What key should this song be in for my voice?
A question I’ve had a thousand times over the years.
Do you feel bad if you can’t sing a song in a particular key?
What if you need to change it from the original singers key?
The correct key FOR YOU will unlock your voice to be what IT wants to be.
Not necessarily what YOU want it to be.
Your voice will ALWAYS teach you if you listen.
I loved this episode as it brought clarity to me regarding a topic I’ve been addressing for years.
It took it much deeper than I’d ever thought about.
Listen and enjoy!
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 47 – Transcripts
“Key” To Unlock Your Voice
Well, hey there, everybody. This is Mike Goodrich. Welcome to the Inner Singer Podcast episode number 47. I want to thank you so much for listening. It’s great to be here, and it’s great to have you there, wherever you happen to be. Last time I checked, 68 countries were listening to the Inner Singer Podcast. So that’s just awesome. Thank you so much. The internet is a really special thing these days. It makes the world so small.
So, I wanted to follow up just a little bit on the very last podcast I did just to put a finishing touch on it. When I finished that, wrapped it up and published it, it was 27 minutes, which seems like of a long one for me, but I was thinking there was still a little bit more that I hadn’t covered. It just hit me after it was already published. And I did a little bit more research.
And so, I just wanted to mention one little thing about that. And of course, that was about the failures, the famous failures, or failure versus feedback. I don’t even know what I titled it at this point.
But we talked about Michael Jordan just a little bit and a number of people. I did a little research and I found what Michael Jordan had said about what he perceived as a failure early on in his life.
And to remind you of that incident, it basically said that Michael Jordan was devastated when he was cut from his high school varsity basketball team, sophomore year. He went home and locked himself in his room and cried. He was so very upset obviously. That’s Michael Jordan, sophomore high school. Can you imagine getting cut and then going on to be, arguably, one of the best basketball players that ever lived?
But the interesting thing that we didn’t cover in the last episode is—we talked about a lot of things. And if you haven’t heard it, I recommend you go back to that and listen to that, so this will make more sense. It will make more sense anyways, but it may make a little bit more sense if you go back and listen to it in the context of the last podcast.
But here’s what Michael said about failure—and this is in quotes, I found this on the internet (so it has to be right), but anyway it’s in quotes—it says, “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
So, the reason that is really interesting to me is because, clearly, part of Michael Jordan is aware of some of the other things that people would call failures. He’s aware that he’s lost almost 300 games. He’s aware that he’s missed 9000 shots. And he’s just really aware, very aware. He’s aware of a whole lot of things.
Now, maybe we don’t need to be aware of every note we ever missed, or every word we ever forget, or whatever’s happening on stage when we’re singing. But the reason I thought of that as extremely interesting is because there is no Pollyanna attitude there. There is a real understanding of what’s going on.
He’s not pretending that he makes every single shot, wins every single game. There’s not a tremendous amount of ego there. And there’s a real realistic view and a real honest non-judgmental view that I think allows him to really continue on and be great even in the face of what the reality is.
If you just saw statistically all those “failures” and you didn’t see the successes, that would look like a pretty bad career. It’s like, “Wow! This guy’s missed 9000 shots, lost 300 games, 27 times people passed him the ball for the game winning shot and he missed it. That’s terrible!” But juxtaposed against the success that he’s had and the joy and the fun that he’s had playing the game, I think that’s the main thing.
I mean, if you look at Luciano Pavarotti, he was, arguably again, one of the greatest living opera tenors that ever lived—and I know that’s redundant–but was booed at La Scala, his home opera house. For what? Cracking on a high note.
So, if you picked out every “failure” that Pavarotti had, but you didn’t juxtapose them against his successes, he could potentially look like “Wow! What a disastrous career! Booed at La Scala and all these other things happened to him.”
And you can probably do that with darn near everybody. And we can certainly, most likely, do it with ourselves. I think the problem and the challenge that a lot of us had, however, is that we don’t juxtapose our “failures” against our successes. We just focus on what we missed or what we perceive as messing up.
It was certainly what I used to do with my voice. I didn’t look at the notes I was getting. I didn’t look at what I was really good at. I’m aware of that now, but I didn’t look at that then.
I didn’t look at the fact that, “Wow! I have a really good pitch. I’m a really good musician intuitively. I’ve got really great intuitive instincts musically. I’m a good mimic, I can imitate. I recognize great singing when I hear it.” There are a lot of really good things going on just because I didn’t sing well. There were a lot of other things that I did not acknowledge. So I was focusing all on the 9000 missed shots, the 300 lost games, and the 27 times I was passed the ball and failed to make the winning shot. That’s all I was focused on.
Thankfully, from the vocal standpoint now, that had shifted quite a bit. But the reason I thought it was kind of important to tie that last episode up a little with this is because I think a lot of us do look at what we perceive as our shortcomings. We focus on what we perceive as our shortcomings, or our failures, or the things that we don’t do well, and we don’t give enough attention to those things that we do really well.
And every one of you out there that’s listening to this podcast does something really, really well—even if it’s not singing. It doesn’t have to be singing yet. But you’ve got a model in your life of something you do well. You could be a great gardener, you could be a great parent. You could be really great in a particular subject, you could be a good ball player. You could be anything, a really good driver. It doesn’t matter what it is, but there’s something that you do really well.
And as we begin to focus on those things that we do really well that are joyful, we shift, we begin to change. And then you bring that in to your singing and you begin to focus on the things that you’re doing really well, the successes, not just the shortcomings.
Of course we work on our shortcomings. But they don’t demand our complete focus all the time. And we certainly don’t want to focus on them in a negative way because that undos the potential progress that we’ll make.
So, it has to be focused on in a way that’s very non-judgmental, very loving and compassionate to ourselves, and almost very scientific and curious. The brain loves curiosity.
So, if we look at something that we perceive as a shortcoming in our voice, and we look at it with curiosity, “What could I do to make that better? What could I do? What can I sing that might be easier?” any question that we might ask ourselves with curiosity when we’re looking to improve a certain part of our voice.
“What could I do to really get my vibrato going? Who could I ask? Is there somebody I could model?” So, we really look with curiosity and scientifically instead of, “How come I never have vibrato?” or, “How come I never get that note?” asking it that way because then we get the answers that we’re really not thrilled with.
But if we asked the right questions with curiosity, the brain loves curiosity. And now we begin to focus on our successes, and not just our shortcomings.
So, I’m sure that little paragraph I read of Michael Jordan—well, I don’t have it in front of me, but it’s so easy to remember, 9000 missed shots, 300 lost games, and 27 missed potential game winning shots–that’s not a lot. It sounds kind of overwhelming. It’s like “Whoa!”
But if you have a piece of paper and you draw a line down the center of it on the left, you wrote what I just said, and on the right, you write all his successes, you’re going to run out of room really fast. And you’re going to have pages and pages of his successes and this little tiny thing that I just read. And most likely, that is the same with most of us.
Now, it might not be that way with you in singing. You might not have successes in the same area that would fill a bunch of pages. But eventually, you’ll have successes in many different areas that would fill quite a few pages.
So, I thought it was important to kind of wrap the last episode, number 46, up and just kind of put the finishing touch on that. So that’s that, and I hope you got something out of that and I hope you enjoyed that.
And now, I look down on it, and boy, we are already 10 minutes into the next podcast and I actually have a topic. So let’s see if I can have fun with this one now.
This actually came to me today while I was teaching a student. And it is really funny, sometimes I say to my wife, “I want to retire from private teaching. I just want to do my online stuff. I want to do online stuff, and I want to create some programs and some products, and maybe have a membership site, and create a community and a real tribe of people that really get and understand that singing is just not about high notes. It’s not just about technique, and it’s not just about a performance. And it’s not just about a mindset. It’s the whole thing.”
It’s what I call the vocal trifecta. A few podcasts back, I did something on that that may be interesting to you. But anyway, the point is I always think, “Well, sitting in front of one person, I’ve been doing that for 25 years. I want to play in an arena where there are a lot of people I can talk to and potentially assist. That would be fun.”
And so I’m in a one on one lesson today and I realized I’m so fed by that. And I come up with this podcast idea—which I actually will get to—which I think is a really, really important thing. And in 25 years of teaching, it has never occurred to me and I have never thought of this the way it came through today. And I thought, “I really might have to give a second thought to this stopping private teaching because I am really fed. I think the interaction is really, really important for my other work.”
I have no idea why I shared that with you, but what the heck. It just kind of came out and here we go and I’m way too lazy to go back and edit it out. So there you go for what it’s worth.
The thing that came to me today that I find very important (that sounds a little trite at first) is the particular key that you have a song in. Now, I’m talking about an individual song.
A lot of people will ask the wrong question. They’ll say, “What’s my key?” That’s not a question to ask. If you picked up the Tenor Operatic Anthology, and look at every single aria, you’re going to find them all covering almost the exact same range of notes and almost every single one of them will be in different key.
So, I don’t mean key that way, like you have B flat is your key. I don’t mean that at all. The key is song specific. So whatever song you sing will have the key that suits your voice beautifully.
So, this student of mine brought in a song today recorded in three different keys and she wanted help figuring out which one was the one to do the final recording in. And so, I listened to the first one, then I listened to the second one, then I listened to the third one.
And the middle one, the second one, really grabbed me. As a matter of fact I heard something in her voice that I have never heard, and I’ve worked with her for years. It seemed like her voice was just flowing, like the performance was just absolutely effortless. The song fit her voice like a glove, whereas in the other two keys it really hadn’t. And I got the impression, and I had the feeling that she was really in the zone, she was really in the flow and the key had a lot to do with that.
I didn’t hear her trying to do anything, and yet in the first and the third, I heard her—even though they were good performances because she’s really good—there was an energy of, “I’m trying to do this. I think I should do this here. I’m trying to get the voice blended. I’m trying to hook things up.” Whereas the magic of the second key, she was just in the zone and blossoming.
And it was if her voice–I mean, really, I know this sounds a little weird. But if you guys—seriously, come on! Look, if you’ve been with me this long, and you’ve listened and this is your 47th podcast, you’re listening to this, and it’s not your first time listening to me, then you guys know, you already know, I’m just way out there anyway. So, a lot of the things I say probably are considered way out there. And to some people not, but to some people perhaps.
But anyway, it was really an energy that I felt. And like I said, first and third, I got this feeling of, “I’m trying to do this. I think I should do this here. Oh I’m just going to sing it really strong and hard here.” And the second one had none of that, the second one was completely organic, completely in the zone, completely in the flow, fit her voice like a glove. It was just as if her voice was saying, “Thank you for this. I am now going to show you what I can do.”
It’s as if her voice was teaching her. As if she finally got in tune with her voice, and the voice said, “Wow! I’ve been waiting so long for you, I’ve been waiting so long for you to listen to me, to feel me, to feel into what I want to do and how I want to do it without putting your own agenda on me.”
And it came to me as I was talking to her—and it was really neat because she started crying. She said, “Wow! It’s really not about keys at all, is it?” I said, “I’m looking at the key as twofold. We look at the key of the song, A minor, B flat, C sharp, whatever. But now I’m looking at the key as an actual key that unlocks something magic in your voice.”
“When you find the right key of a song marry that to your voice, the right key is an actual metaphoric key that unlocks your voice’s ability to show itself to you.” Does that make sense? It unlocks your voice’s ability to reveal itself, to show itself, to teach you.
So many of us have agendas with the voice. I’ve seen people for years and I’ve done the same thing. They’ll bring in a cover song, something that they want to sing. And they try and sing it in the original artist’s key whether or not it suits their voice. And if they can’t, they get extremely discourage and they think that they’re less than something. “Well here, she can do it in that key, I should be able to.” And I always say “Why?”
The keys are well thought out. Once this artist has a record out and they’ve worked with producers and people, and they have this key chosen that shows them off and shows the sweet spot of their voice and the emotion of the song, that has nothing to do with you. That doesn’t necessarily mean that that is going to be the same key that shows off your voice and the sweet spot in your voice.
So. if you, listening to this, ever have this sense that if you’re not singing Whitney Houston’s song in her key, you’re less than, I invite you to really let that go, and know that Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Aretha Franklin, Carrie Underwood, anybody that I can think of or can’t think of right now—and I’m mentioning all women, aren’t I? That’s so funny–let’s say the Maroon 5 guy, Adam Levine, Stevie Wonder, anybody who sings puts a song in a key that suits them and that shows off the song, and that shows off them, and allows their voice to really fly and flow so they can be in the zone. So they’re not thinking about anything.
So, if you’ve ever done that, see if you can let that go. And I know it’s a huge temptation, “Oh, I’m going out to karaoke. I don’t have to lower this thing. I’m going to look so bad if I lower it.” No. You’ve got to really step up to the plate and be professionals here and say, “I am going to do this in a key that unlocks my potential, so that I can really shine, and I can really flow, and I can really enjoy singing.” That’s what putting it in the right key is.
And so don’t ever try and just do it in the artist’s key just because that’s what you think you should do.
And I’ll say this as well. I work with a ton of singer/songwriters. If you‘re a singer songwriter, just because you sit at the piano and your hands happen to go to a certain chord progression in a certain key does not mean that that is the key that you have to be married to.
And the same with guitar. A lot of people pick up a guitar or sit down in a piano, and it’s wherever their hands go, and this is the chord progression they’re playing, boom, that’s where they wrote the song, and now they try and sing it, and it’s totally the wrong key for their voice. It’s not going to unlock anything. They’re just putting a square peg in a round hole. They’re trying to force it. They’re trying to make themselves sing in a key. They’re trying to manipulate their voice.
Whenever we do that with a song that we wrote ourselves or whether we’re doing a cover song, were trying to sound just like the artist, or doing the same key as the artist, we are putting a square peg in a round whole. And we are not in that open place.
But when we have the right key that suits our voice, our voice relaxes and we become authentic. And we are now shifting into a place where we can learn from our voice.
Our voice is the best voice teacher because it will always tell you when you’re feeling strain, when you’re going too high the wrong way, when something’s in the right key.
Now, you might not yet know how to take that information and run with it, and take care of the situation yourself, and that’s totally fine. That’s why I spent years and years and years developing the ability to help people do that. But your voice really, really, really will inform you if you listen to it. If you listen to the kind of music it wants to sing.
And that does not mean the kind of music that you intellectually like or even that moves your soul. I mean, I love to sing to operatic arias, big, dramatic operatic arias. I could probably sing the notes, but I’m not going to have a career doing that.
So as long as I’m satisfied just singing them for fun, and not really sounding anything like they were meant to sound, that’s totally fine. That’s a realistic view. That’s saying, “I love this kind of music. And in the privacy of my own home, I’m just going to sing it for fun.” I get great joy doing that, but I’m not going to go out and try to be in an opera like that.
Yet on the other hand, musical theatre, that works for me. Or standards like Tony Bennett stuff, Sinatra stuff, I could roll out of bed and sing that.
I know that sounds a little cocky. That’s not what I mean. It’s just my voice just loves that stuff. It’s just really, really easy. And the other stuff, I cannot roll out of bed and sing. The other stuff is work and a challenge. And if I’m not careful, I try and put a square peg in a round hole because I try to sound like an opera singer. And I have to really watch that. I‘m trying to sound like more than I am—not that I’m not enough.
But the idea is if my normal voice would sound [vocalizing]. I don’t want to pull back from the mic. What I did for years is this (because I thought opera singers did this, “[Vocalizing] This kind of heavy sound. If I did that, this is what I would talk like.” Now, who talks like that. I know some people are probably very effective when they do talk like that, but we probably don’t want to.
So, the important thing is this. Let the key be twofold. Find the key that really suits your voice. Be very intuitive and tune in. Your voice will tell you, your voice will say, “Ha… this feels great.” Your intellect may say, “Yeah, but I think it should be higher because I think it should be this, that and the other thing and what.” And your voice maybe saying, “Nah, I’m fine here for now. Can we just leave it here for now and let’s learn from this key. And if we get comfortable here, maybe we can pop it up a little bit.” And you’re like, “But I got to record this thing in a week and we got to pump this thing up. I got to find a vocal coach to help me sing it in this key.”
Any of that sound familiar? I’ve certainly done that and I have people like that all the time, there’s this real sense of urgency—that sometimes (there isa little bit of sense of urgency) and sometimes, it’s totally just imagined.
So, find a key that’s appropriate. Don’t care what the key that you wrote it in, don’t care what the artist key is. Find one that shows you off and lets you be in the flow. And that acts as are twofold key which unlocks your ability to be authentic, and have joy and love in singing.
So, that was the topic that I originally wanted to talk about. But I did want to wrap up what we talked about in the earlier part of the podcast. I’m looking down now, we’re just almost going to hit 25 minutes here by the time I edit in the intro and the outro, probably about 25 minutes. So, I’m going to sign off. Comments are always welcome. I’d love to hear from you guys. I’d love to get your emails. And hey, if you liked the podcast and you have it, if you head on over to iTunes and give it a nice review and a rating, that would be awesome.
The ratings have kind of stalled out. And thankfully, I got a lot of five—well, actually all five stars which is really, really kind and cool. But it would really be great to get some more, that’s how it gets up in iTunes and people can find it and all that kind of stuff. Plus, it’s just fun to look in there every once in a while and say, “Hey! Somebody else rated it, somebody else reviewed it.” I don’t know why, we’re all human.
I guess that’s why we all like Facebook. I just changed my image on Facebook. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. And I’ve got 64 people who liked it and a ton of people who wrote, and I thought, “Wow! I can feel the vibe of why people spend some time on Facebook.” You really feel loved, you know what I mean? I really felt loved this morning when I got up and it had all this really nice messages. Okay, that’s cool. I love it.
So anyway, see, that’s what your review and your rating will do. Anyway, enough said. Have a great day. Have a great week, and I will see you next week. Bye, bye.