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Occasionally, when backing vocalists, I hear them say 'I sing in Bb', or I usually sing in my favourite key - G'. They sometimes proved themselves wrong, when I had to change key to one which fitted their range better - didn't tell them -but where did this concept come from, and is there actually any sense in a statement such as that? I don't mean they say they sing a particular song in a particular key - good vocalists do this - but they state that they sing everything in x key.

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That's absolute non-sense if it's meant as a general (i.e., song-independent) statement. Of course every singer has a certain range, and also a comfort zone. But the range of a song, i.e., its lowest and highest note, is not determined by the key, but by the way the melody is written. Of course, chances are that in a certain key the lowest note is the root or the fifth, and that the highest note is the root, but there are too many exceptions to use this as a guideline.

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The notion of a favorite key for someone's voice is not as far-fetched as you might think. Professional singers intimately know their voices and their "money notes", the exact spots where they can achieve the ideal sound. These spots can be as delicately placed as a semitone, so it does make sense that someone likes singing in E as opposed to E flat, since their high e sounds a lot better than their high e flat.

  • A favourite key for a specific song, I'll buy. I do it myself, as do so many far better vocalists. However, the blanket 'I sing in C'? – Tim Jan 4 '17 at 7:45
  • Ask a professional singer about Bruchlage (don't know the English term, sorry) and they'll bend your ear about how incredibly important it is that you accomodate their key. Gerald Moore used to claim that in any given recital, he'd have to transpose classical songs more often than not, on the singer's explicit wish. – Kilian Foth Jan 4 '17 at 7:47
  • Understood, and with you all the way. Often that extra semitone, either way, will stop success. But I'm asking about people who have said - quote - ' I always (or only) sing in x key'. – Tim Jan 4 '17 at 7:50
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    You're right, the preference makes a lot more sense for particular songs than for music generally. I assume the reason that specific preferences generalize somewhat to a general preference is that classical music follows predictable patterns - composers use in-scale notes much more often than foreign notes, melodies tend to climax on the tonic or the fifth, etc. – Kilian Foth Jan 4 '17 at 7:54
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    @SaggingRufus - I'm of the firm opinion that a vocalist should be more than aware of both the key he needs to sing a particular song in, and his tessitura. Love it when a singer says 'you find the key'. I generally do, about a tone too high. Well, we all make mistakes, and his was not being in control! – Tim Jan 5 '17 at 13:37

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