Raising or Lowering Keys of Accompaniment Tracks

I’m a volunteer music director at my church, and, as such, I’ve gone through a number of accompaniment tracks over the years. During that time, I have acquired many tracks that were simply out of my vocal range or were too uncomfortable to deal with. Some time back, though, I found a largely successful workaround that allows me to alter the key of a track, and I wrote a how-to guide for some of my fellow music directors. And I now post it publically in the hopes that it’ll be of help to someone out there, in the online ether.

Programs Used For This Project: Audiograbber, Audacity

Make sure to install Audiograbber and Audacity before you start. They won’t try to take over your computer, so don’t feel hesitant in putting them on there. If you follow along with this guide exactly as it is written, you shouldn’t have a problem at all. These programs are pretty straightforward with screenshots throughout, and the guide was written as I worked on a track of my own.

Step 1: Ripping the track
Insert the CD and open Audiograbber. When it opens for the first time (and every time thereafter, unless you tell it otherwise), it’ll open a pop-up window with a “Tip of the Day” for running the program. Click the “OK” button to close it. At the main screen (see FIGURE 1), you’ll find all tracks check marked…click on the checks to make them disappear, leaving only those track(s) you want ripped to the computer checked.

Click the “Settings” button to get to the “General Settings” dialogue window (see FIGURE 2). Look under “Directory to store files in”…if you’re happy with where it’s going (probably “c:audiograbber”), just click the “OK” button and get back to the main screen. Otherwise, tell it where to store your ripped files. Don’t forget where to find the files!

At the main screen, click the “Grab” button, and it’ll do just that (see FIGURE 3). Once done, close Audiograbber. Of course, you can uninstall it if you want, but I’d keep it…it’s a pretty useful little program.

Step 2: Editing the track
At this point, open Audacity. Click “File” to find the “Open” option (see FIGURE 4), and then find the file…it’s in that folder you were told not to forget earlier! Once the file is loaded, you need to select the whole track to it can be edited. Do this by holding down the “Ctrl” button as you press the “A” key (also referred to as “Ctrl-A”…this does the same thing as going to the “Edit” menu, clicking “Select…” and then clicking “All”).

Now that the file is ready to edit, go to the “Effect” menu and click the “Change Pitch” option (see FIGURE 5). On the resulting “Change Pitch” screen (see FIGURE 6), there are two drop boxes…set the drop box on the left to the original key of the track, and set the one on the right to the key you want it to convert to. Notice the radio buttons in between them? Click one or the other to tell it whether you’re going up or down to get to the new key. Click the “OK” button to make it start the conversion.

At this point, you can hit the play button to listen to the newly altered track. If it’s to your liking, go to the “File” menu to save it somewhere…again, remember where you put it so you can burn it to a CD later. Otherwise, you can hit Ctrl-Z (same as going to the “Edit” menu and clicking “Undo”) to make it go back to the way it was before you changed it. At that point, you can repeat the process and experiment with how it sounds.

About Scott

This on-again, off-again, would-be commentator proves that attitudes are contagious, and that some can even kill. To this end, every written word is weighed carefully to ensure the precise delivery of the author's intent while inflicting blunt force trauma to the psyche of the reader.