2 thoughts on “Getting From One Song to the Next Smoothly

  1. Sam August 4, 2010 / 3:51 pm

    Nice. Loving your stuff on here. I regularly use the first few already, but it had (for some dumb reason…) never occurred to me to use common-tone modulation. Thanks!

  2. Andrew August 5, 2010 / 9:53 pm

    This is really cool, Jamie. Hope you don’t mind if I add some stuff.

    When I’ve analyzed contrapuntal music (think Bach), which often delivers its chords through interwoven melodies, I learned that key changes can easily happen very naturally in the course of the melody rather than the composer playing a certain sequence of chords with all the notes of the chord sounding together. This is very similar, Jamie, to your “controlled chaos” method. To make the ear hear the key change, though, sometimes it is helpful to go beyond just the notes that are common to both scales and actually introduce one or two “new” notes before you fully “land” on the tonic (I) of new key.

    Thus, to extend your example, modulating from G-Major to E-Major, you can just play one or two of the shared notes E, F#, A, and B, but if you ease in one or two of the notes G#, C#, and D# — not all of them and certainly not all at once — that would clue the ear in to what is happening. So, like, you’re playing your G-D-G (notes not chords) and you start adding the B, A and F# while you lose the G and D (because they are not shared notes). But you haven’t really sealed the deal until you throw in a G# or a D#, which are notes in the new key (E-Major) but not in the old key (G-Major). In the case of adding the D#, what you’re doing is playing the leading tone (7th scale degree — a half step below the tonic) of the new key, and really hinting at the V (five chord) of the new key.

    Of course, the modern writer wants to modulate without pounding the V of the new key (in this case, a B chord), and who can blame him — the V-I cadence is so drilled into our ears from centuries and centuries of tonal writing that it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion. It’s great to use from time to time when you really want or need to make a strong point, but often all you really have to do is hint at it. I mean, you don’t even have to play the root of the V, just play that D# and, as long as you aren’t coming from F#-Major, C#-Major, or a flat key, the listener hears the B chord sounding in his head and knows that you are going to E-Major.

    The only time I feel the V of the new key doesn’t whack me over the head with the new key is when moving up a 4th (or down a 5th), when the V of the new key is the tonic (I) of the old key. In such a case, you can play V-I-V-I-V-I all day long and it still just sounds to me like I-IV-I-IV-I-IV, until you manage to work in that 4th scale degree (the only note not common with the old key — see the trend?). So when, in your second example, you modulated from D-Major to G-Major, maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t really hear you completely change keys. Of course, I would have caught on when you started singing đŸ™‚ , but a D7 or a C chord would have confirmed it to me beforehand. (Yes I know how much we despise the “Mr. Obvious” V7, but it could be occasionally useful.) Neither D7 or C is used in the key of D-Major, because because they both have that C-natural (4th scale degree of G-Major) which the key of D-Major does not have.

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