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

Afternoon Tea

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

Other Workshops

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.”

More about Susan Deas

Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching music appreciation courses for more than twenty years, through Sydney University's Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. 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 teaches piano and music theory to adults and children, and plays piano and organ at various venues around Sydney.

More about Susan's qualifications

Read what people have said about Susan's other courses

Susan's other music courses