Fret Farm

Complete Reference Books for Guitar, Bass and Mandolin
Including Chords, Keys, Scales, Capos, Modulation and Songwriting

Using Major / Minor Modulations

This tutorial shows you how to write songs using the chord map where chord changes can use major/minor modulations.

This tutorial builds on the modulating chord map tutorial, which shows how to use the chord map to write chord sequences that move between keys.

We're back to the chord map for A, but this time in its complete form. Notice that under each chord in the key there is written its major or minor opposite. So Am is under A major, and B major under Bm, and so on.

When modulating between keys you can use this major/minor transition to add interest and color. When you drop down into a grey box, you are immediately changing key. You can pick up the chord sequence in another map, and follow it back. Usually it is best to only do one major/minor change in a sequence. You should use the normal route in the other direction.

As an example, we will create another 8 bar sequence starting in the key A then moving into D and back to A again. We start from A as usual, following arrows for a while into F#m, Bm and E. Now we flip down into Em, changing key into D, and pick up our place in the chord map for D.

We'll be going back via Bm again, so we head first to A (we could put the seventh in to make it really clear we've changed key, or leave it out for more smoothness) and head to Bm and we're back in A. Then the mainline of A from Bm to E7 to finish.

Our overall chord sequence is now:

A | F#m | Bm | E | Em | A7 | Bm | E7

The chords of E minor and A7 are not in the key of A (A7 isn't in the key of A, even though A major is). This chord sequence sounds even more unusual, but still has the ring of a song: it doesn't defy the rules of chord progression, so it still feels right.

More complex songs can be written that go through more than one passing key, or that modulate into another key for the chorus or bridge. Using the chord maps you will be able to effortlessly write complex chord sequences that break away from the norm without sounding forced or unnatural.

You'll also be able to impress your musical friends with quotes like "Yes, I modulate into D here, and come back via the dominant!"