Key, Tonality, Modes and Modulations

General Knowledge Workshops

Key, tonality, modes and modulations

Key and tonality are at the very heart of music, and understanding how they work gives musicians a depth of understanding that opens up new worlds. In this workshop, students will gain a deeper understanding of the way key and tonality function in music, and learn how to analyse and detect different keys and modulations. The cycle of fiths, and the modes, so often used in contemporary music, will also be explained and explored.

For high school students, aged 12 to 18

This workshop will help with:

  • Practical exams, all grades
  • Theory of Music, all grades
  • Musicianship, all grades
  • Music Craft, all grades

Course Outline

Session 1: Scales, Keys and Modulations

  • Discussion: what are scales for?
  • How we hear music
  • What is a scale?
  • The Major Scale
  • The Cycle of Fifths
  • The Minor Scale: three types
  • Changing Key (Modulations)
  • How to spot modulations

Session 2: Modes and other scales

  • Where do our notes come from?
  • The origins of western music
  • The Medieval Modes
  • Other types of scales
  • Equal Temperament

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Full Day Workshops

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General information about the workshops


“I learnt more about the modes, how keys are related to each other, the point of having keys and scales”

“It was easy to understand and follow”

“Made modes easier to understand”

“I liked how music and science is interrelated, and it was interesting about the history and culture behind modes and keys. This session consolidated my knowledge of keys, tones, etc.”

About Susan Deas

Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching piano and music theory for over twenty years, and is accredited in both Piano and Musicianship. Her training includes a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance (Piano) and Musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and an A.Mus.A in Musicianship. Susan also lectures in music theory and music appreciation for Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. She performs professionally as a pianist and organist, as well as giving professional development workshops and lessons to private music teachers. Susan is on the Board of the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW.

More about Susan's qualifications

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