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# Modulate beween keys

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(@alouden)
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Hello All,

Does anyone know of or is there available anywhere a "canned" formula for modulating between keys? I've have searched and found plenty of theory but I guess I'm looking for the lazy man's modulation technique.

What I guess I want is a print out of standard chord progressions to modulate between keys if that makes any sense.

Thanks

(@davidhodge)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4472

Not sure this is a "canned" way or not, but the easiest way to establish yourself in a new key (however temporarily) is to use the V chord of that key to create what's known as a "perfect cadence" (or "V to I" in layman's terms).

This is done in lots of songs. Say you've got a song in C but on the second line, for example you want to modulate over to G for a moment or two. The surest way would be to use D or D7, which are the V chord of G. How many songs do you know that go:

C - - - /F - - - /G - - - /C - - - /

C - - - /F - - - /D7 - - - /G - - - /

Giving yourself a short progression in the new key, and ending it with "V - I" in the newly modulated key, is done so often that you'll actually start hearing it once you look for it.

In fact, one of the fun things about ear training is when you hear a chord taken from outside of your original key and figure out what key that new chord is the V chord in. Going back to C as an example, if you all of a sudden run into an E or E7 chord in the key of C, more likely than not the next chord will be Am or A, since E is the V chord in the key of A.

As mentioned, don't know how "canned" this is, but it's fairly reliable and our ears readily accept it.

Hope this helps.

Peace

(@fretsource)
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A common refinement of that modulation technique mentioned above by David is to precede the new V7chord with a so-called pivot chord, i.e., a chord that is common to both keys. In the example above, the chord A minor, (which is chord vi of C and chord ii of G) could replace F just before the D7, giving a ii - V7 - I, progression in G major (Am - D7 - G).

(@alangreen)
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And the jazz way is

I - I#dim - ii - V7 - I

So do the I and I#dim in the original key (say D -> D#dim). The dim chord has two tritones in it so you could be going anywhere, and what you do is a ii - V7 - I in the new key (say Gm -> C7 -> F) Et voila. Nice thing about this one is you can just put the tune down in the new key. If you use the common chord approach you might have to go through two or three steps to get to where you want to end up.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk

(@noteboat)
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Not sure this is a "canned" way or not, but the easiest way to establish yourself in a new key (however temporarily) is to use the V chord of that key to create what's known as a "perfect cadence" (or "V to I" in layman's terms).

Tsk, tsk David... a "perfect cadence" is one in which both chords are in root position, and the root is doubled on the resolution, appearing as both the bass and soprano voices. Any type of cadence can be perfect; a V-I is an "authentic" cadence. So...

G7 -> C, (320001 -> x32010) is NOT a perfect cadence (because the root isn't the soprano), but G7 -> C, (320001 -> x3201x) IS a perfect cadence. F -> C (x-x-10-10-10-13 -> x-x-10-9-8-8) is also a perfect cadence, but not an authentic one... it's plagal.

Anyway, nit picking out of the way, the simplest way to modulate is through "secondary dominants". If you're in the key of C, G7 is the dominant 7th. That's going to resolve to a C major chord.

But it can resolve to ANY C-root chord - if you're in Cm, G7 is still the dominant chord.

So if you want to change to a nearby key on the circle of fifths, you simply resolve your dominant chord to ANOTHER dominant chord - and voila, you've modluated. Want to go from C major to Bb?

C - G7 - C7 - F7 - Bb

That's probably the simplest way to do it.

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(@fretsource)
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Tsk, tsk David... a "perfect cadence" is one in which both chords are in root position, and the root is doubled on the resolution, appearing as both the bass and soprano voices. Any type of cadence can be perfect; a V-I is an "authentic" cadence. So...

G7 -> C, (320001 -> x32010) is NOT a perfect cadence (because the root isn't the soprano), but G7 -> C, (320001 -> x3201x) IS a perfect cadence. F -> C (x-x-10-10-10-13 -> x-x-10-9-8-8) is also a perfect cadence, but not an authentic one... it's plagal.

Not to go off topic, but it's worth noting that cadences are defined differently in different places, and even by different sources in the same place.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
"Three principal types evolved in this purely harmonic context: the perfect, or full (final), cadence; the half cadence, or semicadence; and the deceptive cadence. The perfect cadence, in turn, can be either authentic (with the dominant as the penultimate chord, resolving to the tonic) or plagal (with the subdominant as the penultimate chord, resolving to the tonic); only the authentic perfect cadence produces a truly decisive ending."

The Concise Oxford dict of music has it a little differently:

Any melodic or harmonic progression which has come to possess a conventional association with the ending of a comp., a section, or a phrase.
The commonest harmonic cadences are: (a) Perfect cadence (or full close). Chord of the dominant followed by that of tonic. (b) Interrupted cadence. Chord of the dominant followed by that of submediant. (c) Imperfect cadence (or half close). Chord of the tonic or some other chord followed by that of dominant. (d) Plagal cadence. Chord of the subdominant followed by that of tonic

This entry ends with "The above definitions accord with Brit. terminology. Amer. usage is different and inconsistent.

(@noteboat)
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Yes, there are definate differences in terminology between British and American music terms. But I disagree that the American ones are inconsistent. Every single reference work I have on my bookshelf has the exact same definition. Here are a few...

The Harvard Dictionary of Music:

A cadence is called Perfect (final, full) if the last chord is the tonic triad (I) with the root of the chord in both the top (soprano) and bottom (bass) parts, preceded either by the dominant (V) or subdominant (IV). The term imperfect denotes an otherwise perfect cadence where the root of the chord does not appear in the top voice.

Piston's "Harmony":

The most conclusive arrangement, with dominant and toic chords in root position and the tonic note in the soprano at the end, is generally called the perfect cadence, all other forms of the authentic cadence being termed imperfect, meaning less final.

Joseph Brye's "Basic Principles of Music Theory":

Perfect Authentic Cadence: This is a V-I cadence in which the root is found in both the soprano and bass voices in the final tonic chord. Imperfect Authentic Cadence: This is a V-I cadence having any other arrangement of tones than that found in the perfect authentic cadence.

Carolyn Alchin's "Applied Harmony":

The dominant harmony followed by the tonic makes what is known as the authentic cadence. Perfect when the root of the tonic chord falls in the two outside parts, with the root bass in the dominant chord; imperfect when otherwise.

Gordon Delamont's "Modern Harmonic Technique":

A cadential "V - I" is called an authentic cadence. Two structural forms: Perfect - Soprano ends on the tonic. Both chords are in root position. Imperfect - Soprano ends on a note other than the tonic or both chords are not in root position.

There are more... but they're more of the same. I've seen "perfect" used in place of "authentic" in a few US magazine articles, but never a US textbook or music reference book; "authentic" is always V-I, and "perfect" always refers to the arrangment of the voices.

Now about that Oxford Music Dictionary definition... don't leave out the next paragraph:

To any of the dominant chords above mentioned the 7th may be added. Any of the chords may be taken in inversion, but if that is done in the case of the perfect cadence its effect of finality (i.e. its â€˜perfection') is lost.

So the Brits may call the "authentic" cadence "perfect"... but only when it's a "perfect authentic cadence"! If it's an imperfect authentic cadence they're speaking of, I believe the accepted British term is "inverted perfect cadence" - so in either country, speaking of a "perfect" cadence implies the correct voicing.

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(@fretsource)
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Now about that Oxford Music Dictionary definition... don't leave out the next paragraph:

To any of the dominant chords above mentioned the 7th may be added. Any of the chords may be taken in inversion, but if that is done in the case of the perfect cadence its effect of finality (i.e. its â€˜perfection') is lost.

So the Brits may call the "authentic" cadence "perfect"... but only when it's a "perfect authentic cadence"! If it's an imperfect authentic cadence they're speaking of, I believe the accepted British term is "inverted perfect cadence" - so in either country, speaking of a "perfect" cadence implies the correct voicing.

The essential difference is in the use of the term "perfect". Does it refer to a specific arrangement of voices within the cadence or does it refer to the chord progression that comprises the cadence? The answer seems to be - both or either.
In your first post, you said that any cadence can be "perfect" (provided the voices are arranged as you mentioned). According to that definition, even a deceptive cadence (V-vi) could be perfect. But the Harvard definition you quoted allows only those cadences that end on chord I, which can be either Authentic (V-I)or Plagal (IV-I). This agrees with Britannica, except that Britannica doesn't specify the arrangement of voices.

The Oxford defines the perfect cadence as being V-I only, regardless of arrangement. Note that it only mentions the weakening effect caused by inverting either of the chords, rather than simply rearranging the top note of root position chords. And more importantly, the implication is that doing so doesn't cause it to be re-classified as a different type of cadence. An inverted perfect cadence is still classed as a perfect cadence, given that the term 'perfect' here is referring to the chord progression and not the chord arrangement.

(@alangreen)
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Yes, there are definate differences in terminology between British and American music terms.

And the Open University course in my study makes no reference to doubling up the root or being in root position other than diagrammatically and it's easy to miss that.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk

(@alouden)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Topic starter

All have been helpful and maybe I'm a little thick.

An example of what I am dealing with would be we play a song in C and the next song is say in E and we dont want to stop between songs. I need to modulate from C to the first chord of the next song which is E and looking at a chord chart I see no common/pivot chord. We do this quite often (praise band at church) so that is why I was looking for something that would say...Ok, we are going from C to E, play these chords to get there.

Thanks again

(@noteboat)
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It depends on how you're writing out the transition, I guess... or how smooth you want it to be.

You could try: C - G - Em - E, or even C-Em-E

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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

The way I'd go would to be

C-C#dim-F#m-B7-E

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk

(@rgalvez)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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And the jazz way is

I - I#dim - ii - V7 - I

So do the I and I#dim in the original key (say D -> D#dim). The dim chord has two tritones in it so you could be going anywhere, and what you do is a ii - V7 - I in the new key (say Gm -> C7 -> F) Et voila.

HI Alan. It will be helpful to me if you can develop a bit more the concept of the two tritones in a dimished chord so you can go to other keys. I understand you but with a couple of examples I know I'll understand you completely :))

Thanks a lot

Roberto

(@bdkauff)
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Not to dig up a dead horse (mixed metaphor?), but "modulation" is a bit misleading in this context, I think. If one is creating a harmonic progression that includes chords or notes outside of the established key, but does NOT go on to establish a new key (such as secondary dominant, which is the most common) per se, than I would simply call that a chromatic alteration, as opposed to a full on modulation, in the "classical" sense.

(@noteboat)
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You're right about 'temporary' changes in key not being true modulations - with my students, I call those "outside" chords (because they're from outside the key) or "accidental" chords (because they can't be written in standard notation without using accidentals)*

But secondary dominants as you describe them - i.e. used to extend a chord resolution by the V/V, as in C -> D7 -> G7 -> C isn't what we were talking about. We were talking about one of the most common ways of doing an actual modulation: a modulation through secondary dominants, as in C -> G7 -> C (establishes C as the key) -> G7 -> C7 -> F (although the C7 could be an 'outside' chord, as soon as you put a Bb chord in the mix you've cemented the idea of a key change)

* - both of these terms can be confusing, since "outside" chord is also a jazz guitar term to distinguish a melody chord played on strings 1-4 (the 'outside' strings) from a typical rhythm chord played on strings 2-5 or 2-4 and 6 - the "inside" chords. And an accidental in a chord doesn't mean it's outside the key... E7 is in the key of Am (using the harmonic minor scale), and altered dominant chords still fill the diatonic dominant function. That's often the case in music - words don't adequately describe what's going on.

But what we've been talking about is really modulation, in either the classical sense ("key change") or the jazz sense ("key of the moment"). Chromaticism is another beast entirely :)

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