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.


2 thoughts on “Modulation”

  1. Mr. Brown,

    Referencing your statement: ” Further, I came to the realization that we rarely, if ever, use this musical tool in the context of hymns… ”

    I would tend to agree with you for some congregations except that my wife who is the head organist for our congregation regularly uses modulation in her hymn playing to great effect! She usually does it before the last stanza of a hymn but can, and does, modulate after other stanzas too. It makes mediocre hymn tunes sound much better and makes great hymns sound outstanding and especially during festival services. Even Lenten hymns can benefit if used judiciously. And, on occasion, she has been known to combine a modulation with an improvised interlude, too! It gives great glory to Lord and Savior.

    Ray Miller


  2. Mr Ray
    God bless you
    I am a pianist at a Baptist church here in sao paulo, I am 65 years old, and am losing a little memory, I can not remember how to make changes in the last stanza to another key for the church to sing with more possible entusiasmo.Seria me brother send some suggestions written on sheet music with chords?
    I would be very grateful and his brother would make a big thing in helping me caso.Gosto very touching and I expect to play for a long time while you have vision and hearing.


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