How to Recognise Modulation in a Piece of Music - Music Theory

Music Matters
18 Apr 202223:03
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TLDRIn this tutorial video, Gareth Green teaches how to recognize modulations or key changes within a piece of music. He explains what modulation means, why composers use it, and how to identify modulations both by ear and through music notation analysis. Green walks through a sample piece he composed, pointing out chord progressions, accidentals, and pivot chords that signal modulations to closely related keys like the dominant, subdominant, and relative minor. He emphasizes developing strong aural skills to properly hear when keys change while also understanding music theory concepts to analyze modulations on paper.

  • πŸ˜€ Modulation means changing key in a piece of music
  • πŸ˜‡ Music can sound boring if it stays in one key too long, but also disturbing if changing key too often
  • πŸ€” Composers balance how long to stay in one key before modulating to another
  • πŸ” When analyzing music, look for accidentals and chord changes to spot modulations
  • πŸ‘‚ Listen for shifts in tonality to hear when keys change
  • ✨ Quick modulations can happen over just a couple chords at the end of a phrase
  • 🌈 Temporary modulations may go to related keys like dominant or subdominant before returning
  • 🎹 Pivot chords are common to both the old key and new key
  • 🎼 The relative minor key is closely related to the major key
  • πŸ•Ί Use both analysis and listening skills to perceive modulations
Q & A
  • What is modulation in music?

    -Modulation means to change key in a piece of music. It refers to transitioning from one key or tonal center to another over the course of a composition.

  • Why might composers modulate keys in a piece of music?

    -Composers might modulate keys to add variety, avoid monotony from staying in one key too long, create a feeling of movement or momentum, surprise the listener, transition into a new section, and for other musical effects.

  • What are some ways to recognize when a modulation occurs?

    -Some ways to recognize a modulation include: 1) Noticing accidentals that don't fit the current key signature, 2) Identifying a pivot chord that belongs to both the old and new key, 3) Hearing a strong cadence that establishes a new tonal center.

  • What modulation happens at the end of the first phrase?

    -At the end of the first phrase, there is a modulation from the home key of Eb major to the dominant key of Bb major over the last two chords using a V-I cadence in Bb.

  • How can you tell that the modulation in bar 3 goes to A-flat major rather than F minor?

    -The modulation in bar 3 initially introduces a D-flat accidental, signaling a shift to a key with 4 flats, which could be A-flat major or F minor. However, the next chord is clearly an A-flat major chord, and there are no E-naturals as would be expected in F harmonic minor. So A-flat major is confirmed.

  • What causes the modulation back to E-flat major in bar 4?

    -In bar 4, a D-natural accidental cancels the previous D-flat and eliminates the 4th flat, taking us back to the original key signature of 3 flats in Eb major. The next chord is then an Eb major chord, confirming the return to the home key.

  • How can you identify the modulation to C minor in bars 5-6?

    -The C minor modulation is signaled by a B-natural accidental, which cancels the B-flat as would happen in a minor key. This B natural acts as the raised 7th degree that helps form a dominant V chord in C minor, which then resolves to a C minor tonic, cadencing in that new key.

  • What are some examples of pivot chords in this progression?

    -Some pivot chords include: the Eb chord in bar 4 which is IV in the new A-flat key but also I in the original Eb key; and the C minor chord in bar 5 which is VI in Eb but I in C minor, facilitating the modulation between those keys.

  • How might you categorize or describe some of the modulations that happen?

    -Some modulations are very quick and happen over just a couple chords (like the one to Bb major), while others are more extended (like the modulation to C minor). Some briefly tonicize other keys before returning home (A-flat major), while others stick for longer.

  • What are the relationships between the keys modulated to in this example?

    -The piece modulates between closely related keys - it goes to the dominant (Bb), subdominant (A-flat) and relative minor (C minor) which are all closely tied to the home key of Eb major by strong harmonic relationships.

🎡 Introducing modulation and how to recognize it

The speaker introduces himself and defines modulation as changing musical keys. He discusses balancing staying in one key versus changing keys too often. He poses questions around how long to stay in a key and how often to change keys.

❓ Analyzing an example modulation to the dominant key

The speaker analyzes the first phrase of an 8-bar musical example, which modulates from the home key of Eb major to the dominant key of Bb major. He points out the use of an A natural note as an indicator of modulation and discusses the final two chords forming a cadence in Bb major.

🎹 Modulation to the subdominant key

The speaker analyzes the modulation in bars 3-4 from Bb major to the subdominant key of Ab major, indicated by the presence of a D flat note. He determines that the key changes back to Eb major in bar 4 based on the D natural.

♯️ Modulation to the relative minor key

The speaker explains the modulation to C minor in bars 5-6, with the B natural indicating the new key. He points out the pivot chord and dominant-tonic cadence confirming the new key of C minor.

🏠 Returning home to the tonic key

The speaker shows how the lack of accidentals in bar 7 indicates a return to the home key of Eb major. He explains the pivot chord used to modulate back and analyzes the final cadence in Eb major.

Modulation refers to changing or shifting keys in a piece of music. The video discusses techniques for recognizing when and how modulations occur in a composition. Modulations add interest and variety, but can also sound disturbing if overused. The script provides examples of brief modulations over just a couple chords, as well as more extended modulations.
A cadence refers to the final two chords of a musical phrase, which provide resolution. Common cadence patterns mentioned are V-I, V-I6, V-VI. Cadences help signify modulations, such as a sudden modulation occurring over the last two chords of a phrase.
Chromatic notes or chords contain pitches that are not part of the main key signature. They add color and interest. The video analyzes whether accidentals signify full modulations to a new key or just chromatic embellishments.
πŸ’‘pivot chord
A pivot chord is one that belongs logically to both the old key and the new key in a modulation. It facilitates a smooth shift between keys. The script shows pivot chords allowing modulations to closely related keys.
πŸ’‘relative minor
The relative minor key shares the same key signature as the major key. C minor is the relative minor of Eb major mentioned in the video. Composers often modulate between a major key and its relative minor.
πŸ’‘harmonic minor
Harmonic minor raises the 7th scale degree leading to a dominant chord and stronger cadences. The video analyses whether modulate suggest harmonic minor or natural minor based on whether the 7th is raised.
πŸ’‘melodic minor
Melodic minor raises scale degrees 6 and 7 ascending for smoother melodies. The teacher refers to it in explaining raised scale degrees in minor key modulations.
The dominant is the 5th scale degree and associated major chord. Composers often modulate from the tonic key to the dominant key. The script shows modulation from Eb Major to its dominant Bb Major at one point.
The subdominant is the 4th scale degree and associated major chord a fifth below the tonic. The video demonstrates a modulation from Eb Major to its subdominant Ab Major.
A suspension is a dissonant tone from a previous chord held over (suspended) into the next chord, then resolved down by step. The teacher explains the 4-3 suspension in detail, preparing and resolving over a predominant and tonic Eb Major chord.

Modulate means to change key. Music can sound tedious if it stays in one key too long.

Composers balance how long to stay in one key before moving to another. Analyzing music reveals when and how key changes happen.

Listen for key changes. Notice accidentals that may indicate a new key. See how accidentals alter the key signature.

Modulations often happen on the second-to-last chord, setting up a new tonic chord and cadence.

The circle of fifths shows key relationships. Move to closely related keys like dominant, subdominant, and relative minor.

Pivot chords belong to both the old key and the new key, facilitating smooth modulations.

Some modulations last briefly, while others extend for longer passages.

Listen for modulations and understand their purpose compositionally and emotionally.

Accidentals like A-natural indicate modulations. Later accidentals like D-flat confirm the new key.

Missing an early flat but keeping later flats often signals a minor key modulation.

Disappearance of accidentals like B-natural silently reinstates the key signature.

Cadences confirm modulations. Analyze the chords and bass lines to see new tonics.

Modulate to closely related keys - dominant, subdominant, relative minor using pivot chords.

Hear modulations in context compositionally and emotionally to appreciate their musical logic.

Analyze music to reveal modulations. Listen to confirm them aurally. Understand their harmony.

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