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Old 10-01-2012, 09:10 AM   #1
Jehannum
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Key changes / tension

If a song features a key change does this create tension which can be resolved by moving back to the original key? If so, it follows that the first key of a piece of music has primary importance in terms of tension and resolution.

When the song reverts to the first key can the change be done more abruptly than usual, i.e. without any kind of preparation, and not sound bad? My reasoning is that the relief of hearing the original key will counteract the abruptness somewhat.
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Old 10-01-2012, 09:14 AM   #2
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The music police are going to get you.

No seriously, use your ear.
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Old 10-01-2012, 09:38 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by griffRG7321
The music police are going to get you.

No seriously, use your ear.


Thanks, but it's sometimes difficult to be objective about your own stuff.
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Old 10-01-2012, 09:50 AM   #4
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Yeah, using your ear is best. Some key changes are abrupt and others are seamless. Sometimes the general audience doesn't even realize you've switched keys (the trained musicians will notice, though ). Depends which key you're changing in and out of and depends on the desired effect. Jazz is really good for moving through tons of keys. Sometimes songs go into another key and will stay in the new key for the rest of the song (think: Build me up Buttercup). They don't revisit the original key and that's okay.

Bottom line: Whatever sounds good.
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Old 10-01-2012, 11:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jehannum
If a song features a key change does this create tension which can be resolved by moving back to the original key? If so, it follows that the first key of a piece of music has primary importance in terms of tension and resolution.

When the song reverts to the first key can the change be done more abruptly than usual, i.e. without any kind of preparation, and not sound bad? My reasoning is that the relief of hearing the original key will counteract the abruptness somewhat.


You're thinking about it wrong.

Which is to say that you're thinking about it at all.

When people say "use your ear" they don't mean "do whatever sounds good to you." Musical tension and resolution are things that you train your ear to hear. It sounds like you haven't done this, so you should start - download the functional ear trainer from miles.be and use it.

There is no intrinsic tension created by changing keys. However, some key changes may create tension. But by and large, the idea of being in a new key means that the old key doesn't exist anymore: once you're in a new key, you're in a new key and you have a new resolution.

You do not compose music intellectually by figuring out principles and applying them. You compose music my thinking of sounds that work well together.
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Old 10-01-2012, 11:57 AM   #6
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:10 PM   #7
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Listen to Def Leppard. They have lots of key changes and they can do them pretty well (so you don't even notice them). They usually just jump to the next key.

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Old 10-01-2012, 03:26 PM   #8
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The situation is that I want to use two chord progressions (in different keys) in a song. I wrote a linking section to smoothen the change. In the last part of the song I want to go back to the original progression. Do I need to write another transition section or can I jump back into the first progression hoping its familiarity will help remove any jarring effect?

Song structure wise I'd rather just jump keys. I've tried it and It sounds okay to me but in the past some of my sectional changes have struck other people as too abrupt, so I'm trying to avoid this.

I have and use the ear trainer. I can hear the key change. The subjective part of the problem is whether it's too abrupt or not. The song is supposed to be pretty chilled, and this could ruin the mood.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jehannum
The situation is that I want to use two chord progressions (in different keys) in a song. I wrote a linking section to smoothen the change. In the last part of the song I want to go back to the original progression. Do I need to write another transition section or can I jump back into the first progression hoping its familiarity will help remove any jarring effect?

Song structure wise I'd rather just jump keys. I've tried it and It sounds okay to me but in the past some of my sectional changes have struck other people as too abrupt, so I'm trying to avoid this.

I have and use the ear trainer. I can hear the key change. The subjective part of the problem is whether it's too abrupt or not. The song is supposed to be pretty chilled, and this could ruin the mood.

It depends on what effect you want. I could probably come up with 10 ways to transition form key X to key Y...do whatever makes musical sense.

IF you want the transition to be less abrupt then use a common chord modulation or use the necessary chromatic alterations to sensibly get to where you want to be.

If you want it to be abrupt just do a direct modulation...

It's up to you...it's your music.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jehannum
I have and use the ear trainer. I can hear the key change. The subjective part of the problem is whether it's too abrupt or not. The song is supposed to be pretty chilled, and this could ruin the mood.


Ultimately, none of us can help you with this. I mean, you could play us the changes and we could talk about how we felt about it, but you're looking for an abstract theoretical justification and none exists.

Because "too abrupt" is a matter of taste. If you think it might be too abrupt, smooth it out. If you don't, don't. If you're not sure, play it for a bunch of people and ask them questions - not about what you should do, but about how they felt about that section.

My guess is that if you listen to it and think that it might be too abrupt, it probably is.
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Old 10-02-2012, 02:09 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by HotspurJr
You do not compose music intellectually by figuring out principles and applying them. You compose music my thinking of sounds that work well together.


I am actually going to disagree with this statement. Music was and still is made by learning the principles and rules that go along with each period. For example you're not going to write something (easily) that sounds like a true Baroque era piece if you don't know the rules. ect..

Now regarding this key change; depending on the type of switch you use it'll either have tension or none at all. For example Diatonic Common Chord Modulation will be very smooth. Most people in the crowd may not even notice. However, if you use something like Enharmonic Modulation where the pivot chord is altered in both keys there is the real possibility of having tension during the transition. If you're just trying to create tension so you can later resolve/relieve it may be easier to use diminished, and seven chords and what not. Happy composing

Hope that helps!

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Old 10-02-2012, 03:31 AM   #12
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:38 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HotspurJr
Ultimately, none of us can help you with this. I mean, you could play us the changes and we could talk about how we felt about it, but you're looking for an abstract theoretical justification and none exists.

Because "too abrupt" is a matter of taste. If you think it might be too abrupt, smooth it out. If you don't, don't. If you're not sure, play it for a bunch of people and ask them questions - not about what you should do, but about how they felt about that section.

My guess is that if you listen to it and think that it might be too abrupt, it probably is.


That's fair enough. Ultimately it has to be my decision. I just wanted to see whether there was a precedent for this situation. The more songs I write the more I see certain DOs and DON'Ts emerging: much less formal than any kind of rule, more just noticing when things work and when they fail.
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:43 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinFreund
I am actually going to disagree with this statement. Music was and still is made by learning the principles and rules that go along with each period. For example you're not going to write something (easily) that sounds like a true Baroque era piece if you don't know the rules. ect..

Now regarding this key change; depending on the type of switch you use it'll either have tension or none at all. For example Diatonic Common Chord Modulation will be very smooth. Most people in the crowd may not even notice. However, if you use something like Enharmonic Modulation where the pivot chord is altered in both keys there is the real possibility of having tension during the transition. If you're just trying to create tension so you can later resolve/relieve it may be easier to use diminished, and seven chords and what not. Happy composing

Hope that helps!

Kevin


Very interesting, thank you.
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:59 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by KevinFreund
I am actually going to disagree with this statement. Music was and still is made by learning the principles and rules that go along with each period.


I'm going to disagree (slightly) with that statement!

Bach didn't learn the rules of late Baroque music and then go and write late Baroque music. He learned the music of some of the musical periods before the one during which he wrote.

I say 'some of' because there are discoveries about ancient musical styles that weren't made until after he died and although he's was a musical genius his education will still have had limits.

And I say 'before the one during which he wrote' because although he undoubtedly continued to learn about music until he died he was taught music (by his father, amonst others) when he was very young and the late baroque (when he was writing) had yet to happen.

True, musicians learn about rules 'n shit, but musical styles can occur because of wilful disobediance of these rules (Debussy & parallel 5ths), ignorance of these rules (blues), desire to transcend these rules (Schoenberg & atonality), and so on. Although I agree that strict obediance to rules is OK if you want to authentically re-create a particular historical period of music, or a particular musician's style, I'm less convinced that approach would be artistically satisfying to a composer.
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Old 10-02-2012, 10:58 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by KevinFreund
I am actually going to disagree with this statement. Music was and still is made by learning the principles and rules that go along with each period. For example you're not going to write something (easily) that sounds like a true Baroque era piece if you don't know the rules. ect..


First of all, I have never advocated not learning rules and principles. I think it's essential to know that stuff - but I also think it's almost useless in composition.

To go with your example, let's imagine I wanted to compose a classical sonata. I could teach someone who's had a first-year theory course the "rules" of a classical sonata in about 15 minutes, probably less. They could then turn around and compose one.

And it would be utter crap. Why?

Because they don't know how to think in sonata. They only know the rules. An applying the rules academically results in crap music.

Every musician is going to naturally create music that is a function of the styles, techniques, and ideas that they have an internal, intuitive mastery of. Good music comes first from acquiring that mastery, and then from letting go of it and letting the music speak for itself through you.

Which is not to say that the intellectual approach can't be used to polish and tweak, to smooth off the rough edges that aren't quite working. Back to the original poster's question, the example would be, sure, if you need to smooth out that second transition, theory and technique can show you different ways to do it.

But that is STARTING from the intuitive reaction: "This transition is too jarring." That reaction is the music speaking for itself, through the listener.
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:42 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by HotspurJr
First of all, I have never advocated not learning rules and principles. I think it's essential to know that stuff - but I also think it's almost useless in composition.

To go with your example, let's imagine I wanted to compose a classical sonata. I could teach someone who's had a first-year theory course the "rules" of a classical sonata in about 15 minutes, probably less. They could then turn around and compose one.

And it would be utter crap. Why?

Because they don't know how to think in sonata. They only know the rules. An applying the rules academically results in crap music.

Every musician is going to naturally create music that is a function of the styles, techniques, and ideas that they have an internal, intuitive mastery of. Good music comes first from acquiring that mastery, and then from letting go of it and letting the music speak for itself through you.

Which is not to say that the intellectual approach can't be used to polish and tweak, to smooth off the rough edges that aren't quite working. Back to the original poster's question, the example would be, sure, if you need to smooth out that second transition, theory and technique can show you different ways to do it.

But that is STARTING from the intuitive reaction: "This transition is too jarring." That reaction is the music speaking for itself, through the listener.


I so concur.
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Old 10-03-2012, 05:58 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Jehannum
The situation is that I want to use two chord progressions (in different keys) in a song. I wrote a linking section to smoothen the change. In the last part of the song I want to go back to the original progression. Do I need to write another transition section or can I jump back into the first progression hoping its familiarity will help remove any jarring effect?


Why don't you just play the transition part backwards? I mean, I only read up to this post, so maybe its been suggested, but it makes sense to me....

Unless you have some problem with doing that. But ultimately it comes down to how you want it to be, not us. So....

Ignore me.
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:30 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by vampirelazarus
Why don't you just play the transition part backwards? I mean, I only read up to this post, so maybe its been suggested, but it makes sense to me....

Unless you have some problem with doing that. But ultimately it comes down to how you want it to be, not us. So....

Ignore me.


It would drag things out too much (in this particular song). My sense of structure or timing is telling me it's time to get back to the verse.

I listened to Iron Maiden's Powerslave today and it's great but some of those riff repetitions and instrumental sections went on and on, annoying me just like they did 25 years ago.

Anyway, I went with it - instant key change, jarring or not. By the way, do you find that after repeated listens you become accustomed to things that you thought too abrupt?
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:44 AM   #20
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Anyway, I went with it - instant key change, jarring or not. By the way, do you find that after repeated listens you become accustomed to things that you thought too abrupt?

Yeah, I find it's natural for the ear to accept if it's subjected to a (initially) dissonant or abrubt sound for long enough.
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