Can You Take Me High Enough?
September 18, 2013 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Is there a particular name for that uplifting key change for the ultimate or penultimate chorus of many pop songs? Examples, with video links, behind the cut.

Prime examples of this can be found in The Beatles' "Penny Lane", Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer", Genesis's "Invisible Touch", and Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You".
posted by hanov3r to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard it disparagingly called the Truck Driver's Gear Change - also on TVTropes.
posted by pocams at 6:46 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Truck Driver's Gear Change.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:46 AM on September 18, 2013

posted by Native in Exile at 6:46 AM on September 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Awesome, and fast. Thanks, guys!
posted by hanov3r at 6:52 AM on September 18, 2013

I feel like this behavior has not been used as much in say, the last 10 or so years, than it did for the say, the 70's - 90's. But yeah, that is it. I feel like Chicago / Peter Cetera were demented masters of it.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:10 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

For my money, "modulation" works just fine. It's not specific, for there are many kinds of modulations, but it's a damn sight easier to say than "Truck Driver's Gear Change."
posted by lumensimus at 7:17 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

The technical term for a key change mid song is modulation. The specific type of modulation is a chromatic sequential modulation called a rosalia iirc. It's been like 20 years since music theory.

Any modern day shorthand which refers to automotive vehicles occurred well after this was brought into the musical world.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:37 AM on September 18, 2013 [13 favorites]

It's not modulating, I have been told, which involves, I guess, a more subtle transition from one tonality to another. There are a lot of really well-versed music theoreticians here, and I hope someone can confirm or deny that. So, the name "truck driver's" - like just yanking the gearshift up a whole step.
posted by thelonius at 7:58 AM on September 18, 2013

I now see the above - maybe it is, technically, a kind of modulation, then.
posted by thelonius at 7:59 AM on September 18, 2013

If its a tonic key transposition mid-song, that's a tonic modulation.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:01 AM on September 18, 2013

Modulation is just the technical term for key change, so it applies here. "Rosalia" is a term for key changes that occur via a sequential passage, so it doesn't apply here.

"Penny Lane" actually features multiple modulations of different types; there are the more subtle "pivot chord" modulations between each verse and refrain, and then there's the more abrupt "Truck Driver's Gear Change," which occurs in the final refrain.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:27 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

A singer I used to know called this the Baptist key change. "You know, when you kick the organist down the bench a full step!"
posted by clavicle at 8:52 AM on September 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

A more recent example is at 3:22 (and a couple more times) in Beyonce's Love On Top from 2011.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:39 AM on September 18, 2013

There's fancy modulation, like Penny Lane does, which is also found in classical music, and there's a kind of pop song modulation where they simply repeat the chorus an a key 1/2 step higher.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:48 AM on September 18, 2013

There's a documentary on YouTube about the theory behind Beatles music, and it explains exactly this using Penny Lane as the example. He refers to it as key change/modulation. Here's the relevant clip.
posted by worbel at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Cat music. At the 2:38-3:00 Disney takes an interlude:

Let's take it to another key
Modulate and wait for me
I'll take a few ad libs and pretty soon

The other cats will all commence
Congregatin' on the fence
Beneath the alley's only light
Where every note is out of sight

posted by Nanukthedog at 12:08 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eurovision Key Change
posted by w0mbat at 2:22 PM on September 18, 2013

Thanks - maybe I heard people saying "that's not REAL modulation" with some contempt, and took it literally. They meant, I guess, where the motivic material prepares a key change in a deep way, like in some classical music - that's REAL modulation.
posted by thelonius at 7:37 PM on September 18, 2013

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