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Thread: Did Frank Have a Favorite Key?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Westchester/Ulster County NY

    Did Frank Have a Favorite Key?

    Seems to me that the answer is “no” As a baritone FAS was adept in a multitude of keys.

    I’ve heard him many times in “D”, “C” “G” as well as many other flatted and sharped keys and in the case of Here's To The Band for example (F) and For Old Man River (C)

    October, 1962:
    At the end of the first session, he (pianist Bill Miller,aka "Sun Tan," ) remained quietly working at the piano for a spell and then informed Hefti that "Goody Goody" was to be arranged in the key of G if it was to be played soft and low--keys determine the highest and lowest notes a singer must hit--and in a slightly higher key if the arrangement was fast and driving.

    Comments?
    Last edited by Ted; 04-22-2009 at 12:34 PM.
    t

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Westerham, Kent, England.
    The older you get, the less your range is, so probably the keys alter due to that.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Westchester/Ulster County NY
    Oh definitely Barry, in fact Paul McCartney absolutely refuses to lower the keys for any of his songs even though many like “Can’t Buy Me Love” in C is far too rangy for him these days.
    On the other hand Billy Joel and Tony Bennett both announce to their audiences that they can’t hit the same high notes and now sing in lower keys.
    Frank too modified his keys to accommodate his voice later on.
    Cheers
    t

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    no longer S.F.
    Well, let's see, he had the key to Vegas, the key to Manhattan, the key to London, and of course the key to the Palm Springs compound. I imagine it's very difficult to choose a favorite.
    Last edited by johnofphilly; 04-22-2009 at 08:26 PM.
    ......pick yourself up...... ......dust yourself off...... ......start all over again...... (my e-mail)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Mansfield, Massachusetts
    I don't see him having a favorite key as a singer. I imagine it varies from song to song. I know as a pianist, I have least favorite keys to play in either because of difficulty from accidental notes, or just pure boringness. For me, a few I don't like are E-flat, F-sharp, and B. Anyway, to give a general idea of what keys Frank sang in, here is a list of the songs from the album Nothing But the Best with the key of each song.

    1. All My Tomorrows-G
    2. The Best Is Yet to Come- A-flat
    3. Body and Soul- C
    4. Call Me Irresponsible- E-flat
    5. Come Fly With Me- B-flat
    6. Drinking Again- B-flat
    7. Fly Me to the Moon- C
    8. Girl From Ipanema- G
    9. The Good Life- A-flat
    10. It Was a Very Good Year- F
    11. Luck Be A Lady- C-sharp
    12. Moonlight Serenade- E-flat
    13. My Kind Of Town (Chicago Is)- F/A-flat
    14. My Way- D (changed to C in 1974)
    15. Nothing But the Best- C-sharp
    16. Ring-a-ding Ding- F
    17. Something Stupid (with Nancy)- E
    18. Strangers In the Night- F/G
    19. Summer Wind- C-sharp/E-flat/F
    20. That's Life- G/A-flat
    21. Theme from New York, New York- D/E-flat
    22. The Way You Look Tonight- E-flat/E

    Please, if I made any mistakes, correct me. I just did this sitting at the piano going through each song.

    PS. Just to explain, any song that has a dash with another key next to it means that there is a key change in the song.
    Last edited by Stnwy18; 04-22-2009 at 04:00 PM. Reason: explination
    ~Robert
    "I like the sunrise"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    no longer S.F.
    Thanks for going through the time and effort to do that, Robert.
    ......pick yourself up...... ......dust yourself off...... ......start all over again...... (my e-mail)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    I don't mean this to be a lecture, but:

    a singer's key for a given song starts with the composer. Irving Berlin wrote everything in c sharp. (he had one of those pianos that had a crank under the keyboard and the c# could be changed to any key with this device.

    Many people, I for one, find certain keys "warmer" than others, thus choosing Eflat and B Flat for torch ballads.

    However, a singer is limited by their range, and vocalists like Sarah Vaughan and Julie Andrews with enormous ranges, chose keys in which their voices sounded best in given songs.

    An example of FS having trouble with keys is Great Songs From Great Britain. The keys were chosen by frank and Bill Miller prior to the charts being written by Bob Farnon, but by the time FS reached Bayswater after the grueling World Tour, his voice was in rough shape, and the keys were not right for his voice. Nelson Riddle was flown in to help, but the album was never released outside of Europe prior to the digital era.

    I could go on, but I'm certain that some of our musically knowledgeable readers would like to add their 2 cents.

    BTW, if you have the Hollywood box, check out the comments about the key for The Right Girl For Me.
    NICK
    Old School Teacher

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    SoCal
    It really doesn't matter in what key the song is written. Transposing it to a comfortable key for the singer is an easy process and many talented accompanists can do it instantaneously. My brother is great at this.
    DON'T DESPAIR

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Westerham, Kent, England.
    Thanks for all of this info' peoples. Love it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Suburban Philadelphia, Pa.
    I think it depends on how the voice is doing at the time. I have some favorite keys where I get to show some power in my voice without straining. Surely Frank must have thought over the years that a certain key was better for his voice at the time.

    I'll bet the same is true for Nancy too. We all know how difficult it was for her to duet with her Dad because the keys were tough on her...she always got stuck with the high harmony. But she always handled it.
    Rick
    The enemy of truth is distortion.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Moved to Fort Myers, Fl. in 1987

    Smile I agree,

    as the singer, FS, ages the key he sings in changes, or it can change with a song, My favorite is Old Man River, Mr. S. sings in several keys in the piece of music, all done exceptally well.
    LEATRICE (LEE) Fort Myers, Florida, USA
    Sinatra, Sinatra,Sinatra! Pray for Robin!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Nancy,

    I totally agree about accompanyists (the talented ones) being able to transpose instantly. The cost comes when an entire chart needs to be transposed, not only to the desired key for many of the instruments, but to transposing keys for others.

    Tommy Dorsey was initially reluctant to change Jack Leonard's keys to your dads range, and he discussed this at the session for Francis A and Edward K, according to the liner notes.

    Most of the sheet music I bought was in the wrong key for me, and my accompanyist, a classical sight-reader who had no idea about pop music charged me $1 per page to transpose the melodies. (It has been suggested to me that I could have done this myself, but I had no access to a keyboard and technique was always my short suit, like math.)

    I suppose the real answer to this thread is the preferred key, and many singers cannot sing Over the Rainbow or even Time After Time because of their range demands.

    We have not yet escaped the era of untrained singers, who would be hard pressed to define vibrato or head note. Listening to your dad really spoils people for second-rate vocalists who don't even know how to use a microphone.
    NICK
    Old School Teacher

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Westerham, Kent, England.

    Wink

    I dare say that some songs sound a lot better in some keys...the song and the key fit for some reason. Probably, thought went into it in the first place by the song writer in selecting the original key. It always interested me, this key thinggy but as I had no knowledge of it at all, it was a puzzle. I have a case full of harmonicas in every key so if i'm listening to a piece of lovely music...vocals or instrumental, I have no problems duetting with the song straight away. I guess it's cheeting a bit, but who cares about that as long as the end result is good. ( If I was a paid musio, it would worry me and then I would have to get real) An old saying by some musio's :- "don't worry about the key, i'll let myself in".

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    no longer S.F.
    What's a sad trap on piano, when you don't know the key and your plotting the tune out by memory, is the temptation to bang it out in simple C. Later on, you might have to re-educate your hands to the corresponding riffs of Bflat or E, when had you known better, you could have learned it that way in the first place.

    It would be nice to have a pocket device, something like a metal comb with teeth of varying lengths, which would sound notes in the keys. Then, upon hearing the song, pluck the comb's tooth that corresponds to the signature key note of the song.
    ......pick yourself up...... ......dust yourself off...... ......start all over again...... (my e-mail)

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Westchester/Ulster County NY
    My original question (Did FAS have a favorite key) was largely to promote a discussion—It’s an academic query since which key to sing in is relative re the note the melody starts with on the staff and the range of notes from low to high. I know of no one who favors one key except perhaps Carl Perkins who played almost exclusively in A and Richie Havens who favors the key of E (open tuning)

    As for transposing, I don’t see why it shouldn’t come naturally to anyone….G#minor in E (the 3rd) is E minor in C and B minor in G etc.

    Most songs are written in 1- 4- 5 meaning C =1 F=4 and G= 5 (Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant) ergo if the song is in the key of A then 1=A 4=D and 5=E
    As for keys, I know when singing with Frank I can usually hit all the notes he sings except in cases like the last “All” in All or Nothing At All (The 61 Costa Arrangement)…when I was in my 20’s no problem, in my late 50’s no can do.

    The Beatles, were all over the place but favored C, D E, (Yesterday was written in F) G and A. Playing in Eb or Ab or any key where there is not a lot of open strings does not lend itself to easy strumming (That’s where transposing and using a capo come in) John Lennon’s Girl from Rubber Soul is actually in C minor (relative major Eb) Key signature: Eb Bb Ab) Like Beethoven’s 5th
    I assume the class has fallen asleep by this time (and who can blame you)
    t

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    SoCal
    There really can't be an answer to this question.
    DON'T DESPAIR

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    South Carolina. NYC for 6 yrs

    When my daughter was a little girl singing in NYC

    we used to take most of her songs to someone who transposed them for her. Computers are even used for this sometimes, though I preferred a real person. I'm not surprised that Frank Jr. is good at this, but I'm sure he's not for hire. All this to say, even I, musically challenged as I am, know songs are often transposed.

    It's still interesting to read about.
    Melanie
    She loves the theatre but never comes late That's why the Lady is a Tramp.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    high desert SoCal
    I think I've related this one before. I was lucky enough to sit in on one of Frankie's studio sessions. He stopped the song during the take and mentioned that the 1st trumpet had played a B where it should have been a B-flat. Sure enough, the score showed a B, but whoever transposed it from the original left out the flat.

    Frankie is a musical genius. He should be a professor of music somewhere.

    Pack a small bag....

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Quote Originally Posted by Ace917 View Post
    Frankie is a musical genius. He should be a professor of music somewhere.
    i agree. BTW, that must have been an awesome experience being there during the session, Cole.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Australia

    Talking

    Range of voices changes with age.My range has increased due to scales from the bottom note on the piano to ,F or G above C, above middle C.[ Around 4 and a half ocataves ]Only problem is there aren't to many tunes written with the bottom note on the piano. Anyway where getting of the subject Sinatra did sing a number of tunes with very low notes like Wave and Ol Man River. And he was a genius at isolating problems in the music.
    If there was a Sinatra tune etched on every star l could find it.

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