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Modulation is the process of moving from one key (tonal center) to another key. In its simplest definition, modulation is a change of key. Modulation is a common device that provides harmonic variety and is usually found in any composition of some length. There are four structural and expressive functions of modulation:

Intensify harmonic motion.
Underscore dramatic changes.
Produce contrasts of mood and color.
Emphasize structural division.

Common chord modulation is often called simple modulation or pivot chord modulation. Common chord modulation involves a four step process. To understand modulation, you must have knowledge of related keys and the four step process of moving from one key to another.

In this lesson you will learn to modulate using common chord modulation.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Identify closely related keys
  • Identify pivot chords
  • Modulate using common chord modulation

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015