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  1. #1

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    I was wondering what techniques you guys use to change keys while you compose and what is your rational for the modulation?

    I do change keys a lot in my own compositions but I am not a classically trained guitarist, and a lot of it is done by ear. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much,

    Josh

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  3. #2

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    I've only done it once. I attached a clip.

    The A section is in Cmaj. Then it goes to Bmaj for a bar or two at the bridge. I got from Cmaj to Bmaj by writing a line with a bunch of 16ths (in 2/4) that I thought sort of disguised the key change. It changes key around the 9th 16th note, but I think the shift works with the melody of that line. From Bmaj I put a hit on Gm7 leading to F#m7, which became the iim in Emaj.

    Changing Bmaj7 to B7 (well, that's basically it, but I slid into a iim from above before hitting the V7) leads to Emaj.

    From Emaj7, I went to Em7 (a common enough device) which then became a iim in Dmaj. There's a detour for some hits on G#7 followed by the same hits on A7.

    And then, it reprises the original melody, more or less, in D. Finally, it returns to Cmaj by going to a Bbm7 to Eb7#11. The Bbm7 is implied by the melody. The Eb7#11 with an A in the melody, sets it up for a half step drop into Dm9 to G13b9

    The way I got there was, mostly, by writing the melody first and then working on it until I found the perfect chord for each place in the tune.

    I found the concept of the "perfect chord" to be helpful. Don't stop tinkering until you have the perfect chord, is the idea.

    I decided arbitrarily to go to B and then had to work out the line that made it happen. For a long time I didn't like it and thought about rewriting the tune. But, with time it started to sound right. I did the modulation because the A section is pretty vanilla. I thought something needed to make the bridge more interesting.

    I didn't plan on going to Dmajor. I wrote the melody with the hits (without thinking about harmony at all) and realized I was in D.

    I recall taking a long time to figure out how to get it back to Cmaj at the end. I was looking for a chord sequence that would disguise the transition. The final version reflects a compromise, in that I don't think it's fully disguised.
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    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 12-06-2021 at 09:45 PM.

  4. #3

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    I just ripped off what the old rock bands did, move up a step or half step at the end of the song to make it more exciting.


  5. #4
    Great composition. Thanks for the tip!

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by zappaisgod
    I was wondering what techniques you guys use to change keys while you compose and what is your rational for the modulation?

    I do change keys a lot in my own compositions but I am not a classically trained guitarist, and a lot of it is done by ear. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much,

    Josh
    If you're gonna rove all over and especially use non-functional changes don't use a key signature. That way everyone playing your piece will know its ilk, and adjust accordingly.

    I don't have any one technique to modulate b/c I never want to lead the music, but to let it come. It can come and form in many ways. Actually I generally start with a title, which suggests what musical elements to use. Sometimes (since I write lyrics too) I sing the title line to get ideas for where the melody should go. I always put melody 1st---it always suggests rhythm. The melody indicates the harmony too, and the nice part about starting with a melodic germ (rather than changes) is that you have harmonic options...

  7. #6

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  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by zappaisgod
    I was wondering what techniques you guys use to change keys while you compose and what is your rational for the modulation?

    I do change keys a lot in my own compositions but I am not a classically trained guitarist, and a lot of it is done by ear. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much,

    Josh
    - Drive a truck through it with a big ii V I
    - mode/colour change into a different chord in the key (so Cmaj7 to Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7, say)
    - step wise bass?
    Am Cm7/G F7 Bbmaj7
    Cmaj7 Eb7/Bb Abmaj7 etc
    - common tones
    Am Abmaj7
    - surprise major
    Cmaj7 Bm7b5 E7 Amaj7
    - diminished chords
    Cmaj7 G7 Abo7 Bo7 Bb7 Ebmaj7 (or into Amj7 or F#maj7)
    - tritone punnery
    Bbmaj7 Cm7 B7 Emaj7
    - backdoor dominant turns into a front door
    Cmaj7 Fm7 Bb7 Ebmaj7

    Just look at tunes for inspiration. There’s a million ways…. Classical music too, Schubert is a key change beast.

  9. #8

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    Also modulation is a hazy concept sometimes. Moves to relative minor, IV and V are so common that they almost don’t count to me; but they are usually prepared with a dominant seventh chord or leading tone diminished.

    Some people call these things secondary or applied dominants, others tonicisations, others temporary key changes but it’s shades of grey between this and a real modulation. In general modulating to distant keys is what I assume you’re interested in.

    For instance the bridge of James either changes key four times or not at all, but everyone agrees Have You Met Miss Jones changes key four times in the bridge to three different keys.

    Studying tunes is the best way to learn how to write them.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    Studying tunes is the best way to learn how to write them.
    Absolutely. I don't know how else one could learn to write them.

    The first time I figured out the changes to Darn That Dream, which seems to modulate (or at least change tonality) almost every measure, I thought the composer must be from Mars. But it all fits, because the melody takes us to each change, and the casual listener isn't even aware of those tonality changes.

    The true modulation, to the bridge, is led with an effortless ii-V-I in the new key – as Mr. Miller describes it, that truck driving through it.

  11. #10

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    Heh. Thought to make one that just modulates around the circle of 5ths. Came out pretty smooth.