Random Key Changes

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Alexander, Sep 23, 2003.

  1. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    OK - I normally play in a cover band - rock and roll/blues, etc. We always play the songs in the key they were originally written in or maybe tune down 1/2 step for some of the stuff so the singer doesn't choke. I have also started playing in a church band which is great, however we seem to need to transpose songs according to whomever is leading the singing. Some songs we play, we have in 5 or 6 keys (we only have three singers) - if a singer is tired or has a cold, we may change keys just for that. We play in flat keys at times, which is interesting since we do not have a keyboard player. At times, we play in a key dependent on where the worship leader has his capo from the previous song (B flat was that one, as it turns out). Of course, I don't know about the key changes until service starts. It really gets fun when the worship leader tells us we'll start in one key and then actually plays in another and you get to guess where he is :)

    If we have cover band singers that can hit anything from Incubus and Foo Fighters to Rush and Zepplin, what is the deal? Am I just being a baby?
  2. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Well, as dorky as the whole thing is, I think god created this situation for you to become a much better bassist. Think about it ... where else are you going to be forced to play the same song in several different keys? (Actually this would be relatively easy on a 5-string.)

    Sometimes god works in dorky ways.
  3. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Munji's right. I get a heap of "fill-in" work nowdays because I was stuck in a band just like yours for a few years. In that time I learnt to play on the fly and think on my feet. It didn't make me a better player, but it made me a better musician with a better than average ear.

    Here's a tip. Most musicians try to remember songs by thinking notes. "A for four bars, then D for 2, then E for 2". Don't do that. Instead think in intervals - "I'm in A. 1st for 4 bars, 4th for 2, then 5th for 2".

    I also find it easier if you play those songs in positions that avoid open strings. It forces you to form hand shapes. This way, changing key is often just a matter of playing the same fingering in a different part of the fretboard.

    As an exercise, try doing this - listen to a song and use your bass to find the first chord. Now put your bass down. Grab a pen and try to guess the chord changes. Write them down. At the end of the song, go back and see how close you were. Over time you get better at it as your ear learns how to recognise intervals.
  4. Absolutely.

    And ditto to what Munji said about the 5 string.

  5. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Yes indeed. It has been said, "Never play an open string unless you mean it."


    Mar 12, 2003
    USA, PNW
    I tune my six, five and 4 strings down 1/2 step(note), this gives me an extra 5 or 6 notes to play-with (note: the last fret is discarded), especially if your guitarist are using standard tuning and if they use capos, they usually forget what fret it belongs on and then wants to blame the bassplayer for playing off-key. Once you learn to play down a half-step, or whole step, or some other variation, you'll be glad you did.
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