I lead worship at our church...and I play keyboard. This seems to be a double handicap for me...female keyboard player. I can't sing the songs recorded by male singers, because of the key. But, I get a lot of guff from the guitarists because they say they CAN'T play the songs in the keys they need to be in for me & the rest of the female portion of the world to sing them.

But...we had a funny at rehearsal. I handed out some new music. They took one look at it and flipped out. (My 18 yo son is one of the guitarists, so his "flipping out" is more loud than the rest of the group). He said it was "physically impossible" to play the song in that key. Too many sharps. Then the other guitarist and the bass player chimed in and agreed that it was totally un-playable. (and here I thought the guitar was a flexible instrument!)...But, I noticed my notes on the song didn't match the key.
I played the recording and discovered what was wrong with the sheet music:
It was in the original key!!
So, I asked them to listen to the recording while I went to print music in the "new and improved" key...but told them they shouldn't try to play along with the recording because it was physically impossible and I didn't want them to hurt themselves.
What keys are "physically impossible" for guitarists??

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There are NO keys that are physically impossible however there are plenty of chords that are very difficult to play or at least extremely awkward as full chords (Gm/Bb is one) -
There is a really awesome invention for guitar players who have to play with keyboardists :) it's called a Capo-- the guitarist needs to learn how to use one and also needs to learn how to transpose chords to the key that he'll use the capo in (or you could be nice and provide him with alternate keys for a capo)-- This makes it so that if a song is in D# then the guitarist can place a capo on the 1st fret and play as if the song is in D, using all of the chord patterns of D-- this helps if the chords are all guitar friendly to begin with (i.e no diminished, augmented 4ths & 5ths, etc.) but even then, if the guitarist is truly serious about his skill then he should be continually learning and adding to his/her repertoire.
all that to say that if the guitarists just aren't interested in anything other than G, C,D, A, E and Em (easiest chords on the guitar) then you're pretty much stuck.

link for my favorite capo at musicians friend:
Thank you!
B was the key they were up in arms about...I should have remembered the capo's. One of the guitarists is good about using the capo and not complaining.
Key of B? Easy, capo 4th fret and play with "key of G" shapes.
There was another forum here earlier about whether capos are good to use or not - it makes a good read. It's also interesting to note that experienced guitar players will purposefully use a capo to add an additional demension to the song. I'm thinking of the Refiner's Fire video where Brian Doerksen plays his guitar open and the other guitarist uses a capo to do the "lead" part. Sounds beautiful!

Anybody familiar with Trace Bundy and his capo work? Here is a link to "Love Song" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bG64vtwBKg
Beyond the scope of us mortals!
I have seen a lot of professional guitarist use capos and some not use them it is always down to personal choice, I think it is wise to have one as if you need the key changed then you can change it on the fly. Just thought I would get my penny in ;) Y.I.C. Frank
Ya, Trace is a really cool guy and in that song uses the capos for pull off's and hammer on's. He is endorsed by the Keyser capo company. They just came out with a variety of "cut" capos to emulate open tunings. Pretty fun to work with.
My son...who is 18 and knows pretty much everything... ;-) ...also says I shouldn't change the key of any song more than a whole step in either direction from the original key, otherwise the guitar riffs will "not work".
Amy, guitar riffs that are played up the neck work just as well, no matter what key they're in or where you start. If, on the other hand, they want to use some open strings in the riff, then that's a different story.

You've raised a few different issues. I've been leading with guitar for almost 40 years, and here is the skinny:

If the guitar player is just playing chords (ie the rhythm), then find the key you want to play in, put a capo on his guitar (even the pros use them, so forget all this talk about being for "lazy" people), and then provide music that works for guitar with the capo in that place. It's simple enough to do.

If it's the lead guitar player and he has to do lead riffs (ie single notes in scales), then it shouldn't matter what key he's in. Just move up or down a fret or two (or three). Again, this only works if they aren't relying on open strings for part of the scale. If they are needing that option, then put a capo on the lead guitar as well, thought most lead players would rarely use one.

Guitar players generally don't like keys like Ab, Eb, F, F#, etc. B is a bad one as well. They prefer C, D, G, E, A. Yes, these keys have sharps and flats in them, but the chords within those keys are easy to play. So if the key is Ab, then put a capo on the first fret and play it in G (on guitar).

Mr Bassman: capo's don't work for them. On the other hand, they are only playing single notes (most of the time), so if they can't move up and down the neck to match the key, then they just need more practice. The patterns ALL stay the same, no matter where you start. Where the hitch comes is with less experienced players who like to rely on an open string now and then to give them a rest (and to be fair, a focus point).

As for the guy and girl key thing, yes; men write songs that are too high and the ladies write them a tad low. What I look for is to keep the highest note in the song no higher than the high D or sometimes sneak to the E. So I bring the songs down into that range for the congregation to be able to handle. Remember, it's not about us; we are serving the body. So rule of thumb, any Chris Tomlin song is too high to start with! (I like Chris' songs, so not bashing him!) On the other side, Laura Story is a struggle on the low side for guys.

I hope this helps. It's not rocket science; it's just getting over the hurdle of learning something new. :) If I can help further let me know.
I wish the songwriters/recording artists would take attend some of the seminars I've been to where they give the rule of thumb for the low note (for singers) and the high notes. I've heard the same range over an over, but when the "latest" worship album comes out, there are great songs that have to be transposed to accomodate that range.
I wonder if God made the men/women ranges different just so we could learn how to get along in unity!
There is a lot of difference between stuff written to sell albums and stuff written for people to sing in church. And God help us when we confuse the two! :)
He's right.

Perhaps it would benefit your son to study how to transfer a lick from one string set or one position to another. What he told you is likely accurate from his perspective & experience, but is hardly an accurate generalization when speaking about the guitar as an instrument.

One major difference is that the piano is pretty linear. Middle C is in one and only one spot on the piano, whereas the same pitch could be in up to 6 different positions on the guitar. It is rare that a guitar lick cannot be moved to a position where it is easily transposed. However, there are two sets of skills that coincide for that. One is just knowing where the spots are on the neck that are the same pitch (and how to identify them). Another is transposition in general.

I've gotten to the point where transposing 1-2 steps is usually not that bad, any more than that and I personally have to start writing something down. Perhaps this is a good opportunity for him to start stretching his skill set. Be patient, though, as this process will take time. Perhaps advance notice with some well-stated expectations would help. : )

Can't do anything about any teenage complications, though. : )


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