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Thread: enharmonic modulation help

  1. #1
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    Default enharmonic modulation help

    Hey all, can anyone please help me understand enharmonic modulation using pivot chords? I attached an example that includes this modulation, but I don't get it! Any help is appreciated, thanks.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Hello Yimsta, I was hoping at least for a response from fellow poster Dim7 as diminished 7th chords are part of the key to understanding enharmonic and chromatic pivot chords and modulation! [Just my little joke directed at Dim7 ! How you doin’, Dim7?]

    OK, now to give you a serious answer!

    I’m going to take it as read that you understand basic modulation and use of pivot chords to neighboring or closely related keys.

    Enharmonic and chromatic pivot chords just take that idea a little bit further, but the basic underlying principle is the same, namely that the pivot chord undergoes a double reading or double interpretation (as for example in going from A major to E major using a chord that is at the same time VI in A and II in E [i.e. chord of F#] before I use a V7 to drive home the point I have arrived in E).

    The techniques used in your examples are the use of pivot chords based on the diminished 7th (examples 1 & 3) and the German A6 (chord of the augmented 6th, "German" configuration).

    Your example 1 (G minor to E minor)
    The harmony textbooks tell us that any Dim 7th can resolve to any V7 by moving the appropriate note or notes. Looking at bar 2, second minim (half note in USA-speak) we have from bass to soprano F#-A-C-E-flat – this is VII7 in G minor, a diminished 7th chord. Suddenly we have a chromatic B natural crotchet (quarter note) and here is the trick or the magic, as we can now respell the chord as V7 in second inversion in the tonality of E minor, the E-flat in that same minim being in fact “heard” as a D#.

    Your example 2 (A minor to G# minor)
    Here you have an example of the German A6 being used as the enharmonic/chromatic pivot. The trick here is to arrive on a V7 chord in the given tonality and quit it as a German A6 in the new tonality. Hence, bar 3, first minim (an N6, no less!) resolves onto the second minim which is the dominant V (of A minor). The sudden introduction of the C double-sharp (read as “D”) makes the chord both V7 in A minor and the “correct” spelling of the German A6 in G# minor, which then resolves onto the I64 of the new tonality, then onto V and finally to the new tonic of G# minor.

    Your example 3 (F major to D-flat major)
    The same technique as your example 1 above is in play here (i.e. use of Diminished 7th as pivot chord). Ignoring the anacrusis (or pick-up bar), let’s go to bar 2, where we have just established G minor. Again, the next crotchet (quarter note) beat is the same chord used in bar 1 (last crotchet) but re-spelt as a Diminished 7th in D-flat major!

    To put it another way, in G minor the VII7 dim is written out like this: F# - A - C - E flat. If I now respell this to read as VII7 dim in D flat some of the notes – whilst sounding the same – will be spelt differently, thus: G-flat (= F#) – C (no change) – E-flat (no change) – B double-flat (= A!).

    To put it differently again, if I were to play you this example as a dictation exercise up to the end of full bar 2 and then stop, you would hear the following progressions: an opening upbeat V7 in F major (in 3rd inversion) leading to a I6 in F for two beats, a sudden transition to G minor (via a VII7 in first inversion) on the third beat leading to G minor (root position) for two beats then … remember, you can’t see the score – you would hear (because you hear we are still in G minor) F# - C – E flat – A !!!. When I show you the score, you see in fact that what you heard has in fact been re-spelt (G flat - C - E flat - B double flat) incurring a sleight-of-hand deviation to D-flat major!

    Magic !!

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  4. #3
    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    I should hasten to add that the above give only two techniques, but as you can imagine, there are several more:
    a) The N6 (Neapolitan 6th) as chromatic pivot;
    b) The N6 used enharmonically;
    c) Supertonic chromatic chords as pivots;
    d) Tonic chromatic 7ths as pivot;
    e) Flat-VI as pivot.

  5. #4
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    The underlying principle that you need to understand is this:

    from Wiki:
    [An enharmonic modulation takes place when one treats a chord as if it were spelled enharmonically as a functional chord in the destination key, and then proceeds in the destination key.

    There are two main types of enharmonic modulations: dominant seventh/augmented sixth, and (fully) diminished seventh.

    By respelling the notes, any dominant seventh can be reinterpreted as a German or Italian sixth (depending on whether or not the fifth is present),

    ...and any diminished seventh chord can be respelled in multiple other ways to form other diminished seventh chords.

    By combining the diminished seventh with a dominant seventh and/or augmented sixth, changing only one pivot note at a time, it is possible to modulate quite smoothly from any key to any other in at most three chords, no matter how distant the starting and ending keys.

    In short, lowering any note of a diminished seventh chord a half tone leads to a dominant seventh chord, the lowered note being the root of the new chord.

    Raising any note of a diminished seventh chord a half tone leads to a half-diminished seventh chord, the root of which is a whole step above the raised note.

    This means that any diminished chord can be modulated to eight different chords by simply lowering or raising any of its notes.] end of quote

    This is something jazz players love, especially guitarists, because diminished sevenths are one of the 'repeating mechanisms' on the guitar neck, an unchanging form which repeats every four frets. This gives you access to all 12 key areas within the space of four frets.

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