Multiple key changes in a song?

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
8 years ago
41 posts

It's interesting Paul, how flexible the dulcimer can be for a non-chromatic instrument. I listened to that particular clip you found and I think it's in the same key all the way through - but I'd have to listen again to be sure. This arrangement I've been given to work from is a duet - soprano & alto parts. The key change is part of this particular arrangment - I've found a lot of hymns sung by the 2 church choirs I sing in have key changes - I used to think it was how the hymn was originally written, but perhaps it's a case of how this particular version of XYZ hymn has been arranged.

In any case, I only have to play chords for this one. The cellist is there to provide a tenor/bass harmony and so some kind of rhythmic accompaniment is needed, which is the chords on the dulcimer. You know I didn't think of looking at the chord fingerings and how they'd sound on a tuning that's EbBbEb. I will give it a try and compare it with the 1-3-5 tunings. That's a good suggestion thank you. I experimented tuning it all Eb or Bb and every chord was a barre chord! LOL. Barre chords are hard on my fingers, whereas other chord fingering positions are not - go figure.

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
243 posts

I'm not familiar with the song, so I searched it and found several versions. I listened to this one:

It sounds to be an ionian melody.

This one changes keys, most likely to allow the melody to change from soprano to tenor voices. If you were to sing this as a soloist, you could keep it in the vocal range best suited to your voice, eliminating the key change entirely. As an instrumental, the key change can add some variety, but isn't completely necessary. This is part of the "re thinking" I mentioned in my earlier post.

Still another possibility for this example is to tune to EbBbEb, and play the Eb section on the melody string, and the Bb section on the middle string. This likely would require the use of a 6+ fret, if you have one. Without the 6+ fret, you could tune to EbBbBb, and try playing the Eb section on the melody string, and the Bb section on the bass string.

These 2 keys have a lot of common notes and chords, which allows one tuning to overlap the keys fairly well. Many of us do this with the keys of D,G, and A when we use the DAD tuning. Some melody notes are found on the middle string, and some may require the 6+ fret, but the closeness of the scales does give us a lot of overlap. Sometimes when only one missing note impedes us, we bend the lower note to get it. We seldom need to bend the string more than a half step, though a whole step and more is possible. unless you like extra heavy gauge strings.

If the song requires 3 or more different keys, or If you play a lot of songs with key changes, you may find a 135 tuning, or a chromatic dulcimer will do the job best.

Paul

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
8 years ago
41 posts
Hi Dusty, you're not rambling and you explained it clearly so anyone without music theory could b understand. This is a hymn Crown him with many crowns and it starts off in Eb major then jumps to Bb major then back to Eb for last section. The key signatures change.

What I did today is work out the chords and yes I need to get them checked by someone who knows a lot more music theory than me. B u t I found 9 chord changes, major and minor.

Then using the Strothers chord wizard, and 1-3-5 tuning, I looked at how those 9 chords would be made whether I tuned it as Eb maj triad or Bb maj triad. The same 9 chords were used in both key changes.
It seems possible in either tuning - ie my fingers can reach, or else they're barre chords. Don't know how it sounds yet.

I guess the next step is to convert the melody line into tab so I can write in the fingering for those chords underneath. I was thinkibg of buying TablEdit anyway, so now I have a reason to get it. I have no idea how this is going to sound. This is for a fundraising concert for the choir, to be held end of July, so I've 5 weeks to figure something out. There will be 2 vocalists, me and cello playing tenor part. I just have to provide chords, no fiddly bits. Gonna be interesting trying to make it work!
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
8 years ago
1,390 posts

Ruth, I have to ask a question to ensure you are asking the right question.

Are you sure you are talking about "key" changes and not merely "chord" changes? The key corresponds to the keynote of the song, and in any given key, certain chords are likely. For example, a song that is in Eb will almost always have Ab and Bb as well. When a song moves from an Eb chord to a Bb chord, that is usually not a key change; it is merely a chord change. Any song will have a set of chord changes that is referred to as the chord progression, and in any given tuning, certain chord progressions are possible.

If you were to play "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," for example, in the key of Eb, there would be two chords: Eb and Bb. If you were to play "Bile Dem Cabbage Down" in the key of Eb, there would be three chords: Eb, Ab, and Bb. But in neither case is there a key change. Both songs are played in one key.

Sometimes songs really do change keys. In those cases the entire song moves from one keynote to another. And the most common key change is to move up a 4th to create an increased emotionality. For example, the Beatles song "Penny Lane" famously moves up a fourth towards the end. And sometimes that same shift can represent a lack of originality, as in the Stevie Wonder song "I Just Called to Say I Love You," where to avoid the appearance of excessive repetition the song moves up a fourth. When Whitney Houston moves up a fourth in "I Will Always Love You" it creates not only increased emotion, but increased awe because her voice demonstrates such range.

So there are songs that change keys, but they are rare. Most of the time a song begins and ends in a given key. And in that key, it will change chords several times. But if you are playing a song that moves between Eb and Bb, it is probably not changing keys, but merely changing chords.

If I am wrong here and you are indeed referring to key changes, please forgive my ramblings.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
8 years ago
41 posts

Thanks for this info - I hadn't heard of this site before. I've ended up selecting a hymn that only has 2 key changes - Eb maj to Bb maj. I'm hoping that playing around with the tunings will make it doable.

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
243 posts

Yes, and not necessarily. It's impossible in those keys using the common 155/158 tunings, but may be possible if you rethink it.

One answer you might want to try is the 135 tuning. Have a look here, http://mountaindulcimer-1-3-5.com/ and try a song or two from their tabs. This tuning gives you the flexibility to deal with key changes.Probably what I would try first, if I didn't play other chromatic instruments.

Another possibility is to change keys to put all parts of a medley in the same key. One tuning will cover them all, unless the songs use accidentals, in which case you may still be looking for an answer.

I would try the 135 tuning first, and see where it takes you.

Paul

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
8 years ago
41 posts

Hi, I was asked recently to look through a selection of hymn duets and find something that I could play dulcimer to (chords probably). But last night when I sat down to look at them I realised all these hymns are either medleys or have multiple key changes. Eg, D major to E flat major to F major. It's impossible on a dulcimer isn't it?


updated by @ruth-lawrence: 06/11/15 07:36:25AM