Monthly Archives: June 2013

Changing Key with Audacity

I am often asked how to change the key of backing tracks for vocalists.

The simplest way is to purchase the track from one of the providers that allows key changes – such as Karaoke Version.  After you’ve purchased your track you get to alter the key by one or two semitones before you download it.  This site also allow you to download in multiple keys without additional charge.

However, this may not be an option for you.  Or perhaps you need to alter the key by a larger interval.

I use Audacity.  Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform program for recording and editing sounds.

1 – Download it and install on your pc

2 – Import your backing track (File>Import>Audio). Watch out if you’ve downloaded your track from iTunes as Audacity doesn’t read iTunes files.  In this instance you will need to open iTunes and convert the file to MP3 first.

3 – Select the track and go to Effect>Change Pitch and select how many semitones you want to change it by.  Don’t forget to use minus numbers to change to a lower pitch.  Take a look at the Audacity Help Page for more details.

4 – Export your file (File>Export) and close Audacity (there’s no need to save the project file)

5 – This will create a .wav file which is rather large so I now open in iTunes and convert to MP3 (and delete the .wav file). [Edit – you can download an add-in to enable export as MP3 which is much smaller than .wav – find it here]

Ta-da!!

There are some limitations.  Tracks sometimes sound weird if you transpose by more than 3 semitones. And backing tracks with vocals on can often sound too distorted to use.  This varies on a track by track basis so give it a try.

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