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Making Notes (Part 9)

Modulation, Intros and Passing Notes

The Musical Ladder from my 'Making Notes' Part 6 will be used this month for creating 'Modulations', the musical term for a smooth movement in Harmony from one key of music to another. The Musical Ladder is reprinted in a reduced form at the end of this article for readers who do not have the original.

It will be necessary to understand key signatures and left hand chord progressions before attempting to form the 'fill-in' bars of a modulation.

To briefly recap, the sharps and flats of a key signature represent the scale from which the sharps or flats are taken. The name of the scale will also be the name of the key that the music is written in (see 'Making Notes' Part 3).

Left hand chord progressions ('Making Notes' Part 6) dealing with harmony, were created by adding a seventh note to each keynote chord on the Musical Ladder. Moving smoothly, one step at a time in a downward movement, each seventh chord literally 'opens the door' to the next keynote chord on the Ladder to form the chord progressions. Try to learn the keynote sequence on the ladder and memorize for use with chord symbols as a simple, easy method of embellishing music without the visual guidance of notation upon the staves of a manuscript. A great advantage to the mature learner musician, the use of chord symbols can avoid studying specific grades of music for many years.

When starting to create a 'modulation', choose two musical arrangements with identical time signatures. The first piece written in the key of C major and the second written in the key of Eb major. The 'fill-in' bars of the modulation will be formed between the last chord of C major in the first arrangement, and the first chord of Eb major in the first bars of the second arrangement (I am assuming you have chosen music beginning and ending with the major chord of the key).

Referring to the Musical Ladder, identify the keynote of C in the middle section of the Ladder to represent your first musical arrangement in the key of C major. The modulation movement will be achieved by moving in seventh or minor seventh chords, one step at a time, down the Ladder from the keynote of C to the keynote of Eb, which is representing the new key of music that you are changing to.

The chord of C major, last chord of the first arrangement, is adapted to C seventh or C minor seventh, followed by the chord of F seventh or F minor seventh. Move one more step down on the Ladder to form a Bb seventh chord which will move smoothly to the chord of Eb major, the first chord of the second arrangement.

Original 'keynote' chord C becomes C7 or Cm7, F becomes F7 or Fm7, Bb becomes Bb7 (not m7).

The new 'keynote' chord becomes Eb major.

See Figure 1. Maintain the time signature for the new bars of music.

Figure 1.

The seventh and minor seventh chords, which belong to a group of chords known as 'discords', require a resolution as their combination of notes creates a restless sound with the need to move on to another chord, as against the major chord where the notes are in complete agreement and do not need a resolution (Making Notes, Part 6).

The minor seventh chord moves smoothly in harmony to a seventh chord but will not normally move directly to a major chord, hence the Bb seventh chord, not minor seventh, preceeding the chord of Eb major in Figure 1.

More advanced chords can be used as an alternative to the basic chords in the first modulation. Adapt the first chord of C major to C ninth, followed by F ninth and Bb thirteenth with the 9th note included, as a substitute for the Bb seventh chord. See Figure 2.

Figure 2.

The C ninth and F ninth chords in the modulation may need to be inverted to be played in the nearest position on the keyboard to the Bb13(9) chord, to achieve a smooth downward movement.

To continue the smooth progression, the Bb13(9) chord could be followed by the Eb major ninth chord before resolving to the Eb major chord in the last bar of Figure 2.

C9: Bb - DE - G: Pedal C root.
F9: A - Eb - G: Pedal F root.
Bb13(9): Ab - CD - G: Pedal Bb root.
Ebmaj 9: G - Bb ~ Eb: Pedal Eb root.

A similar movement to the first modulation can now be used for changing key to a keynote in a higher position on the Musical Ladder than the original keynote, when for example, a modulation is required between the keys of F major and A major. As before, the chords will be formed upon the three preceding keynotes to the new key, between the chord of F major or F sixth, the last chord of the original key, to A major, the first chord of the new key. The three modulating chords are based upon F#, B and E keynotes.

The ending chord of the first key, F or F sixth, will move easily to the first chord of the modulation, F# minor seventh with the notes of F# - A - C# - E, moving to the B minor seventh chord, F# - AB - D, followed by the E seventh chord G# - B - DE into the A major chord. See Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Substitute advanced chords for the basic chords, as before, after creating inversions of the F# minor seventh and B minor seventh chords to move smoothly to the E13(9) chord, followed by the A major ninth chord before resolving to the A major chord in the last bar of Figure 3.

The F# keynote appears to be the highest point of the Musical Ladder which would make a 3 keynote modulation into the key of B major impossible. However, the upward keynote sequence of the ladder is formed upon dominant fifth notes. So, to extend the ladder above the F# keynote, the dominant fifth note of C# would be the next step up, followed by the dominant fifth keynote of C#, which is G#.

The 3 keynote modulation is now possible - G#7 or G#m7 - C#7 or C#m7 - F#7 into B major.

The chord symbol method of tuition provides a comprehensive knowledge of the notes used in the formation of all left hand chords, which could prove to be especially helpful in the musical exercises this month for instant recognition of recurring notes between chord changes.

In a modulation between the key of D major and B major, the D major chord of F# - A -- D can be adapted to D major ninth, F# - A - C# - E so that the notes of C# and E in the chord are sustained when moving to the C# minor seventh chord G# - B C# - E and also the F# seventh chord F# - A# - C# - E leading into the B major chord F# - B - D#. Maintaining the original keynote of D for the first bar of the modulation, only two preceding keynote chords into the new key of B major (C# and F#) need be used. See Figure 4.

Figure 4.

Music Intros

The Musical Ladder can now be used to compose all forms of modulation without sitting at the keyboard. The new "fill-in" bars can be written directly onto manuscript as in the illustrations.

As an alternative to using the Ladder, look at the keyboard to play a 'chromatic' modulation where each note of each left hand chord will move by a semitone distance.

Look at the keyboard to form a 'chromatic' modulation between the key of C major and the key of Eb major.

C CHORD: G - - C - E
(Cb) BCHORD: Gb-B--Eb
Bb CHORD: F--Bb-D add seventh note into Eb major.

It has already been established that the Bb seventh chord moves in harmony to Eb major, so by adding the seventh note to the Bb major chord the otherwise lengthy 'chromatic' movement is shortened.

'Whole Tone' movement between chords, when each note of each chord moves one tone at a time, can be completed in two steps from the previous modulation. The C major chord moves tonally to the Bb major chord before adding the seventh note to complete the movement into Eb major.

The tonal movement is complete when modulating between the key of F major and the key of A major, with the chords of F - Eb - Db - Cb(B) into A major.

The Musical Ladder can also be used to compose an 'introduction', the term for bars of music preceding the first bar of an arrangement, to introduce the theme of the music to the listeners.

Classical music and light classics do not require an introduction, but 'middle of the road' and 'standard' music is ideal for this form of embellishment.

As very few arrangements have an introduction already written into the music, you can now learn how to compose your own.

The Musical Ladder.

An introduction, normally of four bars duration is formed in a similar way to modulation. The chords in each bar of the introduction will follow in harmony on seventh and minor seventh chords leading into the first bar of the music as before, with the exception of the first bar, which will contain the major chord of the key the music is written in, hereafter called the home key chord i.e. playing music written in the key of Eb major, the first bar of the introduction contains the Eb major (home key) chord. The second, third and fourth bars of the introduction are formed upon the three keynotes preceding the home key chord on the Ladder. C - F - Bb as in Figure 1. The four bar introduction will contain the chords of Eb - C7 or Cm7 - F7 or Fm7 -Bb7 into Eb major, the first chord of the music.

Therefore the basic steps for forming an introduction into any key of music are, identify the key of the music and locate its position as a keynote upon the Musical Ladder. Jump three steps up the Ladder to form a seventh or minor seventh chord on each keynote, in a downward movement, into the home key chord. The chord preceding the home key chord must be a seventh, not a minor seventh chord.

Advanced chords can again be used in an introduction providing the keynote names remain the same i.e. Ebmaj9, C9, F9, Bb13(9).

Left hand chords alone can be adequate for either a modulation or introduction with a bass pedal note naming advanced chords on an instrument such as the electronic organ or synthesiser. Full right hand chords using the same notes or an inversion of the left hand chords can sound effective on either manual of the organ.

Alternatively, you may like to compose your own melody line to play with the left hand chords.

Figure 5.

While maintaining the timing of the music for the 'introduction' bars, the melody note, or notes, will be note(s) from the left hand chord. For example, to compose the melody line for Figure 5, the melody notes of Eb and Bb for the first bar were chosen from the notes of the accompanying Eb major chord (G -Bb - - Eb). For the second bar, with a choice of G - Bb C - Eb notes from the Cm7 chord, the quaver note of F has been included as a 'passing note' to the G note of the Cm7 left hand chord. In the third bar the 'passing note' of G has again been included to resolve to the note of F from the Bb seventh chord.

A 'passing note' is a note which does not belong to the chord and is not essential to the harmony of the music. A 'passing note' will be used to 'pass over to' or resolve onto, a note in agreement with the left hand chord being played or the next chord of the music.

The second and fourth degrees of scale are passing notes. As already established, when the second and fourth degrees of scale are included in a chord, the restless discordant sound requires a solution. The melody 'passing note' will need the same movement as they too are discords and need resolving.

Extra melody notes to play in the four bar introduction are a personal choice but should be selected with care to ensure they are in harmony, or resolving to harmony with the chords of the music.


Read the next part in this series:
Making Notes (Part 10)

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Alligator AT150 Amplifier

Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Nov 1982


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Music Theory


Making Notes

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

Feature by Brenda Hayward

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