3 Steps to Finding the Perfect Key

Today’s guest post comes from Derek Schrock. Derek works in the Design department at Faithlife, and helps lead worship at his local church.
In contemporary Christian music, songs are often recorded in musical keys 2 to 4 steps higher than what a church congregation can sing. This makes sense in the recording studio to maximize a singer’s range, but worship with your congregation is a completely different situation. A common rule of thumb is to avoid singing higher than a high E, or lower than a low A. While this rule is a good starting point, you’ll want to consider as many factors as possible when selecting the right key.

Here are three tips to help you pick the perfect key:

  1. Check your intention: Ask yourself the question, “Am I using this as an opportunity to show off my voice, or as an opportunity to unite the church in worship?” It’s easy for worship leaders to fall into the trap of treating worship like a performance piece—especially when it comes to choosing a correct key. Pick a key that you can lead well with, but don’t let that be your only motivation. Remember your intentions with worship.
  2. Remember church style: Does your church have a quieter, more subdued worship atmosphere? Or do they welcome loud, high energy? Does your congregation typically sing up-tempo contemporary songs? Or are they more comfortable with a slower tempo? The speed and volume of a song can greatly impact the key. Louder, fast tempo songs usually require a higher key, while slower more reflective songs require a lower key (since singing higher usually requires singing louder, and lower requires a bit of a softer tone). Every church has a unique style and musical approach to worship, which is important to remember when choosing an appropriate key. Remember your congregation and who is out there singing along.
  3. Don’t forget about gender: Don’t forget that many people in your church are singing from a completely different vocal range than you. Have someone of the opposite gender try out the song to ensure that you are not alienating a large portion of your congregation—especially with repeated chorus lines. Remember to make sure everyone is able to sing along confidently and boldly.

What tips do you use when selecting the right key? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Written by
Kaleb Cuevas

Kaleb Cuevas is a husband, father, ministry leader, church league softball professional.

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Written by Kaleb Cuevas
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