I can’t believe they sing the song in that key. The octave jump on the bridge is insane — especially if you are leading at the early service.
When I first started leading worship, I always thought that I had to sing the song in the same key as the original artist. I am not sure if was not knowing how to transpose, my or the bands inability to play the guitar riff in another position or just plain pride, but I was going to scream (quite literally at times) my way through every high note.
Unless you are waking up four hours early, 5:00AM anyone, to naturally awaken your vocal cords or doing calesthenics before your vocal warm-ups (this works, but seriously who wants to do jumping jacks on a Sunday morning) — the truth is the recorded key of many worship songs is just too high for most of us. If its too high for us then it is probably too high for congregational singing.
So here is the thing — everybody cheats and you should too. If you are like me, when you go to a concert or conference you probably look over to the instrumentalist of your same persuasion to see how they are getting that sound. As a guitar player, I have quite often spotted a guitar capo where none should be. After pulling up the chromatic tuning app on my iPhone (yep, I’m that kind of nerd), I have often found that they are anywhere from a half-step to a step and a half lower than the recorded key.
Oh, but you were in the arena when they recorded that new electric-folk worship anthem and you know he was playing an open C shape on his guitar; the real question is — were you in the studio when they overdubbed the lead vocal track? That’s right most live albums aren’t quite as “live” as we would like to believe. While I am certain there are exceptions to the rule, there are very few one-take wonders out there. In addition, the acoustic challenges of live venues, such as drum bleed into microphones, make it almost certain that some if not all of the vocal track is overdubbed later in a studio. People have been doing things in studio for years that are impossible or impractical to do live.
So it’s ok to “cheat.” Change the key. Make the song easier for you and especially your congregation to sing. Do this and I think you will see two immediate benefits: First, you will feel less pressure to perform and more freedom to lead. Second, your congregation will begin to sing out with more confidence.