Music theory question - transposing a song to check if it sounds better

georgeusa

Active Member
OK lets say I have a song in F Major

Now i want to check if it sounds better in all other major/minor keys

Can you please tell me the process to do this

thanks
 

jda

Silver Member
going to need pencil and paper yo : )

Sound better? Going to sound same (regardless of Key) unless or if the audience all have perfect pitch; Key should make no difference?
(only to a singer or certain (horns) that maneuver easier in certain keys)
But pencil and paper just move everything ( 1 chord at a time) up a 4th or what ever you desire
 
Last edited:

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
it depends on which key you are going to...

On paper:
F major to G major would raise all the notes up one step diatonically <--- that means you have to keep in mind the "step pattern" of a major scale when you move the notes. The Step pattern is the combination series of whole steps and half steps that create a major scale.

The major scale step pattern is: whole -whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half

So for F major, that would be:
F-G is a whole step
G-A is a whole step
A-Bb is a half step
Bb-C is a whole step **
C-D is a whole step
D-E is a whole step
E-F iis a half step

in G major, you apply that pattern first:
G-A is a whole step
A-B is a whole step
B-C is a half step
C-D is a whole step
D-E is a whole step
E-F# is a whhole step **
F#-G is a half step

** the sharps and flats help facilitate the step pattern - that is why they exist. Each scale has a combination of sharps or flats that are the Key Signature of the scale

F major has ONE flat, which is Bb
G major has 1 sharp, which is F#

to move Fmaj to Gmaj you just "up" the scale degrees (the actual note) by one, staying within the step pattern If you know the Key Signature o the scale you are going to, it will help

First Degree of Fmaj is the note F
First Degree of Gmaj is the note G

the above is me transposing the first note from Fmaj to Gmaj



SO, in order to transpose, you need to know the step pattern, and/or thhe Key Signature of the original scale, and the one you want to go to

now, depending on what instrument you are doing it on, it is either real easy, or not. String instruments, and piano are easier to transpose on than wind instruments because they are more pattern based On my bass guitar, the major sccale finger pattern is: 2,4,1,2,4,1,3,4. The first "2" (middle finger) is the root note of the scale. So I can transpose pretty quickly by just knowing where the root note or each scale is, and just start there.

A wind player technically can not do that....they have to know key signatures better at first. It eventually becomes a memorized pattern, but not in he same way as a strings or piano player

hope this helps in some way!!! This is sort o the "Readers Digest" of transposing
 

Al Strange

Platinum Member
Do you know your circle of 5ths? This helps you remember the sharps and flats in each key (e.g. The relative minor of F is Dm, they both have the same flat (Bb)). Dm is the saddest of all keys and should be avoided at all costs (;)). If you’re on a keyboard and the song’s in F major the easiest key to transpose to is probably C (Am is the relative minor) as there are no sharps or flats in C (so all white keys). Essentially you use the same intervals but in another key. As suggested by @jda, the key is more to accommodate singers and soloists, or specific instruments. A lot of 80’s rock bands are having to tune down these days to help aging singers…whatever key it’s in, the song remains the same. :unsure::)(y)
 

georgeusa

Active Member
it depends on which key you are going to...

On paper:
F major to G major would raise all the notes up one step diatonically <--- that means you have to keep in mind the "step pattern" of a major scale when you move the notes. The Step pattern is the combination series of whole steps and half steps that create a major scale.

The major scale step pattern is: whole -whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half

So for F major, that would be:
F-G is a whole step
G-A is a whole step
A-Bb is a half step
Bb-C is a whole step **
C-D is a whole step
D-E is a whole step
E-F iis a half step

in G major, you apply that pattern first:
G-A is a whole step
A-B is a whole step
B-C is a half step
C-D is a whole step
D-E is a whole step
E-F# is a whhole step **
F#-G is a half step

** the sharps and flats help facilitate the step pattern - that is why they exist. Each scale has a combination of sharps or flats that are the Key Signature of the scale

F major has ONE flat, which is Bb
G major has 1 sharp, which is F#

to move Fmaj to Gmaj you just "up" the scale degrees (the actual note) by one, staying within the step pattern If you know the Key Signature o the scale you are going to, it will help

First Degree of Fmaj is the note F
First Degree of Gmaj is the note G

the above is me transposing the first note from Fmaj to Gmaj



SO, in order to transpose, you need to know the step pattern, and/or thhe Key Signature of the original scale, and the one you want to go to

now, depending on what instrument you are doing it on, it is either real easy, or not. String instruments, and piano are easier to transpose on than wind instruments because they are more pattern based On my bass guitar, the major sccale finger pattern is: 2,4,1,2,4,1,3,4. The first "2" (middle finger) is the root note of the scale. So I can transpose pretty quickly by just knowing where the root note or each scale is, and just start there.

A wind player technically can not do that....they have to know key signatures better at first. It eventually becomes a memorized pattern, but not in he same way as a strings or piano player

hope this helps in some way!!! This is sort o the "Readers Digest" of transposing


Do you know your circle of 5ths? This helps you remember the sharps and flats in each key (e.g. The relative minor of F is Dm, they both have the same flat (Bb)). Dm is the saddest of all keys and should be avoided at all costs (;)). If you’re on a keyboard and the song’s in F major the easiest key to transpose to is probably C (Am is the relative minor) as there are no sharps or flats in C (so all white keys). Essentially you use the same intervals but in another key. As suggested by @jda, the key is more to accommodate singers and soloists, or specific instruments. A lot of 80’s rock bands are having to tune down these days to help aging singers…whatever key it’s in, the song remains the same. :unsure::)(y)

if i am in F major

and i transpose everything up 1 semitone

doesn't that take me to F# major?

and if i do it again

doesn't it take me to G Major?
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
“Check if it sounds better” ?? If you move it to any other major key it will sound the same, just a bit higher or lower. Like altering the brightness of an image. Same photo, just a bit brighter or darker.

If you change it to minor it will sound quite different. That’s not transposing, that’s changing some of the notes.
 

Chris Whitten

Silver Member
Not really. Keys impact stringed instruments and the voice of course.
Artists do experiment with different keys to hear which key sounds best. This is especially important for guitars and vocal, but also for orchestral music. Back in the day producers sometimes varisped a mixed song up a little so it sounded 'brighter', not in tone, in feel and mood.
You can't transpose music from a a major key to a minor key (or vice versa) unless you are changing quite a few things about the composition.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
Not really. Keys impact stringed instruments and the voice of course.
Artists do experiment with different keys to hear which key sounds best. This is especially important for guitars and vocal, but also for orchestral music. Back in the day producers sometimes varisped a mixed song up a little so it sounded 'brighter', not in tone, in feel and mood.
You can't transpose music from a a major key to a minor key (or vice versa) unless you are changing quite a few things about the composition.

they also actually affect wind instruments a great deal too..most band/wind music is in flat keys b/c it fits the instruments better. Most orchestral music is in sharp keys for the same reason

I feel like it is easier to play 4 mallet marimba music in sharp keys rather than flat, but that might be just me
Some dudes tune their drums to the key of the song!
(Not me)

I used to do that with my marching bass and tenor drums, but man that is waaayyy too much "science"..now I just know where I like them to be, and go or that every time
 

WuHan Solo

Active Member
Some dudes tune their drums to the key of the song!
(Not me)
Me neither. I experimented with that years ago in the studio at someone's request (not to every song) but found that it really didn't make a bit of difference in the big picture.

Those guys are next level…imagine taking that approach live and tuning between songs!!

The first time I saw Terry Bozzio do a clinic, with his solo stuff, he stopped about 30 seconds into the first piece because one of his drums was tuned a tad sharp. I thought to myself, "One drum, out of all of those?? and this is a problem why?" Then, when he continued, I understood.
I hope he pays his tech well.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
There are several sites online that can transpose an mp3 up or down in pitch, assuming your song is in an audio format. You can move it up or down in pitch to your heart's content, though the computer algorithm used can make things sound...strange if you get too far away from the original key.

Your instrumentation plays a factor in deciding what key sounds "best" if you're planning on using real people to play it. As already mentioned some keys "sit" better on stringed instruments and wind instruments...it isn't just about intonation (though that absolutely plays a factor with less than pro players) but it also takes into consideration some keys sound better because they are a better fit with the tonal center of the instrument itself, or open strings, or similar factors.

If your song is synthesized, it matters a little less, because you can cheat a bit on the range, timbre, notes to avoid, etc. of a real instrument. Keep in mind if you go too far outside what a real instrument can do with your synth parts it might still sound...off in a way that isn't immediately identified, but could leave the listener wondering why something doesn't seem quite right.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Sometimes I have my guitar player take a song down a step with a capo so I don’t have to worry about straining my voice or splitting a note. That’s the only reason I’d transpose most vocal music.

I did an arrangement of the Hallelujah Chorus that was taken a major 3rd lower so the elderly sopranos in church choirs could hit the high notes.
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
It usually isn't a change to sound better but more to accommodate a string or singer having issue with the key (so a shift) has been my experience. But I'm sure people do it for other reasons I'd venture.
 

Lefty Phillips

Well-known Member
What Chris said. As a singer/guitarist, I move the key up and down depending on...my mood, more or less. Talking about playing live.

As a drummer I don't tune to the song. Will probably take that up if I ever get around to doing sessions like I've done for guitar and voice. Whatever the producer and/or engineer wants is what they get. ;)
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
OK lets say I have a song in F Major

Now i want to check if it sounds better in all other major/minor keys

Can you please tell me the process to do this

thanks
The question is... in what form do you "have a song in F Major"? In your head? On paper? In a DAW? And if so, what instrumentation? Just piano? Guitar? With vocal. Without vocal?

The process for hearing it in various keys depends on the answer to those questions...

If it is just piano or synths in a DAW - that's easy - just transpose it up and down and listen.

If it something you're playing on guitar and singing - it is more complex.... you'll have to learn to play it in different keys - though you could probably capo the guitar for some (though that will change the sound beyond the degree the key will change the sound). Similarly singing it in different keys will put your particular voice in different registers - which will again effect the sound.

But there is no doubt that song will sound different - better or worse - in various keys. But it can be subtle - oftentimes more subtle than having it sung in a "wrong" key for a given singer.

Though many times I've been on sessions where say the original intent was to do a song in say, F. But it was a bit too high for the singer... but when trying it in E - the singer was more comfortable, but the song harmonically didn't sound nearly as good. So usually that would mean "OK, lets try in Eb", then maybe D... Though usually, in a case like that, Eb would be the ticket. There is a thing where songs in flat keys sound better in flat keys, and songs in sharp keys sound better in sharp keys. Though not always...

And again... it is subtle.... and more important considerations can be far more over-riding. Think of all the records that modulate up a half-step near the end of their arrangement - it is literal cliche. And it not only sounds fine... but usually sounds great...

So more than anything else - key choice is most often a function of the arrangement at hand... the ensemble at hand. The singer for sure. But also for instance, there are some keys that just work better on guitars than others.... because of pitch of the open strings.

So all in all - I wouldn't worry much about this - until you are sitting down to create a specific performance of your song - then spend a moment experimenting with which key might work best with that collection of singer(s) and instruments.
 

Huw Owens

Active Member
The question is... in what form do you "have a song in F Major"? In your head? On paper? In a DAW? And if so, what instrumentation? Just piano? Guitar? With vocal. Without vocal?

The process for hearing it in various keys depends on the answer to those questions...

Exactly. Very important part of the puzzle.

:)
 
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