Ask the Expert – How to start singing in the right key?

Quinton Kippen emailed for some advice:

Do you have any tips on how to start singing on key as our worship leaders/ conveners do find this a challenge?


Andy replies:

I’d say a good way to work on pitching songs is to work with the opening chord and sing an arpeggio over it to find the right starting note.

Nearly all the time the opening melody note of a song is one of the basic three notes in that chord. So for instance if the chord is an E then the notes are E G# and B and the first melody note will most likely be one of those.

So get your singer to sing an arpeggio over that chord which is simply the 1st (E) 3rd (G#) 5th (B) and the octave (high E) notes one after another in order and back down again. It’s pretty straightforward to do and most singers will then instantly recognise which of those notes is the right one for the melody.

In fact when many singers pitch a song wrong they’ve often automatically chosen another note in the arpeggio without singing through the others for comparison. For instance many people will automatically pitch a root note (E in this instance) but if the song starts on a 5th (B) they just haven’t sung the arpeggio and given themselves a chance to compare options.

It does take time to get used to this method but it will improve with practice so give it a try and see how you get on.