MUS 211 Study Guide A (Chapter 1)


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  1. Modulation--a shift from one tonal center to another.

  1. Most modulations occur between closely related keys, i.e., those which are one sharp or one flat away from the original key, including relative minor keys.

There are five closely related keys to each major/minor key:

  • The relative major/minor key of the original key,

  • The major/minor key one sharp away from the original,

  • The relative major/minor of the key one sharp away,

  • The major/minor key one flat away from the original,

  • The relative major/minor of the key one flat away.

For example, the five closely related keys to C Major are:  A minor (same key signature), G Major (1#), E minor (1#), F Major (1b), D minor (1b).

  1. Modulations to remote keys, i.e., those which are not closely related to the original key, are also possible.

Modulation types frequently encountered

  1. Pivot Chord (or common chord) modulation:  a chord common to both the original key and the new key functions as a pivot chord between the two keys.
  • After you have found enough evidence to support a new key, look back to the first occurrence of a nondiatonic note (one that is not an established tone in the original key) and determine if the chord preceding it could be analyzed in both keys.  If so, then you have discovered a pivot chord, or common chord, modulation.
  1. Sequential modulation:  repeated chord patterns (harmonic sequence) or repeated short motivic phrases (formal sequence) can produce a modulation.  Simply stop the sequential passage at the desired tonal level.
  1. Direct modulation:
  • Phrase modulation:  when one phrase comes to an end and the next phrase immediately begins in a different key.
  • Chromatic modulation:  occurs at the point where a chromatic alteration of a chord tone is introduced.  (The letter name of the note remains the same in a chromatic progression, e.g., C-C#.)  Modulations of this type most often occur in passages where the two keys are not closely related.
  • Pivot tone modulation:  two different keys may be connected by a single tone common to both keys.
  1. Enharmonic modulation:  a seldom-encountered modulation in which enharmonic spellings are employed, e.g., F#o7 to D#o7 (same chord tones).  Enharmonic modulations are also used when there is an enharmonic key with fewer accidentals.  For example, Eb minor to Ab minor (7 flats) is more "playable" as Eb minor to G# minor (5 sharps).

Analytical symbols for modulations

  1. Pivot chord modulation:  chord analysis in the original key, followed by analysis in the new key starting with the pivot chord:
Ex.: CM: I ii6 V I vi6
GM: ii6 V I etc.
  1. Traditional analysis:  simply state the new key and continue the analysis:
Ex.: GM: I V I am: V6 i V i
  1.  Macro analysis:  place an extended line beneath the analysis symbols, and indicate below the line the relationship of the new key to the original:
Ex.: CM: I ii6 V I IV  ii6  V  I
  1. Common pivots:
  • Tonic in either key,
  • New key: ii, iv, IV (all move easily to V-I),
  • Avoid pivot of V in the old key, as the anticipated resolution is to I in that same key.

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