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Topic: Help me with modulation/key changes

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  1. #1

    Help me with modulation/key changes

    Okay, my music theory skills are rusty to say the least. But the more I play with GPO, the more I want to really diversify my sound. Everything I write, right now, stays within a given key or its relative major/minor key.

    In listening to one of my favorite game soundtracks (Metal Gear Solid 2), the title theme has some really effective key changes/modulations, and I'm trying to figure out if there is a "formula" that will help tell me what keys I can "modulate" to from where I am.

    In this track, the opening theme starts in A minor. The last note of the melodic phrase ends on an A with a D in the bass. From there, the main theme modulates/changes keys to B minor, with the melody starting on a G flat. Is there some way to know that this key change will work? Do certain modulations work better than others?

    Any pointers are appreciated - and if you've not heard that soundtrack I highly recommend it - or at least that opening theme.

  2. #2

    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    Quote Originally Posted by Indicator
    ..., the opening theme starts in A minor. ..., the main theme modulates/changes keys to B minor...
    Is there some way to know that this key change will work? Do certain modulations work better than others?

    Any pointers are appreciated ...
    DEEP subject! The pitch/key relationship between 'A' and 'B' is a whole step, or 2 half steps. (If you're a guitar picker, that's the same as saying 'go up two frets'. And if you pound the ivories, it's the same as moving the key of the equal distance of one white note followed by one black note.)

    Anyway, a whole-step key modulation is maybe the most common key modulation trick (especially in popular music, whatever that means). The idea of shifting the key up (either) one half step, or one whole step gives the listener a feeling of ascension (an 'uplift' and hopefully renewed interest) in the music being played. More times than not, the music hasn't changed at all (in its general structure) but merely has shifted its key upwards. A cheap trick, eh? but effective nonetheless. Of course shifting upwards *and* varying the chord progression and or the melodic structure a bit may make your tune all the more compelling (like, to build to that nice big ending!).

    And yes there are other 'relative' keys that you can bet the farm on when you want to modulate the key to somewhere else. For example, modulating to a key where the tonal center is based on the original key's 'dominant' chord is effective. This trick is found in classical literature a whole bunch of times.

    But, hey wait!...let's let someone else chime in with a lecture on key modulations to the dominant relationship.


    -Rudy

  3. #3
    Senior Member squoze's Avatar
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    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    All I can offer is a link that's pretty good:
    Modulation

  4. #4

    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    Quote Originally Posted by Indicator
    From there, the main theme modulates/changes keys to B minor, with the melody starting on a G flat.
    One small but not unimportant point: If the music is going to B minor, then the melody note is F#, not G flat, which isn't in B minor.

  5. #5

    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    One small but not unimportant point: If the music is going to B minor, then the melody note is F#, not G flat, which isn't in B minor.
    Awwww, shucks! And all this time I thought Gb and F# were the same note! - Just kidding! I told you my theory skills were rusty!

    Thanks for the pointers - any other advice is appreciated.

  6. #6

    Smile Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    the shortest way is to do:

    a-min : #f-min : #F-maj7 : B-min

    Of course you can go more smoothly but the most important is to get to the dominant (in this case #F-maj).
    Sincerely,
    Falcon1


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  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    Get a copy of Jazz and Pop Harmony by Daniel Riccigliano. It's out of print but you can find it used. You'll get all the info you need about modulation and apply it to modern music.

  8. #8

    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    Quote Originally Posted by falcon1
    the shortest way is to do:

    a-min : #f-min : #F-maj7 : B-min

    Of course you can go more smoothly but the most important is to get to the dominant (in this case #F-maj).
    Not absolutely necessary to go via the dominant, but that's an easy way to find one that works quickly. Another interesting (and shorter!) route would be Am / A#dim7 / Bm. This one is interesting because of the chromatic steps A-A#-B, and C-C#-D.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daag Nabbott
    The idea of shifting the key up (either) one half step, or one whole step gives the listener a feeling of ascension (an 'uplift' and hopefully renewed interest) in the music being played. More times than not, the music hasn't changed at all (in its general structure) but merely has shifted its key upwards.
    This is a common trick especially in a lot of 60s and 70s pop tunes. I'm not too fond of this one, but whatever works in the piece is what's important. Also, this is not technically a "modulation," just a key change. Nothing wrong with sudden key changes, of course. My favorite ones are the "chromatic mediants." These are keys that whose tonal centers are a third apart, for example going from C major to Eb major.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  9. #9

    Smile Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    [QUOTE=Skysaw]Not absolutely necessary to go via the dominant, but that's an easy way to find one that works quickly. Another interesting (and shorter!) route would be Am / A#dim7 / Bm. This one is interesting because of the chromatic steps A-A#-B, and C-C#-D.
    [QUOTE]

    Skysaw, that's true - the dominant can be replaced by a A#dim.

    Indicator, you can go the long route or the short route whatever you feel like but you need to put emphase on the #a because that is the #7 note in the b-min scale.
    Sincerely,
    Falcon1


    icelandphotoblog.com
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  10. #10
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    Re: Help me with modulation/key changes

    Also, there are the 3rd relationships that happen a lot in film music. You'll see progressions like A min. > F min. - two minor chords a major 3rd apart. If the clip you're talking about ended on D min. (D in the bass, A in the melody... not sure about the 3rd note though), then going from D min. to B min. would be that exact progression.

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