Songwriting basics and tips 9: Slipping along seamlessly …

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

Moving on up …

If you’re actually writing in a key change to the main melody, as opposed to simply taking the entire tune into another key, you might want do it a little more subtly. Classical composers did this all the time by using transition chords.

These are chords which belong to both keys. So you use one or more of these as a first step, then move to your target key. After that, you can play any chords that belong to your new key.

Let’s say you start a tune in C using the chords

C…|F…|G…

Those chords are all normal to find within the key of C.

You decide you want a key change to D, so you put in a line that has a transition chord, a chord common to both keys – you have the choice of G or Em. I’m going for Em, then I’ll bring in chords that are definitely from the key of D:trans.gif

C…|F…|G…|Em…|Bm…|F#m…|G…|A7…|
D…

Now we know we’re definitely in D, but it would be nice to get back to C at some point so that there’s a verse that can be repeated without it endlessly spiralling upwards until you’re singing so high only dogs can hear you!

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To get some symmetry into the verse (important if you’re looking for a catchier tune), I’m going to repeat the structure in the new key until we arrive at  another transition chord.

C…|F…|G…|Em…|Bm…|F#m…|G…|A7…|

D…|G…|A…|F#m…

F#m belongs to the key of A, so now I’m going to use the circle of 5ths to get back to C

C…|F…|G…|Em…|Bm…|F#m…|G…|A7…|

D…|G…|A…|F#m…|A…|A7…|D7…|G7….|C…

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Let’s apply a Latin, Santana-ish feel, and just see where the chords take me …

 

Bob’s Bossa © Bob Leslie 2018


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Slippin’ an’ a-slidin’ …

Another way of changing is to just slide up to the next key.animal.gif

That’s exactly what The Who did in their groundbreaking My Generation.

The song starts in Ab, then simply slides up to A after the bass solo, then to Bb after the next verse, then poor old Roger Daltrey really has to push his voice to finish the last chorus in C while Keith Moon basically smashes his way through his drums! Great fun!

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Next time, we’ll look at changing key – or, more accurately, using chords outside the key – by using notes that can belong to more than one chord.

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

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