Lowering the Key



Lowering the Key or Pitch of a Song

What we’re going to do is jump down in pitch by changing the chords of the song so that the song is in a much lower key. Then we’ll use the capo to refined the change by putting it on one fret at a time until we’ve raised it to the right key.

This is where a brief lesson in changing the key of a song will come in handy.

A simple definition of the key of a song would be the note or chord that sounds like the tonic or home. In other words, a place of rest on that note or chord. Using notes and chords from the scale for that key established the key.

Let’s use the key of G as an example. A song in the key of G would have a melody composed of notes from the G scale.  Chords would come from notes from the G scale. It’s also common, but not absolute, to begin and end the song on the tonic chord… In this case the G chord.

To jump down to a lower key I would pick a key that’s quite a bit lower and  still easy to play on guitar. Then I would change all the chords to match the new key. One way to do this would be to count the distance from the old chords to arrive at the new chords.

Here’s an example. Let’s use a song that in the key of G and uses the G chord, the C chord in the D chord. I want to jump down to the key of D.

Here’s a quick review of the musical alphabet.

A – B – C – D – E – F – G

And then starts over again.

We’re going to go down 3 notes. We will be going down from G, to F, E, and arrive at D.

Now for the G chord you would use the D chord instead.

For the original C chord you would countdown three notes…

C, to B, A and then to G.

Now will do the same thing for the final chord in our song… The D chord.

Counting down we go from D, to C, B and arrive at A.

The new chords for our song are the D chord, the G chord, and the A chord.

We can now say we have transposed, or changed, do the key of D.

That’s cool. Now we know how to transpose a song.

Now I would test it out and see if in fact this is too low. If it is I would start putting my capo on one fret at a time until it seemed about right.

For example… If I put my capo on the first fret I would now be raising the pitch by one half step. I can also say I’ve raised the key from D to D sharp.

If I put the capo on the second fret I’ve raised it up to have steps, or to the key of E.

But what if, after transposing the song to the key of D, it still seems to high?

One of the things I could do is to transpose the song to an even lower key. In this case I could transpose the song to the key of A. For practice let’s do that transposing exercise one more time.

Here’s the musical alphabet again

A – B – C – D – E – F – G

Starting from the G chord again I could count back six notes to get to A.

Another way to do this would be to count up one note. Since the musical alphabet goes in the cycle counting up one note is the same as counting back six. For me it’s easier to count up… So let’s do that in this example.

For the original C chord let’s go up one note to D…

For the D chord we’ll go up to E.

The new chords for our song are the A chord, the D chord, and the E chord.

We can now say we have transposed, or changed, do the key of A.

Again I could use my capo to raise from the key of A by half steps until the sound is at the pitch I want.

If I put the capo on the first fret I would raise the pitch by one half step… or to the key of A sharp. If I went with two frets I would be at the key of B.

On the third fret I would be at the key of C. Remember there’s only one half step between the B and C.

Changing Keys With A Capo Exercises

It’s one thing to understand something intellectually but another to actually use it. Here are three exercises that will help you integrate this understanding.  You’ll get the chance to play and hear the effect of using a capo.

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hey tomas . how can i get a copy of the key change chord chart

tomas its starting to come to me but if im playing heart of gold in em c d and g and im supposed to go back 3 notes isnt the( em) back 3 steps a Bm this is where im confused
thanks again

Tomas (Administrator) July 24, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Hi Paul,
If you go back three alphabet letters from E you will get B. That’s correct… so far so good. The song Heart of Gold is in the key of E minor with the chords Em – C – D – G. If you change the Em to Bm you’ll be changing to the key of Bm.

I’m not sure where the confusion is? Ask me a specific question. I think we’re getting somewhere.

Tomas (Administrator) July 24, 2019 at 5:41 pm

Here’s a chart that I’ve created over the past few days to help: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xz35fiirb07e7eu/Key%20Change%20Chord%20Chart.pdf?dl=0

hey tomas
i am wanting to sing a little so a lot of the songs are a little to high for me .ive played this lesson 5 times and im not getting it exactly .a example heart of gold (neil young) uses a
em c d and g. if i want to sing this song its too high . how would i lower the pitch to sing
as always
thanks really enjoying your sessions

Tomas (Administrator) July 22, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Hi Paul,
I want to ask you some questions so I can determine where you’re having a problem.

In the example that you mentioned you will likely need to change the key of the song without using a capo first. Then you may use a capo to fine-tune the key. Sort of two separate skills.

Do you know how to change the key of a song without the capo? For example, I might change the key of Heart of Gold to A minor. Then the chords would be Am – F G – C.

If you don’t understand how I did this don’t worry… that lets me know how to help you.

I’m considering making a more in-depth video on this. This will help others as well.

not quite sure but ill look for another video in the future.if i learn how to do this it will help me tremendously with my singing

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