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Q: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: musicredtrail-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 15 Feb 2006 13:20 PST
Expires: 17 Mar 2006 13:20 PST
Question ID: 446278

I'm a natural singer and I have 2 questions in mind. I know only a bit
of musical terms and theory so keep your answer as understandable as
possible please.

I've always wondered what a musical key. I searched on Wikipedia and
get a really complicated answer, but what I know now is that a key
isn't the same as a scale. So what does it mean to sing in a different
key? Is that a like an octave lower or higher? I know that most songs
are written in they key of G so if that's not 'the most comfortable
key for my singing', does that mean the band or whoever's playing has
to play in a different key and change the whole thing?

Another thing, I'd like to know if there's a way to measure one's
vocal range without any professional aid. It doesn't have to be
accurate, but at least give me an idea of what I'm capable of. So does
singing "Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do" on 3 different octaves mean that I
have a 3 octave vocal range? Is a 3.7 octave vocal range any good?

What about expanding one's vocal range? Is a person born with a
certain potential and has to practice to get the most out of it? Or is
it more of "the more you work, the more you get" thing?

Thanks alot!
Subject: Re: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range
Answered By: jbf777-ga on 15 Feb 2006 22:24 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello -

I've addressed each of your questions below.  

If you sing the first few notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star --
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star"... then, sing the exact same melody,
but start on a different note -- you just changed "keys."  Pick a
different starting note, and you change keys again.  Notice, the song
itself -- the relative relationship of one note to another -- didn't
change.  Just the "key" (also called key signature) the song is sung
in.  All the notes are being "shifted" or "transposed" to another key
{see (1)}.  You will notice if you start the song higher, you have to
reach that much higher for some of the notes in the melody.  This is
what is meant by whether or not the key is in your "vocal range" or a
"comfortable key for your singing."  To accommodate your range, the
entire song would have to be performed in a key in which you're
physically able to sing all of the notes.  For your accompaniment,
this means all of the chords/notes must be changed to reflect that new
key.  Sometimes this isn't a problem: musicians that are well-versed
with their instruments can sometimes "transpose on the fly,"
especially if the song is a simple pop/rock melody with improvised
chords.  More complicated material may require additional effort to
transpose (although there are actually computer software applications
that can transpose an entire song to another key with the push of a
button).  Incidentally, although "G" ("G Major") is a very popular
key, it is just one of several popular keys that music is frequently
written in.

A simple way to look at it is: as soon as you change the starting note
of the melody (and you're keeping the original melody intact), you've
changed the key.  However, the first note of the melody isn't
necessarily the "key" the song is in; changing the starting point of
the melody just means you've changed the key to some other one.

To answer your question regarding octaves, the simple answer is: no,
starting a song one or more octaves up or down from its initial
starting note would actually be the only case where you wouldn't be
changing keys.  Why?  Consider the "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do"
series for a moment.  From "Do" to "Do" is one octave ("Oct" meaning 8
-- you jumped "8 notes" [whole steps]).  Same note, just a higher
pitched version.  You can keep singing "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So..." over
and over again at successively higher pitches, starting at the "Do"
you ended with.  Each "Do" you encounter is the same note, just a
higher pitched version.  So, by starting the song an octave up, on a
higher "Do," you haven't changed the key the song is in.  If you
started in the key of F, F happens to be "Do" for Twinkle Twinkle (the
first note of the melody happens to be the same as the key it's in). 
An octave up is "F" ("Do") as well.  An octave up from there is still
an "F".  You're still starting on an "F" no matter which F on the
keyboard you start with.

You can see it visually on a keyboard:

(Count 7 white notes up from any of the white notes and you'll
encounter the same letter.  You haven't changed "key" because you're
not starting the song on a different note letter.)

With regards to vocal range measurement, you can do it yourself with a
piano, or find a choral music director to help.  Here are instructions
from "":

With regard to "note quality," check out this pertinent link:

Depending on where your low note starts and ends, a vocal range of 3.7
can cover more than the average ranges spanning from bass to Soprano
(E2 to A5 on the following link from New Harvard dictionary).  See
this link for details:

New Harvard Dictionary at Yale

A voice that can span that range would be considered versatile.

Can you extend your vocal range?  Some claim you can.  People sell
lessons on how to do it.  However, I've never personally encountered
anyone who's done it.

Book: Complete Expanding Your Range


Singing Lessons

Here's Part 1 of an article on it

Feel free to ask for any additional clarification or information you
may need prior to rating this answer.

Thank you,
Google Answers


  (1) This assumes the bass line is also moving by the same amount as well,   
  which is the case most of the time when you're changing melody into different   
  keys.  Generally speaking, the lowest/first note of the bass line determines   
  the key you're in.

Select sources:
  Capistrano School

  Circle of 5th's

Request for Answer Clarification by musicredtrail-ga on 16 Feb 2006 05:28 PST
I got everything, but i'm still not completley sure about measuring my
vocal range. Does singing "Do Re Me Fa Sol La Ti Do" on 3 different
octaves mean that I have a 3 octave range? I mean it makes sense
right. And if the latter is true, why do they use such complicated
methods to determine the vocal range?

Clarification of Answer by jbf777-ga on 16 Feb 2006 08:41 PST
>I got everything, but i'm still not completley sure about measuring my
>vocal range. Does singing "Do Re Me Fa Sol La Ti Do" on 3 different
>octaves mean that I have a 3 octave range? I mean it makes sense

Yes, that's correct.  Your vocal range is how many octaves you can
sing -- the span between the bottommost and topmost notes that you can

The other "complicated" methods are really just additional things that
give you "more information" that you may or may not find useful. 
They're all things you can determine yourself.  Having someone else
present, or using a computer, may help authenticate the information as
well.  For example, you may want to know: Are you really hitting G4
with your normal singing voice, or are you in falsetto, and can you
hit G4 alone without sliding into it from the previous note?  (Of
course, with regard to alsetto, if you're counting it as part of you
range, it wouldn't matter)?  You can also have the intensity levels
with which you can sing each note measured: e.g., you can hit C1, but
at 25% of the volume level of the other notes -- do you want to count
it as a note that's part of your range?

There doesn't appear to be any real standardization.  These things are
just for your own reference.

See At Home in your Range

More information on vocal ranges

Let me know if you have any other questions.


musicredtrail-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00

Subject: Re: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range
From: indyiansumr-ga on 15 Feb 2006 13:31 PST
I don't know the answers to your questions but keep on's
good for the soul!  Plus I'm sure you sound wonderful :)
Subject: Re: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range
From: jbf777-ga on 16 Feb 2006 10:17 PST
Thank you for the rating and tip!  Please stop by again!

Subject: Re: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range
From: jbf777-ga on 16 Feb 2006 15:15 PST
One quick correction on that answer: an octave is actually a jump of 7
whole steps.  There are 8 notes from the starting note to the ending
note (inclusive of both).
Subject: Re: Singing Keys/Testing Vocal Range
From: differentstrokes-ga on 28 May 2006 02:42 PDT
jbf777-ga - I think your answer is superb! 

You are so clear, so methodical - I wish you were/had been my music teacher!

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