Beginner What key is it in?

randulo

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#1
I'm curious about your attitude towards choosing a key for a particular song that someone else wrote. On guitar, and especially if I'm going to sing, I often have to change keys, for open strings or vocal range. When I learned "That's All", the first two notes (C#, D) happen to be right on opposite sides of the break on the alto, an area that I have a definite problem with. I struggled through it and hopefully I am on the path to redemption. I can hear the problem in the recordings, though.

But assuming no one is singing, do you try to play a song in the original key (if there is one) or choose a key that you like to play in?
 

Halfers

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#2
For me, a bit of both. If I fancy learning a tune for no other reason than, 'because I want to' I'll have a quick listen and try to play it by ear in the original key (I'm talking mainly contemporary melodic stuff here - I wouldn't get too far at the moment on the widdly challenging stuff). Transposing the tune to another key is another progression in itself, so just as useful a process.

Sometimes, if I'm noodling around I'll play a progression of notes or an interval, that brings to mind a melody of a song and I'll try and pick it up by ear without checking the original key. .

On the C# to D break, dependent on your Sax, the tune and where the next notes are a palm D might work. The palm D on my Yamaha is strong, so for a quick up and down it suits.
 

randulo

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#3
Yes, I mess with the palm D in trills and have tried to force it up otherwise, but it's way flat on my instrument. True, if the note is short, that would be an interesting idea.
I discovered one thing yesterday that surprised me. I was pressing too hard on the octave key and that caused a squeak (harmonic, actually) to D a lot. I'm not sure if this is normal as I haven't had to time to see the tech, but I see that pressing the octave key more lightly gives a more pure sound to the notes D to about G. It also has an effect on the altissimo F# I'm almost hitting (duh!).
 

Halfers

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#4
I discovered one thing yesterday that surprised me. I was pressing too hard on the octave key and that caused a squeak (harmonic, actually) to D a lot. I'm not sure if this is normal as I haven't had to time to see the tech, but I see that pressing the octave key more lightly gives a more pure sound to the notes D to about G. It also has an effect on the altissimo F# I'm almost hitting (duh!).
Not sure, there may well be a techie response to the extra octave pressure and squeaking. I'd hazard that it might also be down to the fact that tension creeps and your pressing the octave too hard might have a knock on effect with tensing arm, shoulder, neck, embouchure. I definitely have too much tension when I'm playing. Something to work on.
 

randulo

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#5
Anyone reading this, when you press hard on the octave key for the first few notes of the second octave, does it then bring in a harmonic? I need to chill on that, I knoàw that, but I'm not even sure it's normal on all instruments or an adjustment thing.
 

nigeld

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#6
But assuming no one is singing, do you try to play a song in the original key (if there is one) or choose a key that you like to play in?
Personally, when I have done Song Of the Month I have tried to use the "standard" concert key pitch for the song, but I will change it if necessary so that the range is OK for both alto and tenor. Since we are aiming for players of various abilities, I would try not to have notes in the melody below low D or above high C. I would also probably change the key if there were a lot of sharps or flats.

If I am doing a song just for myself to play with a backing, I choose whatever key feels comfortable. That's what singers do, so I don't see why we shouldn't.
 

Pete Thomas

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#8
Unless you are at that happy stage when you after learning (or just listening to) a song you can play in any key, you may find it most useful to initially learn in the "standard" key. This will help when playing with others as well as forcing you to develop your fingering technique. You'll be using C# to D sooner or later so might as well get used to it.

If only saxophones had capos :)
 

randulo

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#9
@Right. My sax player buddy said, at a session, "you guys just have to move up the wires". However, to take advantage of the better guitar voicings, you need open strings, so it ain't that simple.

Yes, I've been playing b C C# D for a few days, trying to get it natural sounding.
 

Veggie Dave

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#10
I always learn the song in its original key otherwise I'd end up only playing in a handful of keys that I'm comfortable in and ignoring difficult note combinations.

I found after learning a couple of hours of R&B and soul songs, almost all of which were in keys often described as 'not sax friendly', my playing improved massively. It's not that I played notes I wouldn't normally play or couldn't play, but I played note configurations I wouldn't normally play. It's brought a whole new level of relaxation to my playing.
 
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jbtsax

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#11
I'm curious about your attitude towards choosing a key for a particular song that someone else wrote. On guitar, and especially if I'm going to sing, I often have to change keys, for open strings or vocal range. When I learned "That's All", the first two notes (C#, D) happen to be right on opposite sides of the break on the alto, an area that I have a definite problem with. I struggled through it and hopefully I am on the path to redemption. I can hear the problem in the recordings, though.
Keeping the right hand fingers down on C# can help since you only have to add 3 fingers and a thumb to go to D instead of 6.
Anyone reading this, when you press hard on the octave key for the first few notes of the second octave, does it then bring in a harmonic? I need to chill on that, I knoàw that, but I'm not even sure it's normal on all instruments or an adjustment thing.
It sounds as if your octave mechanism is out of adjustment. Finger G and press the thumb key hard several times watching the neck octave. It should not lift or bounce. If it does, remove the neck and put your thumb between the ring and the base of the tenon and carefully press down on the neck octave key cup. Check again. The body and neck octave keys trade places when fingering from G to A with the thumb key pressed. If you went too far and the neck octave doesn't open, put a popsicle stick under the neck pad and carefully push the ring toward the base of the neck. When it is in good adjustment there should be about 1/16" between the rod that extends from the sax and the neck ring.
 

MandyH

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#12
I would consider playing C# “long” if it helps.
Finger bottom C# and use the octave key.
(I’m assuming you mean the C# in the 3rd space and the D in the 4th line)
I often use a long C# for a long (many beats) C# as it has a better sound.
The normal C# if no fingers always sounds thin to me.
 
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#13
I would consider playing C# “long” if it helps.
Finger bottom C# and use the octave key.
(I’m assuming you mean the C# in the 3rd space and the D in the 4th line)
I often use a long C# for a long (many beats) C# as it has a better sound.
The normal C# if no fingers always sounds thin to me.
I always find that long C# is airy, albeit better in tune.
Oh, saxophones
 

Colin the Bear

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#14
Nothing worse than a singer turning up for a sit in and demanding a key change for an old standard. Keys have personalities. Some songs only work in certain keys. I used to change the key for range or comfort but it's a habit with diminishing returns. Once you're playing with others you have to unlearn and relearn in the usual key. Which is harder and sometimes finger confusing

Notes sound differently on saxophone. It's up to the player to adjust and voice them appropriately. Make a chromatic run, top to bottom, part of you daily practice regime. Isolate any problem areas and give them a good going over.

Try playing the upper range without the octave key. It will help with voicing.
 

randulo

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#15
I was onstage in front of a large crowd, El Monte Legion Hall for those who know L.A. and the front person called up a female singer to sit in. She asked to do Summertime, which we were ok with. "What key?" I asked and she said "A minor". We began a vamp on A minor, she turned back to me and said "I need it higher" so we went up to Cm, but that was a lame moment in front of the public.
 
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