Creating Good Transitions from One Key to Another

Finding a chord that pulls a song successfully into a new key can be a challenge. Here are some ideas that might help.

____________

Purchase “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle TODAY, and receive your free eBook “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”.
_____________

Synthesizer keyboard playerThere is of course no rule that says that all songs have to start and end in the same key. And many songs make great use of the effect of starting in a mainly minor key for the verse, transitioning to a major key for the chorus. Justin Timberlake’s “Mirror” is a good example of this.

It’s usually between the verse and chorus that a key change will happen if at all. The nice thing about a key change is that it can inject a nice shot of energy, and that’s why many songwriters do it. But getting that transition right usually means finding that one chord that works well in the old key and the new one.

Here is a list of possible key changes you might consider for your song. Everything is given in either the key of C major or A minor, but are transposable to any starting key you wish. For each key change, you are given an example of what a good transition chord might be – the chord that bridges the two keys.

The example progressions are just that: examples. You’ll notice that each sample progression is in two parts: a first part in the starting key, then a vertical line that shows where the new key area starts. What’s most relevant to your needs as a songwriter are the chords right at the transition. Otherwise, you can modify the progressions for your own use.

Transitioning from one key to another

If you want a PDF of this chart to print, click on the link below:

Transitioning from one key to another

If you have another key change in mind and can’t get it to work, please feel free to post your idea below, and I’d be happy to help.

_____________

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle describes every element of songwriting, including a step-by-step guide for writing a song. Includes sound samples, a musical glossary and copyright advice. $95.70 $37.00 (and get a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Posted in Chord Progressions and tagged , , , , , , , , .

7 Comments

  1. Sir, please help…I am learning to play the song SKYLARK in the key of C on the guitar and wish to modulate up to the key of E (the wife prefers the one and I the other so I’m trying to compromise here)..Which bridge chords would work for this. Thanks in anticipation…. A.

    • By “bridge” chords, I assume you mean that you’d like chords that will help you change key from E to C. Without knowing your vocal arrangement, I can’t make specific recommendations. But I can tell you that getting from E to C is a bit tricky. You might try this sort of thing:

      E Amaj7 G13 G7 C

      The progression keeps the note E as a constant while the progression changes key. Then the E of the G13 becomes a 4-3 suspension when it moves to G7.

      Hope that helps.
      -Gary

  2. Aaah Gary, you never commit. You said, “It’s usually between the verse and chorus that a key change will happen if at all.” so this would therefore be unusual.

    • Ha! 🙂 It’s not an issue of committing, since in music anything is possible. I think my statement in this blog post more pertains to the kind of modulation I was talking about – the one (as in the Justin Timberlake tune) where the song moves between major and minor. In such songs, it usually will start in minor, then change to major as it switches from verse to chorus. I probably should have been clearer in the post, and will edit it to make that clear.

      Cheers,
      -Gary

Leave a Reply to garyewer Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.