Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Building a modulating arraingement

Hey all,

I’m working on a little “learning project”: The Old Rugged Cross in 4 different keys as a sort of an exercise.
G, Bb, C and D

Any ideas, suggestions or comments on the order to run these keys in to play all of them as a single piece?

Normally when I do htis type thing I jsut start at the lowest key and work my way up in order, but I’m wondering if there might be a better way to go about it.


The G and D are essentially the same version.
Bb and C are quite unique unto themselves.

I can move from any one to any of the others about as easily, so the question is more about “pleasing sound”, and maybe accepted traditions in theory, etc.

I look forward to seeing any suggestions anyone may have, and the reasoning behind them…Thanks!

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Ben’s Red River Valley for banjo has some great key change modulations in it, that I think would be very applicable.

Here’s another thought.

“I will cling to the old rugged cross.”

Right here change whatever the major is to a minor, for one bar, then on to the next chord.

“And exchange it some day for a crown”

Hope that works.


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RRV is a good example of what my project entails except it will be a fiddle piece w/possible rhythm guitar…and be in four keys (Bb, C, G, and D).

I have no problem coming up with different modulations…

The question is “what order would you do the keys in and why”.

Just started playing with it. Starting in G I like the transition to D… instead of walking up to D7 right before the second verse walk to an A7 leading to the D. It is a “natural” sounding change for such a big jump. Likewise, at end of chorus 2 instead of an A7, walk to a G7, leading to a C. It kinda works for me. That was the quick thought. Thinking about getting to Bb… I am thinking a little musical turnaround journey might be needed to get there. That’s just my first thought.
Before I posted… I played with getting to the Bb. I want a cooler way, but honestly, just hitting the F7 gets my ear there. I tried to get cute with just the Adim, but I need the root to drag me there.

You asked why I went the way I did… no mathematical or music theory reason… it’s just what seemed most natural to my my ear to hit those keys. That was first pass. We can keep trying to get to a more unique path. I’ll say this, I typically like elevating modes, but “The old rugged cross” is a somber song to me (even though a joyous outcome), I always feel reverent and a bit somber with this one. Maybe that’s why I like stepping down the last two key changes.

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I might do the natural G to C using the G7, then a chromatic or surprise modulation to D, then go to an F7 at the end of the D (which sounds bluesy in D) and have that lead you to Bb.


Thanks for the input and suggestions!

This is a fiddle piece I’m building from different breaks I’m absconding with. The C version will be derived from Ben’s Mando lesson, D version comes from John Cockman’s fiddle lessons, the G will be a mix of those two and my own, and the Bb is from a contest version by Luke Price.

After messing around with the transitions a bit I’ve decided I really like the order Ben suggested because:
Every modulation will be different than the others
it splits up the two versions that will be the most similar sounding.
each break gets progressively more intricate,and the Bb has a great ending.

I’m currently thinking that each modulation will entail 3 (possibly 4 if needed) double-stops between roots…basically a measure of quarter notes added between each key…


I do hope you can share a video of the complete project Dave

I don’t have the equipment or expertise to do a decent sounding video…

I may try an audio of it some day, but I don’t see it happening in the near future as it’s a big learning project for me.