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Need help with a worship song key change transition
December 15, 2007 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Church worship leader needs help with a key change transition for a Christmas song!

I'm singing a Christmas song called "Who is He in Yonder Stall" which is played in the key of G, and I want to sing the final verse a whole step higher in the key of A. How can I make the transition to the new key smooth and pleasing sounding (I'm playing it on my acoustic guitar)? I want to change key during a short instrumental transition. What chords should I play?

The last line of the chorus goes like this:

----------------C-----------D--------G
Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all!


And the following line the first line of a new verse, when played in the key of G, goes like:

---------G--------------------C
Who is He that from the grave
posted by beammeup4 to Media & Arts (20 answers total)
 
The best way to go is get a capo, available at any music store. Put it on the second fret and you can play the same chords. G will magically become A.
posted by raider at 11:53 PM on December 15, 2007


I just dug out my notes from music theory 202, although I'm embarrassed that I couldn't answer this on my own.

You want to use a pivot chord -- a chord that makes sense in both keys. In this case, you want to use D, which is V in the old key (G major) and IV in the new key (A major).

I would do this:

----------------C-----------D--------G--------[D-----E-------]
Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all!

---------[A]--------------------[E]
Who is He that from the grave

Basically, the D will sound like the V (dominant) chord of G major, but then when you go to the E, it will sound like it was the IV chord, and now E will sound like the V chord. Play these slowly on your guitar (or piano, or autoharp, or whatever), and you'll see what I mean.

Does that make sense? I'm not that familiar with the text-based guitar notation (like you gave), so I'm not sure if I'm being entirely clear. I can mock something up in Finale if you want.
posted by rossination at 11:57 PM on December 15, 2007


Beammeup -- yeah, that's the easiest thing to do, and not a bad option. But I think (hope) that the OP is looking for the chords to play during the transition that will smooth out that key change.
posted by rossination at 11:58 PM on December 15, 2007


Sorry, upon re-reading your question that was a dumb answer. But it's not difficult to transpose, try the the below...


----------------D-----------E--------A
Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all!


And the following line the first line of a new verse, when played in the key of G, goes like:

---------A--------------------D
Who is He that from the grave
posted by raider at 12:00 AM on December 16, 2007


Raider is correct -- the chord over "grave" should be D, not E like I wrote.
posted by rossination at 12:04 AM on December 16, 2007


Feeling pretty dumb right now so I'll just say rock on... you obviously have the skillz.
posted by raider at 12:08 AM on December 16, 2007


Useful pdf from worshipinfo.com on writing modulations.
posted by billtron at 1:43 AM on December 16, 2007


Rossination's D-E-A modulation is probably the best answer you have here. The only thing I'd add would be an Esus4:

G ......
D D Esus4 E
A ...

That way you get a nice strong modulation in one bar and you're pretty much unequivocally in A now.
posted by benzo8 at 3:18 AM on December 16, 2007


meh.
posted by clearly at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2007


Sorry, I meant see above suggestions.
posted by clearly at 6:38 AM on December 16, 2007


You don't need the D chord. Just finish the line on G, play an E7 with a little crescendo, and start the next line in A. G -> E7 -> A is a perfectly good transition. I think adding the D will sound awkward.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2007


Or you can be even cooler and play G -> G#dim7 -> A, or G -> G#dim7 -> E7 -> A.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:59 AM on December 16, 2007


Or howsabout:

G --- Bm7 --- Esus --- E7 --- A
posted by DandyRandy at 9:21 AM on December 16, 2007


Yeah, that would work, too. I think it'd be smoother than using the D, but still not as smooth as just going from G to E7.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2007


I'd play it as E7/G#, mind you.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2007


Go with ludwig_van's suggestion -- he actually plays guitar (I was sitting here for about 20 minutes trying to think of the cool way to do it with a diminished chord, and then I gave up).
posted by rossination at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2007


If you are still stuck... Is there some way I could hear it? Guitar tab means pretty much nutin' to me but notes, keychanges ect - those I know.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:53 PM on December 16, 2007


According to the NoteWorthyComposer score for this tune on cyberhymnal.org, the last line of the chorus should be:

----------------G-----------D--------G
Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all!

If you play a C chord while the singers are singing a B, then it makes a major seventh chord, which doesn't really fit the style of the music.

The score given on that site is in A flat, but the free software to view it allows you to transpose each staff down a half-step to put it in G.

The harmony for this tune is unusual because the pickup beat (which here is the first two syllables of each line) is on the tonic, or I (one) chord, G, and not on the dominant, or V (five) chord, D.

What modulation you use really depends on how long you want to wait before you come in with the last verse, and who is doing the singing. If the whole congregation will be joining you, then you need to either immediately modulate in a very strong way before they come in on the next verse, or get them to stop and wait until you modulate. If you have a cantor (songleader), you can have them give some visual cue.

The simplest way, as ludwig_van noted, is to play an E or E7 for one extra measure.

If you want the verse to come in when it normally does (without adding an extra measure), you can play the last G of the verse on the first beat, a E(7) on the second beat, and then an A on the third beat with the verse coming in right there.

If you can stop the congregation, you could just play the chords of the last two lines of the chorus again in the new key (four measures) to get them into the new key. Modulating up a whole step is not very jarring, so you don't need to worry about "pivot chords" here.
posted by strangeguitars at 7:19 PM on December 16, 2007


Might be useful, might not, but you can check out "Dream Police" by Cheap Trick and "Nothing But Flowers" by the Talking Heads for two examples of songs that hop up a key mid-song.
posted by DawgterFeelgood at 12:32 PM on December 17, 2007


Just a correction on my comment - should be "Surrender" by Cheap Trick, not "Dream Police".
posted by DawgterFeelgood at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2007


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