I find that singing down to B♭2 in "Silent Night" at church is pretty hard. I think the key of C or C♯ is better for me. How do people with high voices deal with this? Do they just keep silent or what do they do?

  • 1
    If you don't have the range, don't sing the part. It's not magic. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 13:18
  • Perhaps they don't do it. They change key, or in a choir someone else sings it.
    – user50691
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 13:25

4 Answers 4


I'll leave this one to the ineffable Douglas Adams

That part of a hymn (usually a few notes at the end of a verse) where the tune goes so high or low that you suddenly have to change octaves to accommodate it.”

Douglas Adams, The Meaning of Liff

  • Like it. That means the answer's 42.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:05
  • I'd like to bold that last part of the quote: "you suddenly have to change octaves to accommodate it". Your use of the quote as an answer seems a bit tongue-in-cheek until the quote reaches that part, which is an answer I might have otherwise suggested.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 16:15
  • I didn't want to mess with the perfect quote. It was true when the book was first published, 35 years ago, & is still true today. Bold would only cheapen it; 'to gild refined gold, to paint the lily... would just be silly :P
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 16:26

If it's a solo, they get the key changed. If it's ensemble, they cope. Can you GET a Bb? I think most people can, even if it's not their strongest range. Just let others take the strain - you can shine when the higher notes come along.

  • Bad idea unless you are getting quality training in range extension. Straining leads to damage. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 13:19
  • @CarlWitthoft - it rather depends where the tessitura of the song is. With this one, the high notes are hardly going to ruin one's voice. Although here, the OP's more concerned about lower notes, which I wouldn't have thought would be as damaging. I've been wrong(ed) before...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 14:19
  • @CarlWitthoft - I'm specifically suggesting he DOESN'T strain!
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 19:28

The range is an octave and a fourth - a bit more than a lot of commonly sung songs, but not too bad for most singers, depending, of course, where it starts.

Most people will jump an octave (up or down) when something is getting out of their range, but given that a sort of average range is round two octaves, I think, there's scope for this being in several different keys, all of which are singable to the general public.The more usual situation is, I believe, is that the high notes are more problematic than the low ones.

When I ran choirs, I'd start Silent Night in A, go to Bb, and end in C, and there was never any problem.

  • In a choir nobody should be jumping octaves unless the composer/arranger has explicitly notated that as an alternative
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 14:23
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    @PiedPiper - in a choir situation (which I'm not sure is where the OP is - singing 'at church' has several implications) - I always made sure the key fitted the choir, not vice versa.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 14:26
  • It sounds like Hank's choir director (assuming it is a choir) is not as considerate as you are
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 14:37
  • @PiedPiper - not every accompanist is happy changing key unless they have the magic button on the keyboard. On acoustic pianos, you just gotta do it, if you want a good sounding choir! I remember visiting another choir practising, and the choirmaster reminded the singers how to reach the high notes. I stopped myself suggesting taking the piece down a tone...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:03
  • 1
    Someone who isn't capable of transposing "Silent Night" up a tone shouldn't be running a choir IMHO
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:07

If you understand harmony, you realize it's possible to sing a note that harmonizes with that dreaded Bb2 and allow the others with lower pitched voices take care of the Bb2. If instead you're singing solo, you'll benefit most by choosing a key that suits your vocal capabilities.

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