How do I determine which key(s) I can sing in?

BiosphereDecay

Island Punk Rock
UU VIP
Joined
Feb 14, 2024
Messages
293
Reaction score
289
Location
Bellingham WA
How do I determine which key(s) I can sing in? The middle of my range is about A3 on piano, low end is about E2, high is about E4. I used a piano app to determine that though. Mid is about 2nd or 3rd fret on a low G ukulele.
 
To me, it seems that you just have to try some of your favorite songs in each key. If none of them feel right singing melody, try some harmony.
There are some songs that I can sing in G, and some i can't. The ones I can't, if my band chooses not to change the key, I come up with a harmony part, like my voice coach taught me to do. It's all trial and error for me.
Good luck!
 
Sounds like the internet will call you a bass singer with that range.
The top of my range is too low to be a bass singer 😆. I probably need to use the key intended for a tenor singer, and lower it a full octave.

These is no rule as to what part of the scales associated with a certain key is the highest notes used. Usually some important melody lines end on the root note, that is about it as far as I know - but that is rarely the top note.
You will probably want to choose a key for a specific song where the top note is somewhere in the upper half octave of your range. It depends on the mood of the song if you want to sound like you are at the top of your range or so comfortable that you can "croon" a bit.
 
How do I determine which key(s) I can sing in? The middle of my range is about A3 on piano, low end is about E2, high is about E4. I used a piano app to determine that though. Mid is about 2nd or 3rd fret on a low G ukulele.
I agree that it is a trial and error thing. I generally figure what the top note is in the song in its original key, and then I transpose to make sure it fits my range. I have the same range as you, E2-E4. With two octaves, you sing virtually any tune, excepting those with real vocal acrobatics. But you will likely have to transpose because we don't hear low voices in popular music as much anymore, it's wall-to-wall mezzo sopranos and high tenors these days.

If you're into older tunes, Sinatra uses this same range for most of his career (his voice was more agile in his early period), so you can sing most of the tunes he does in his key.
 
How do I determine which key(s) I can sing in? The middle of my range is about A3 on piano, low end is about E2, high is about E4. I used a piano app to determine that though. Mid is about 2nd or 3rd fret on a low G ukulele.
Maybe I don't understand your issue, but how about if you sing in various keys, and then you will notice which sound better?
 
Maybe I don't understand your issue, but how about if you sing in various keys, and then you will notice which sound better?
It's more of a lack of understanding of music theory and having an untrained ear. I don't know how to tell what key a song is in unless something tells me directly. I want to know what keys I can sing in most comfortably, so I can write instrumentals in those keys. I understand how to tell what key a ukulele piece is in a lot better than a vocal piece.

I'm just going to go ahead and link one of my songs. It's just my voice. Could some of you weigh in on what key you think the song is in?
 
Thank you for posting this question, @BiosphereDecay! I’ve had precisely the same question rolling around in the vast empty space within the creative hemisphere of my tiny brain but presumed it to be virtually un-answerable in this forum/ format. Please allow me to piggyback a related question which, worst- case, will confirm that my lack of musical knowledge is indeed profound and, best- case, may be of help to both of us:

If I were to attach my Snark electronic tuner to, say, my left earlobe or the tip of my nose, then sing the first or last lyric from a tune I’m practicing, will the tuner readout tell me what key my voice is in?
 
I just play a few keys till I find one that's comfortable. If I try G and it's too low, I'll go for A. If it's still too low, I'll try B and so on.
This is what I do too. Also, I think this is important: I always assumed I’d never be able to sing much until I realised this was a thing you could do. Turns out I just have a lower voice than most popular singers so singing along to the radio doesn’t often work well.

So, basically, messing about until it works seems to be the right answer!

For my own songs, I think I pick a key more or less at random then look for a singable tune within that. So it’s not really “what’s my key” as much as “what’s my range”.

I should look this up but… there are definitely phone apps and probably web sites that will tell you what note you’re singing. I was surprised at what they told me when I last tried.
 
The key is not really relevant, it's more the range between highest and lowest note that's important.

And yes we can hear high notes better than low notes. That's why violin and fiddle are popular solo instruments, tenors and sopranos are the key solo voices, and many people can't sing along with their favourite songs on the radio that are sung by professionals with high voice skill.
 
If I were to attach my Snark electronic tuner to, say, my left earlobe or the tip of my nose, then sing the first or last lyric from a tune I’m practicing, will the tuner readout tell me what key my voice is in?
Your Snark tuner can only identify the individual notes that you are singing. The readout on the tuner will keep changing with each different note that you sing. If you are trying to identify what key a particular song is in, play or sing the very last note in the song. For many songs, the name of the last note is frequently the same as the name of the key. (i.e. If the last note is a C, then the song is quite likely in the Key of C.)
 
Last edited:
The key is not really relevant, it's more the range between highest and lowest note that's important.

⬆️⬆️⬆️ This - always this! 👍🏼

Don’t get bogged down by music theory. If it sounds right, it is right.
 
The key is not really relevant, it's more the range between highest and lowest note that's important.

And yes we can hear high notes better than low notes. That's why violin and fiddle are popular solo instruments, tenors and sopranos are the key solo voices, and many people can't sing along with their favourite songs on the radio that are sung by professionals with high voice skill.
But it's not even that long ago that we heard a much greater variety of voices on the radio: Nina Simone, Hildegard Knef, Marlena Dietrich, Tina Turner, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Bing Crosby, Lee Hazelwood, Johnny Cash etc. These are all deep voices, and people didn't have any trouble relating to them.

I think it's kind of a shame that mainstream music mostly favours that bright, shiny timbre that high voices have (I blame Disney!). Country music is one of the few genres that still has some baritone stars. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say.
 
But it's not even that long ago that we heard a much greater variety of voices on the radio: Nina Simone, Hildegard Knef, Marlena Dietrich, Tina Turner, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Bing Crosby, Lee Hazelwood, Johnny Cash etc. These are all deep voices, and people didn't have any trouble relating to them.

I think it's kind of a shame that mainstream music mostly favours that bright, shiny timbre that high voices have (I blame Disney!). Country music is one of the few genres that still has some baritone stars. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say.
Well, Disney did employ Cliff Edwards! Bob Wills' interjections are similarly quite high pitched in Western Swing but that seems to be the exception in country music. It is possible to stretch your vocal range with practice (and tuition!), although this can be at the expense of your lower range. Most successful male vocalists tend to fall in the tenor range but the likes of Tennessee Ernie Ford haven't disappeared just yet, nor has Ruth Pointer!

 
Your Snark tuner can only identify the individual notes that you are singing. The readout on the tuner will keep changing with each different note that you sing. If you are trying to identify what key a particular song is in, play or sing the very last note in the song. For many songs, the name of the last note is frequently the same as the same of the key. (i.e. If the last note is a C, then the song is quite likely in the Key of C.)
Good points! Maybe have a nice glass of tonic nearby.
 
Thank you for posting this question, @BiosphereDecay! I’ve had precisely the same question rolling around in the vast empty space within the creative hemisphere of my tiny brain but presumed it to be virtually un-answerable in this forum/ format. Please allow me to piggyback a related question which, worst- case, will confirm that my lack of musical knowledge is indeed profound and, best- case, may be of help to both of us:

If I were to attach my Snark electronic tuner to, say, my left earlobe or the tip of my nose, then sing the first or last lyric from a tune I’m practicing, will the tuner readout tell me what key my voice is in?
If you have the rare ability to sing on key then you can try singing the 12 notes of a major scale and write them down to see if they fit into what you'd expect given the first and last note of the key you pick for your voice. Though given the widespread (ab)use of autotune among popular singers what are the chances that an amateur singer has the ability to hit the right note?
 
Well this thread (and this forum in general) has really given me new perspective on music. I've been very caught up on things like key and tempo(that one's probably more important) which are skills that I have no clue how to develop. It's definitely a weight off my shoulders to know that seemingly a large number of other people don't pay too much mind to key, and are able to make music regardless. I'll try to keep in mind the general rule of the last note of the song being the key, but outside of that I think I'm just going to forgo it completely until I understand it better. Is this a good outlook to have at this point in my musical career?

I mean all I really want to do with life is make songs(that's an important part, I want to make songs not play other people's songs) that make people think, and hopefully at least a few people will listen. I started out just wanting to be a lyricist, and then started singing because no punk band wants someone else to write their lyrics for them. Then my attempts to form a band didn't pan out, so I decided to pick up some instruments and try and do it solo. Now I'm actually writing songs with those instruments, and it's a very cool moment in my life.

If you're curious what instruments I chose.
  • low G concert uke
  • Probably occasionally appearances by my high G soprano.
  • Ocarina
  • Bongos
  • Tongue drum
I think it'll make for a very unique and cool sound. I have yet to hear it all put together though. The goal being to have happy sounding music with depressing or serious subject matters. I really like sad/angry music that sounds happy.
 
Last edited:
If you're concerned about keys, and I do agree that to some extent it's hit or miss given that melodies aren't always "travelling" the same route, you might want to get to know your basic chord functions first. So, you'll need I-V (Tonic- Dominant) in all genres. If you add the Subdominant (IV) you're ready to play hundreds of pop songs and kids' tunes. Try to sing along, and you'll quickly see that "Twinkle Twinkle little Star" might be easier in G than in C. Or the other way round. As a singer, I always recommend playing with more unusual keys as well. So while G can be too low for me (and by that I don't mean I won't hit the notes, but it's just not resonating well anymore), C may be too high. I might go for Bb instead.
And while certain songs might be great in a key you would never sing other pieces in, there will be keys you'll almost never find comfortable. For me, this would be F Major, for instance. It's either too low or too high (up the octave). Unless I do opera, then I'm fine because it's a different style where I can generate sounds that wouldn't suit a jazz piece, for instance. I hope I'm making sense :) Happy trial and error!
 
Top Bottom