1. “an inflection of the tone or pitch of the voice ; specifically : the use of stress or pitch to convey meaning”
2. “a change from one musical key to another”
This past Sunday we sang the song “You Are My All in All” by Dennis Jernigan. It’s a song from our songbooks (the Best of the Best in Contemporary Praise & Worship), and the editors decided to modulate the last chorus from the key of F to the key of G. It’s a nice effect, and I found that it drew my attention more closely to what we were singing. Further, I came to the realization that we rarely, if ever, use this musical tool in the context of hymns, although it’s used often in choir arrangements. It’s something that you might want to explore and use with your congregation every once in a while.
In fact, you can write your own modulations. Here’s a simple rule of thumb. Use the forth chord of the scale that you are moving into as the transitioning chord. For example, in “You Are My All in All”, we used the C chord to transition from the key of F to G because the C chord is the forth of the G major scale (G1, A2, B3, C4). If we were moving into the key of A, we would use the D chord (A1, B2, C#3, D4). Just be careful that you are not modulating to a key that makes the highest or lowest notes unreachable to your congregation. You will find that most people can sing from low C to high C, while enough people can reach from low A to high Eb to carry the congregation but a sparse few can reach beyond these limits. Once you’ve decided on a modulation, you will also need to transpose the chords into the new modulated key.