I'm trying to do harmonic analysis of "Walk this Way" by Aerosmith. Verses and choruses uses I to IV progression, but I wonder about the riff in the bridge. It seem to be played in the E key. Joe Perry, the guitarist and composer, said:

"I didn't want the song to have a typical, boring 1, 4, 5 chord progression. After playing the first riff in the key of C, I shifted to E before returning to C for the verse and chorus."

I think that the E key is the V of the relative minor scale (A minor) of the C major key, in which the song is written. But it is a rather uncommon way to modulate between the keys (it should modulate to the E key through dominant seventh B chord, in means of classical harmony).

Can anyone please tell me what kind of modulation is this? Or, if my analysis is incorrect, can anyone please tell me what is the harmonic reason to play the bridge in E scale?


Thank you all for your help! It gave me a deeper insight into harmony of popular music.

  • 1
    Keep in mind that many rock bands didn't know music theory and/or harmony and many of their songs are purely written by their ear. So there are a few of them that might not make harmonic sense Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 12:25
  • Yeah. I see that's fairly common practice. Unfortunately, it's more difficult to explain to someone, why exactly this chord is used in chord progression, not the other one. Music is more unpredictable than I thought :)
    – arek
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


"I think that the E key is the V of the parallel minor scale"

Note that a key can't be the V of anything, only a chord could be the V. But we don't have an E major chord here, we have a (blues) "riff" in E, and another riff in C. The song moves between these two riffs and none of the classical modulation techniques is applied. If you want to give a name to what's happening, I would suggest unprepared modulation, which is just moving from one key to the next, without using any device to prepare this key change.

Something similar does happen in classical music, where it's called phrase modulation, but in that case the two keys are usually more closely related than is the case for "Walk this Way".

  • 2
    A.k.a. 'Truck driver's gear change'.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 16:19
  • 9
    @Tim: I actually don't think so. For me, a truck driver's gear change is a key change close to the end of a song where you go up by one or two semi-tones. It's different from what's happening in Walk This Way, where you just move between two tonal centers throughout the whole song.
    – Matt L.
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 16:26

An E chord COULD be used as the dominant of the relative minor. But in this case I think he's just shifted the tonal centre up a third as a contrast, because it sounds good- after all, that's what he SAID he's done! There's nothing wrong in you saying so too. It WOULD be wrong to invent a connection with a relative minor that never actually arrives.

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