#1
Hi there. Sorry if there are similar topics but I can't find what I am looking for. What are the limits for key changes in songs? Obviously you can do what you want but I'm talking about successful songs that already exist in rock history. Obviously you have the half step or whole step move used a lot. You have changing to the keys relative major or minor. Ex, comfortably numb is in minor and then changes to the relative major for the chorus.

In Californication, John goes from Am in the verses and does a F#m in the solo...a step and a half move away from the key...is this done often? Are there other examples. I am a Frusciante and Gilmour fanboy.

I guess pivot chords. Correct me if I am wrong but is it something like if you are in C major, you can use one of the chords in that progression as a turning point into another key which shares that chord.

Are there any other methods used? Please help me understand key changes within a song. Thank you.
#2
What you listed are some of the simplest and most common key changes.

All of this is basic theory you should know.

pivot chords are used to change into other key, usually after a cadence, or after a V-I.

Other more common methods are going straight into another key after the some sort of harmonic or phrase cadence.
#3
Drum fill or a break and then jumping to the next key (can be used for more "random" modulations). Or jumping to the next key without a break (works for less "random" modulations, for example a whole step up or modualting to the relative/parallel key or modulating to the dominant key). And yeah, pivot chords of course.

Listen to some Def Leppard, they usually use modulation in their songs. I also find Iron Maiden - Aces High a good example of using modulations.
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#4
Pretty much every Guns n Roses song modulates for the guitar solo.
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#5
Quote by tyle12
Hi there. Sorry if there are similar topics but I can't find what I am looking for. What are the limits for key changes in songs? Obviously you can do what you want but I'm talking about successful songs that already exist in rock history. Obviously you have the half step or whole step move used a lot. You have changing to the keys relative major or minor. Ex, comfortably numb is in minor and then changes to the relative major for the chorus.

In Californication, John goes from Am in the verses and does a F#m in the solo...a step and a half move away from the key...is this done often? Are there other examples. I am a Frusciante and Gilmour fanboy.

I guess pivot chords. Correct me if I am wrong but is it something like if you are in C major, you can use one of the chords in that progression as a turning point into another key which shares that chord.

Are there any other methods used? Please help me understand key changes within a song. Thank you.



To me, key changes bust up tonal monotony from a song that is typically longer than normal. There are no hard and fast rules. Cheap Trick changes keys 2x in their song "Surrender" and until I was a musician, I never heard that, but I realized I felt/sensed the change.

I'm my estimation, going from Am to adding an F#m in a solo, may indicate a Minor/Major change using the same tonal center (the A note) as the F#m is a vi of A major. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is also a good example of a change like that; Minor in the beginning, and Major in the chorus.

Best,

Sean
#6
So if I'm not mistaken, the most common key change ideas are...
1.)moving a half step or whole step away from the tonic
2.)moving the original key over to its relative major/minor key

(this one I'm most curious about) 3.) Changing the root chord to its opposite initial function. ie. If the song starts out in A minor, changing it to A major.
4.) Changing the root chord into the dominant chord making the IV chord the new tonic for the key change.

To get to one of these key changes you can either use a sudden change which goes directly into the new key with no preparation. Or you can use a pivot chord to ease into the new key by using a common chord between the 2 keys.

This is the information I have gathered from researching so far. Hopefully someone knowledgeable can tell me if I am right or wrong. Or add something that I have missed. Thanks.
#8
Hey Sean thanks. Could you please elaborate on you statement? Are you talking about using a cadence as the transition to the new key or just cadences in general? Could you provide an example perhaps? Thank you.
#9
Here's a simple example:

You're in C major.

You play a D7, and then a G major. Voila! You're in G.

D7 doesn't fit perfectly into C major (it has an F# in it) but that ends up being not that big a deal.
#10
Quote by HotspurJr
Here's a simple example:

You're in C major.

You play a D7, and then a G major. Voila! You're in G.

D7 doesn't fit perfectly into C major (it has an F# in it) but that ends up being not that big a deal.

So this is infact another method of key change which I did not post in my previous post. Going from C major to G major is making the dominant chord the new root correct? Geez so how many ways can you change keys without sounding chaotic?

EDIT:
I guess it could be seen as a reversal of key change method #4 I posted?
Last edited by tyle12 at Feb 26, 2014,
#11
Quote by tyle12
So this is infact another method of key change which I did not post in my previous post. Going from C major to G major is making the dominant chord the new root correct? Geez so how many ways can you change keys without sounding chaotic?

EDIT:
I guess it could be seen as a reversal of key change method #4 I posted?


it's not a "reversal", it's the same thing. you're using a secondary dominant chord.

if you're in C, and you want to modulate to F, the quickest way to modulate is to turn the tonic chord of the old key into a dominant chord, as you noticed. this would make the tonic chord (C7) a V7/IV, or the dominant (V) chord built on the subdominant degree (IV).

if you're in C, and you want to modulate to G, the quickest way is to built the dominant (V) chord off the dominant (V) degree, resulting in a V7/V.

it's important to note that the progression C - D7 - G does not definitively indicate a modulation. that G can very well still resolve to C -- for more effective modulations it's advisable to continue the progression in the new key, instead of an immediate V-I in the new key. an example might be:


|| C | F | Dm7 | G7 | C | Am | D | Em | Am | D7 | G ||
C: I  IV   ii    V7   I   vi  V/V  iii
                      G:  ii   V   vi   ii   V7   I


where || C | F | Dm7 | G7 | C || serves to establish the original key, Am serves as the pivot chord, which is followed by a D chord (Am - D being a ii - V in the new key of G), which is interrupted by an Em chord, and followed by a concluding ii - V - I in the new key of G. i wanted to keep it relatively simple to illustrate but there are many other ways to add further color to that example.

those are the three steps to an effective modulation:

1) establish the original key;
2) figure out how to switch between keys (pivot chord or other method); and
3) establish the new key.

so going || C | F | Dm7 | G7 | C | D7 | G || isn't a particularly effective modulation, because if a C chord were to follow that last G, the entire key change would be ineffective.

listen to music that employs effective key changes. it's very easy to make a key change sound dry and academic if it isn't planned out really well. listen very closely to effective modulatory passages, and practice writing your own. your ear will be the judge of whether what you've written was effective or not. if it sounds forced, figure out why, take that lesson, and ditch it.

that post was longer than i planned it to be but it should provide a comprehensive overview of the concept.
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#12
To add to what AW said, a very effective and smoother change might be a ii V I, so in that snippet where it went from C to D7 to G, You might see me try a C - Am7 - D7 and then G. As he said, you need to be aware and intentional, which, requires knowledge obviously of theory to start with, in order to control what you are wanting the music to do. When I move from say the Key of G to A, I might do a Bm7, which is the iii of G but the ii of A, and then effect an E, to complete the key change to E.

Best,

Sean
#13
daaanng looks like I've got work to do. Thank you guys great help I'll be trying this stuff out.
#15
LOL at quaker.

Do you guys know who does modifications such as the one posted or something similar. I don't really listen to much music with chord changes like that...atleast I don't know if I do yet.
#16
Quote by tyle12
LOL at quaker.

Do you guys know who does modifications such as the one posted or something similar. I don't really listen to much music with chord changes like that...atleast I don't know if I do yet.


bach.

beethoven gets into some very colorful modulations. while mozart's modulations are absolutely genius they rarely venture outside of parallel/related keys or to keys one step away on the circle of fifths, in keeping with the style of the time.

many jazz tunes employ modulations. i recommend checking out "all the things you are" for a good example.

if you want a really and truly excellent foundation in music, you're going to have to dabble in either classical or jazz (ideally both) for a time (ideally for the rest of your life, in addition to whatever other styles you like).

as far as more contemporary music goes with modulations, some other regulars would probably be able to give better examples than i would, so i'll leave space for them to do just that.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.