How do I Transpose (modulate) to a
different KEY using The Music Wheel?

Look at The Music Wheel slice in the Key of C (red slice). If a particular song you are playing is written in C major, you will be playing the family of chord progressions in that slice. If you would like to modulate (change key) to C#, then look opposite the wheel to the red slice that displays C# major. You will ascend a half-step up the scale and employ the I, IV, and V chord progressions that pertain to C# major. (The Key of C major has no sharps or flats so is played on all white keys; but C# major on a keyboard will be employing 6 black keys within its chord structures; on a guitar, mando, or banjo, you will be going up one fret).

C major & C# major


C major & D major
If you wish to transpose (modulate) a whole step from the Key of C, look at the red slice adjacent (neighboring)--the Key of D. Now you will be employing the I, IV, and V chord progressions of the Key of D. These are the “family”of chords that pertain to the Key of D. I call them “family” because they have “relatives”—the minors—with which they share a slice.

Transposing (modulation) means changing to another Key. This adds variety to an otherwise repetitive song. When I play Bluegrass or Folk music on the mando, modulation is used commonly midway through the song to make it more scintillating for the audience.

Or, sometimes, a vocalist needs a particular song played in a different Key to suit his/her vocal range. Many women vocalists use the Key of D, the Key of C, and the Key of G. Men vocalists with a higher range often sing in the Key of G; baritones often use the Key of A and the Key of E. If you look at the scales on the staff of each slice indicating a particular Key, there is an eight note major scale (and an overlapping eight note minor scale). These scales indicate the range within which a vocalist will be singing).

If I am asked to transpose (modulate) on the keyboard from one particular Key to another, I generally play the scale first to orient myself, then I play the I, IV, and V chords pertaining to that particular Key.