Please explain for me the difference between chromatic root movement and modulation in the chord progression of a song?

  • 2
    How do I ask a good question? : Search, and research Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer
    – Stinkfoot
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


Chromatic root movement would typically refer to a progression of chords--all in the same key signature--where the root descends chromatically or ascends chromatically. For example, this can be achieved using a tritone substitution:

| Dmin | Db7  | CMaj |

The root descends chromatically from D to Db to C. The entire progression is in the key of C, and the chromatic movement doesn't imply a change of key/tonal center. As a more dramatic example, we could have something like this:

| CMaj | GMaj/B | BbMaj | FMaj/A | E7alt/G# | CMaj/G | D7/F# | G7 | 

Again, this entire progression is centered around the key of CMaj. While there may be some passing chords that don't fit perfectly in CMaj, nothing here qualifies as a key change to a different tonal center.

By contrast, modulation implies moving from a first key to a second, different key. For example, the song could modulate from a tonal center of CMaj to DbMaj:

| CMaj | FMaj | G7 | Ab7 | DbMaj | GbMaj | Ab7 | GbMaj | DbMaj |

In the third and fourth bars, there is ascending chromatic movement in the bass, and this is due to a key change from CMaj to DbMaj.

So in short: chromatic root movement typically implies chromatic ascension/descension in a single key, whereas modulation implies moving to a new key. Both can involve movement along the chromatic scale.

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.