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Songwriting - Modulation

Young woman enjoying music
Modulating in music

Why would you use Modulation?


Changing key or even just borrowing a few chords from another key adds another level of creativity and interest in your songwriting.


Listeners are so used to hearing songs in one key that when a chord is out of place it adds interest to the song. It may add tension or even an unexpected move in the lyrics mood.


So how do we do it using the rules of music theory?


Songwriting - Modulating to a Related Key


Modulation means the moving from one Key to another and how you do it, There are many rules but for now we will look at the simplest and easiest to use.


If you look at the chart over the page you will find that chords appear in more than one key.


                          1        2        3       4        5        6        7


C Major Chords – C Major, D Minor, E Minor, F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Minorb5.


G Major Chords – G Major, A Minor, B Minor, C Major, D Major, E Minor, F# Minorb5


If we take the C Major chord you will see that it is the 1st chord of the C Major and the 4th chord of G Major.


So, if C major can be found in these 2 Keys then it can also follow or be followed by any of the chord in each of the 2 keys.


 For Example.


|G Maj    | Dm    | C Maj  |D Maj   |


|-------C Major--------------|


     |-----G Major------|     


Because the Keys found share notes and chords it is easier to modulate between them and therefore we can include all the keys in working out what chords are available.


The beauty of this is that you can move easily between the keys and only change one or two notes to be in the new Key.


 Another Common Modulation


Modulating up a Tone


A commonly used modulation is to go from a Key to another Key that a Tone (2 steps) above. This gives the music a natural lift to it while still being comfortable to the singer.


For Example


If you are in the Key C Major and you want to got the Key of D Major you would look at what chords they share to transition from one Key to another.


                          1        2        3        4        5        6        7


C Major Chords – C Major, D Minor, E Minor,  F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Minorb5.


D Major Chords – D Major, E Minor, F# Minor, G Major, A Major, B Minor, C# Minorb5



The shared chords are E Minor, G Major. So, your options are limited. My general rule is using the Major chord lifts the music whereas the Minor calms the music.


Using the Major Chord to Transition.


I C                       I G                      I D                       I A                I


C Major -------------------------------  D Major --------------------------


  C Major ---------  D Major ------------------------------------------------


I C                       I Em                    I Bm                    I A                I


C Major ------------------------------   D Major --------------------------


C Major -----------  D Major --------------------------------------------------

There are a lot more transition methods but try these out and see how you go. There will so many more opportunities for your music to go in different directions than just the 6 chords of a set key.



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