24 November, 2009

HOW TO change/transpose the key of a song (Method 1)

This is actually a pretty important question to answer. To prove it, let me ask you this: Have you ever listened to the radio or any CD, and found that some of the songs are just too high for you to sing? Well, I have. I have often come across songs where the verses are probably singable, but once it reaches the chorus or bridge, it becomes almost impossible to reach. The solution? To change the key of the song of course. This is also known as transposing.

Changing/Transposing the key of a song is pretty much like just doing basic maths. What do I mean by this? I will give you 2 scenarios that you might have experienced, then, I will give the solution on how to solve these problems:

Scenario 1:
The song is too high for you to sing
This is where you will have to transpose DOWN. So lets say for example the song is in the key of G. Transposing down would mean to transpose the song to a lower key. What is a lower key? It's just simple alphabets. What comes before the letter G? Well, the answer is F. So, you could try playing the song in the key of F. That will make the song more singable. If it's still too high, you could go down even lower to E, and so on.

Scenario 2:
The song is too low for you to sing
This is where you will have to transpose UP. Taking the song to be in the key of G again, transposing up would mean to transpose it to a higher key. Once again, using alphabets, the letter that comes after G is H. BUT, we all know that there are only 7 notes for music (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). So, that means it goes to A. So, try playing the song in the key of A, that will make the song higher. If A is not high enough, you can transpose it again to B, and so on.

Ok, all that just explains why you should transpose the song up or down. However, it doesn't explain how to do it. This is the part where knowing your fretboard will help tremendously.

Let's say you know the song uses G, C , D, C, G. Now, you want to transpose the song up because it's too low for you to sing. So, you choose to transpose it to the key of A. G to A on the fret board is 2 frets up (refer to the diagram to understand what I'm talking about). Apply the same principle for the other chords (move them 2 frets up). In the end, it will become A, D, E, D, A.

The same thing goes for transposing down. Using the same chords G, C, D, C, G, you now want to transpose it down to the key of F. Looking at the fretboard, transposing from a G to F would mean 2 frets down (refer once again to the diagram). So, apply the same principle for the other chords (move them 2 frets down) and you will get F, Bb, C, Bb, F.

There you go, you now know how to transpose a song.

The only thing you have to watch out is that if you transpose a song to a different key, it would mean you will have to use different chords. So, your knowledge of playing different chords has to be very good. Alternatively, you can use the capo to help change/transpose the key of the song.

I hope this post has given you more insight as to why/how to transpose the key of a song. As always, if you need any help or clarification, feel free to post a comment or contact me.


Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel! I was wondering, when you transpose down, the C chord became a B flat... but i thought B doesn't have a sharp or flat?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, actually, a B does not have a sharp.

Eg. If you are at G and move a semi-tone up, you have a G#. If you are at B and move a semi-tone up, you have a C.

As for the Bb, it is also known as an A# (like what you see in the diagram)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Daniel. Another question regarding the transposing... It says if you want to transpose down, i.e, from G to F, you would move 2 frets down, and move the other chords 2 frets down as well. However, the diagram above that shows single notes and not chords.

Am I supposed to only use the diagram to determine what chord to play? I realized that the transposed chord's components have nothing to do with the diagram.. For example, if I transpose an A down to a G, 2 frets down from A is G, but the G chord has a G( 3rd fret 6th string),B,(2nd fret 5th string) D(3rd fret 2nd string) and a G (3rd fret 1st string. The B, D, G notes aren't transposed, right? Only the entire chord itself is transposed? Hope my questions make sense...

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, when I meant transpose, I meant transposing the chord, not the note.

For example, if you to transpose a set of chords like "G C Em D" to F, it would be "F Bb Dm C".

I understand it might be a little confusing. As such, I have written another method of transposing songs. Perhaps that method would be easier.

bryan said...

how do we transpose to minus 1

daniel said...

Hi bryan,

I am assuming that when you mentioned "minus 1", you are refering to transposing the song 1 step down.

So, on a guitar, 1 step is equivalent to 2 frets. 1/2 step is 1 fret.

And by saying down, I am assuming you are referring to making the song in a lower key.

As such, here is what the chord will become if you bring it 1 step down

A will become G
B will become A
C will become Bb
D will become C
E will become D
F will become Eb
G will become F

Hope it helps!