page 1.

    In case you don't read music, I've written down what notes are actually being played underneath the melody in the accompaniment in the first four bars. The vertical lines '|' are the bar markers. I've only used the initial letter of each word in the lyric.

    Code:
    Chord  G       D          |  Am7  |
    Name
    Lyric  M m t t b o-o m    |       |
    Melody b b b b a a-g a    |       |
    
    Chords b b b b a     a    |       |
           g g g g f#    f#   |       |
           d d d d d     d    |       |
    
    
    Chord  G       D       C(arpeggio)|
    Name
    Lyric  I c u__ i a-y-m-re |       |
    Melody b b b_b a a g g-e__|e      |
    
    Chords b b b_b a       e__|e  e   |
           g g g_g f#         |  c    |
           d d d d d          | g     |
    You'll see that the top note in each chord is pretty nearly always the same note as the melody, so the chords are 'supporting' the melody. [Occasionally they're not, but that's part of the "tension-release" that characterises much of music. The melody or the accompaniment 'wants' to be somewhere else, but it's being held back until the moment is right.]

    All the notes in the melody and the notes making up the chords are in the key of 'G' btw.

    N.b., an arpeggio (Italian for 'harp-style') chord is one where the notes making up the chord are played rapidly one after the other, rather than all at once, so the C chord 'g', 'c', 'e', is played as a rapid sequence of single notes rather than all at once. In other words, don't strum that C at the end of the 2nd line, just play each string one after the other.

    POI:
    You'll notice that you don't change to the Am, until after you finish singing 'me'. You'll notice also that although the chord box above the melody in the 3rd bar has the change come on 'use', it should come on 'it'.
    So, how it should go is:
    Code:
    G               D                Am7
    Mama, take this badge off of me.
    G           D          C
    I can't use it an-y-mo-ore...
    Try making the changes as above and see if that makes a difference. And, you should always try to sing standing up, feet apart, knees flexed and head, back and weight over your heels - kinda like you're skating.
    Last edited by redpaul1; 09-18-2013 at 06:21 AM.
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  10. #10
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    I find that if you are new to singing, it is helpful to have a second set of ears. By that I mean someone who can verify that you are actually sing the correct note. When I help someone with singing I will play a note on an instrument, like piano or uke and ask them to match that pitch. They either can or they can't. If they can't I assure them not to worry. It is just a matter of training the ear. (As long as there is nothing wrong with their vocal cords or ear drums) But to do so you must have someone who can help you know if your are too high or too low. If they can sing a note, any note, I find that note on the instrument and help them understand that what they are singing and what I am playing is correct. This may take some time. When they can consistently sing that note I start going up a note at a time asking them to match pitch. Going up seems easier for most people than going down. Training the ear is simple but it does take time. Hope this helps.
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