What If There Isn't A Transpose Button?



Suppose you're the new keyboard player in the band. This rock band just hired you and welcomed you aboard. Now, you're going to your first gig tonight. You arrive excitedly, greet the other musicians and begin to look over the music set. Most of the songs you do know but there's a few complex ones that change keys several times. No worries because your keyboard has a transpose button so you will just press it a few times. On this special night you soon discover that there isn't a transpose button. Now what are you going to do?

If you have found yourself in this same scenario as I have before, you are faced with a few choices.

1. Learn how to modulate; change keys within the song.
2. Play the first song in the original key. Lay out on the chord that sets up the next key. Jump back in with the new key.
3. Just play through the song once and lay out all together while the rest of the musicians play.

The chances of you actually performing at a live gig, playing a fast, lively song that changes keys several times, like the ones by Israel Houghton and then reaching for the transpose button and clicking away, yet remaining in the groove can cause a train wreck and mess up the other musicians.
The answers to learning how to modulate on your own can be found in learning the Circle of Fifths and using the Number System. Here are a few tips to help you on your way to transposition or simply stated, moving a piece of music from one key to another.

1. Know the scale of the original key.
2. Number each note of the melody by the numbers of the scale.
3. Review the scale of the new key, finding the numbers (degrees) associated with the notes and reconstruct the melody.

The same formula is true with transposing a chord progression. Let's say the original key is C Major and we're playing I chord (C) and the IV chord F. The singer chooses to modulate to the Key of Eb to fit her voice range better and cause a dynamic move in the song. With the same previous steps for changing the melody line, we will now apply to the new key. In the Key of Eb, we play I chord (Eb) and the IV chord (Ab).

Going back to our opening scenario, you will need to know HOW to arrive at the new key and that is called Modulation. Forget that button on your keyboard and discover the solution by learning these easy steps.

To begin, let's say we are starting in the Key of F and we want to move up a half step. Here's what you need to know.

1. A dominant chord is built on the fifth degree of the scale.
2. The most direct movement is from the dominant chord to the tonic chord.
3. This is known as the V-I progression.
4. A dominant seventh chord may also be used, and this is called a V7-I progression.

Now you're ready for your new gig. It's a new day. The band starts a particular song in the Key of F Major. Now to move to F# Major, you are playing the dominant chord (V) of the New Key to set up the new change and that chord would be C# and you begin anew in the key of F# with I chord. Congratulations "smooth modulator."


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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