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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Songbob What Key? (71* d) RE: What Key? 25 Jul 11

Well, "D" is really the People's Key (unless it's "E"), but what the hey, it doesn't matter. Capos are fine, but jazzers don't play all-barre-chord songs, despite playing in "all-barre-chord" keys. They play partial chords and inversions and other things too fierce to mention, and can play barres when needed but choose not to.

That said, the typical vocal range goes, as Crowhugger says, to two keys. If one of your comfort-keys is C, the "other" key is G. If D is nicer, you'll also sing in A. If you have a wide range, you might go from C to E and G to Bb or so (no one plays in B except one of my Sidekicks, and a fine mess it is if I have to play mandolin for him).

Some guitar chord shapes work for some kinds of music -- Blues are pretty much made for E or A fingerings, though there are some nice blues figures in G -- and a capo is a reasonable way to preserve a chord shape while getting into a comfortable key. I have one number I like that plays in E but sings in G, so a capo +3 is my response.

So it's all relative. If you get stuck in a genre that requires certain keys, and those are not your comfort keys, you have to be more creative. Banjo players who do old-time string-band songs are often limited to the fiddle's key, but flexibility through special banjo tunings can be a life-saver at times. I've even started using a Minstrel banjo, and not just for Minstrel-era songs. Those five frets lower (can you say 'five frets' on a fretless banjo?) allow me to use "G" tuning for D tunes, for instance.

So you can do lots in a very few keys, with enough variety to keep your sets interesting, and the capo can be your friend.


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