In conversation with a singing teacher, she stated that singers generally prefer to sing in flat keys, as it's easier, agreeing with her own teacher's views. No particular reason was given, but I'm totally sceptical. Is there any substance to this?

  • Unless you were reading the dots and have perfect pitch, how would you even know? I'm pretty sure I've never said, 'oh no, really don't do that in G# do it in A♭' – Tetsujin May 22 '17 at 16:25
  • @Tetsujin - my thoughts too. I'm just as happy doing a song in A or Ab - or G for that matter, as long as the range of the song and mine are fitting together. – Tim May 22 '17 at 16:34
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    Well, it's obviously easier to sing in a flat key rather than a sharp key, because the high notes aren't so high! (And that's about as logical as most of the advice you will get from singing teachers, in my experience - the good ones know more about psychology than logic, and the bad ones don't know much about anything.) – user19146 May 22 '17 at 17:08
  • What it really comes down to is does your teacher ever read music in keys with sharps? Trained singers know how to sing a given interval, if you sight reading a piece and constantly have to think about what the interval is because you don't understand how keys work, I can see why it could be considered "harder", but in reality every note has an enharmonic equivalent, so Ab is no harder to sing than G# because they are the same note – SaggingRufus May 23 '17 at 15:41
  • I've cleaned up some comments here. The premise of a question is not a reason to put a question on hold. – user28 May 24 '17 at 0:08

Well, everybody has a unique voice range, color, etc. Some people believes certain keys is suited them well. For example, I often transpose songs to a different key, although they are perfectly in my range and very comfortable to sing. I try to listen to my sound and decide by ear which is best.

In addition, there is a theoretical debate since the dawn of common period that every key has a different feeling; and flat keys and sharp ones have very different sonorities. I don't completely agree or disagree with that opinion. Since it has some good basis, it is a good assumption your teacher loves the sound of flat keys.

An ideal musician should be able to play in all keys, practice 28 hours a day and feed himself only with music. They don't exist. All players prefer certain keys, say more than four flats to a pianist or guitarist you will get angry looks. Brass players often hate sharps, etc etc.

TL, DR: A historical debatea utopia and a well personal choice, basically art.

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  • From her comments - would all singers prefer flat keys? I prefer the key my voice sounds best in, as you obviously do. Sharp or flat. Not my teacher!! Only 28 hrs?? Some guitarists will ask 'what's flat?' Only jesting. – Tim May 25 '17 at 12:49
  • Yep I agree with you. Man there is lots bullshit about reading notes about guitar playing; I know lots of players think reading notes is something like blasphemy. I was one of them, thank God I have changed!!! – olusso May 26 '17 at 13:38

I can see where your skepticism is coming from -- a key is just a key and can be in any range. However, I can think of two possible explanations for why the teacher may be more comfortable in flat keys:

  • She learned the flat keys first. When I started my jazz studies, I did a lot work with the circle of 4ths. With this method, I spent a lot of time on the flat keys working on the particular exercise I was learning (F, Bb, Eb, etc) before I got around the cycle to the sharp keys (E, A, G, etc.). the teacher may have done something similar (not necessarily jazz) where she worked mostly with the flat keys first.

  • Sometimes people just feel that something is better than the other. She may like to sing in flat keys because, when she does, she knows that she is singing and a flat key and perhaps she just likes that. This may also be related to Synesthesia; the teacher may get certain feelings from singing in flat keys because she has some sort of synesthetic reaction to something about them.

I agree that there's not much substance to it, but keep in mind that it could just be sheer habit. Especially since her teacher used to tell her the same thing she's saying now, she probably just clung onto whatever he said (which can be both good and bad).

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  • There's a lot of sense in your answer, although singing in certain keys is rather different from playing on a musical instrument in them. Although, it could be from the reading aspect. +1 – Tim May 25 '17 at 12:44

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