Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Female Voice to Male voice Guitar Chords


QUESTION: Hello Dr. Colin.  Hope you are well.  I had heard a song by the Cranberries (Kiss Me) and it's by a female vocalist.  I got the guitar tabs from one of the websites....which are D///Dmaj7///D7///Dmaj7
I am playing first position on a six string guitar.  

I was thinking whether ideally for a male voice the chords should be played on lower pitched notes still remaining in the D key? Or the entire key has to be changed.


ANSWER: Hi Sunny,

Thanks for getting in touch again. I hope you are well too! I assume that you are asking this question because you want to sing the song yourself. I don't know the song you mention, not being very familiar with popular music. However, it's the principle that matters. Sometimes in this situation you can get by singing an octave lower than the original female voice. In that case there is no need to change the key (and therefore the chords). However, you cannot do this with some songs because singing an octave lower puts your own voice uncomfortably low. In this case, the only solution is to transpose it into a different key.

The way to decide the "new" key is to memorize the tune of the song and then sing it without the recording in the vocal range that suits you best. Try it several times and if you feel comfortable in that range, check with a keyboard to see what key you are in. That is the key that you need to transpose into. Of course it may turn out that you are actually in a rather tricky key like D flat, which is not very helpful for guitar players. In that case, just move up or down a semitone to a more guitar-friendly key like D major.

You'll then need to work out the new chord progression which you can either do by ear or by counting the notes up (or down) from the tabs you already have in D major.

Does this answer the question? If not, please feel free to get back to me and I'll try to sort it out!

Best wishes


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Dr. Colin

Here's the link to the song.

I get what you're trying to get me to do but i can't get beyond step one lowering by an octave without knowing what key she's singing in. Is there a way?  



Sorry you are having problems with this.

I listened to the link and the song appears to be in the key of E flat - not D. (I say "appears to be" because my digital piano is away being repaired at the moment.) It is possible that they recorded the song in D major and then for various reasons it was taken down a semitone to E flat in post-production when the vocal tracks were added. On the website, they probably used the key of D because the chords are more familiar to guitar players.

I have a feeling this is not helping you. I guess you are asking this because you want to perform the song yourself. Is that right? Try in E flat first (though difficult for the guitar). I have found that I can sing along (not very accurately!) to the video although the pitch feels a little bit low. If you also feel it is too low, perhaps you could just transpose the whole lot up one tone like this:

change D chords to E chords
change E minor chords to F sharp minor chords (if any)
change G chords to A chords
change A chords to B chords
change B minor chords to C sharp minor chords

Let me know if this is of any use. You can reach me directly at

Best wishes


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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