Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 09: modulations.

Trying to use the schemes of the previous lessons, you will have met some treacherous turns. As a rule these are the modulations, the changes to another key (another group of three key determining chords with the scale belonging to it).

Related to their position in the scheme we distinguish three kinds of keys:
1) The initial key (in sheet music derivable from the key signature)
2) The temporary key
3) The new initial key after modulation.
The following scheme will illustrate this.
[Between the square brackets are the white keys which nevertheless does not belong to the scale]
G  G  G  D7	Initial key G (ad 1) [f]
D7 D7 D7 G	key G [f]
G  G  E7 Am	temporary key to Am (ad 2) [g during E7 and Am]
C  G  D7 G	back to key G (ad 2) [f]

C  C  C  G7 	new initial key C (ad 3)
G7 G7 G7 C  	key C
C  C  A7 Dm 	temporary key to Dm (ad 2) [b and c during A7 and Dm]
F  C  G7 C 	back to key C (ad 2)
After the second part (with initial key C) we can modulate back again to the first part with initial key G. Modulations animate the piece of music.

In practice the distinguishing between initial or modulated key is not as important as the fact that you have to take into account the key which holds at a certain moment.

This taking into account is in fact paying attention to the notes not belonging to the scale of the moment. In case the initial key is C, the scale alien notes are easy to recognize by their black colour. Modulations make you meet keys where this easy expedient doesn't help. E.g. in the key of G the angel like white key f still is scale alien. [In the scheme it is put between square brackets.]

Later on you will not think in white and black keys any more, but in scale notes and scale alien notes. Before using a key you will look to the three basic chords and the scale of it. Both the chords and the scale are ways to discover the scale alien notes. It is useful to observe from different angles: to think in chords and to think in scales.

Often a musician doesn't bother much about which are the scale alien notes. He feels it by repeating the scheme over and over again. The same holds when people play together. The first time some notes are not as perfect as wanted, but after a minute these are avoided. Everything improves along with the repetitions. Many jazz bands restrict the scheme of a song to the refrain for this reason.

For the same reason most improvisers specialize in a limited number of initial keys. Due to the modulations they will meet more keys anyway. Who chooses C as his initial key will come into the keys of Am, Dm, G, F and D easily, and dependent on the complexity of the scheme in more keys.

Improvise a musette waltz on the scheme above.
Write the scheme big and clear.
Click here for a printable scheme.
It is kept easy for the ones who play together. Everyone has to stick to the scheme then. I will play two parts according to the scheme and put them together to illustrate how this turns out.
Click here to hear one part.
Click here to hear a second part.
Click here to hear both parts together.

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