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I just recently recall about this song and started to play it. There is a change of base chord in the song during the bridge.

I am playing on C (C, G, Am, F, Em) and during the bridge, it changed to become using Eb, Cm, Gm and Dm.

What is this kind of change called?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Popular music, when it does have key changes, rarely has any kind of extended modulation like classical music but rather tends to jump directly to the new key. And the key change is rarely to things like the dominant.

A jump from a minor key to the relative major is probably the most common key change in popular music. My guess is the second most common would be the change up a tone, often at the end of a song or after the bridge to add excitement as the song reaches its climax.

But a third that you do see (that, like the minor/relative major change is more about contrast than adding excitement) is a change to the relative major of the parallel minor (e.g. C major to Eb major or G major to Bb major). I've written a couple of songs that make this change between verse and chorus. Coming back to the original tonal centre after the change can give a real sense of "returning" after a detour.

Better Man seems to make use of this same temporary key change to emphasize the detour that is the bridge and give it more of a contrast.

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is it still called as modulation? – Phelios Jun 9 '11 at 1:45
@Phelios yes, you could call it modulation, although most modulation involves the whole transition from one tonal centre to another and in the case of this song, it's an instant jump – James Tauber Jun 9 '11 at 3:22

I could be wrong, but I think all it is is a key change. Key changes are used a lot in music to set up tension that will later be released by returning to the original key. It seems to me he changed from the key of C to the key of Eb (1-and-a-half steps higher) and then back to the key of C.

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