For a mutual friend's wedding, a cellist friend and I (violin) are trying to adapt Ludovico Einaudi's "Divenire" for the groomsmen walking in (as it's the groom's favorite song as of late), transitioning to the unofficial Korean national anthem, Arirang, because the bride is Korean and has specifically requested this.

Divenire is in A minor. The arrangement of Arirang we're playing is in... G major? (It goes D E D E G A G A B A B G E D.) The thing is, I don't know if this should be considered a different, "Asian" kind of scale. Because something about the missing Fourth and Major 7th makes it not "truly" sound like a major key to me.

Where I'm running into trouble is writing a transition from Divenire to Arirang. We don't want to change the key of Arirang, so I transposed my arrangement of Divenire from A minor to E minor, thinking E minor and G major should be doable. Like, we'd loop a bunch of whole notes at the end of our Divenire that transition the mood, until the first bridesmaid walks in, and then we begin Arirang from a violin solo.

But no matter what I try, E minor doesn't seem to go into this particular "brand" of G major. And I have a strong feeling it is connected to the missing Fourth and Major 7th because when I add those into a more "westernized" version of Arirang, the transition is easy.

Does anyone know what concepts I'm missing, and if there is a known way to do these kinds of transitions?

Thank you.

  • 1
    I don't know the song but the melody you've written here is very much G major pentatonic. This can sound "Asian" but doesn't necessarily have to, the pentatonic is one of the most common sets of notes to use in all kinds of music, European folk music included. Take a look at this nice demonstration of how intuitive it is by bobby mcferrin youtube.com/watch?v=ne6tB2KiZuk Also this video shows is just how readily and easily major pentatonic modulates to and from the relative minor (when he sings dyaaa da da da above, that's exactly what's happening). , in fact, it's one of (cont.)
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 30, 2017 at 16:01
  • 1
    (cont.) the few "functional harmony" things you can do with the pentatonic, so that's not going to be the problem. I'll have a listen to the einaudi song now. Pretty much all of his music is diatonic chords thoughtlessly thrown together and repeated ad nauseum, so it shouldn't be too hard to get it to transition effectively by just throwing another couple of chords in.
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 30, 2017 at 16:06
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    Also just as a side note, it's seems a little strange to want to play a Korean folk song in the "original" key, since it will have existed long long before concert pitch was standardised, and for most of its history will have been played at a myriad of pitches. I mean, how long has the Korean musical practice even included the western "notes"? I don't know anything at all about Korean music, but I imagine the answer is a couple of hundred years at most? Or do you just like the way that key for that melody works specifically on the violin, in which case, fair play.
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 30, 2017 at 16:09
  • Thank you for all of your comments, @Some_Guy! Very helpful. The actual reason we don't wanna change the key is indeed unrelated to history: we already have the folk song down, bowings and all, and the wedding is coming up very soon. Just trying to economize on effort :-) Totally agree with your points though. Jul 30, 2017 at 22:31
  • please do give an update as to how it's going :) Also, sorry about my ...er... presentational style, the other night, although hopefully at least my content was helpful!
    – Some_Guy
    Aug 3, 2017 at 8:23

2 Answers 2


OK, so I didn't listen to the whole Einaudi song, but the last minute or so is a straight up Dorian vamp in A minor.

That is to say, it's a repetition of the following chords:

Am, C , G, D MAJOR

That is to say, this is a modal piece of music, not "minor" in the Bach-y sense. Harmonically it's like "Scarborough fair" for example. The harmonic progression is like that of Dorian folk music not like that of minor classical music: an E dominant seventh chord would sound ugly in this context for example, whereas an E minor chord would sound natural: a very different beast.

Transitioning from Dorian to major by going up a minor third works sometimes, but other times it sound odd, and the reason for that (like you've perceived here) is that the sharp 6 note is the augmented fourth of the major.

So in this example, you're coming straight from a big D major chord and trying to make that sound natural in C major. (Or transposed as you have, you're trying to make an huge A major chord blend nicely into G major.) It's awkward.

A better transition is to transition to the major key a whole tone below. Good news for you, that's G major! So you don't need to transpose either piece. A minor, C major, G major, and D major are the bread and butter of G major anyway, so the transition is easy. You can use an E minor to smooth things over if you like too. It works quite well because it doesn't have much of a dominant pull back to A minor, and you can just smoothly walk it up to G through D major first inversion, and bingo, you're home!

Another option is to resolve the Einaudi piece on a minor, then flick back between A minor and E minor for a bit, then pay E minor, A7, D major, and land on Arirang in G major.

In short, keep it in a minor. The transition will be more natural.


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    @AreelXochaI will admit that my terminological choices may have been affected by my level of inebriation.
    – Some_Guy
    Aug 3, 2017 at 8:17
  • Am7-D7-G6 makes the ii-V for the modulation to G major. Am I jazzy yet, mom?
    – user45266
    Oct 3, 2018 at 4:45

As others have pointed out, Arirang is based on a G major pentatonic scale which, while not strictly Asian, is used often in traditional asian music (traditional Chinese music for example, as opposed to traditional Japanese music which is usually based on a minor pentatonic scale). In fact, folk traditions of music are pretty universally based on the pentatonic scale, even for instance Mary Had a Little Lamb, or Auld Lang Syne.

As for your question, I agree E minor (the relative minor of G major) would be a good transposition for Divenire, and for the actual transition you have many options. You could vamp on an E minor chord, or continue to play the Em-G-D-Am progression of Divenire until it comes time to switch and then slow down and on the A minor, instead of switching back to E minor, hit a D major real quick before jumping into G major for the next song. Or even take the actual dramatic ending of Divenire (after vamping for enough time) and then just slide smoothly and slowly into Arirang. Just some suggestions.

Whatever you choose, I suggest avoiding the notes C and F# in whatever melody you play during the vamp, as those won't be present in Arirang in just a few seconds.

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    The problem isn't with Arirang, it's that the einaudi piece is dorian. It'd be better to leave it in A minor and transition from there (or moving through E Aeolian)
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 30, 2017 at 16:46

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