Intro to Modulations and Key Changes

I want to give you some information on modulation and changing keys. This isn't complicated, as you'll see.  It can actually be very simple. I'm going to walk you through a lot of different examples of modulations and key changes that we've heard in popular songs and how they were performed but most importantly we're really going to try to hone in on how do these key changes make us feel because if we can identify how these tricks make us feel than as composers we know when to Pull these tricks out of our sleeve and make the listener feel that way.


Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

Hey, I'm Jake lizzio. And in this video. I want to give you some information on modulation and changing keys. And the first thing I want to do is just let you know. This is not an advanced or complicated or difficult topic.

It can actually be very simple. So in this video, what I'm going to do is walk you through a lot of different examples of modulations and key changes that we've heard in popular songs and how they were performed but most importantly we're really going to try to hone in on how do these key changes make us feel because if we can identify how these tricks make us feel than as composers we know when to Pull these tricks out of our sleeve and make the listener feel that way. We're going to start pretty simple and then we'll gradually get more complicated and what I want to start off with is the most common and simple kind of modulation that we here, which is just a direct transposition up or down into a new key and when you transpose something it just means that you literally lifted every single note and chord up. So right now I'm playing The Star-Spangled Banner in the key of a major, but if I move my fingers up one fret I'm playing The Star-Spangled Banner in the key of A sharp when you call it the key of B flat out if I move my fingers up again now, I'm The Star-Spangled Banner in the key of B, right pretty simple stuff moving it up transpose has it might sound a little awkward on its own but believe it or not. This is a really common trick to play in modern music halfway through your song or near the end. You just dial your song up a half step and it gives the ending of your song way more energy than where you started off with and it lets you kind of ride out on a high note as opposed to staying at that same energy level that you started with a great example of this being done is in Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror. The chorus is there are mainly just G major. It's a g a g over. abhi and then ac2 Adi Now the end of that chorus instead of a d they play a C sharp diminished and then a D7 sharp 9 Deadpool's you really strongly back to G. And that's just what they do.

However, the second time this course comes around they play this D seven sharp 9 and you expect it to come back to G. But instead right on the word change. They do the key change and take. You to the key of G sharp, which is a half step. Hi. If you want to make the power now to me, this is like a very comical key change the effect here is like like a surprise birthday party kind of thing. You know, it's totally unexpected. They don't prepare you for it. They give you like a quarter note rest to let you know that something is coming. But to just kind of plop you into a new key like that I think is pretty hilarious and it works, you know, it gives you that energy it gives you that surprise and it kind of gives you that Elation throughout the rest of the song we hear the same trick in Bon Jovi's Livin on a Prayer those courses are in the key of E minor.

But after the guitar solo they do an abbreviated pre-chorus they chop off a beat and they throw you right into the key of G major.

And this key changes really funny to me too because you just get sideswiped with it with that missing beat. It's like you're thrown into the new key before you ever had a chance to anticipate it and it really adds a nice, you know vibrant shining brightness to that last chorus. I use that word brightness a lot with these key changes the move up because we have a tendency to associate higher notes with brightness and lower notes with Darkness. So I don't think it's too abstract to say that this really just brightens up the song at the end. Now, you don't have to be so abrupt and sudden with these key changes. You can kind of massage them in there a little more subtly and a great example of this is in Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's Ain't No, Mountain High Enough. That song has a pretty complex chord progression, but the chorus is can be thought of as B minor now after the bridge they bring in this B flat major chord and from there on out. The rest of the song is now a half step higher and you might miss that key change the first time it's not totally blatant. Or it might be obvious to you. But the first time you hear it, it might just kind of slip past you but you can't really deny that the end of that song has a really great energy that the first half didn't quite have as much of that. You might be thinking. Okay, if you can bump up your song a half step. Can you bump up your song a whole step? And the answer is yeah. You can totally do that. Very popular move a great example is my girl. That song is in the key of C by the time it ends. We're in the key of D, which is a whole step higher.

And this key change happens in a really great fashion. They don't just plop you in there. They lead you to the key of D through the clever use of some dominant chords. So they use a one chord in the key of C for which is half back to 1/4 C back to for for half now the diatonic to and the diatonic five now, the E major is the five of my six chord instead of playing my diatonic 6, they play a major 6, which is an a major and that is the dominant chord of D. So it pops us right into the key of D for I've got some right in the key of D lovely modulation really clear-cut dry example of how to modulate up a whole step and this is a really popular Trope in the 80s a lot of 80s music.

Does this whole step modulation up Whitney Houston's I want to dance with somebody great 80s dance song is in F sharp major about halfway through they just bump you right up into the key of G sharp major.

It's such a potent 80s trick that I use in my own 80 song Come Back Home. That song is in the key of B major. Will you come back home?

Will you come back but it ends up in the key of C sharp major by bringing in the dominant chord of C sharp right before and I give you this wild 80s drum fill to kind of ramp up the excitement of that modulation.

So since we're on the topic of whole steps, I've got to bring up the Metallica transposition.

Metallica will take a rip and they'll modulate the whole riff up a major second. So that holds and then they use that to help them modulate back down and it's that modulation back down. Its that crash back to Earth that gives it that like awesome atom bomb power effect. They do this all over the place. I mean half of their discography has this change where you move everything up a whole step and then you just come, you know, crashing back to Earth. So It's a really nice effect. I've used it a lot in my own songs because it's such a potent little trick and it's easy to perform so we could keep going all day here. We could do minor thirds and major thirds. I'm just going to give you a few examples of some of those bigger modulations.

I'm the one who wants to be with you is an E major, but at the end they spice things up by bringing it all the way up a minor 3rd to G major and maybe the most dramatic and epic modulation that I can think of. In modern history is from Celine Dion's my heart will go on. Those courses are in C sharp minor, but after our lovely Titanic flute solo, we end up kind of traveling through some chords bringing in an F sharp on the base to take us to F minor.

That's a really dramatic modulation.

And I think it's because it's such a wide distance away from our original key, but I think it serves another purpose there. We've got a singer that's able to hit these insanely high notes with a lot of control. So as a composer you want to be able to Showcase and highlight your other musicians and your other Instruments around you so to be a composer and say Hey, you know, we can keep our singer in her Comfort Range for most of the song but when we really want to turn up the heat we can buffer up an entire major third. So she's singing at the top of her range. That's a good composers vision for taking a song and lifting it passed just the notes on the page. Now, you're considering the other musicians their abilities and their strengths and weaknesses. So enough about transpositions.

Hopefully you get the picture that by turning up a half step or a whole step. You can really increase the brightness on your song and by doing Anything over that you start getting a little dramatic, but there's a lot of other kind of key changes that we hear on a daily basis. If you ask most music teachers, what should you do for modulations? And how should you change Keys most of them will say while take a look at your key and find that on the circle of fifths then try to modulate to one of the neighbor Keys. Those are keys that only differ by one note and there's a lot of Truth to that but I don't like approaching modulations from that perspective and I'll let you know why first off that doesn't cover any of the modulations that we just talked about and those are extremely popular. It also doesn't cover another kind of popular.

Action, which is from parallel major to parallel minor. So imagine I'm in the key of A minor like the George Harrison song While My Guitar Gently Weeps with the Beatles that's in a minor. It borrows a little from a Dorian but we go from the key of A minor to the key of a major and that change is really nice. It's got like the sun comes out right? It's much shock. It's not like we turn the brightness up. We really went to a whole different environment there to go from the tonality of the this dark a minor and then all of a sudden being in the key of a major.

I feel like that's a whole different Universe than what we were just talking about about just bumping things up. It's like, you know transplanting to a different place now just as soon as you get to the key of a major they go through some diatonic chords of a major there and then they bring you to the dominant chord E.

And as you know, the dominant chord can resolve to a major tonic or a minor tonic so here they use it to just spin you back into the key of A minor I look at you.

And I love that really drastic change from the you know, the storm clouds coming over the horizon and then all of a sudden the Sun comes out and beam it on your face really like that modulation. I hear these major minor changes a lot in classical music to a lot of the etudes. I learned on guitar were pieces that started off in a minor key, but then would end in the same parallel major key. So you start off in E Minor you end in e major but really it's not just about parallel major and parallel minor. It's about all of the parallel modes if you're in the key of You major it's highly advised to try to move over to C mixolydian or to see lydian.

And when you do that take a look at your key signatures and you'll recognize. Hey, these are actually neighbor keys to C major C. Mixolydian is the same thing as F major and C lydian is the same thing as G major, but when you modulate to the key of F major, I think it's really important to keep your tonal Center the same right stick to the tonal Center of C. So work modally likewise in minor keys if you want to be in c minor consider modulating NG to see Dorian or consider modulating to see phrygian and you might realize oh those are actually neighbor keys to my original key signature of C minor cool example of this is in another Beatle song Norwegian Wood, which is in e mixolydian or you can think of as a major and then all of a sudden they switch to e Dorian You might hear that switching from be mixolydian to e Dorian. It's less dark than what we did in the last Beatle song where we went from major to minor because dorian's just less dark than minor. So if you've got a good grasp of your modes, then you'll really be prepared to do some cool key changes because you know, what kind of environment you're entering when you decide to go into a parallel lydian or a parallel aeolian or a parallel phrygian. So basically in my experience, it's not too common to just modulate up or down to one of those neighbor keys on the circle of Its more common to modulate it to a parallel mode and that will end up being one of those neighbor keys. But I think it's helpful to think of it as a parallel mode. I can't find you one song that does literally just go from the key of C to the key of f its Twenty One Pilots.

The song is called House of Gold & it's pretty clearly in the key of C major and when my body turns to Stone will you take care of me see is clearly The Talk The tonal Center there, but then eventually they take you to your four chord.

And now we're in the key of f so like that's clearly our tonal center. Now, they have to repeat they have to get back to the key of C. So they just bring in the sea and just start all over again. She asked me son when I grow which I think is kind of funny. It's like a Brute Force but still somewhat elegant method of changing Keys just change Keys. You don't even have to prepare for it. You don't have to massage it in there. You can just do it and a lot of times The Listener will accept it now. We're almost wrapped up here, but I've Leave you with a little bit more information first off. If you start changing Keys really quickly. You can get even more interesting effects. For example, there's a song by The Supremes called I hear a symphony. My dad told me to check this one out when I told him that I was doing a song on modulations and it's fantastic first off the first three chords really play a trick on you for the actual key of the song then about halfway through you get for lightning fast modulations in two different Keys all a half-step up. The effect is fantastic.

It really allows that song to give it more mileage, you know, it might have gotten stale if you stay in that same. I'm key with those same abilities, but by constantly cranking it up half step F or half step you get this constant Rush of excitement. It's just doesn't let you down. Also, if you do fast key changes from major keys that are unrelated. You can get a really epic God cord effect. I just did this for the commercial I made for my ultimate modal poster the first 40 seconds that video are these insane chords, they're all major totalities, but they're all unrelated. They're constantly shifting and it just gives you this like genesis of the cosmos effect, which I really enjoy Also. I would be remiss to make a video on modulation. Not mention John coltrane's Giant Steps, which is a mess of modulations that are performed very quickly. Also, I want to mention that when you modulate from minor keys to other minor Keys you can get some really creepy haunted house effects. This doesn't happen a lot in popular music stuff. You're going to hear on the radio. There is a song by Toni Braxton Unbreak My Heart that is in the key of B minor and the choruses are in the key of D minor and that transition is really lovely. I suggest you take a listen to it and listen to the creepiness of that modulation, but when you go from random minor keys to unrelated minor Keys you can get Really spooky effect that you hear a lot in film score, and lastly one of my favorite popular songs with tons of key changes is Total Eclipse of the Heart. Take a listen to it figure out the chords and see if you can string together how those modulations work. So I hope you enjoyed this video, and I hope you learned something. If you did enjoy this video you can thank my awesome and patient patreon supporters for making it possible. If you want to support me. You can join them at patreon or you can consider buying my ultimate modal poster that went on sale last week. Thanks for watching and I will see you next time.


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