Best Way To Modulate Keys (Part 1)

Posted on 18. Sep, 2013 by in Music Theory



I play by music and also by ear; however I have heard musicians modulate 1/2 step, whole steps and more for soloists and choral performances. There is usually a ‘connecting’ chord used. I’m not sure how to do this smoothly other than just going to the anticipated key.

Isn’t there a chord used so that the singer(s) can hear the transition to the next key?


What a great question.  There are many ways to modulate up a half-step. The most popular option is to approach the new key by using the “5” chord of the key you want to modulate too. The most popular “5” chord to use as your pivot chord is the dominant eleventh chord.  (There’s an entire chapter dedicated to the dominant eleventh chord in the CCF learning system).

For example: if you are modulating from the key of  “C” major to “Db” major you will use the “5” chord of “Db” as you pivot chord.  The five of Db is “Ab.”  Therefore you will use the Ab dominant eleventh  (Ab11 = Ab Gb/ Bb Db Eb Gb) chord as your modulation chord.

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