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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a self-taught amateur musician. Several years ago I formed a sax quartet and we do local gigs like weddings, Christenings, garden parties and the like. On several of our gigs we've been asked to play some well-known local tunes, of which there are several, so I've embarked on a project to arrange half a dozen local tunes for the quartet. I'm getting there and they're sounding pretty good on the computer so far but I'm stuck when it comes to modulating from the end of one tune into the next.

I asked a guitar playing friend of mine about this and if I give him two key signatures he can tell me how he would get from one to the other. For instance I tried him with getting from the key of D major to the key of A major and quick as a flash he said he would go D>Bb>E7>A. I said, OK, how about from Bb to Eb and he said he would go Bb>Ebdim>Bb7>Eb.

These were two of the key changes I need to modulate between so this was very helpful, but the question is.....is there a magic formula for modulating between key signatures?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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All you really need is the bare minimum of a V7 chord of the key you are going into. Or, you can just slam into the new key with no modulating harmony.

That is the only real formula, but there are various ways to come up with short modulating sequences, but the actual chords would depend very much on the song and the key.

If you presume that all the tunes start and end on a tonic chord (which is not always the case) then life is a bit easier, as you can work backwards from the new key, often with a Im7 V7.

At this stage it's worth knowing various "turnarounds", see:

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/jazz-passing-chords.html

Then all you do is adapt them a bit.

Diminished chords are chord because they can often fit ambiguously into several keys, so take the typical turnaround in C:

C Ebº Dm7 G7 | C etc...

This is is a way to end the tune but go back to the beginning. So it could be used to end a tune in other keys, but go into C, so e.g. you work backwards and just start it with the tonic of the preceding key

If your tune is in Bb, you end it with

Bb Ebº Dm7 G7 | C etc.... (see, I just used B as the first chord instead of C, so this will end the tune in Bb and start the tune in C.

This works with D:

D Ebº Dm7 G7| C etc....


This is just one example, but I suggest you first learn some simple turnarounds with modulating, then adapt them. There's a lot more to it, but this should get you started.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Pete, thanks that's a great insight into what I'm trying to get to grips with. I use your Taming The Saxophone a lot during my practice routines, it's great and it's helped me a lot, but for whatever reason I have never associated anything in 'Taming' with modulation from one key to another. My fault I'm sure, and I'll certainly look at 'Taming' in another light now.

But look Pete, this is a perfect opportunity for you to expand your published repertoire ......there are 14 key signatures, right? Well what you need to do is sit down and write a book which gives a two chord modulation from every key signature to every other key signature. I'm not too good at arithmetic, but I think that comes to 14 key signatures to 13 other key signatures = 182 modulations. Give me a shout when you've finished and I'll buy the first (signed) copy :mrgreen:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I finished the medley project today with six popular local tunes now arranged for my SAAT quartet. With my hand on my heart Pete, I can't say that I fully understood your advice but it certainly gave me an insight into what I ought to be considering with regard to modulating from one tune to the next. With the aid of my trusty rubber roll up keyboard and taking your basic V7 advice, this is what I came up with:

Tune keys signatures (concert) in bold with the modulation between them:

Bb F# C7 F Gm A7 D Gdim D7 G Cdim G7 C Dm E7 A

I must admit that I got to the first of the modulation chords empirically in the main, just by playing around the area on the keyboard, but I looked at diminished chords and discovered how useful they are, as you said. Of course the next thing to do is write some notes around the modulating chords in keeping with the next tune. Just sticking the triads in each time would be lazy, and bit boring musically too I think

The other three are not going to love me for putting us in concert A for the last tune, especially the altos. I can hear the whinges now, but NO, I’m not going to take it up or down a semitone. Concert A just feels like a good strong key to finish a medley on and anyway they should buy ‘Taming’ and practice their scales like I do!!

Thanks again for your help. Though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool reader, and firmly in the ‘can’t-improvise-won’t-improvise’ camp, I’m nevertheless going to try to get to grips with turnrounds, an area I’ve not looked at before, but I’m always willing to learn.
 
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