Home GENERAL SINGING - Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy Forum

Song Key Question

I know Ken states that the goal is to be able to sing "anything". I have a lot of trouble distinguishing between "stretching the chest voice" as high as it will go, and "letting go of the weight" as I ascend to higher notes. the other day, I hit a wall while performing and was probably pulling my chest voice too high for the notes that followed. QUESTION: When a song has a few notes that seem too high, should I have the key lowered, or keep practicing until I can reach those notes in mixed or head voice? Thank you for any tips or insight that you can give me!



  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,363
    edited March 2019
    @Lina , there are different thoughts floating around in regards of that topic.

    when Ken says "anything" he does not say "right now", so if you have to sing the song right now, there is no time to grow your voice to the necessary level that quickly. so then I would think about lowering the key. it does not help the performance if you strain or miss the notes. There is no inherent merit in being able to say "well, at least it was in the original key". to me the most pragmatic approach would be to find the right key for you. be aware though, some keys are harder to play than others on different instruments, and I assume this is for the band you just recently joined. So be cooperative with the band, they might be used to playing it in whatever key it is in now, and it is never fun to having to re-learn something that already worked for them. musicians are lazy ;)

    maybe your perfect key is 3 semitones lower than the recent key, but maybe 2 semitones lower (from original key) is an easier key to play on guitar (just a made-up example). this second key could be fine for you to sing with a tiny bit of strain. so you could then compromise there.

    I am just telling you this because I want you to be prepared for this being a potential issue when you first bring it up. but you will have to bring it up and it is your right as the singer to do so, always remember this :). the more professional they are & the better they know their instruments, the less of a problem it will be. just make sure to be gentle about bringing this up and explain your side. some people just don't know the issues you have as a singer, because it is not a "real" instrument ;)

    for the long haul, Ken advises to actually sing the songs a half or whole step UP from the target key so when showtime comes you are super easy with the song because it is now lower (I'd still practice it a few times in the show key BEFORE the show, surprises aren't really for the stage). I don't think that approach works for songs that already at the target key are straining your voice. He also says to practice songs lower and work up to the key once you get more familiar with it in the easy key. which would support my statement of lowering it for now with the option of raising it later on
  • LinaLina 2.0 PRO Posts: 77
    Wow, now I get it. Thanks for the thoughtful explanation, Klaus!
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,363
    edited March 2019
    @Lina , another thought I just had, it has not directly to do with key changes but it was an "a-ha" moment for me and might help you with the underlying issue:

    I am only on vol 1 but have heard a lot about this "practice on the vowel only". it seemed like a real big task to re-write and learn songs I want to sing in the vowel-only style. I thought it would be too complicated to do a whole song vowel-only for now. but then, on one of the weekly assignments, @doc_ramadani posted this lyric sheet as a backdrop for the audio he submitted. he had made little annotations in the lyric sheet in several spots. let's say the lyric sheet reads "these walls" and the word "walls" is a place you struggle with because it is too high. you put an "aw" (as in "loft") over the word "walls".

    it is a really easy way to make the hardest parts easier to sing because you can use this paper as a crutch until the mods become more automatic with practice.

    I should have thought about this myself (annotations aren't really such a complex concept LOL), but I just didn't, and I was amazed at how simple and effective the solution really was. it gave me the opportunity to implement the vowel mod before actually having fully arrived in "proper vowel mod" territory. thanks Doc for this idea!!!

    you might want to try this. I realized that within a short space of time, I sung the mods as they were on the sheet. it took away the strain. maybe, don't overwhelm yourself, find the "worst offenders" first, sort them out, and then add some more once you are making progress
  • doc_ramadanidoc_ramadani Administrator, 2.0 PRO, Facility Management Posts: 3,978
    edited March 2019
    Hi @Lina, Hi @Klaus_T,

    I do use these annotations regularly to help me to remember timing things and vowel mods. This messes up my sheet with the lyrics totally but it is really of great help for me.


    PS.: This is the video Klaus meant:

  • LinaLina 2.0 PRO Posts: 77
    Wow---Klaus and Doc--I love this video and the idea of annotating vowel modifications! I had already been annotating rest stops (which of course don't help when I can't hear the darn music through my earpiece!), but annotating the vowel modifications could help me get thru the higher notes; especially when the rest of the song is in my key (at least I think).
    One of my problems may also be a visual I can't seem to break--as I ascend I keep imagining a "roof" over my soft palate beyond which I cannot go. so I think I run scared and then "push" the sound, instead of dropping the weight. I have been doing this course a year, and practice one of the audio CD's (2-5) every day and still seem to be stuck on this issue of letting the weight of the chest voice go. As I go into middle voice and especially head voice, there is a different (lowered) quality to my voice and it is not a pleasant sound!

    Thanks again so much for continuing to share your ideas!!!
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,363
    @Lina I think you should maybe get feedback on your LAH triads from the forum. i don't do it often enough but it always gives you so many great pointers on what to change. it sounds like your "visual" is a habit that you could easily break with the right information
Sign In or Register to comment.