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Thread: Ways of modulate

  1. #1
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    Ways of modulate

    Hi guys!

    I'm going deep into theory but one topic I've never put in practice is modulation(although I use modal interchange a lot). My inquire is about the ways of modulate.

    a)In how many ways I can do this?
    b)Which is the smoother one?
    c)general tips to succesfully do this and return to the original tonality, do you always return?, etc.
    d)Is it bad to abruptly go to another tonality?
    e)which is the most used method?
    Any example would be fine too.

    Thanks!!!!
    Last edited by juanf03; 09-05-2012 at 06:08 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Hi guys!

    I'm going deep into theory but one topic I've never put in practice is modulation(although I use modal interchange a lot). My inquire is about the ways of modulate.

    a)In how many ways I can do this?
    b)Which is the smoother one?
    The main way to modulate is to introduce the V of the new key first (see examples below). That can be made smoother by introducing the ii of the new key before that (as in the first example).
    Eg, if you wanted to change to the key of G major (from anywhere), you'd begin with Am7-D7. Depending on the key you start from, you can probably go straight to the Am7 from anywhere. (If you start in the keys of C or F, then Am7 is already in those keys, so the change is smoothest.)
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    c)general tips to succesfully do this and return to the original tonality, do you always return?, etc.
    Normally you'd return to the original key, and repeat one of the earlier sections in that key. It can be done the same way, by going via the V or ii-V of that key.

    The usual scenario is for an "A" section to be in one key (usually played twice), the "B" (or bridge) in another key, then a final "A" section in the original key.
    All 3 "A" sections would be identical, with the possible exception of the endings, because the ending of the 2nd one would contain the modulation to "B".

    Sometimes in popular music the original key is not returned to. Usually this is when the same progression (from the old key) is continued in the new key. Typically it will be a half-step or whole-step higher than before, which is a way of injecting fresh energy into a song when it might get boring if continued in the same key.
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    d)Is it bad to abruptly go to another tonality?
    Depends. That's a surprising sound, but sometimes you want a surprising sound!
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    e)which is the most used method?
    See above.

    My advice is always to study the chord progressions in the kind of music you like and want to compose. Listen out for effects that appeal to you, and find out what they are. Eg, if you think you hear a key change, check what it is and how they did it.
    The more pieces you study in this way, the better your understanding of the various common processes will get.

    The following songs contain some of my favourite key changes. Some are smooth, some abrupt.

    Firstly, 3 songs which all start in C major, and move to other keys and stay in the new key for the rest of the song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iPtG_O8w8g
    1:48 = modulation from C major to D major, via Em-A (ii-V of D); song continues in D.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyCbkI9EgEA
    1:30 = abrupt change from C major to E major. Song continues in E.
    The transition chord (last chord in the bridge) is F/G, a kind of G9sus which would normally work as an extended V in C major - that's where we expect it go back to. But it also works as a move to E, because many of the chord tones (the upper F major triad) simply descend by a half-step; that's a familiar kind of move, concealing the surprise of the E major key change. (The guitar solo underlines the new key by improvising with E major pentatonic.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSbM_Zmx9kA
    As above, this song starts in C and ends in E. But it gets there by a different route.
    The bridge at 1:18 begins on Em (iii of the key), descends through D and C to B, then emerges in E major at 1:34, where it stays.
    (This is quite a rare and clever modulation. Em is in key of C, so that's a smooth transition; a descending Em-D-C-B sequence is a familiar way of establishing the key of E minor. So the eventual E major is nice surprise.)
    (Also listen to the Searchers' great cover of this song, which starts in A major and ends in C# major. In both versions, you hear the increased intensity that the higher vocal brings to the final verses.)

    Here's an interesting one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7k0NZ4XidM
    Worth laying out the whole chord sequence for this one:
    |G |Bm |C |G | x2 = I-iii-IV-I in G major.
    Then at 0:28 (very early for a modulation):
    |Bb |Gm |D | x2 = sounds like abrupt move to Bb major (no preparation) but turns out to be more like a III-i-V in G minor. (The D major chord is V to both G major and G minor, which is what keeps the key ambiguous.)
    Then:
    |Bb |Gm |A | D |
    The A major is a "secondary dominant". D is the "primary dominant" (V of both G major and G minor), and A is the V of D. Secondary dominants are most common in major keys, so this is preparing us for the move back to G major, which happens at 1:06.
    An additional bit of clever ambiguity is that the chord change from Gm-A suggests a iv-V in D minor, a third potential key. So when the D major arrives, we're still kind of guessing what could happen next. (Are they in D now?? Ah no, back to G...)

    One of the most beautiful modulations I know:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBlx1JffMQ4
    Starts in Bb minor, then at 1:00 an abrupt move into the very distant key of C major (I love that sound).
    The sequence then is C-Am-Ab-Bb; the last two chords being "borrowed from the parallel minor" (C minor). That brings it a little more into an affinity with the previous Bb minor key (where the sequence also contained the bVI and bVII chords, Gb and Ab).
    Then at 1:40 it goes back to Bb minor. This is just as abrupt a key change (no preparation), but because it goes direct from the last Bb major chord it's a lot smoother.
    In fact, this Bb minor chord (repeat of the intro riff) is made more complex with an Eb bass. The effect is really an Eb9sus4 - so we can feel the final Bb of the last section as the V of this new section (Bb>Eb, at least in the bass).
    But the repeated intro doesn't go back to the verse. At 1:50 it goes straight back to the C major section. (It eventually returns to the verse after the sax solo.)
    This is extremely accomplished songwriting. (It requires a full understanding not only of plain major and minor keys, but of the principle of "borrowed chords", and the effect of certain chord extensions, such as 6ths, maj7s, sus4s) I'm disregarding the great melodic hooks, btw - never forget that the melody IS the song; however interesting the chord changes get, the melody has to rule.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGQgEAZztK4
    Key of B major for the verse, then moves to A major for the chorus, via E ("very strange"), which is both the IV of B and the V of A. This is known as a "pivot" chord, because it belongs to both keys, and can act as a point of transition between the two (like the Em chord in My Girl and Needles and Pins).
    The song returns to B major via the simple method of placing the V of B (F#) at the end of the chorus ("meanwhile back").
    The clever thing it does is at the very end, when instead of the F# leading back to a verse, it leads to a repeat of the chorus in B major (up a whole step). You should be able to hear the "bright" effect of this (2:37).

    Here's something different:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd2B6SjMh_w
    This changes from C minor to C major. That's not a "modulation" (change of key), but a change of "tonality".
    The change comes at 0:53 (listen to the change in quality of the first chord), and in fact the set of chords changes very little. The main verse/chorus section is Cm-Eb-Ab-G, while the "post-chorus" section is C-Ab-Eb-G. (as with "Captain of Her Heart", the major key borrows chords from the parallel minor, so it doesn't move that far away from the original sound.)

    Another great example of combining relative and parallel major and minor keys (C major, A minor, A major):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRBvPKPFRpY
    See analysis here: http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/...ES/AWP/s.shtml

    Lastly a crazy example of what's known as "the truck driver's modulation" - shoving everything crudely up a half-step. Few songs dare to do it more than once, but this song (or rather this arrangement of it) does it on every verse (starting after verse 2). That's what's known as chutzpah .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEllHMWkXEU
    So it begins in Bb major, but ends up in Eb major, after 5 modulations.
    Before every change, you get the V of the new key, in traditional fashion. So before it shifts to B, you get an F#7 (0:54); before it shifts to C, you get a G7 (1:17); etc.
    Last edited by JonR; 09-05-2012 at 10:47 AM.

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    Thank you so much!, these songs are awesome examples, I have material for months.
    Two things:

    a)when you say:
    "a descending Em-D-C-B sequence is a familiar way of establishing the key of E minor." B shouldn't be minor in E minor?, in E major is B, so that I could understand better(I've never seen a chromatic line with modal interchange in it, that's why I'm Asking), or maybe chords aren't THAT important in a chromatic line right?.....

    b)Is modulation a way to generate climax? Because I've always wondered how a climax is generated in a composition......
    Last edited by juanf03; 09-05-2012 at 06:00 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Thank you so much!, these songs are awesome examples, I have material for months.
    Two things:

    a)when you say:
    "a descending Em-D-C-B sequence is a familiar way of establishing the key of E minor." B shouldn't be minor in E minor?, in E major is B, so that I could understand better(I've never seen a chromatic line with modal interchange in it, that's why I'm Asking),
    In the traditional minor key, the V chord is major. In the classical era (or even earlier), this was considered a necessary alteration to aeolian mode (natural minor) to strengthen the cadence to the tonic.
    I.e., Bm > Em is a weak "modal cadence". B or B7 > Em is much stronger and firmer, because of the D# "leading tone" resolving up to E. This is called "harmonic minor" because it serves a harmonic purpose.

    In a sense, you could say the minor key "borrows" its dominant chord from the parallel major, in order to provide a more major-key-like V-I cadence.
    On the other hand, when the major key borrows chords (like bVII or bIII) from the parallel minor, it's in order to add an element of the minor key's "darkness".

    The sequence Em-D-C-B is known as the "Andalusian cadence", because it's common in Spanish flamenco.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andalusian_cadence
    It's quite common in popular music, eg:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S13mP_pfEc
    (Am-G-F-E)
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    or maybe chords aren't THAT important in a chromatic line right?.....
    Good question.
    I'd say that melody always rules, and sometimes a chromatic line has a melodic role and dictates the chords.
    Chromatic descents are quite common in minor keys. Try this:
    Am - Am(maj7) - Am7 - Am6 - F/A
    Or this:
    Am - E/G# - C/G - D/F# - F
    ...sound familiar?
    You can explain all the chords as coming from one of the 3 A minor scales, but really it starts as just a chromatic embellishment of an Am chord (first sequence) developed into different chords in the second.

    However, it's possible to take chromaticism too far. In normal tonal music (major and minor keys) it works best as this occasional kind of decoration, in a single line, or even just an occasional note.
    Think of it as adding spice to a recipe: too much will overwhelm the dish!
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    b)Is modulation a way to generate climax? Because I've always wondered how a climax is generated in a composition......
    Climaxes in music can be made a few ways.
    Melodically, in a typical popular standard song, you get a high peak around 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through the structure. (The higher a melody goes, the more intense a vocalist is going to sound.)
    This might not coincide with a climax in the chords, although it can. Eg, a common modulation in the bridge of a song is to the dominant key.
    E, simply, in key of C, if the middle section includes a D7 going to a G chord, you're going to get a sense of increased tension (more than just going to the G will give you). The climax is the G, the tension being released when it goes back to C.
    This country classic is the simplest possible demonstration of the principle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95aP0OWx4jY
    Key of C, he introduces the D chord early ("how's about cookin..").
    In the bridge, he modulates to F (the IV chord) via a quick C7 (0:39), which makes the move to D7 (0:50) all the stronger, resolving to G in the next bar; before returning to the original key.

  5. #5
    Registered User Color of Music's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Thank you so much!, these songs are awesome examples, I have material for months.
    Two things:

    a)when you say:
    "a descending Em-D-C-B sequence is a familiar way of establishing the key of E minor." B shouldn't be minor in E minor?, in E major is B, so that I could understand better(I've never seen a chromatic line with modal interchange in it, that's why I'm Asking), or maybe chords aren't THAT important in a chromatic line right?.....

    b)Is modulation a way to generate climax? Because I've always wondered how a climax is generated in a composition......
    B could be either major or minor. What's going on here is the particular scale.

    Em-D-C-B.

    Knowing how the minor scale is harmonized, your I-IV-V should be minor.

    Look at the natural minor scale:

    E-F#-G-A-B-C-D-E

    Now, we'll construct chords from that scale:

    EGB (minor) F#AC (diminished) GBD (major) ACE (minor) BDF# (minor) CEG (major) DF#A (major) EGB (minor)

    However, there is another minor scale used more often than not when songs are in minor keys. Harmonic Minor

    For example:

    E HM is: E-F#-G-A-B-C-D#-E

    This scale is used when you see Dominant or Secondary Dominant Sevenths as this gives off a stronger cadential aura.

    The standard "Summertime" - the first three chords are proof of this:

    Am-E7-Am-E7-Am-E7#5#9-E7b9-Am9

    The E7s are dominant chords, but we're in a minor key whereas the natural minor scale says that they should be Em7s. This isn't wrong, but it's much weaker from a cadential view.

    Am-Em7-Am-Em7-Am-Em7-Am and even the chord just before the next phrase, is also a Dominant: Am-Em7-Am-E7-Am-E7b9-Am9-A7b9.

    The point being is that the leading tone or raised seventh - found in both the HM and Major scales, evokes a bigger sense of urgency towards the tonic (first note in the scale)

    Cm-Fm-G7-Cm sounds different than Cm-Fm-Gm7-Cm. The second phrase is much weaker because of the third being lowered (Bb-C) whereas the first phrase is much stronger (B-C)

    Notes (Melodic lines in chord progressions) tend to move by halfsteps in either direction.

    Now, what JonR was mentioning with the E-D-C-B bassline. The movement there is wholesteps.

    Let's look at each note in the chords.

    Triads:

    E --->D ---> C ---> B (Whole-Whole-Half)
    G --->F# ---> E ---> D (Half-Whole-Whole)
    B ---> A ---> G ---> F# (Whole-Whole-Half)

    E --->D ---> C ---> B (Whole-Whole-Half)
    G --->F# ---> E ---> D# (Half-Whole-Half)
    B ---> A ---> G ---> F# (Whole-Whole-Half)

    What's different?

    Sevenths:

    E --->D ---> C ---> B (Whole-Whole-Half)
    G --->F# ---> E ---> D (Half-Whole-Whole)
    B ---> A ---> G ---> F# (Whole-Whole-Half)
    D ---> C ---> B ---> A (Whole-Half-Whole)

    E --->D ---> C ---> B (Whole-Whole-Half)
    G --->F ---> E ---> D# (Whole-Whole-Half)
    B ---> A ---> G ---> F# (Whole-Whole-Half)
    D ---> C ---> B ---> A (Whole-Half-Whole)

    Again, the question is, why use a dominant seventh as opposed to a minor seventh when in minor keys.

    Let's take a melody of the first phrase of Summertime in Am:

    E-C-E (Am-Em7-Am) D-C-D-E-C-A-E (Em7-Am-E7-Am)

    This is Norah Jones' version (transposed a halfstep up): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJOtaWyEzaI

    Here it's in Bbm. The first phrase is: Bbm-F7#5#9-Bbm7

    The Ds the melody are both in the Em7 and E7 chords; however, it is the third (G and G#) instead of the seventh (D and D#) that takes precedence.

    You may hear people say that the third and seventh or "guide tones."

    All of this goes back to scales: Anytime you see or hear a dominant seventh - especially in minor keys, the HM scale is at play because it also has the leading tone. This tone is a halfstep away from the tonic.

    A Major: A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A; A HM: A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A

    Now, regarding your other questions:

    Yes, modulations add a degree of excitement - increasing tension (the "excitement") even more. however, as JonR also pointed out, it isn't advised to have too many of them.

    Sure, you start in C, but end up in G. That's seven halfsteps and such chromaticism while providing excitement does so in a negative manner. It's one thing to have an instrument climb like that; however, that puts alot of strain or perceived strain if a vocalist was doing that.

    When listening to gospel tunes and the lead singer says: "Take it up!" This isn't slighting the choir who's backing him or her; however, they can only go so high before cracking.

    Jesus, Be A Fence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce7LQfY0d30

    The Jesus, Be a Fence ... reps:

    In Ebm ---> E ----> F --->("Take it Up!") F# ----> Ebm

    And the bassline is implicity walking up:

    Eb: Eb-F-Gb-G-Ab / C-Db-D-Eb;

    E: E-F#-G-G#-A / C#-D-D#-E;

    F: F-G-Ab-A-Bb / D-Eb-E-F

    F#: F#-G#-A-A# / D#-E-E#-F#

    Excitement builds, yes, but you can hear the "struggling to climb the modulation hill"

    I don't think it's that bad in this song, but other songs, it's incredibly excruciating!

    This is especially noted when singing live.

    Beyonce's "Love On Top": C-E. Only a major third, but you can hear how difficult it is to reach it. (The high B)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByLJstEo0fo

    It's only three semitones (JBaF) and four semitones (LoT) but that's probably enough for most people; four and five, you're beginning to stretch and exhaust. (Notice Beyoncè dropped it an octave vs. the track)

    To use the analogy of a car. Either an Auto or Manual, but especially manual - although speed is great, when the engine starts "whining or struggling to get up a hill" either upshift or ease off the accelerator. Of course, if you're in Neutral in either car, glue your foot to the accelerator or put a brick on it, how long before it blows as that would be the climax!

    In music, the V (Dominant) is the climax chord - no matter what the key is regardless of how many keys you run through. Actually, to enact complete or greater dominance + tension, add extensions and/or altered extensions.

    Back to the JBaF:

    Bb(7) in the first key, B(7) in the second, C(7) in the third and C#(7) in the last key.

    [I only provided the link to illustrate the point being made]

    Like everything, don't overdo it! And too much excitement, how ever it may be executed is harmful as well. Music needs to have some "downtime", too.
    Last edited by Color of Music; 09-07-2012 at 01:29 AM.

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    great answers, I'll study what you both suggest. Thank you so much!

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    BMus (Hons), MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    The following may be of some use:
    An introduction to modulation (changing key)

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    I've been looking for songs of my regular cd library and I found the spirit Carries on by dream theater, there is a part on 2:34

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J6PPkKBXoU

    G
    A D D/Db Bm G A D D7 If I die tomorrow I 'd be alright because I believe that after we are gone the spirit carries on Em Eb D D Move on be brave don't weap at my grave because I am no longer here G Em Bm But please never let your memory of me disappear

    That D7 is a way of modulating to G?.....and then that Eb would be the modal interchange of the 3rd degree of the G scale to G minor? is that right?

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    I've been looking for songs of my regular cd library and I found the spirit Carries on by dream theater, there is a part on 2:34

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J6PPkKBXoU

    G
    A D D/Db Bm G A D D7 If I die tomorrow I 'd be alright because I believe that after we are gone the spirit carries on Em Eb D D Move on be brave don't weap at my grave because I am no longer here G Em Bm But please never let your memory of me disappear

    That D7 is a way of modulating to G?
    Yes.
    The following chord is Em (vi), instead of the G (I) we expect, which is a "deceptive cadence".

    BTW, what you've written as Db should be C#. (Opening key is D major.)

    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    .....and then that Eb would be the modal interchange of the 3rd degree of the G scale to G minor? is that right?
    Er, not quite.
    The 3rd degree of G scale is B not E .
    But the Eb chord can certainly be explained as a borrowing from G minor (interestingly it has a G bass) - although I think other interpretations also make sense.
    Firstly, that chord sequence needs a little correction:
    Code:
    Em                     Eb         Eb/G    D/A                    E/G#
    Move on be brave don't weep at my grave because I am no  longer  here
    The usual context for an Eb-D chord change would be as bVI-V in G minor. But the E/G# is obviously an unexpected change.
    However, we're used to hearing D-E as a IV-V in A major, so it's not an unusual pairing - and it's given another kind of logic with the G# bass, both as a half-step descent from A, and as an echo (half-step up) of the previous Eb/G.
    But the key is completely ambiguous at this point - we don't know what to expect next. A major? (after D-E).
    But of course it goes back to G - again another half-step bass descent (from G#).

    BTW, the Eb chord may have been chosen because they were thinking first of a D# bass, perhaps on a B7 chord (in E harmonic minor context), then thought "hey let's have a D#/Eb major chord - more dramatic!" (They're clearly playing with half-step bass moves, with unusual chord inversions attached.)
    OTOH, the main melody note remains as G on both the Em and the Eb, so the idead of a surprising harmonisation probably appealed.

    The other (perhaps better) interpretation of the Eb is as a tritone substitute for A7. A7 would harmonise the melody ("weep at my grave" = G G G A), and also make an orthodox sequence from Em-A7-D. But that would be much too bland for such a dramatic moment in the song. Eb is more surprising, while still having a harmonic logic.
    IOW, the Em chord - as it turns out - is not really a vi in G major, or a tonic in E minor; it's a ii in D major (the original key).
    (The Eb is not a full tritone sub, btw, because it lacks the b7, Db, which (as C#) it would share with A7 - but it works the same way.)
    Last edited by JonR; 09-09-2012 at 08:56 AM.

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