Choosing your performance key.

The joys of performing in a function band setting are plentiful! – The songs are already written for you; arrangements already exist (which you can stick to or not – your perogative!); you don’t necessarily have to stay in one genre, plus the songs are well-known which will generally give you a much more receptive audience!

However, as always, your pros can also be your cons – in this case, I’d like to talk about the issue of song arrangements…or more specifically, the key in which you choose to perform.

Resolving this age-old argument is not always as easy as it sounds, which is proably the reason why it’s an age-old argument!

From an instrumentalist’s point of view, it is almost always easier to stick with the key in which the original song is performed live. Obviously, this does not affect the dummer, keyboard player (any keyboard player who is ioncapable of transposing themselves can always rely on the handy transpose button!) or bass player (generally) so much. However, for a guitarist, a capo may solve the chord issue, but soloing in a different key to the key the solo is written in is not always an easy task!

From the vocalist’s point of view however, the original key is not always the best option. Lets say (for argument’s sake) that a function band is headed up by a female vocalist. Ideally, you would have a male backing vocalist who could take the lead when it came to the classic Robbie Williams ‘Angel’. However, if there is no male vocalist to do this, the female vocalist may find her voice is not suited to singing in Robbie’s key! (In fact, not all male vocalists can pull this off successfully!)

The reality is, that all voices are different. Using correct technique, warming up, and ongoing development of the voice will help a lot, but a good vocalist will know their own voice and their ability. Singing a difficult song with bad technique could damage the voice forever.

In a function band, the band-mates will hopefully get along and give space for one another to express their needs. There needs to be grace for one another and a good level of honesty: If the guitarist cannot learn the solo in a different key, and the vocalist cannot handle the song in the original key, you may need to look at other options (perhaps you could de-tune a second guitar for this particular song). If not you may need to agree to scrap the song – better no song at all than a song sounding bad!!