I used to be afraid to deviate from the original key. After all, how would the musicians practice along with the track on their own? Then, I discovered a free tool that will transpose (change the key) of MP3s.
Generally, I only change the key a half or whole step. Maybe the lead vocal can't quite sing as high as the original, or the original is in a weird key (such as Ab). If you need to go beyond a whole step, this tool will do it, but it ends up sounding rather odd.
When you buy music, it rarely comes in MP3 format. Technology has moved beyond MP3s and into higher quality audio using M4A or AAC format. So, to use the MP3 transposing tool, you first have to convert the track to an MP3. I like to use the MP3 Converter Mac App. Although this is a paid app, I find it well worth the few dollars it costs.
Transposing the MP3 is simple. Open Planning Center's Transposr tool by visiting transposr.com. Upload your MP3, choose the original key and new key, then click 'Transpose Now'. Give it a few minutes and then your new transposed MP3 will be ready for download.
If you are using Planning Center Online, this can be done right within the song. Simply click the song, then the arrangement. Upload the original MP3, attaching it to the original key.
Now, hover over the MP3 file name, click the music icon . This will let you transpose into any key right in Planning Center.
There are definitely times when you will need to change the key more than a whole step. A good example is when you want to transition a song from male to female lead.
Recently, I wanted to try We Believe by Newsboys as a female-led song. So, we needed to go from the original key of D to the key of G. If you try to use the MP3 Transposr tool for this type of jump, the vocal ends up sounding like a chipmunk and audio quality is horrendous.
So, I had the band learn the song in the original key so they could practice at home to get the roadmap and basics down. At rehearsal, we played it a few times through in the original key and then started working in the new key. The first few times through were rough, but it eventually came together.
Considering I expect my team to show up to rehearsal prepared, I always felt I was doing them a disservice when changing the key, considering they could no longer practice along with the track. This tool removed that issue and helped me to provide my team with the resources they need to come prepared.
To learn more about my process for leading productive rehearsals, check out: How to Increase Productivity During Worship Team Practice.