I'm trying to find a good modulation from Dm to D. I know that I could use Dm-A7-D but it feels a bit to unsophisticated.

I thought that I maybe could do something like Dm-X-C-X-Em-X-D where X is zero or more chords, but with no luck.

The transition back is already fixed. I did that with D-D7-G-Gm-Gm7-G°⁷-Dm. I'm not 100% satisfied, but it works. But the minor to major still haunts me.

The song is kind of a dixiejazz version of Midnight in Moscow.

The full chord progression of a chorus is this:

    Dm      Gm      A7      Dm      F       Gm  C7  F       E7  A7
    Dm              Gm              Dm      A7      Dm      E7  A7   
    Dm              Gm              Dm      A7      Dm      

The major version of the chorus is:

    D       G       A7      D       F#      G       D       E7  A7
    D               G               D       A7      D       E7  A7
    D               G               D       A7      D        

The difference is pretty small, but just putting them after each other does not work very well. I need to either build some kind of bridge between them or do the transition within the chorus. However, I have already spent quite a lot of work on the beginning in the major key, so I would prefer a bridge.


I found a solution that works for my case, but I will not accept any answer unless someone comes with something really stellar about this topic. Thanks for your answers so far.

  • 1
    You don't need to "find" anything. Just start using D major and G major chords, and that's it. This isn't really a "modulation" at all - you could easily wander between the major and minor modes twice in every bar, if you wanted to!
    – user19146
    Aug 12, 2018 at 19:42
  • @alephzero Well, that is what I'm doing now and I don't think it works very well in this case.
    – klutt
    Aug 12, 2018 at 20:39
  • Thanks @Richard I was on my way to meta to figure out how to do that. (Prevent autoformatting yadayada)
    – klutt
    Aug 12, 2018 at 21:00
  • Glad to help! I've had my own difficulties in the past with that :-)
    – Richard
    Aug 12, 2018 at 21:00
  • 1
    Wow, your "failed" Dm-X-C-X-Em-X-D example looks a ton like the second movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. It starts in D minor, swings to C major, then travels to E minor, then wends its way back to D minor, then hits D major (and then does more stuff that isn't relevant to this discussion).
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 13, 2018 at 5:56

6 Answers 6


The Dm-A7-D is good but a bit of elaboration helps. One good method is to set up the expectation of a minor chord with:

dm-X-e06-A7-dm dm-X-e06-A7-dm dm-X-e06-A7-D

Another technique is to just go dm-D somewhere. In both cases, one sets up the expectation of a minor chord and replaces it with the major. It's not a true modulation, just a change of mode. By making the major and minor of the same chord occur in parallel positions, the audience is kept in a bit more suspense.

dm-gm-dm-A dm-gm-A7-dm D-gm-A7-D dm-e0-A7-dm

The only problem I've found with this technique (which I tend to overuse) is that the whole piece sounds like it's in the same key (it is, of course.) I try to do real modulations to nearby keys when also moving to the parallel major.

  • "the whole piece sounds like it's in the same key (it is, of course.)" Correct. And when your ears disagree with your harmony textbook, what should you do? Burn the book, or cut off your ears? The answer should be obvious!
    – user19146
    Aug 12, 2018 at 19:44
  • 2
    Depends on how much you know. If you are a beginner, your ears may not be trustworthy. However, as one progresses, one learns when to skip what the books say. Mostly it's a matter of noting that the "book" is describing another style from yours. Eventually one learns what to use (and how to use it) and what to skip.
    – ttw
    Aug 12, 2018 at 22:32

There are different ways to thing of this. Minor to parallel major is a bit of a weird move sometimes. Often people think or use the opposite, ie, Major to parallel Minor.

That said, it depends on what style, what sort of chord inversions and/or voice leading you are comfortable with--> or need to get into the tool kit!

A couple of ideas. First, Dminor is the relative minor of Fmajor, so you can change perspective, so to speak, by thinking of going from Fmajor to Dmajor. How about going Fmajor to Bminor(relative minor of Dmajor)? That's weird, and gives you a sense of the whole thing being a bit trickier than it appears.

Voice leading is a good way to accomplish the original question. (You did it transitioning back.) The good, old standard a la Freebird: b3 b7 (new chord in your case) can work well.

ie-> Dmin / / /|F / C / |to-->>| Dmaj / / / ||-->>to whatever you come up with for Dmajor

You don't have to (and maybe shouldn't, depending on what you're aiming for) just use a big, clumsy bar chord movement. Voice lead something like the following:

F = Fmaj/A or spelled [A F C] C = Cmaj/G or spelled [G E C]

and then to Dmajor: Dmaj/F# -> spelled [F# D A D]

Something w/ a bit more movement and flash:

Dmin Dmin/C GmajB | Amin Cmaj/G -> Dmaj/F#

    the above would be spelled (bottom to top)

- Dmin = D A F - Dmin/C = C D A F (you could also drop the D and think of this chord as either Dmin/C or as F spelled -> C A F - G/B = B G D G

then move to next part:

  • Amin = A E C
  • Cmaj/G = G E C
  • Dmaj/F# = F# D A D

That moving from Minor to Major can have a sort of "majestic" sound.


Wow. I've been playing w/ these key/chord changes all day. There are TONS of fun ways to go about this!

  • Quick hint for now: I mentioned thinking of Fmajor in place of Dmin (relative minor).

Now, go a step further--> Use the parallel minor of Fmajor --> Fminor, or Abmajor.

What I'm coming up with for myself is weaving together inversions of Abmajor and moving to Dmajor.

This is what I used for Dminor.  Pretty basic, just wanted to get the sound

    || Dmin / C / | Bb / F / ||

Then moving into Fminor I used these chords:

    | Fmin/Ab / E/G# / | Db/Ab //// | F#maj / F+#9 | Emin7b5 / Eb/G / ||

-->|D |

What I messed w/ from there went (in Dmajor):

    |D / / / |E/G# /// |G /// |F#min ///| 
    |F#min///|E / / /  |G /// |D / / /  |
    |D / Amin Fmaj7 | C / Bb / || 

From the Bb I went back to Dminor:

-->|| Dmin ||

I hope that makes sense. It's just a sketch, so the exact number of measures, etc isn't proper sounding yet. Not sure how you would make this Dixie style, but very fun.

  • I updated the question about what style it is. It's dixie.
    – klutt
    Aug 12, 2018 at 19:17

I might suggest a bit of Modal Mixture to get you there. If you were to set up a cadence leading to the parallel major by using chords from it, then you would be able to ready the ears for the change. So you might use Em in that setup, or G, as your predominant chord. You could also use Bm, as that includes the major third of your parallel major. You could also try something like Gm to G to A7, which would sound a little more sudden but would set you up.

One general approach that people use to accomplish these types of modulations is to set up some chromatic motion within the chords leading to your modulation. This could be F to F#m to G, where the roots of the chords are moving chromatically, or the earlier example I provided of Gm to G, where it is the inner voice moving chromatically (the third of the chords). Chromatic motion is relatively easy for your ears to grasp and feels fairly smooth compared to jumping to chords that don't belong in your key, so if you're able to find chords that incorporate chromatic motion on the way to your modulation, you can ready the ears for the transition.


I found a solution. It is not very smooth, but it does the job and is quite interesting in a weird way.

The raw material that I altered was the last line of the chorus:

    Dm              Gm              Dm      A7      Dm      

Then I did this:

    Dm              Gm7      C      F       G9  A+  D      

I know this may seen like a shameless commersial, but I don't earn a nickel on it. If you are interested in the result (I may change this upload at any time and also delete it) you can hear it here: https://musescore.com/user/12760656/scores/5191357

The section of interest for this question is at E. Other sections of interest on the same topic (key-changing) are how B transitions to C and how F'' changes key in the end. (The letters are rehearsal marks and not chords)

Thanks for the help guys. I read your answers and tried them out. They did not work for me, or maybe a bit more truthfully, I did not manage to get them work. They did however inspire me. Unless something really stellar comes up, I think I'll refrain from accepting an answer to this question. I'll give you upvotes though.

  • Cool. Didn't know what you were looking to do until you'd mentioned "Dixie".
    – Robert J
    Aug 14, 2018 at 3:09

Try Dm - Gm - Em7b5 Eb7 - D -That's 4 bars worth, including half a bar of tts.


'Minor to parallel major' is a modulation where 'just jump in' is almost certainly by far the best solution. Get to a chord that COULD lead to D minor. Go to D major instead. Or end a section in D minor, kick off the next section with D major. It's barely a modulation at all. But can be a very effective and dramatic change if you don't obscure it by trying to be 'clever'!

Here's a very well-known example of 'just doing it'. A minor to A major, but the same difference!

enter image description here

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