How do I change key or pitch on a song in itunes?
April 20, 2011 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I have a song in my itunes that my daughter will be singing to at a recital. The teacher asked me to "change the song a few half steps up to key C". She said her students do it often, but I'm not computer savvy.

I have the song in my itunes library and I got it from the itunes store. I also put the song on a CD. It is Somewhere over the Rainbow. It is a particular arrangement that my daughter has already become accustomed to, so we don't want to change the song. We just want it to be a little higher so she can sing it a little higher. Is there software I can buy at an office supply store? Or is there a good website I can trust, for which I could download something? I need something easy and I need something that will show me "C major", as I'm not a technical person and don't know how to change pitches with numbers or slide bars or anything. I just want to change the instrumental song a few notches so it will be C major. Can you help?

Thank you so much.
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So at the recital the music will be playing via a computer rather than a piano?
posted by k8t at 7:23 AM on April 20, 2011

I don't think this can be done. She should not practice to the itunes and instead transpose the music on the piano. Find a piano player if need be.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2011

Audacity is what you want for this. You may have to rip the song from your cd as some itunes store stuff has DRM. I'm at work so I can't watch videos but this claims to be a tutorial about how to shift the pitch.
posted by Uncle at 7:31 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is for a talent show at school that does not have a piano player. I have to use a song on a CD. She also will be doing this for a recital with her vocal coach, who told me that since she is using the CD for the school talent show, we will also use it for the recital, instead of the piano lady.
posted by lynnie-the-pooh at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2011

What is the arrangement?
posted by skyl1n3 at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2011

download audacity, a free, open source sound editing/recording program. if your original file isn't an mp3, you might need to get the 1.3 beta release, as it can handle some other formats better.

follow this tutorial on how to change pitch in audacity

export the resulting file as mp3.
posted by jrishel at 7:33 AM on April 20, 2011

This is possible, and as others have said Audacity is probably the easiest way. It will not sound exactly right though, because this kind of pitch shifting will not match how the instruments would really sound at the new pitches. Depending on how much you are shifting and how picky you are about it sounding right, it should probably work for your uses though.

follow this tutorial on how to change pitch in audacity

Note that you will need to know the current key that the song is in to use this, since software generally will not be able to detect what key a given piece of music is in.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:41 AM on April 20, 2011

Following up on what burnmp3 said -

Are you musically savvy enough to tell what note feels like "home"? That's the original key.

If you not, can you let us hear the file somehow? Perhaps give us the name and the artist so we can find it in the iTunes store also? (perhaps this is skyl1n3's plan).

I don't suppose the file is a MIDI file and not an audio file?
posted by audiodidactic at 7:46 AM on April 20, 2011

Also, audio nerd thing here, but Reaper is free(-ish, for 30 days w/ no crippling), licenses Elastique for pitch shifting, so it might sound better via that. Probably a little more challenging to use that Audacity though, just because it does a lot more.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:46 AM on April 20, 2011

You could do this with a demo version of Autotune.
posted by pharm at 7:46 AM on April 20, 2011

I use Audacity as well to change pitches in songs, but it's sort of a pain to install and you need to do some extra steps in order to be able to export as mp3.

I did some tinkering with Aviary's web-based audio editor and there is an option there to change pitch as well. It's not as precise as Audacity, but it might do in a pinch. This is what I did:
  1. File > Import Audio...
  2. Locate the file and click Next
  3. Click Next again (you can add Basic Info if you want, but it probably isn't necessary)
  4. Click Upload! (again, you can add Advanced Info)
  5. When asked to upload another file, click No Thanks
  6. Drag your file from the sidebar on the right to the beginning of Track 1
  7. Edit > Effects
  8. Click the first NONE and select Pitch
  9. Here is where the manual adjustment comes into play: click the little circle and drag up or down to adjust the pitch. You can hit the play button on top and adjust the pitch in real time until it sounds like the key you want.
As with Audacity, this won't be able to detect what pitch the original song is in, but if you want you can send me a private message and I'd be willing to help you or adjust the song myself. :)
posted by Rickalicioso at 7:47 AM on April 20, 2011

If you have iTunes, you are likely to have had Apple automatically install Quicktime on you already, which is not a bad thing. An easy way to do this is to rightclick the track in iTunes and select to open the source folder. When you can see the actual files (***.mp3 or ***.m4p) right-click on the file and select "open with" and the option for Quicktime.

When the file starts playing in Quicktime, do a pulldown menu (I forget which menu it is, Options, or View, or something) and select "view A/V controls" (again, maybe not those exact words). You'll then get a panel with a pitch adjust slider, a tempo-adjust slider, and a few other things. Use a musical instrument or website that generates pitches, and play a C note. Play the track, and nudge the pitch slider up and down until it's in tune.
posted by aimedwander at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: Changing pitch is likely going to make it sound very odd, even to the layperson. If you got a quality pitch-shifter, and you're shifting one instrument in a mix, you can get away with a couple half steps. On the other hand, shifting a full mix a few whole steps is going to sound strange, especially if it's got background vocals, which are going to end up chipmunked.

I'd really recommend getting another arrangement. If you can get your hands on it, a MIDI version is going to be the most flexible because you can just "tell" the instruments to play up a few steps if need be.

Barring those options, I'd say just let your daughter sing along to the existing track. She might have to reach low for a couple notes, but at least everything will sound good the other 95% of the time.

But if you're pressing forward, I've found that Audacity has the best free pitch shifter. You can specify the shift in semitones (or half steps). So if you know what key it's in, it's easy to calculate how to get to C. Alternatively, you can just shift it up to where you're daughter can sing the song. It's not like there's anything magical about "C" if it's just the track and your daughter.

Anyway, if you want to memail me I can sort all this out for you. It sounds like you could use a hand.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:41 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi there,

for those of you who have indicated that you would like to help..........and wanted to know what the song is from is
Somewhere over the rainbow
Album: Piano: Best Instrumental Songs
Artist: Instrumental Mood

Thanks for all your help so far. I was going to download Audacity, but my computer said it was not secure when I was about to download it, so I was worried to do that.
posted by lynnie-the-pooh at 1:53 PM on April 20, 2011

2 safe sites for downloads in general - and
The audacity site is -
posted by theora55 at 2:54 PM on April 20, 2011

As audiodidactic hinted at, I bet the teacher thinks this is a MIDI file or a karaoke track.

Certain types of karaoke tracks can easily be adjusted this way - it's just a setting on the karaoke player. These tracks are not really true recordings, but a set of instructions that tell the sound source what notes to play.
posted by DandyRandy at 6:33 PM on April 20, 2011

lynnie-the-pooh, check your memail.
posted by Nahum Tate at 9:51 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: OK, now I'm really feeling like I am lost.................where is memail?? I looked in my profile and I didn't see anything that said memail?
posted by lynnie-the-pooh at 7:11 AM on April 21, 2011

In the upper right hand corner of your screen, you'll see...

welcome back lynnie-the-pooh

Click on the little envelope to the right of your name.
posted by Nahum Tate at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2011

Response by poster: To NATE:

Thank you so much! I checked my memail and I can't believe how you helped me. You are so kind. You made my day!

Thanks again!!!
posted by lynnie-the-pooh at 11:16 AM on April 21, 2011

My pleasure--it's a small task if you're familiar with the software, but I know how daunting all this can be initially. Best of luck to your daughter!
posted by Nahum Tate at 11:29 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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