Have you ever wanted to change the key of a song but didn’t know how? A lot of people think that this will take them a long time but it’s actually quite easy when done correctly with practice. We will discuss how to change the key of a song in a few simple steps. So if you’re ready to start making changes, stay tuned and we’ll get started!
What does it mean to change the key?
Changing the key is also known as transposing. When we transpose a song, all we are doing is moving a collection of notes up/down by an interval to a new key; making it sound higher or lower.
The melody and chord progression remain the same, we are just playing them in a new key. This can be helpful when the vocal range of the singer is different from the original key of the song.
There are many ways to do this and depending on what sound or tune best suits your needs for that particular moment.
When do we change the key of a song?
There is no one answer to this question, as changing the key of a song can be done for different reasons.
Match the vocal range of the singer.
The most common reason for changing the key of a song is to better suit the voice or playing style of the singer or the voices of the people you are singing with.
For example, if you have a song that is in Db and want to sing it with someone who has a higher vocal range, you may want to move the key up to E.
Making it easier to play.
While finding the ideal key for a singer is essential, smooth chord transitions are also something to consider. This is when the singer and instrumentalist find their ideal zone or common sweet spot.
Making it sound different and more interesting.
Changing the key of a song can be a great way to give it a new sound and make it your own. We create a more mellow sound in a higher key or make a rock anthem sound harder in a lower key. This is a wonderful technique to make old songs new again.
To achieve this goal, you can either naturally transpose (change key) or add a modulation. The first option will let you move up or down, changing the pitch of all of the notes in the song. The second option (adding a modulation) is to utilize the original key and then shift to another key in a particular section of the song; you may either return to the original key or keep the new one after the shift. It can be very helpful to modulate. This’ll give us a new center of gravity, harmonic space in which to orient ourselves and (hopefully) sound pretty inventive as we do so.
Create a different mood or feeling.
You may also want to change the key of a song in order to create a new mood or feeling. This is often done by changing the mode of the song. For example, if you have a song in the key of C major and want to create a sadder mood, you could change the mode to Dorian.
There are many reasons why we might want to change the key of a song and these are just a few examples. It’s important to remember that changing the key is not limited to these reasons, so feel free to use your own creativity!
Different Ways in Changing the Key of a Song
Now that we know some reasons why we might want to change the key of a song, let’s discuss how to go about changing it.
Transposing to another key is when you move all the notes of a song up or down in pitch by a certain interval. This is something we should study considerably more than using a capo.
For example, if you want to move a song up a fifth, you would raise all the notes by two whole steps. This is a good way to change the key if you want to make a song sound higher or lower without changing the overall feel of the song.
Adding a Modulation
Modulation is when you change the key or transpose in the middle of a song. This can be a really effective way to add interest and variety to a song. It’s also a good way to make a song sound more dramatic or intense.
Using Tools in Changing Keys
- Software/Online. These days, there are lots of software and online tools that can help you change the key of a song. Some of these are really easy to use and can be a great way to quickly change the key without having to do any math or think too much about it.
- Electronic Keyboard. If you’re playing piano, changing the key of a song is really easy. Just move the white notes up or down to the desired key. This is a great way to change the key if you don’t have a capo or any other tools available to you. Using an electronic keyboard gives another option, but it’s still pretty easy. Just find the key you want to change to on the keyboard and press the button.
- Using a capo. A capo is a device that you can attach to the neck of your guitar that will raise the pitch of all the strings by a certain amount. This is a good way to change the key if you want to play along with a recording, or if you’re playing with other musicians and need to be in the same key.
Transposing to another Key with your Acoustic Guitar
While there are tools to help you quickly transpose, learning to do it manually is still an advantage at times when you need to do it any time, anywhere.
To get you started, here are five things you should know so you can transpose easily.
- Musical Alphabet: A to G
- 12 Notes in the Musical Alphabet: A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Bb, G, G#/Ab
- Open Strings Notes: E, A, D, G, B, e
|A – open 5th string||A#/Bb||B||C||C#/Db||D||D#/Eb||E||F||F#/Gb||G||G#/Ab||A|
|E – open 6th string||F||F#/Gb||G||G#/Ab||A||A#/Bb||B||C||C#/Db||D||D#/Eb||E|
- Notes Interval: (W) Whole Step, (H) Half-Step
- Scale Degree & Interval: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
The fundamentals above were deliberately covered in the previous articles at an earlier point because it will certainly come in handy when learning to play the guitar. By this point, if you’ve gone through the lessons in sequence, you are able to memorize it and apply it better.
Using the charts above, you may discover 2 EASY ways to transpose to a different key.
1. Transposing by Interval
One of the most basic ways to change the key of a song is by transposing it by interval. This means that you keep the same notes interval or progression, but simply move them up or down the fretboard.
This can come in useful when trying to transpose on the spot while looking at a song sheet or jamming with a certain progression.
- Identify the original key of the song and the desired new key
- Count the interval from your original key to your new key.
- Looking at the song sheet, move and play all chords with the identified interval of both keys.
The trick relies on your ability to identify the notes in both 6th and 5th strings of your guitar. The E and A strings are used to identify your bass notes of a chord, making it simpler to spot the notes. REMEMBER, there are just two pairs of notes with a half-step interval: B & C and E & F.
The fret markers, on the other hand, make it possible. When learning your major barre chords on the fretboard, you may work on getting acquainted with the notes of these two lower strings.
So, if you’re dealing with an emergency jam or performance in which a key change is required, this approach may be quite effective.
2. Scale Degree & Quality
The family chords may also be used to change the key of a song. This is most effective if you know how to build a scale from the key of a song and can simply spot the progression utilized in the track. By using chord qualities, you can transpose by intervals and still be in the same scale family.
Scale degrees work best when changing keys to a closely related key. So, if you’re looking at transposing to a new key that’s a fifth away from your original key, this method should prove quite effective. In a band, the number system is also used to jam a new song and change keys on the fly.
- Major: I, IV, V
- Minor: ii, iii, vi
- Diminished: vii°
Combining these two techniques is considerably more effective in altering the key of a song. Remember that transposing a song does not mean changing the original progression of chords or notes. It only means changing the starting note/chord so that the rest of the notes in the song will be in a different key. Just remember to start and end on the right notes!
Are you up for the CHANGE?
With a little bit of practice, changing the key of a song can be a breeze.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to change the key of a song is up to you. It is important to consider why you want to do so and decide what sounds best. A lot of times, changing the key can make all the difference in how a song sounds. It can give it more energy, make it more mellow, or change the entire feeling of the song.
So whether you’re trying to make that old favorite tune sound new again, or want to adjust a song for a special performance, always be prepared for change!
All this being said, changing the key is by no means an essential move; changing the key is always a great option to explore.
Have fun! And experiment!