In music, modulation is changing from one key to another. In doing so, we open up our possibilities and add new dynamics within the composition.

When modulating, we can follow certain formula’s to ensue a smooth transition. Often you would modulate to a key that is close in relation to your original key. Our example goes from C Major to G Major which is just 1 placement away on the circle of fifths.

 

By listing out the chords and their articulation, we can see what similarities we have.

Articulation: The way a chord is voiced (Major, minor, diminished, etc).

Using our above diagram we can see that A minor, C Major, E minor and G Major are all articulated the same within both keys. These are the chords we would most likely use as transition chords (or Pivot chords).

Our ii and IV chords of the new key are the most likely to be used as our pivot chords (in this example that is A minor and E minor).

Play the following chord progression as an easy practice:

C Major – A minor – E minor – G Major – A minor – E minor – B minor – D Major

Using the second A minor and E minor in the progression, we have opened up our options, allowing us to either continue the progression in the Key of C Major, or to articulate the chords accordingly to play in the key of G Major. Our example follows to utilize B minor and D Major, both articulations of G Major. When you go back the the beginning of the progression, we start once more on our C Major (which is found in both keys) giving us a smooth transition from key to key.

If we wanted to do a more Jazz comping style, we use the common jazz chord progression formula (ii-Vi-I-V), extend the chords and modulate accordingly.

Example:

D minor 7 – A minor 7 – C Major 7 – G Dominant 7 – E minor 7 – B minor 7 – C Major 7           – C Major 7

Utilizing our E minor 7 chord we can modulate to G Major, allowing us to smoothly include the B minor 7.

 

Tips on Modulating:

  1. Pick keys that are closely related (use your circle of fifths!)
  2. Write the notes of each chord, their articulation and their roman numerals for both your original key and your modulating key.
  3. Practice making your own compositions with modulations throughout the progressions.

 

Once you have practiced modulating (in all keys) you can further your learning with Enharmonic Modulation and Chromatic Modulation.

We will be making new lessons on these soon so stay alert! 😀

 

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