Modulation (music)

In music, modulation is the change from one tonality (tonic, or tonal center) to another. This may or may not be accompanied by a change in key signature. Modulations articulate or create the structure or form of many pieces, as well as add interest. Treatment of a chord as the tonic for less than a phrase is considered tonicization.

Modulation is the essential part of the art. Without it there is little music, for a piece derives its true beauty not from the large number of fixed modes which it embraces but rather from the subtle fabric of its modulation.

Charles-Henri Blainville (1767)[2]


The quasi-tonic is the tonic of the new key established by the modulation. The modulating dominant is the dominant of the quasi-tonic. The pivot chord is a predominant to the modulating dominant and a chord common to both the keys of the tonic and the quasi-tonic. For example, in a modulation to the dominant, ii/V–V/V–V could be a pivot chord, modulating dominant, and quasi-tonic.


Common-chord modulation

Common-chord modulation (also known as diatonic-pivot-chord modulation) moves from the original key to the destination key (usually a closely related key) by way of a chord both keys share: "Most modulations are made smoother by using one or more