Updated: Sep 30, 2022
In my blog last month, I mentioned a few myths that just aren’t true in most cases anymore, one of which was that you can never, EVER, change the key of your song. Here’s why I think it’s important to change the key and when you should and shouldn’t do it.
Disclaimer: Art is subjective, meaning if you look for it you’ll always find someone who prefers a song in the original key or who will disagree completely! That subjectiveness is what makes art so exciting and sometimes really challenging. So remember, always trust your gut and do what makes you happy - the people who you’re meant to work with will find you if you’re being true to YOU!
Why You Should Go Ahead and Change the Key:
Your voice is transitioning. Because our instrument grows with us, all of us go through voice transitions. Whether you are going through age-based changes like puberty or menopause, a hormonal transition, or a picked up a lifestyle habit like smoking, our voices begin to shift. We are so lucky to live in the age of endless information and sites like MusicNotes that make it really easy to change the key, so if your old favorite audition song no longer feels the way you remember it or you find a song you love but it’s not quite in your range it’s really easy to find another key online.
You are changing up the typical gender representation of the song. This is an awesome time to change the key! Music is music is music, and if a song speaks to you then you should be able to sing it (as long as it can be done with respect.) If you are singing a tenor-range piece with an alto-range voice, pop it up a few keys and you are all good to go!
You are singing a pop song. Pop songs are great examples of pieces that can be changed in a lot of ways because you can really make them your own. Find a key that suits your voice best and let it rip.
It makes the song feel more authentic in your voice. Maybe you have the perfect song but it doesn’t go high enough in your range to show off your voice. Maybe you can sing it in the higher key, but when you take it down a half step you can really feel the song in the sweet spot of your range. Audition rooms are your space to show your true self, and if changing the key helps you do that, then do it!
A Few Exceptions / Things to Think About:
If you are singing something from the show or given specific material to audition with, then I would stick with what you are given. Especially if you are singing show material, they will want to make sure you can sing it in the original key. Never fear, if something doesn’t work in the audition or callback room, you can always chat with your musical director once you’re in rehearsals about finding a solution!
If the new key will be hard for accompanists to play. Accompanists are INCREDIBLE at what they do and sometimes they feel superhuman, but we don’t want to make their job harder by adding a million sharps and flats to a previously simple song. This is especially true if it’s a hard accompaniment song like a Jason Robert Brown or Sondheim piece.
They specifically ask for the original key. Some theaters and universities are more traditional, so they may ask you to keep the original key. Always follow the rules on the audition breakdown!
Want help finding the perfect key for your next audition song? Set up a lesson with Celia here to build the audition book of your dreams!