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Frustrated with key changes.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by sandman357, Jun 25, 2014.


  1. Warning, petty complaining ahead! I am in a classic rock and country cover band and our rhythm guitarist/lead singer left the project. Our lead guitarist is taking over lead vocals and we added a keyboard player. The problem is the guitar player just "discovered" that if he moves a song a half step or a whole step higher or lower he thinks he can sing the song better. (He sounds fine in the original key for most of the songs.) Now he is doing this with every flipping song we play. A couple of songs would not be bad, but he is getting carried away.

    It is not hard to adjust to, but trying to remember what key he is changing each song to is driving me crazy. I refuse to use a book like he and the keyboard player do. I will probably resort to marking the key for each song on the set list.

    Ok, enough whining. Does anyone else have a singer that insists on changing the key of the majority of the songs you play?
     
  2. JLY

    JLY Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Different genre- I play at church but I have the same concerns
    Changing a sing a half-step or even a full step is one thing but sometimes they are changed 2 or even 3 steps.....it changes the whole tone and feel for me
    But playing a 5t does make it easier to play
     
  3. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Not the majority, but we do change based on vocals. As you said, just put the key next to the song on the set list. Problem solved.
     
    INTP likes this.
  4. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Be glad that you are not backing up jazz singers doing 100s of standards - in their key.
     
    Remyd likes this.
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Yeah, but you can get real books for tablets that allow you to transpose.
     
  6. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    In church and in jazz, to change keys is not a big deal. When it's classic rock/pop rock covers it's a different story. These songs have been heard a million times by millions of people in the correct key. I'm sorry, but anything more than a half step in either direction just sounds bad. In one group I play with, the singer just alters the melody slightly and it's fine. Besides, certain riffs just don't translate well in different keys.
     
    johnpbass and MrDOS like this.
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Song songs, especially with open string licks, or when a signature bass line range is an issue. But I would rather play in a strange key with good vocals than the "correct" key if the vocals are strained.
     
  8. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    You need to learn to hear the INTENT of the part and carry that to any key. You have a 5 string? If I can very effectively transpose any song to any key on a 4 string....on the fly (and believe that I can) there's no excuse for not being able to do it on a 5. Be honest now, how much time have you spent practising this? Like anything if you make the effort you will be rewarded. Just gotta do the work.
     
  9. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Minneapolis
    Think of it as an opportunity. Becoming good at transposing on the fly is a valuable skill, and well worth learning. And making notes on setlists is a way of life for me, because I play keyboard, acoustic guitar, bass, and harmonica. I have to know which key harp I need, where to capo the 12-string, and all kinds of other things, and we play a four hour night usually.

    It's not like I have one set of any instrument, either. I'm switching all the time. And I have a four string bass tuned to 440, and a five string tuned to D.

    I also control the between-set music, make the setlists, and own the PA. You'd think I was the band leader!
     
  10. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Yep... assuming you can read.

    But, the OP doesn't want to read off a chart/lead sheet.
     
    MrDOS likes this.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    I was responding to your issue. As I commented to him, he was doing the the right thing putting the keys on his set list, which should work for classic rock/country, his genre.
     
  12. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Played with a group where the whole band tuned down 1/2 step for the singers. So Eb instead of E like SRV did. What I did not like about that was having to retune for practice and rehearsal or gig and I don't like the feel of the looser strings.
    But what is not mentioned here, and maybe not that well known, is that each key has a certain feel that affects how the listener feels. For example, a lot or Rock is in E which is a brazen in your face key. A lot of the old standards would be in Eb which is a more soothing mellow key along with Bb.
     
    sandman357 likes this.
  13. Thanks for the reality check:) I guess my real complaint is he can sing most of the songs in the original key and they sound good. And....I just got a Mustang and love the feel and sound of it. For me it is the perfect bass. Now I will have to go back to my 5 or switch instruments through the gig. What gets me is there is no real reason for this.

    I know, I know, suck it up buttercup and play! Which is what I intend to do. Thanks for letting me vent.
     
  14. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    That is another issue. Nothing wrong with a little band discussion, where you tell him how much you like his singing AND playing in the original key. :thumbsup: The fact you need to bring another bass is a factor.

    But there are worse band issues.
     
    gregmon79 likes this.
  15. tmw

    tmw Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2006
    Delmar, NY
    [QUOTE="sandman357, post: 16072502, member: I will probably resort to marking the key for each song on the set list. ?[/QUOTE]

    Been doing this for years. Probably no longer need to. Just force of habit.



    Sent from my iPhone using TalkBass
     
  16. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I think it is not well known because it is not really true when you play in an even tempered tuning. The various keys in earlier temperaments most definitely did have a feel to them and in any given temperament there would be "wolf" keys that sounded so bad that you would avoid them. In even temperaments all keys sound the same with the exception that moving the key does move the vocal melody up or down in pitch and that does impart a change of feel to the music. Personally I feel that pitch changes within half an octave have a minimal affect on the feel of instrumental music but for any given human vocalist they do have an affect. But it is better to have a good vocal part than to stick with the original key at all costs. Of course the OP is complaining about unnecessary key changes and I won't defend that.

    I too play in a church band and for the most part we pick a key, learn the song, and stick with that key. We often drop music down half a step or three because one popular male worship vocalist in particular has a voice that is impossibly high for the general congregation to sing his songs in his key. His songs for sure, and a few others, get dropped before we learn them so that is fine. The practice mp3s then are in the wrong key but Audacity takes care of that! Once in a while we do shift the key on a song we've played for years but the occasional relearning is no big deal. Once, so far in the years I have been on the team, a guest vocalist had us move two songs and that at the very last minute. One song was only half a step so I cheated, I just used the pitch shifter in my Zoom pedal. It sounds fine for small shifts. The other song was a big shift, so big that it equaled the interval between strings on my fifths tuned bass. So I just moved up a string and pretended I was playing on the normal strings. Easy peasey!! That is pretty much what I do for intermediate shifts too. I just move up the neck to find the root note for the first measure on one string or another and then play what I always play, all the while imagining I am in the normal position. It works pretty well as long as you don't pay attention to the dots on the neck and so it has the side benefit of teaching you to rely less on them.
     
  17. INTP

    INTP

    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    If you have evidence of this, I'd love to see it. But I will assert that this statement is not true.
     
  18. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    If a song sounds bad in a different key, it wasn't a good song to begin with. And while it might sound different to musicians, nobody else even notices. But if the singer sounds bad, *everyone* notices.
     
    Seanto, Jhengsman and buldog5151bass like this.
  19. mikew31

    mikew31 Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2008
    Superior, WI
    SRV played almost exclusively in Eb.
     
    Thisguy likes this.
  20. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    That is what I said, but rereading it I see it could be misunderstood.
     

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