6.14.1 Group 4: List of Great Songs with Modulation and
“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”: Modulation and the Power of Simple Triads
Was a Very Good Year”: Sequential and Parallel Key Modulations
6.14.4 “The Girl from Ipanema": Transient Sequential
6.14.5 “Georgia on My Mind”: More Relative Key
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Modulation and chromatic chords in the same song make for some
elegant, attention-getting progressions. Here are some Gold
Standard songs that have both:
• “Sittin’ on the
Dock of the Bay”
• “It Was a Very Good
• “Girl From Ipanema”
• “Georgia On My
OF THE BAY”:
AND THE POWER
progression of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” has much in common with the
progression of “Free Man In Paris.” Both songs use only simple, internally
stable major triads. No minor chords, and no seventh chords. And both use chords
that effectively convert the relative minor key into its parallel major.
the Chase chart below reveals (Figure 114), the verse of “Sittin’ on the Dock of
the Bay” has no fifth progressions, not even fifths to or from the tonic.
Consequently, no conventional V – I or IV – I cadences.
song modulates weirdly between the key of G major and the key of E major—which
also has no conventional V – I or IV – I cadences.
Yet the modulation works because only major triads are used,
and also because the progression returns to the tonic chord, G
major, with sufficient regularity to establish the key of G major as the
Chase Chart of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (Words and Music by Otis Redding
and Steve Cropper, 1968)
the bridge, the pattern changes to a standard, single-key I – V – IV
progression. This reinforces G major as the song’s main key.
Near the end of the bridge, the progression reaches outside the
harmonic scale and grabs the chromatic chord F major for one bar.
dominant-seventh-to-tonic progression (A7 – Dm) at the outset of “It Was a Very
Good Year” establishes tonality in a minor key.
the progression moves outside the harmonic scale to the chromatic chord E♭ for a
couple of bars, then back to the tonic.
Sequential modulation follows with a series of second
progressions that ends on the parallel major chord (Figure 115
F – E♭ – D – C – D
Chase Chart of “It Was a Very Good Year” (Words and Music by Ervin Drake, 1961)
Getting back to the original key of D minor (from D major) then
becomes a simple matter of moving to the dominant chord, A7,
which is the dominant chord for both keys, and then to D minor.
“The Girl From
Ipanema” progresses through quite a few chords—13 altogether.
sequential modulation used in this song could more accurately be termed
transient modulation, because keys other than the original key do not get firmly
established. Much like “It Was a Very Good Year.”
The chords progress in accordance with a melodic sequence that
keeps rising in pitch ...
Oh, but I watch her so sadly
How can I tell her I love her
Yes, I would give my heart gladly
... followed by a
different sequence that steps the melodic line back down—and back to the
But each day when she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead, not at me
Chase chart below (Figure 116) shows how pairs of chords change sequentially
with the melodic line. Here is the sequence of key transitions (it’s actually
• F major (original)
• G minor
• F major
Chase chart uses five harmonic scale diagrams to map everything out. Get the
recording with Astrud Gilberto in the starring role and follow the progression.
You’ll learn a lot from the famous Brazilian beauty.
Chart of “The
Girl From Ipanema” (Portuguese Words by Vinicius De Moreas, English Words by
Norman Gimbel, Music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, 1963)
counting the chords used in the transient modulation sequences, the song only
uses one chromatic chord, G♭7, and only for one bar per verse.
“Georgia on My Mind”
has 15 chords. Yet it only uses one harmonic scale.
song has as many as four chord variants at several degrees of the harmonic
scale. At IIm, for example, there’s Gm, Gm7, Gm6, and G7. At III7, there’s A7,
Am, and Am7. (See also Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”)
As the Chase chart below reveals (Figure 117), the chord
progression also makes use of all seven degrees of the harmonic
In the bridge, the song modulates to the relative minor key, D
The only chromatic chord is a diminished chord that makes an
appearance briefly towards the end of the verse, and again towards
the end of the bridge.
Chase Chart of “Georgia on My Mind” (Words by Stuart Gorrell, Music by Hoagy
A savvy mixture of fifth, third, and second progressions makes
the harmony varied and interesting, without imperiling tonality.
1960, Ray Charles made the definitive recording of “Georgia on My Mind,” 30
years after it was written. The Righteous Brothers and Willie Nelson, among
others, also recorded excellent renditions of this great classic.
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