Changing key signatures/keys but NOT SIMULTANEOUSLY

  • Can you clarify? Are you asking for a term meaning that the key signature changes, but the actual key at the time does not? And I suggest removing "multi-metric", which seems to confuse the question further.
    – Aaron
    Oct 18, 2020 at 4:42
  • Sorry about that. I mean when a piece might change its key signature every few bars, similar to how the time signature may change every few bars. For rhythm, I believe this would be called multi-metric/poly-metric
    – user71207
    Oct 18, 2020 at 4:58
  • 1
    For rhythm, the term would be mixed meter; "polymetric" means that multiple different time signatures are occurring simultaneously.
    – Aaron
    Oct 18, 2020 at 5:42
  • 3
    Contemporary practice for music that changes key constantly is not to write a key signature at all and just use accidentals everywhere.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 18, 2020 at 15:17
  • 1
    What piece of music does this? Oct 18, 2020 at 18:47

3 Answers 3


There's no specific term for the fact of changing key signatures frequently (but see ViviRukisha's answer), but in light of the term multi-metric I see no reason not to coin the term multi-tonal or multi-modulatory. The latter might be better to avoid confusion with polytonal.

  • Yes, something like multi-modulatory seems good
    – user71207
    Oct 18, 2020 at 7:27
  • 6
    +1 for multi-tonal, and I would mention that it is not necessary to have key signatures written explicitly in order for a piece to be multi-tonal. Many jazz standards (extreme example: Giant Steps) are multi-tonal, but they don't bother specifying all the different key signatures: you have the chords and the melody and all the accidentals, and the different tonal centers and modulations are easily inferred from that.
    – MMazzon
    Oct 18, 2020 at 9:55

No there isn't, and I counsel against inventing one! The distinction between 'multi', 'poly' or any other prefix you could come up with won't be immediately clear, and there will be confusion between your intended meaning and SIMULTANEOUSLY multiple keys.

If you want to describe this, do it in plain English. Something like 'This passage has frequent changes of key signature'.


Yes. This is often referred to as Modulation. However, it is not mandatory for a change in key signature when it comes to modulation. This can be achieved by the use of accidentals as well.

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