5 Reasons You Should Transpose Your Music

Transposing music may seem like a pretty complicated process. You have to know some music theory. You need to be familiar with what chords go in what keys, etc. It’s a lot easier just to play the songs in the keys they were recorded in, right? Well, not always. Many times, playing the songs in the original keys is not the best idea. Here are 5 reasons why you should transpose your music.

1. Put the songs in keys that your congregation can sing.

Chris Tomlin is the most sung worship artist in Christian churches today. He writes awesome songs that become anthems for churches. He also sings really, really high. It’s likely that there are only a few people in your church that can comfortably sing his songs in they keys he records them in – especially men.

As worship leaders, it’s important that we focus on facilitating worship. In other words, our job is to remove any barriers that might be keeping people from engaging in worship. One of the biggest barriers, in my opinion, is a song that is in a key that’s too high to sing comfortably. Transpose those songs down and watch (and listen) to people belt out that big anthemic chorus with you like never before.

2. Put the songs in keys that you can sing.

It is very important as a worship leader that you sing confidently and on pitch. If doing a song in the key of B pushes your range a bit, drop it down to A. There is no shame in it at all.

3. Put the songs in keys that are easy to play on your instrument.

This is probably mostly for guitar players – and acoustic guitar players at that. Ever try to play a song on acoustic guitar in the key of Bb? Here’s some advice: Don’t. Transpose those chords to G and play with a capo on the 3rd fret. Or transpose to A and play with a capo on the 1st fret.

4. Give your band charts in the key of the song (not capo charts).

You might be asking yourself, “What does he mean by this point?”. Let me explain: I used to have a lot of songs with chords relative to the capo. So our band would play “Jesus Paid It All” in the key of B, but I’d give the band chord charts in the key of G – because that’s what I played with a capo on the 4th fret. I sort of expected them to transpose on the fly or on their own time. DON’T DO THIS! I was a jerk of a worship leader, ha!

Lots of worship leaders play acoustic guitar, and lots of acoustic guitar charts are  in the key of G and require a capo. If you find charts for an awesome song, and they are in G while the actual song is in B, transpose those charts to B and give the open chords to your keyboard player, bass player, and other instrumentalists. Don’t expect them to be able to transpose in their heads in real time.

Small note here: If I have charts for a song on this site with a capo, I will provide open chord charts for instrumentalists as well.

5. Facilitate transitions.

Smooth transitions are a pretty big key in a nice worship flow, and a capo change can really kill the mood, especially if you are in a band where you (as the acoustic guitar player) are facilitating transitions. You can transpose your songs so that you can change keys (musically) without changing your capo. Let me give you a scenario:

Say your worship set goes from “Blessed Be Your Name” in the key of B to “Sweetly Broken” in the key of A. Typically, most guitar players play “Blessed Be Your Name” in the key of A with the capo on the 2nd fret, and “Sweetly Broken” in the key of A with no capo. This is no good if you’re responsible for the transition. What you could do is transpose “Sweetly Broken” into the key of G, and now you can keep that capo on the 2nd fret and be playing in A. Now you can go from one song to the next in different keys without a capo change.

Conclusion:

Worship leading is all about removing the barriers that might inhibit the congregation to worship. That’s why point #1 is so important. Forget about doing songs in the key that they are recorded – make sure and do them in keys that are comfortable for most people in the congregation to sing. If you’re not sure a song is easy to sing – just ask! Make sure you ask both a male and female from the congregation. Usually, you can just ask the other musicians in the band, but it’s always good to ask a few people from your congregation as well.

Stay tuned for the next post where I will highlight some really easy (and free!) methods you can use to transpose your music.

  • http://allglory.blogspot.com David Regier

    Great post!

    I’m starting to teach worship team members to use the Nashville number system for chords. It’s proving to be so helpful for them that I’m developing a class/workshop for it. It gives players the freedom to think less about chords and listen to the music more, and it helps people absorb music theory without being so intimidated by it.

    • http://brianwahlband.com Brian

      Thanks, David!

      That’s really cool using the Nashville number system. I’m not too familiar with it, but I think I know the basics on how it works. Sounds like a very useful thing for all the musicians in the band to know.

      Glad you stopped by!

      • Dave

        Great site Brian. Glad I landed here.

        I really enjoyed (and recommend) the Music Theory Made Easy DVD from LeadWorship.com. I’ve been around music all my life, but didn’t understand the WHY of various chords and keys. Now I do. It was also a great introduction to the Nashville number system.

        One word of warning, though. For a worship leader, NNS does change the way you hear music. Not in a bad way. It is just that I now hear the chord sequences.