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How many key changes is too much in a song? (Breaking out of 1 key)


stikygum

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I'm a little hazy on how to change up your songs and play out of key or change keys (or modulating) in the middle of a song. Also interested in how you transition from one key to the next.

 

I was wondering if you guys like to change keys in your songs, or at least add chromatic notes for a change of sound. That includes using certain modes and whatnot. I do it sometimes, but for some reason I always try to force myself to play within the same key. Then I listen to some bands I like and realize that they are doing all sorts of changes, using modes, different keys, chromatic note playing.

 

Basically I'm trying to break out of just playing in 1 key, to spice up my compositions.

 

Anyone know of any good books that goes over or focuses on this?

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From what I've done and know about... you can modulate keys 2 ways.

 

Direct modulation is like knee-jerking one chord to another unrelated chord. This is obviously a marked change.

 

(key of C) C G C A D (key of D, or A, etc.)

 

The second is indirect... you use a chord that belongs in both keys.

 

such as:

(key of C) C G C F7 Bb (key of Bb)

 

The F chord was used as an intermediary, and the 7th tone added to make it more tense to resolve better to Bb.

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There is no hard rule. If you write a song that has key changes it will probably be better than trying to turn a bunch of key changes into a song. Just my opinion.

 

I wrote a song years ago that has 3 or 4 (or more) key changes. I knew it had key changes, but never actually kept track of how many. A piano player once told me it had several and he seemed to like it. I still know how to play it too. It's pretty easy on guitar but it takes alot of thinking and practice to solo over the changes. I couldn't do that right now. It's kind of a dreamy, pink floydian, jazzy thing.

 

Anyway, I had been experimenting with major 7ths and a certain key changing technique. I then came up with a vocal melody which ended up dictating the key changes. I wasn't trying to force it. Here's a bit of the lyric...

 

SEVEN IN THE SKY

 

Clouds

I watch them floating by

Our painting of the sky is etched upon my mind

Sky

sometimes it seems so blue

I think the raindrops knew the dream I dreamt of you

 

Leave it all behind

Leave it all behind

With your hand in mine

With your dreams and mine

Clouds

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I think when a song starts to sound like the effort to change keys is more because the artist is trying too hard to see how many changes they can fit in, is when there's too many changes. If the feel of the song calls for a certain mood you're trying to create through chord progression, then I do believe the mood can be lost in translation. As much as i like bands like Dream Theatre, this is one of the thorns that stick in my ear about them. The technicality pushes too much of the feel to the backseat. I think that's why Pantera was so successful. They shot from the hip & let the music flow instead of forcing it. Anywho,... I think the only way to tell what works for you is to listen to it like you'd approach writing a book, & see if what you wrote tells the story you wanted it to.

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Originally posted by randyjj

I think when a song starts to sound like the effort to change keys is more because the artist is trying too hard to see how many changes they can fit in, is when there's too many changes.

 

Real good point randyjj.....

 

Check out Clapton's "EC Was Here" album. There's a cut called Ramblin on My Mind that moves through 4 key changes. It's as smooth as blues can get....... :thu:

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being a classical student, i guess the use of secondary dominants are the easiest way to change keys, as many times as you'd like, since it usually flows nicely. that's pretty much what beethoven and mozart did... i know that's old but i've messed around with it and it takes surprisingly little effort.

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