Easy Transposition Chart for Singers

transposition chart

Are there songs that you would love to sing, but they’re in the wrong key for your voice (too high or too low)? This happens to all singers. Maybe the recording artist is a tenor and you’re a baritone? Or possibly the belted notes are too high on that Adele song and you find yourself straining?

For me, I’m a soprano in an alto’s world. I can’t sing as low as most of my favorite female jazz singers. But this is no big deal, because I know how to transpose or “change the key” of any song.

I’m going to give you all the tools you’ll need (including a transposition chart) to figure out what key works best for your voice on any given song.

How To Transpose A Song Into Your Key

First, let me clarify something. I’ve had many students ask me “What’s my key?” or “What key do I sing in?”. That’s not really how it works. There isn’t one specific key that you sing in. Rather, a singer has a vocal range (the lowest to the highest note that you can sing) and every song has a range as well (the lowest note in the song to the highest note). When a song is outside of your vocal range, you can change the range of the song to fit within your vocal range by changing the key.

1.) Is the song too high or too low?

If the song is too high, figure out what the highest note is and compare it to your vocal range (find out your vocal range here). If the song is too low, figure out the lowest note and compare to your vocal range. You can do this on a piano or virtual keyboard.

Let’s say the highest note is a C, and that’s too high for you to belt comfortably. Let’s say that your highest comfortable belted note is a Bb. So, you’ll need to move entire song down so that the highest note is a Bb instead of a C.

transposition chartThe distance from C down to Bb is two half steps. This means, you will be transposing the song down two half steps.

2.)What key is the song originally in?

(What’s the starting key?) If you are looking at sheet music, this is easy to find out. Simply look at the beginning of the song for the key signature. Learning the key signatures is the best way to do it, but here is a chart to get your started-

key signatures chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, let’s say that there is one sharp (#) in the key signature in the original key. So the starting key is the key of G Major (or E minor). For this example, we’ll say the song is in a major key.

Remember, we already figured out that you need to move the key down 2 half steps (moving the highest note from a C down to a Bb).

So, 2 half steps below the key G is…..the key of F.

transposition chart

 

3.)Transpose the song into the new key.

So, we figured out that the right key for our hypothetical song is F Major- and that we are transposing 2 half steps down from the original key.

There are places online where you can buy a transposed copy of sheet music- this is the easiest choice. Websites like www.musicnotes.com and www.sheetmusicdirect.com allow you to choose what key you’d like to buy the music in. You can also use a program like Finale Print Music to dictate the song and then transpose it.

Easy Transposition Chart

Transposing by hand is a trickier feat. Here are two cheat sheet transposition charts (Major  & minor keys) that will make this task much easier for you.

 

transposition chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

transposition chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you transpose a song down 2 half steps, this means that every single note (and chord) needs to be transposed down 2 half steps.

For example:

Here’s a melody in G (with a high C at the top)-

how to transpose music

 

 

 

 

Here’s the same melody transposed down two half steps to F (with a high Bb at the top)-

how to transpose music

 

 

 

Now you are armed with the knowledge to figure out your key on any song! This is great information for a singer to have. You won’t have to rely on another musician to help you figure it out. That’s powerful!

Feeling confused? Please write any questions you have in the comments section and I’ll be sure to answer them for you.

 

 

 

3 Comments

  • Dieter Hornemann

    Reply Reply May 28, 2016

    sounds right to me.

  • Kenn

    Reply Reply November 11, 2016

    Hi, I’m a male baritone vocal looking to sing Zombie by the Cranberries. The Chords to the song are Em, C, G, D. Does that mean the key of the song is Em? Also, is there a standard rule as to how many steps down a male vocal should sing female vocal songs?

    Thanks!

    Kenn

    • Meghan Nixon

      Reply Reply January 4, 2017

      Hi Kenn. Thanks for your comment. Yes, Zombie is in the key of E minor. I would start by singing the song in the same key, an octave lower and then move up from there. For a baritone, you’ll most likely going to be down about a 5th from a female key, but it really depends on the range of the song. So you could try Am to start with. I hope that helps!

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