How To Write SATISFYING Modulations Using Chord SEQUENCES

How To Write SATISFYING Modulations Using Chord SEQUENCES

Tommaso Zillio

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chord sequence modulations

You are listening to a pop song on the radio, and when they get to the last chorus, they change key. Oh dear.,,

If you’re anything like me, you are sick and tired of that same old half-step key change used in every anthemic pop song since the beginning of time.

You might think that it feels cheap and unearned to just randomly raise the key with no setup, no change in the chord progression to signal a key change is coming, just “we are in this new key now, deal with it.”

You might think this trope has been done completely to death. The horse hasn’t been breathing since the mid-’80s, and yet we just keep beating it, over and over and over again.

You might think that every key change would sound better if there was some kind of setup to it, so the change actually provides relief and satisfaction instead of it just happening suddenly, “just to put a key change in the song”…

… No? Just me? Surely some of you are with me on this…

(Answer this email if you agree with me. Just so I’m sure I’m not yelling into an echo chamber all by myself!)

Anyway, even if you aren’t, you might benefit from learning a really cool trick that you can use to change keys using any chord sequence, and it’ll actually be satisfying because the key change will be earned.

To learn about all of that, have a look at my recent video about it below:

Are you confused by any of this? This is a lot of talk about modulations, chords, and theory, all things that I explain fully in my Complete Chord Mastery guitar course, which will skyrocket your knowledge of chords and harmony on the guitar. Check it out!

Video Transcription

Hello internet, nice to see you today I want to show you how to change keys using a chord sequence. If you do not know what a chord sequence is, do not worry, I’m gonna show you a simple one. And so we can start doing this immediately. If you do know what chord sequences are, then later, you can substitute any other chord sequence, you know, to these, and it will still work beautifully.

And this is a big topic, because there are so many possible chord sequences and so many possible ways of using them and so many possible keys that you can change to that, I mean, it’s impossible to play all the possibilities. And that’s great, because you can create your own, so follow me, and we’ll do it.

Now the first thing we need to know it’s a chord sequence, I’m going to show you a very, very simple chord sequence that I found on a Baroque manual by Francesco Durante, who lived in the 1700s. And the sequences, they’re very unassuming is just a bassline with a few numbers on top. Okay, of course, I’m gonna show it to you completely relies on guitar.

So the idea is this, that these chord sequence will start in C major, and I’m going to first do it completely in C major starting from the C major chord in the key of C major. Okay, later, we’re going to modify these, and we’re going to use it to change key but first, let me give you the simple example. Okay, the chord sequence work this way, we start with a C major chord.

To start the sequence, I’m gonna raise the fifth note of the C chord, which is the g up to the A, okay, what I’m obtaining is technically an A minor chord in first inversion. But as you’re gonna see later, it’s best if we don’t name every single chord in these, otherwise we go crazy.

So my first chord is C major. And then I play these. At this point, I entered the sequence in earnest. And what I do is that I alternate pushing down two notes, and then one notes of this chord. So at the beginning, I pushed down the two lowest note.

So the C note and the north we go down, respectively, to the b note and the d note, but I’m leaving the A where it is, and they obtain this chord here. And then later, I’m moving only the top note down a step in the scale. So from the north, the G note. And then I keep doing that, first I lowered the bottom two nodes. Then I lowered the top note, and I lowered the bottom two notes.

Then the top note, and then the bottom two notes, then the top note and the bottom to the top note. And the bottom to note and the top note, at this point, I’m just playing a C chord. And this ends the sequence. Now why I ended the sequence here?

Well, first of all, because my ear tells me we are done. Okay, so I know what chord cameras but if you want a more formal reason is because the last chord I played here contains the note D, F, and B eats diminished chord that diminished triads in first inversion, the diminished triad is B, the F and have the D at the base. Whenever in the sequence, you find the diminished triad in first inversion, it’s going to happen often, as you see, that’s one of the possible exit points in the sequence.

And other possible exit point is when you find the equivalent of a dominant chord without a fifth. These, for instance happened in our sequence here when I was playing these, the notes er G, B, F, this is like a G seventh chord that without the fifth, which would be D.

Whenever you find one of those two chords, that’s an exit point in the sequence. And from there, you can go to the root note of the key. So I could run the sequence only up to this chord here and then play a C chord. And it will end there. How do we use this sequence to change G because that’s what the great sound is? Well, let’s try to go from the key of C to the key of G.

So I want to first make sure I know what I don’t know the difference and in this case, in the key of G rather than having an F I have an F sharp great, so I want to start playing this sequence in C and then whenever in the original sequence, I have an F note I have the option of transforming this F note into an F sharp and these regardless of where this F note is if it’s at the base at the top in the middle, regardless on what is the chord content is F note and regardless what chord appears when I change it to an F sharp, I don’t again, I don’t have to label those chords, I can just play them. Okay, so every time I have the option, I can do it or I can not do it.

But if I do it, now I am in the key of G. And then I’m keep going on with a sequence until I find an exit point. And you’re gonna see in this case, I’m going to find an exit point immediately. So this is what’s going to happen. Now, rather than playing these, that would be the normal thing I would play in C major, I’m playing these. Because I changed this F note on F sharp note that we sound this way.

At this point, I am in the key of G but haven’t finished my job because I want to end on a G chord. And they notice that the time already at an exit point, because this chord I just played here contains the note A, C, and F sharp, that’s an F sharp diminished triad. So after that, I can just play a G chord and then down. So the whole thing sounds this way.

And now I’m in the key of C major boom, done, could they have done something different? Yes, I could have kept going, I could have maybe not changed these F two and F sharp, I can have the option of doing it or not compelled to do it. And then I could change it later. So it would have gone down this way.

So in this case, I kept these F on the second string, natural. But when I hit another F on the fourth string, I made it F sharp there, I’m already at the next point if you want because what I’m playing is a D chord, because in the notes that D, F sharp, A and D, the F sharp and A it’s the fifth of the key of G so I could just follow it with G chord. Notice I could have navigated that little part in an awesome a slightly different way I could have gone I could have done this way. Yeah, I think that’s a bit more sophisticated.

So what happened there, when I mean these F note on the fourth string, the first time the first chord I play, I keep the F natural then then the second chord I play, I play an F sharp instead. And then I go straight to the G chord. So that’s another possibility. And which one of those three possibility like depends on your depends on which one you like best.

Again, you could have done many different thing, the thing if at a certain point, you just change the note, it can be the first time you hit the no the second time you hit the note and so on and so forth. Let’s see a different example. Okay, let’s move from C major to F major did notice a difference here is B flat a you have natural B in C major and you have a B flat in F major.

As you can see, I have to continue a little bit the sequence because I’m not at an exit point when I hit the B flat. And so I need to keep going on until I find something that naturally leads me to the F major chord but at that point, I am already in the key of F.

Now you may find these a bit too abrupt. So another solution would be to not touch the natural beat on this chord. But instead get the B flat much later when it is on the third string on a later chord. So you sound this way.

Which one you like best completely up to you. Now of course I can also move to a minor key. Okay, so for instance, let’s see what happens if I move from the key of C major to the key of E minor. Now what are the notes of difference? That’s a trick question. By the way because the notes of difference if you just look at E natural minor, you’ll have only an F sharp but that’s not enough the minor key when you think minor key here we are actually thinking harmonic minor, not natural minor. So the in the key of E minor harmonic minor, we have two notes of differences back to C major the F sharp and the D sharp.

What do I do? I can change one first and the other later or I can change them by But at the same time depending on what I get and the sounds I like, and they can get some very dissonant chords by changing only one and not the other for a while, but by the end of the sequence, you have to have changed both those knots. So for instance, here’s a possibility.

Now notice I have also the option of running of these not only using the harmonic minor scale, but using the melodic minor, if it sounds better to my ear, and again, I can use the melodic minor even going down. So however, listen to these more dissonant options, use the melodic minor and tell me if you like it.

Okay, so now you have some examples on how to use these. The idea again, is you start with a chord sequence, okay, and I’ve shown you one, and then you gradually morphed the chord sequence into the new key by changing the notes of difference between one key to the other. And whenever you hit the fifth chord of the key or the seventh chord of the key.

So you have the dominant chord in some one way or another, or the seventh chord of the key. That’s your exit point. And then you’ll go straight to the tonic chord of the new key. Now the real difficulty in working roll those sequences and all those key changes is that you need to be really familiar with the keys, the spelling of all the keys, the fretboard, where you find all those notes.

And so because you don’t have to think too much about where is the next note in that key because if you start thinking too much, well, it’s going to be long. I mean, you can spend an afternoon in doing one of the sequences, you should be able to do them in nearly real time. When I was recording this video, I didn’t write down those examples.

I was literally working them in real time on my guitar when I was explaining you. There are many ways to go about it. But honestly, the best way I could recommend is to take my course complete chord mastery because in there, I can show you exactly where all the triads are, how to memorize them, how to see them on the fret board, how to connect them, everything becomes much easier if you take that course and do all the exercises in it.

Complete chord mastery. It’s not a book. It’s a complete video course that takes you from the basics up. We do everything you need to know about harmony and chords on your guitar. All the theory is done straight on the fretboard. There is no theory for the sake of theory here. Everything is immediately practical. And everything is developed through exercises so you know how to apply these immediately on your guitar. If you have just a minute click on the link on the top right to check out complete chord mastery.

If you liked this video, smash that like button and don’t forget to subscribe and click on notification otherwise YouTube will not let you know when I put up a new video. And if you have any comments, feedback suggestions, write them down in the comment. I enjoy reading from you and they make videos on your suggestions. This is Tommaso Zillio for MusicTheoryForGuitar.com and until next time, enjoy.

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