Welcome to the first post in this new series, Muso Mondays, weekly posts with a technical twist for all you music enthusiasts!
Some of you may have experienced a bit of a love-hate relationship with key changes (I know I have). On the one hand, they could be seen as a lazy, slightly cringy, way of adding some variety when you’ve run out of ideas in the last chorus. But when done right, this technique (which has been used by composers since the Baroque era) can be the best surprise a song can give you. It would be foolish to disregard the classic key change as a lack of creativity, especially since some of the greatest hits are shameless in their use of a cheeky modulation or two.
So where’s a better place to start other than the golden age of the key change – the 1980s!
1.) Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle
This song has it all. With a cracking groove throughout it’ll have you playing that imaginary drum kit in no time. And just when you think it can’t get any better, we find ourselves leaving the tonic key behind and shifting up a tone. What a tune.
2.) Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi
If you’ve ever doubted your voices ability to reach a top D, here’s the song to test it (maybe in the comfort of your own home first). Just when you think you were safe picking this classic karaoke tune with a brain-frying guitar solo, the change-up a minor third in the final chorus may just prove too much. But what we do know is that Jovi smashed it, hats off to you Sir.
3.) I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston
An all-time favourite and guaranteed to bring everyone to the dance floor. The change from F# Major up a tone to G# Major immediately after the bridge is exactly what we need, leaving everyone with a huge grin and their drinks in the air.
4.) Man In The Mirror – Michael Jackson
If you’re struggling to pinpoint a key change, this is a great one to get you familiar with an iconic modulation up a tone. Especially since the lyrics give us a slight hint by using the word “CHANGE” just at the crucial moment. Cheers MJ.
5.) Take My Breath Away – Berlin
You might be thinking the only way is up when it comes to key changes, but you’d be mistaken. This rollercoaster ride of an unexpected semitone drop which then darts into an eventual tone and a half rise proves that there’s no limit. Now THAT is how it’s done.
What’s your favourite 80’s key change? Let us know!
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See ya next week