Guitar Secrets Lead Guitar Made Easy

 HomeJamPlayTom HessStoreGuitar LinksContact

Welcome to Guitar Secrets
Lead Guitar Made Easy

[ Modulation, Modulation 2, Modulation 5, Cadence]

Leading to Modulation

Wow, this is going to get really intense. I believe the most confusing component of music is chord and scale substitution. I receive questions all the time wondering if you should or should not switch scales while improvising?  Switching scales while improvising or writing a master piece, will come in time. It’s like a weight lifter slowly increasing the weight to lift. It all depends on how far you would like to advance. If you like the sound of blues, then you may be happy playing the standard 12 bar blues. Or if you like the heavy metal sound and all the obscure scales you will achieve that sound. I personally like to play them all. It is a mood driven habit. If I have a few brews and got stuck in traffic, I crank out some heavy music. But, knowing how to play, is the main objective here. If you don’t understand music, then you can’t express your feelings. Or at least on the guitar.

From the beginning of these lessons I’ve stated that I do nothing the conventional way. I have always been a rebel and not much of a follower. So, once again I will explain music from my point of view. It may not be the point of view of scholars, I didn’t learn the way they did. I don’t play the way they play. I only care about giving everyone the opportunity to learn. If I can spark an interest and help, then I have achieved my goal. I will make a difference, so you can.

These next few chapters are going to take some time to finish. Along the way, I will give you ideas to ponder and assignments to complete. It’s up to you to do them. I can explain these topics with large words, which in turn would require you to have your dictionary handy, but I am not here to impress you and more than likely can’t anyway.

Modulation is way of combining scales like a road map to create a harmonic or pleasing tonal creation. If your ears don’t like it, many others won’t either. The illustration below shows the major keys on the left and each note and chord of that particular key. You should know how to construct the Major keys by now. If not, you may need to go back and review that chapter. By the way, consider the definition of the major key to be a TONAL CENTER, or a starting point. If the music you’re playing is signatured with 1 #, then it is based in the key of G major. Look below at the key of G major and find that one #. This sharp is the F#. The key of A has 3 sharps, check that out.

You should also know that G major is the only major key or scale with 1 sharp, check out key signatures. However, the relative minor to each major key shares the same signature. Look below at the key of G and find the Em. The Em is relative to G major. The Em scale shares the same exact signature. Both of these scales have 1#.

key of G:  G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G   ————–   Em scale or Aeolian,  E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E

The Em scale and all relative minor scales are called the natural minor. The Em scale is also called the Aeolian mode. The Aeolian mode is the relative minor to the major key it is in. In the key of C major, the Am is the relative or natural minor and will always be the sixth degree of the major key. There are a number of different scales out there, but for the moment we will only concentrate on the major keys and the diatonic chords within each key. Diatonic means, the notes within the key. Each of the chords listed below in each key are diatonic triads. A triad is a 3 note chord. Remember, the major, minor and diminished chords are built upward in thirds. Also remember that every major key has 3 Major, 3 minor and 1 diminished chord.

I will give a basic understanding of each chord and its purpose. There are three basic chord sounds in every key. These sounds are as follows. Tonic, sub dominate and Dominant. Each of these are illustrated with the colors blue, white and red. 

Notice the chords that are under the blue boxes. Each of these chords are referred to as tonic chords. The definition of tonic means the first note or keynote of the diatonic scale. The I, iiim and vim all can  produce a tonic sound. The iim and the IV produce the sub dominant sound and the V and VII produce the Dominate sound. Each of these sounds must be experimented with to see how they all relate to each other. To see how these chords and notes relate to each other we need to learn the definition for Cadence. 

What does cadence mean? The dictionary refers to this word as, Inflection or modulation in tone. A simpler definition to cadence is, any rhythmic flow of sound or the harmonic ending, final trill of a phrase or movement. There are two types of cadence that I would like to explain. The first cadence explained will be the Authentic cadence. This will be illustrated as the progression I, V, I or C, G, C. There is also a combined authentic cadence, I, VI, V, I. The second cadence is the Plagal cadence. The meaning of Plagal is, the sub dominant chord immediately preceding the tonic chord. Or, with its keynote in the middle of the compass, as a mode. 

To better understand this we need to construct a chord sequence. In major keys this sequence can be, example in C: (I  IV   I) or (C F C). Check this sequence out below in the key of C major below. There’s also one more sequence that is referred to the Authentic cadence, (I, iim, V, I), (C, Dm, G and C). Play each of these progressions and listen to how they resolve back to the C or tonic chord.

There are also other technical names for each note of the major key and here they are. We will incorporate these soon. Each major key is numbered below and listed as tonic subdominant and dominant.

Tonic Supertonic Mediant Sub-Dominant Dominant Sub Mediant Leading Tone Octave
Ionian Mode
I IIm7 IIIm IV V7 vim vii
C Dm Em F G Am B dim C
G Am Bm C D Em F#dim  G
D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim D
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim A
E  F#m G#m A   B C#m D#dim E
B C#m D#m E F# G#m A#dim B
F# Gm Am B C# D#m  F dim  F#
C  Dm Em  F G Am Bdim C
F  Gm Am Bb C Dm E dim F
Bb Cm Dm  Eb F  Gm  A dim  Bb
Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb  Cm D dim Eb
Ab  Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm  G dim Ab
Db  Ebm Fm Gb Ab  Bbm C dim Db
Gb  Abm  Bbm Cb Db  Ebm F dim  Gb

I’ve stated that we would cover the major scale and the relative minor for now, I guess we really need to cover a couple other things too. There are two other minor scales I would like to go over briefly. These two minor scales are the Harmonic and Melodic minors. Recall that I said the relative minor is built from the sixth note of the major key. In the key of C major the relative minor would be Am. You would write out the Am by starting with the A note in the key of C major. So the relative minor of C would be A, B, C, D, E, F and G. A is now the first note. Notice that like the key of C major, Am has no sharps or flats. 

In the key of G major, Em would be the relative minor and written as follows: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D and E. Notice that Em now has 1 sharp just like the key of G major. This is how they share the key signature. And how they are related to each other. All major keys have a relative or natural minor.

Now here is how you construct the harmonic minor. To construct this minor scale you just take the natural minor and raise the seventh note. The notes of the natural minor of A are as follows. A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Now look at A harmonic minor. A, B, C, D, E, F, and G#. So, to construct the harmonic minor take the natural minor of any key and raise the seventh note.

One more example in G major. The relative or natural minor in G. E, F#, G, A, B, C, D and E. E harmonic minor would be as follows: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D# and E.

The next minor we will cover briefly is the Melodic minor. To construct this minor you would once again use the natural minor. This time you would take the natural minor and raise the 6th and 7th note on the way up. And then put them back to their natural state on the way back down.

Example for A melodic minor constructed from the relative minor A.
A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#, A,    A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A

To recap. Take the natural minor of the major key and raise the seventh note to create the harmonic minor. 

Take the natural minor of the major key and raise the 6th and 7th note going up and return to the natural state when returning or descending for the melodic minor.

This chapter is long enough for now, so you need to get busy. 


  • Take the blank illustrations I use and write every note for every key. Start with the key of C major, G, D, A, E, B and Eb. Once you finish this, finish the rest of the keys too.
  • Figure out each relative minor for each key.
  • Construct the harmonic and melodic minor from at least 1 key.
  • Once you construct the harmonic minor on the blank illustration, notice the large space or interval between the sixth and seventh note. 
  • Once you fill in the blank illustrations for each minor scale, natural, melodic and harmonic, figure out a 1-4-5 progression for each.
  • Examine the Key of Eb and notice a very important relation. Notice that once you write out the key of Eb and construct the relative minor of C. Notice that The relative minor and the key of C major share the same dominant note of G. Wow, that is really intense. Knowing how this works, will help in modulating between keys. Or modulating between distant keys.
  • Once you have each key filled out on blank illustrations, circle the tonic notes and dominant notes of each key. Do the same for each minor scale, natural, melodic and harmonic.
  • Use the blank illustrations to create the A natural minor, A melodic minor and A harmonic scales. Once you have these illustrations filled out, figure out each chord that would be in each scale. We know the chords of A natural minor are Am, B dim, C , Dm, Em, F, G. But what would the chords in the A melodic minor scale be when we raise the 6th and 7th notes? What chords would be in the harmonic minor now that we raised the 7th note?

Do not feel overwhelmed by all of this. Do what you can, when you can. These assignments will begin to open your eyes and ears on how each key can be put together for changing keys while playing. When you play music and what to switch keys, the trick is to know what chords and notes are common to one another. In the key of C major the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C. In the key of G major the notes are G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G. Notice how each of these keys share 6 of the 7 notes in each key. By knowing this, you will be able to make a transition from the key of C to the key of G. 

Even though the key of C and the key of Eb only share 4 notes, it is still possible to switch to this key. You could use the G to go to the Cm because the G is the dominant note in each key. There are other ways to switch keys, but you need to learn other keys first. You have a lot of work ahead of you.

Good Luck,

Guitar Secrets