I have observed that some songs are sung in lower octaves than what's written on the official sheet music,

I only recall noticing this for male singers who are bass or baritones, not tenors, not that I recall,

for example I think I looked up some sheet music for Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and etc,

I could be wrong but sometimes their vocals are octave(s) down from what's on the sheet, if the first note on the sheet vocal section is a F4, they would sing F3, and etc

I don't recall observing this kind of transposition with tenors or female singers, like Bruno Mars or Beyonce and etc, what's on the sheet is exactly what they sing

Maybe I'm mis-hearing and completely wrong, but I was wondering if it's even a thing that sometimes the vocals won't exactly match the sheet music (octave wise), and is it common?


Sorry forgot to provide an example, enter image description here

If you listen to this song on youtube, for the very first note that Michael sings, "birds", I could be totally wrong but I don't think that is an E4, emphasis on the 4, I don't think it's E in fourth octave, I mean I listened to it and tried on piano keys and I don't think it's E4

  • 1
    Especially since you allow you might be mis-hearing, it would be helpful to have an example or two of score and performance excerpts that prompted the question.
    – Aaron
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:52
  • Thank you for the input, I have updated my question with example
    – user64861
    Jul 15, 2020 at 14:15

3 Answers 3


I‘ve never cared about this. I think they edit all songs in treble clefs, maybe because pop singers are not all used to read bass or tenor clef.

(Most pop songs for male voices are in a higher range than Bariton while the girls mostly sing lower, say in the same range.)

I was wondering if it's even a thing that sometimes the vocals won't exactly match the sheet music (octave wise), and is it common?

Sheet music of pop songs isn‘t published for singers like classical musicians. It is meant for people who want to have the melody and lyrics and to play it on a keyboard. So most editions are made facilitated and reduced for easier reading and easy playing.


Your example song, "Feeling Good", was first performed in 1964 by Cy Grant in key of B minor. The score you show is in E minor. Michael Bublé sings it in Eb minor. Nina Simone sung it in G minor. The octave in which the melody is sung seems to be a minor detail here.

It is common for singers to transpose the song to match their vocal range.

As I presume, the score you show was written based on Bublé's performance and transposed half step up to make it easier for less experienced instrumentalists to play.

Probably the melody was moved up by an octave to make it easier to read. As @Albrecht Hügli writes, the violin key is the most commonly recognized by most musicians. I rarely see melodies of popular songs written in different keys.

Similarly to "Feeling Good", many songs sung by Frank Sinatra were or became hit songs. They were performed by multiple artists, in various keys, and the sheet music you will find for them can be in any key.

On the contrary, it seems to me songs performed by Bruno Mars or Beyoncé are mostly either original or written for them. They are contemporary popular performers, and their versions of their songs are the most popular (rather than covers), so the popular scores will likely match the performance in more detail.


Well, if a song is notated in G clef it is standard that a male sings one octave below, while a female sings the octave that is written.

So maybe that is what this is about?

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