I know a few types of modulation off the top of my head like common chord modulation and and chromatic modulation, but I was wondering how many different types of modulation are there and what are some examples of these modulations?

  • 1
    The "cookbook supplement" to Reger's textbook is online here: archive.org/details/supplementtotheo00rege
    – user19146
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 16:31
  • 1
    There's lots of modulation in the enormous space of music around the world. Did you mean to qualify your question as pertaining only to "harmonic modulation in tonal western music'? If you do indeed wish to limit the scope of answers, question quality guidelines suggest that you do that. (But still make sure to downvote anyone who directly answers your actual as-is question from a wider perspective). Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 1:04

3 Answers 3


This is just an expansion of BlakeTM's answer, included because StackExchange communities typically discourage answering a question (or in this case, a comment) by referring to a link and nothing more. Links sometimes die and we hope for the answers here to live on. That being said, Leinberger lists the following types of modulation:

Diatonic Common Chord: "The common chord is usually just before the new dominant. It has a diatonic function in both the old key and the new key."

Deceptive Cadence: "The dominant in the old key goes to vi or bVI in a major key, or VI in a minor key, which becomes the new tonic."

Enharmonic Modulation using Diminished 7th: 'The dim7 chord is respelled enharmonically so that it has logical function, either diatonic or chromatic, in both the old key and the new key.'


Chromatic Common Chord: "The common chord is usually just before the new dominant. It has a chromatic function in the old key or the new key or both."

Enharmonic Modulation using Mm7th: 'The minor 7th of a Mm7th chord is respelled enharmonically to become an augmented 6th. This chord functions as a German or Italian 6th in one key (either the old key or new key) and a IV7, V7, bVII7, or secondary dominant in the other key.'


Diminished 7th - Mm7th: 'Lowering any chord member of a dim7 chord by a semitone results in a Mm7 chord. Some enharmonic spelling may be necessary. This is usually the dominant in the new key. The dim7 is often functional in both keys.'

Chromatic Mediant: "A functional chord in the old key moves by chromatic mediant to a functional chord in the new key. A common chord is not necessary, but one may be present.


Common Tone Modulation: "One note is sustained. It is a member of a chord that is functional in the old key and becomes a member of a chord that is functional in the new key. A chromatic mediant often exists between these two chords. A common chord is not necessary, but one may be present."

Direct Modulation: "There is no possible common chord. There is no chromatic mediant between the last functional chord in the old key and the first functional chord in the new key. There is no common tone."


Note that these are from a copyrighted document and the page BlakeTM linked.

  • This really isn't much better then just linking it as your answer is really not yours. The page itself is fine, but someone can add so much more detail to the types of modulation and how to use them along with their own examples.
    – Dom
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 20:40
  • 3
    @Dom i agree that more detail and examples would be welcome, and clearly stated the answer was really not mine. i am neither pretending to be a modulation expert, nor do i want any part of your bounty. i disagree that a link to the page is fine. if you are familiar with some of the more established se communities, you know users are discouraged from saying 'look here' without adding content to the answer. we're trying to build a community that people will find useful now and years from now : ) Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 2:37
  • Agreed that this answer is useful because of the examples (and why recontrive examples?), and that linkrot is an issue, especially hated at SO (and by me, who has followed many dead links). Still, direct copy paste seems a bit...off. Maybe unsportsmanly? I think the citation is clear enough so it's not a problem though.
    – Josiah
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 21:48
  • 1
    @josiah yea it's not my preferred method either. in 5+ months, they have not added to their answer, so i was comfortable with that as an indication that they don't plan to. if anyone can get them to add at least some of this to their answer, i'll happily delete mine. as long as the information is available here somehow. and i'd still love to see someone add to what's here. Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 0:23
  • 1
    Isn't this what community wiki answers are designed for?
    – scrowler
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 6:10

There are 9 types:

  1. Diatonic Common Chord
  2. Altered Common Chord
  3. Enharmonic Modulation using Mm7 Chord
  4. Deceptive Cadence
  5. Enharmonic Modulation using °7 Chord
  6. Diminished7 -> Major-minor7
  7. Chromatic Mediant
  8. Common Tone Modulation
  9. Direct Modulation

Source: Modulation Types for Musical Analysis, by Charles Francis Leinberger, Ph.D.

  • 1
    I know I didn't ask for an explanation or an example, but it would be great if you could.
    – Dom
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 16:47
  • 1
    The source I attached at the bottom has the different types of modulation and explanations for all of them! Hope that helps! Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 17:28
  • Does anyone know why he called the dominant chords Mm7?
    – Caleb
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 23:14

My answer is there are inifinte types. The "types" that we currently accept as "types" now may change, as music changes. Indeed, if you asked the people writing Gregorian Chant for an exhaustive list of the types of modulation, I'm guessing the list would be much shorter than if you asked, say, Franz Liszt.

Here's another type:

Rhythmic Modulation according to Gavin Harrison, from his book Rhythmic Illusions:

Just as you would 'Modulate' from one 'key' to another, if you were playing the piano for instance, 'Rhythmic Modulation' sounds like you've stepped up into a new tempo. So Modulation is like taking a rhythm that is in a different tempo and superimposing it over the tempo you are currently playing in.

It may appear to sound like a tempo change but it is in fact just a different way of grouping the subdivisions...

There are also other types, even in western music, that are not so formally defined, such as instrumental and timbral modulation.

Also considering that other cultures have completely different approaches to music, you can see that the different ways music can modulate, or change, is quite a large space.

  • 1
    I guess the scope of this site is limited to tonal western music...pretty stuffy if you ask me, and not explicitly documented anywhere. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 19:23
  • 1
    Revisiting this after awhile. Note the OP still has not updated to limit their question to tonal western music. I know the scope of the site is implicitly limited to this (tonal) music, and I think that's elitist, culturally exclusionary, and dumb. It's OK if the discussion is explicitly limited to this genre, but assuming it's the only music in the world is ignorant at best. The down votes are telling, I wear them with pride; consider this my protest. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 0:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.