Transcribing a Gospel Song- What Key?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by manutabora, Jul 28, 2009.

  1. Hey Guys and Gals,
    I've been getting into the Gospel vibe for a long time now. I love it and I have great admiration for cats like Sharay Reed et al who do it so well and keep the praise going at a high standard.
    I'm getting ready to start transcribing a few songs that I really like. As we all know, it is easier to just learn them and play them, but I suspect that transcribing will give an even deeper insight into some of the theoretical aspects of their playing.
    Having said all that, the first one I'm going to transcribe is from the WoW Gospel 2009 collection, the 8th song in the first CD, which is "Jesus Saves" by Myron Butler. Whenever I listen to it, for some reason my brain perceives it to be in E flat minor/ G flat major. However, I'm thinking it might be easier to read if I do it in D sharp minor/F sharp major. Not that either key is "easy," so to speak. It's 6 sharps or flats, so it's hard either way. Is there any reason to choose one over the other? Better yet, I know some of those cats tune their basses flat so they can play all these songs in flat keys easily. So, should I just write it in E minor/ G major, since that might very well be the way the bass player sees it on the fretboard?

    I realize in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters, but I'm just curious about what some of you guys out there think. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!
  2. Rudreax


    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    If you're transcribing a song to learn about it, transcribe it EXACTLY how it is on the recording. Don't think about changing the key until you get the song down in the original key you transcribe it in.
  3. Oh, I know I'm supposed to transcribe it exactly as I hear it. However, D# minor and Eb minor sound the same. That was the first part of my question, which one should I do? Maybe it doesn't matter.
  4. Zombbg4


    Jul 15, 2008
    It will really only matter to you, as you're transcribing it for yourself. So, which key would you be most comfortable reading after you finish transcribing it?
  5. Intenzity


    Oct 15, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    The general rule of thumb is to pick the key that doesn't require double-sharps or flats to spell the scale or doesn't require things like an e# to make the scale work.

    So D# minor, would not be the key, because to spell the scale within that key -
    D# E#(which is really F of course) F#, G#, A#, B# C#- yuk. Thats a mess. To make a scale that has each alaphabetical letter in it (d-e-f-g-a-b-c-d) you have to add sharps to notes that don't really have them (e and b). Weird.

    Do Eb instead.
  6. Unless you just have to keep it in the same key as written. What's keeping you from putting it into whatever key YOU LIKE? If your group likes F or G why not just go to something you use? The lead instruments - vocalist, sax, keyboard, whatever decides what key is best.
  7. Ive found that decision to be a choice of what youre better at interpreting. For example, I think of songs in flats because I come from a tuba background. Therefore regardless of how many flats there are, I still read it easier than alot of sharps. Others come from, say, a guitar background or another instrument where they learned sharps more. I think you should decide what youre more comfortable with thinking/seeing and go with that.
  8. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    It's definitely possible that the recording is 1/2 step down. I would try a few measures both ways and see what makes more sense.

    As for as notation goes you can go with whatever you prefer. Gb and F# are both very uncommon keys and there doesn't seem to be a standardized preference that I know of.