Key changes

In music, key changes are often used for dramatic effect. I’ve been in my choir for several years and sung many songs. I can only remember singing a few songs with key changes and each of these only had one key change. Key changes are a little tricky when you’re singing acapella. Likewise in life, going through changes can be uncomfortable, whether they are minor changes or major changes.

Our lives are often full of changes of all sorts. Sometimes these changes are our choice and sometimes circumstances change which we have no control over. I have several Parkinson’s symptoms and these too have changed over time. I’ve found learning to accept these changes difficult at times. Just when I think I’ve got used to living with my symptoms, they get worse and the way I’ve learnt to cope with them no longer works for me.

Because Parkinson’s is a progressive condition, sometimes medications need changing. It’s also a very individual condition which means that symptoms and responses to treatments vary from person to person. This means that it can be a tricky process to get the right combination and dosages of medications that work for the individual. And even when you’ve got it right – it’s only ‘for now’ and you may need to look at the dosages and combination again in future.

Although key changes don’t feature much in the songs I’ve sung with my choir over the years, there’s one song which breaks this rule. A few years ago, we sang ‘I walk the line’ by Johnny Cash. This differs in that each verse is in a different key. And in both the original version and the arrangement that we sang, there is humming in-between each verse – to help change to the new key. This makes the constant key changes easier to cope with. I think it also seems to make the key changes seem less dramatic. Sing a verse, gently change key for one verse, then gently change again – each time knowing that the key will change again.

Perhaps that’s a good way to think about constant changes in life. Rather than making each change into a big drama, aim for gentle transitions. Also being aware that things are constantly changing can help us make the most of each moment in the here and now.

Here’s a link to my choir singing ‘I walk the line’ – arranged by my choir leader Gitika Partington (key changes and humming included):


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