Choosing the right key

I have suffered in ministry! Some of the most painful moments occurred when I made bad decisions choosing the right key for a song. ūüôā

Believe me, you can ruin¬†a whole worship experience just by choosing the wrong key for a song. Hope these do’s and don’ts help you as much as they have helped me.

3 Things To Avoid

When we are choosing the right key for a song, I think we should try to avoid some common mistakes. The perfect key for any song will avoid these 3 problems:


1) Unnecessary difficulties.

In heaven, maybe, we will be able to sing in any key and read at first sight with 5b in 5/4. But here on earth, that’s a privilege reserved to a few people (and I’m not on that list!). Therefore, If you are going to choose Db, make sure you have a good reason to do that. Maybe D (with 3# instead of 5b) is a better option.


2) Unnecessary efforts.

The goal of corporate worship is to get everyone involved in singing to God and praising Him. If we choose an uncomfortable key for most people, then we are attempting against our own goal. Our pursuit is to have the most people singing in the most comfortable key we can find.


3) Selfishness

I’ve seen a lot of bad decisions made while choosing the right key for a song, just because the leaders are more comfortable playing the guitar or keyboard on that particular key. I’ve also seen¬†worship leaders choosing a high pitch key to sing the lead vocals above the average pitch. In my personal opinion, that is nothing but selfishness.

If we choose the key of a worship song just because we like playing in G, then we're selfish. Click To Tweet

Choosing The Right Key

Here are 5 tips to help you find the right key for your next worship song.

1) Know your congregation.

Listen to your people when they sing. Ask them. Try to think from their perspective. We are to serve our congregation. Our job is to lead them and make their worship experience as clear and easy as possible.


2) Check the melody range.

If the range of a melody is more¬†than an octave, then most people won’t be able to sing it. It doesn’t mean we can’t sing “Worthy is The Lamb” or “Agnus Dei” just because those songs reach an octave. Just be aware when you do it that you are pushing most of your people a “major 3rd” out of their comfort zone.


3) Work hard.

I know! Choosing the right key for a song is something hard to do. But don’t be lazy (I’m definitely talking to myself)! Go to the piano, or whatever instrument you feel comfortable with, and work. Play the melody, compare with the voice registers. In other words, just do your best. Your people deserve it.

Choosing the right key for a worship song takes effort, but our congregation deserves it. Click To Tweet


4) Focus on the Chorus.

If the melody range is more¬†than a “major 6th” (the distance between C and A, for example), then I suggest to make the decision to focus on the chorus (or the most important part of the song) and make your congregation feel comfortable singing that section. That will mean the verse or bridge will be a little bit uncomfortable for them to sing (high or low), but you are making the right decision if you focus on the most important part of the song.


5) Ask the UN-experts.

This sounds weird, but it works. Ask some mere mortals (i.e. not very good singers) to sing the song you are working on¬†and you’ll be surprised! They’ll give you an idea if how it will sound not only in your musically gifted brain, but also in the real life.


What do you use to choose the key for a song? What are your preferred keys? Share your thoughts and experience!


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