Baroque Improv – Modulating keys by 6ths

Modulating to new keys can provide freshness to our improvisations and will also emulate what the masters like Bach were doing in their compositions.

We can play in the key of C and modulate to the key with root a diatonic sixth above it which is Am. Then we can modulate within Am to the F major key, then to Dm, then to Bb major then to Gm and so on.

For each key we will use a IV V I progression which is also very popular with Bach. We will use 1st inversion (3rd in bass) for both the IV and V chords leading to the root inversion of the I chord. So the bass movement has an ascending scalar sound.

I put the notes together for easier viewing but you want the notes to ring (sometimes 3 notes will be ringing together). There are 2 separate lines are work here so be sure to replicate that. In the first example be sure to bar the C major triad on the high 3 strings so that the notes can ring. Here’s an example (be sure to work this out for all the other keys and make up your own melodies):

Please check out my Baroque Improvisation Course if you’re interested learning more of this.

PS. This idea was inspired by the late Ted Greene. I am so grateful for his teachings.

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