Music Theory 101 (if you're new to music theory start here please)

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
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Rad Grandad
34870 posts since 6 Sep, 2003 from Downeast Maine

Post Thu Aug 19, 2021 7:45 am

...
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KVRer
22 posts since 9 May, 2020

Post Tue Aug 31, 2021 2:27 am

Hi there,

sorry for the newbie question -- I started leaning music theory in earnest and I would like to know exactly what is meant by the term "modulation".

Do I modulate if I, say, play the diatonic chords of a scale? For example a melody in C major and accompanying chords like the I, V and IV.

Or do I modulate if I change the root note/ tonic? I.e. if I were to change from C major to D minor within a song and from that point on play notes in the key of D minor.

Thanks in advance!

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fmr
KVRAF
10536 posts since 16 Mar, 2003 from Porto - Portugal

Post Tue Aug 31, 2021 2:32 am

indigo76 wrote:
Tue Aug 31, 2021 2:27 am
Hi there,

sorry for the newbie question -- I started leaning music theory in earnest and I would like to know exactly what is meant by the term "modulation".

Do I modulate if I, say, play the diatonic chords of a scale? For example a melody in C major and accompanying chords like the I, V and IV.

Or do I modulate if I change the root note/ tonic? I.e. if I were to change from C major to D minor within a song and from that point on play notes in the key of D minor.

Thanks in advance!
Modulate comes from the early times, when there were several MODES, and means, literally, changing the mode.

When tonalitly relagated modes to oblivion, with were left with just two - Major and minor. The term "modulation" started to be used, tthen, to designate the change pof tonality (which could or not change mode). Fort example if you "modulate" from G Major to D Major (a common modulation) you aren't changing MODE, but you are changing tonality.

To answer directly to your questions:

1. Do I modulate if I, say, play the diatonic chords of a scale?

NO, you don't. Using chords doesn't necessarily change the tonality (most of the times, it doesn't).

2. do I modulate if I change the root note/ tonic? I.e. if I were to change from C major to D minor within a song and from that point on play notes in the key of D minor.

YES, that's what "modulation" nowadays usually means.

There are other things that should be taken into account (like "tonicization", for example) but it's better leave them out for now.
Fernando (FMR)

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KVRian
809 posts since 4 Feb, 2021

Post Tue Aug 31, 2021 5:31 am

As a foot note. Reading Jeppesen, it is noteworthy that the orginal definition of changing modes did not imply transposition as the term does today, but at best "transition". According to him, the modern concept of modulations as to change "key" may not imply change of mode, but only transposition of it. According to him, this definition was basically unknown to 16th century polyphony "because one never passes from a transposed to an untransposed mode or vice versa" (that came with the ever rising chromatic freedom already in the oven at the time, but not baked yet). The modern definition of modulation implies change of root, e.g. when you begin a period on a another note than tonic, but it can just mean that the mode is transposed to another root for shorter or longer periods, not changed.
Tribe Of Hǫfuð https://soundcloud.com/user-228690154 "First rule: From one perfect consonance to another perfect consonance one must proceed in contrary or obligue motion." Johann Joseph Fux 1725.

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KVRAF
34840 posts since 11 Aug, 2008 from another dimension

Post Tue Aug 31, 2021 5:50 am

It is adulation for mods. Modulation.
Hi-de-Hi!

KVRAF
23266 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from not here

Post Tue Aug 31, 2021 7:03 am

(see, topic exceeds beginners no matter what, and the beginners are doing to do whatever anyway. I guess people don't like to think they are beginners.)

seems clear the question regards harmonic modulation. Fux didn't talk about such things I don't guess...

Rule of thumb, if the new key is a key long enough, it's a key has been modulated to. OTOH there is a temporary move, known as tonicization.
So not every secondary dominant to a degree of the key is a modulation, it may move right away to yet a new temp tonic, or regress back to the key the move began with. The method of modulation is a further detail, there are prepared and unprepared modulations. A mere tonicization of a degree of the scale doesn't require but the doing. Yet, there are full-on modulations which are entirely abrupt.
It's a change of *tonic* if it's a modern definition, but not every new tonic is a modulation.

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KVRAF
1504 posts since 10 Oct, 2018

Post Sun Oct 10, 2021 6:11 am

Well, to understand modulation one has to study modes, I suppose.

The best way to learn this IMO is how a mode is related to its (Major) key.

In this example I have chosen for E mode (because of the tuning of string instruments).



Number=mode;

E F# G# A# B C# D# E Lydian (4 B Major) B string
---
UP
---Main (key) E F# G# A B C# D# E Ionian (1 E Major)--- E string; violin, guitar etc tuning.
DOWN
---
E F# G# A B C# D E Mixolydian (5 A Major) A string
E F# G A B C# D E Dorian (2 D Major) D string
E F# G A B C D E Aeolian (6 G Major) G string
-
E F G A B C D E Phrygian (3 C Major)
E F G A Bb C D E Locrian (7 F Major)

In any other key (than E Major) notation (sharps and flats) becomes more frequently apparent.

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KVRian
809 posts since 4 Feb, 2021

Post Sun Oct 10, 2021 6:48 am

excuse me please wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 6:11 am
Well, to understand modulation one has to study modes, I suppose.
Nope. To understand the modern use of modulation, you just have to understand transposition.

To understand the original use of modulation, you would have to understand the notion of “transition”, which did not involve transposition, as I quoted from Jeppesen above.
Tribe Of Hǫfuð https://soundcloud.com/user-228690154 "First rule: From one perfect consonance to another perfect consonance one must proceed in contrary or obligue motion." Johann Joseph Fux 1725.

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fmr
KVRAF
10536 posts since 16 Mar, 2003 from Porto - Portugal

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 1:04 am

excuse me please wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 6:11 am
Well, to understand modulation one has to study modes, I suppose.

The best way to learn this IMO is how a mode is related to its (Major) key.

In this example I have chosen for E mode (because of the tuning of string instruments).
Not by all means. And, as has been explained several times, all this "how a mode is related to its (Major) key" is bullshit. It may help you devise fast what notes to play over a certain chord, but it certainly will NOT HELP you regarding modulation, if we are talking about tonal music.

And what about minor keys? Are you constrained to Major?

To understand modulation, you better understand what are the Tonal Degrees, the circle of fifths and the relation of fifth between tonal centers, as well as the Major/minor dichotomy.
Last edited by fmr on Mon Oct 11, 2021 5:50 am, edited 2 times in total.
Fernando (FMR)

KVRist
111 posts since 14 Jan, 2020

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 6:17 am

excuse me please wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 6:11 am
Well, to understand modulation one has to study modes, I suppose.
you don't have to bring up modes for this unless you want to use them for harmonic material - which you can certainly do, but it really matters if the tonal center is actually E if you want to say e.g. E phrygian.

modulation is just changing the tonal center. so you establish some tonal center, then move to and establish another one. going from E phrygian to E some-other-mode is better off called modal interchange, because the tonal center doesn't change.

a modal modulation would be something like E dorian to F dorian, where the tonal center does change, but it's a different thing than going from D major to Eb major. the tonal centers are different and sound different.

it's a bit of a truism but the way to understand modulation is to practice writing lots and lots of harmonic phrases where you try modulating - simplest stuff to start with is using pivot chords to go between closely related keys (neighbours on the circle of 5ths), major to relative minor, minor to relative major etc, then expanding further out on the circle of 5ths.

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KVRAF
13196 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 8:59 am

Here's a clear example of a song with modulations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByLJstEo0fo
(modulates at 2:45 and again at 3:00 and again at 3:25)
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fmr
KVRAF
10536 posts since 16 Mar, 2003 from Porto - Portugal

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 1:01 pm

NERF_PROTOSS wrote:
Mon Oct 11, 2021 6:17 am
a modal modulation would be something like E dorian to F dorian, where the tonal center does change, but it's a different thing than going from D major to Eb major. the tonal centers are different and sound different.
Ahem.. Actually, no. If you change from E Dorian to F Dorian you are just transposing, which is exactly the same thing that happens when you change from D Major to Eb Major. The mode behavior remains the same, only the tonic (tonal center) changes.

Modulation in the modal ages was changing mode, EG from Dorian to Phrygian. The only thing similar you can do in tonal music is changing from Major to minor.

Technically that's the only thing that could be properly named "modulation" (in the sense of changing mode, which is what the word originally meant). Changing from something Major to something else Major is just transposing, while keeping the same mode.
Fernando (FMR)

KVRist
111 posts since 14 Jan, 2020

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 2:57 pm

but actually yeah? when we talk about modulation today we talk about changing tonal center. transposition and modulation aren't mutually exclusive.

I don't see why the modal ages or definitions from that era have to be brought up at all unless someone is asking specifically how to do a pastiche of renaissance era music. it's not the modal ages, man.

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KVRAF
1504 posts since 10 Oct, 2018

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 10:41 pm

Name me one Beatles or Stones track, you might even want to add ABBA, where they modulate up (to Lydian). They don't. I gave the reason why.

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KVRian
809 posts since 4 Feb, 2021

Post Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:10 pm

As to common use of the term modulation today, there is quite solid agreement of what it is and what it is not. Just read, and the conclusions should be obvious. And once more, in accordance with Jeppesen's distinctions too.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation_(music)

https://www.britannica.com/art/modulation-music

https://www.musictheoryacademy.com/unde ... odulation/

https://www.musicnotes.com/now/tips/a-c ... odulation/

etc.

Cheers
Tribe Of Hǫfuð https://soundcloud.com/user-228690154 "First rule: From one perfect consonance to another perfect consonance one must proceed in contrary or obligue motion." Johann Joseph Fux 1725.

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