Key Changes: One Technique That Will Make Or Break Your Composition

No song is more boring than the one that repeats itself in the same key over and over again. If you want to write an inspirational song that people actually want to listen to, you'll have to learn to incorporate different keys.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say "key change" don't worry: I'll explain every in the video).

For most musicians, studying "modulation", or changes in key, is particularly difficult and confusing. The reason for that is that most teachings are based on memorization rather than actually learning the concepts by listening to them, and hearing how they work.

Some instructors will give an example like these, which is perfectly valid, but not all too useful when trying to work with modulations:

  1. Simply move to another key without setting it up. But this one doesn't usually have a great effect, generally sounding choppy.
  2. Move up or down a cadence in the key you're playing. It's usually done by playing the fifth chord in the new key, followed by the first chord (examples can be found in the video).
  3. Bridge to a new key by finding a chord that belongs to both keys.

Is that a bit easier to understand? I guess not! If it doesn't make sense, it's all good - you're not the one to blame. In fact, it's not really possible to learn modulations "in theory".

The best way to learn is to hear modulation in action. This is why I'm keeping this one short and not using charts, diagrams, or theoretical "rules" for you to memorize; instead, I made a quick video. Watch it below to hear a number of examples.

Was there any one of these examples that stood out to you? Try incorporating them into your own songs!

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio