Alright guys and girls!

What do you use as a "range gauge" for Sunday morning? 

I admit I can live in tenor land, but often when I get a key recommendation or suggestion, it is way too low. I start to thin way out at a C (1 below middle). And when I am asked to do "How Great is Our God" in G, its down in the B's...

I like to use an E to E range, then you give or take a high or low note....

Your thoughts?

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I generally try to operate in the octave and a half between low A (below middle C) and high (tenor) D, which happens to be the exact vocal range of "In Christ Alone" when it is sung in the key of D.

I occasionally make exceptions if a song has one or maybe two notes outside that range as long as the majority of the song is in an acceptable area.
This A - D guideline has worked pretty well for us, with the tessitura (where most of the notes lie) between the C's. You can get away with a high E-flat now and then, but E is a stretch for most; below the staff is uncomfortable for women and doesn't have that nice ringing quality.
"C to shining C" is considered the range that is accessible to the largest number of people. I'll generally go from a low C to a high D but a high E is too much for the average congregant.

Great question because it shows a desire to serve the congregation ahead of whatever-key-makes-your-voice-sound-the-best!
People are different; their's no one key that everyone can do. In this realm, you're talking the law of averages.

Watch your congregation with each song you do. If the're singing it, it's in their range. If not, it may be out of their range.

Talk to people. See what they think about various songs. (Don't take one persons word as gospel, though. Talk it around.)
We generally follow the C to C rule. We try to never go above a D and try to avoid going below an occasional Bb.
I'm another advocate of the "C to shining C" rule; an occasional high D is okay, several hi Cs in a row may be too much, especially at the start of a song.

Something I found is that tweaking the low notes in a song (raising them back up into singable range) is a lot less noticeable than tweaking the high notes (not going for that hi E even though everybody knows that's "how the song goes"). Fer instance, if you do "Shout to the Lord" in a "singable" key, it makes "my saviour" at the start VERY low, but if you just keep stepping up, "my Jesus, [my saviour], Lord there is none like you" it sounds fine.

Charles
I reckon it is safer be on the low side, sounds much better to have a few low notes without alot of power, than high notes that are screeched, or even worse, when some people can't reach a high note and change key completely : )
I usually have to lower my music too. I think guys seem to like to sing at higher keys.

Anyways, I try to keep things below the key of D. It seems to work for most songs.
The irony in this discussion is that old hymnals are filled with E's.

I try to reach a compromise between the original ideal and C to shining C. The latter is too low on the high end to be truly expressive when one wants to. A middle C (and an octave above that for the ladies) doesn't bring the congregation to a high point, vocally, in my opinion, unless you've trained them to think that's the highest they can go. So I'm a D advocate, though sometimes I'll set songs low so altos/basses can belt out a nice, chesty range, or sometimes I'll set it high, so tenors/sopranos can feel like some of their typically fettered abilities are being tapped into from time to time.

C-high just seems too unimaginative. But I'm a tenor. I'm an advocate for pushing the congregation, though. Others will always drive toward a comfortable vocal range so that the main thing (the text, the theology, the gospel, God) can be the main thing. And I respect that.

Zac

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