There is a common technic used in orchestration across all genres of music. Sometimes in the second verse or before the singer is about to repeat another part in the song there is a move usually up in scale that brings a sense of a fresh beginning. I've heard some orchestrators come back to it and in some instances, in the end, there is a constant move of scales while the song is fading out. Does anyone know how is this referred to in orchestration, and if there is a rule or a guide to determine the next scale in movement? Thanks.

2 Answers 2


I think you're talking about the 'truck driver' modulation. PLay it, then play it again, up one step!

A composing/arranging technique more than an orchestration one.


Here's a fun take-off of the technique!

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    Many church organists do this for the last verse of a hymn. J.S. Bach was known to do this, and it may have originated with him, as he was one of the first to temper organs so that they sounded good in all keys. Commented May 12, 2021 at 23:23
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    @MarkLutton: Interesting to hear Bach did this; can you give any pointer to more information about that? I was wondering about the older history of this modulation recently, and couldn’t find much, but probably because I wasn’t sure what other names it’s known under.
    – PLL
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 8:50
  • I rather suspect that Bach did more than just "pause, move hands, start playing higher with no transition"! Commented May 13, 2021 at 17:02
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    @PLL: The source is an 18th century report in the Dresdener Gelehrte Anzeigen, referenced in Stauffer & May: J.S. Bach as Organist (Indiana Univ Press 1986) page ix. "Bach played the Creed in D minor, but for the second verse he lifted the congregation into E-flat minor, and for the third verse he took those present even higher, to E minor. This could be accomplished only by a Bach and an organ in Altenberg." [Because of well-tempered tuning.] Commented May 13, 2021 at 22:58
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    @MarkLutton Absolutely fascinating, and thanks for sharing. So often this kind of modulation is viewed as kitschy and cheap. I never would have dreamt that Bach did it!
    – Richard
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 23:41

This is called modulation, and it is a very common technique for changing the feel of a piece. Very loosely speaking, a modulation toward higher pitches adds excitement; a modulation toward lower pitches calms things down.

There aren't exactly rules for determining the "next" scale, but there are some common techniques. One of the most common is to move upward one step (at a time). This adds energy to the music more gradually.

Another possibility is to do a more abrupt modulation to show off the soloist's/lead singer's range. A song might start in the singer's mid range but suddenly modulate upward so that the singer is belting at the top of their range.

There is an excellent (but somewhat technical) discussion of the various ways to modulate in How many types of modulation are there?.

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