How to Modulate to G 1/2 Sharp (Jacob Collier-style)

How to Modulate to G 1/2 Sharp (Jacob Collier-style)

you know how they say that we can only access 20% of our brain Oh what this does and let you access all of it it lets you become like Jacob Collier look you can stretch Molly really far I'm stretched while I'm doing my best so Jacob Collier for those of you don't know he's a musician who started out on YouTube doing covers and more recently he's released a couple of albums of his own material which might loosely call in a jazz funk style and have to say I've been constantly amazed impressed and inspired not just by his incredible musicianship but by this sort of humility and modesty with which he carries his talent and he seems to have a voracious appetite for music wherever it comes from whether it's Herbie Hancock Moroccan percussion or even as this clip shows 20th century opera really really crucially for me there was opera by a man named Benjamin Britten's written them as some of the most amazing classical music ever and this is one opera he wrote called the turn of the screw the harmony in it is insane like there's it this this twelve tone row and he goes it goes like and all these notes are happening at the same time and it's at the beginning of the apprentice in my experience in my life is the most exciting musical moment I've ever ever experienced coming from a training in classical composition I'm used to looking at composers like Ligety or thomas addis for inspiring cutting-edge research into the extremes of rhythm and harmony but time and again Jacob Collier has proved their equal whether it's exploring how micro pulses create different fields of groove or moving beyond the 12 divisions of the tempered scale and with his levels of enthusiasm and energy he just seems a bit like that guy in the film unlimited who takes it he'll that makes him superhuman particularly because you can perform all of these complexities in real time effortlessly highlighting the difference between a five based micro pulse and a seven based one talking about the warmth he feels from an a tune to 440 compared to one tune to four three two the beginning of hideaway right and then at the end very good yeah so because d-8432 is in this indoors you know and a-440 is outdoor outdoors so it's like you start inside mmm and then you lived and I think it's his ability to not only here but also sing accurately microtonal intervals which is one of the most astounding talents he has here he is on Instagram splitting a minor third into different numbers of equal divisions I don't think in all my years at music college or in the wider music world I've ever come across someone who could distinguish and recreate microtones to that degree it's a pretty unique level of ability there and the piece will mainly focus on today captures some of that Mike returned allottee and also some of that uniqueness it's an arrangement of the Christmas Carol in the Bleak Midwinter where at one point he manages to modulate from E major to G half sharp major halfway between G and G sharp I mean how many pieces can you think of that change temperament during the piece now I'm not just here to make a gushing video about how wonderful of Jacob Collier is and you can certainly question whether there's any expressive point in all of this other than to show off and we'll come to that question at the end but after my recent video about different types of tuning systems I'd been thinking about doing something more about equal temperament and the way it differs from the natural overtones and the kind of things Jacob has talked about in several online interviews are just such a great way into thinking about these things but they're also quite complicated and in most of the interviews you spend most of the time with your jaw hitting the floor at his crazy level of abilities and fully understanding what he's actually saying is sometimes quite challenging so I thought it might be beneficial to look in more detail at what he's doing we should hopefully be an interesting introduction to Jacob Collier for those of you don't know him and hopefully a slightly more focused and in-depth look at this whole microtonal subject for those of you have already heard something about it so the longest interview I think is the one he did for Jun Lee which comes in three parts which joonas helpfully annotated but he also goes over similar ground in a recent master class in Argentina is so broad and one avoid the perverse forest like where can I go this brighter than E well I've got an idea so this piece as I mentioned manages really unusual feat of modulating to G 1/2 sharp but crucially it does this without as noticing and that's the key thing as he points out you can listen to it and not notice anything weird about the modulation and it feels like some kind of dark magic when he plays the clip from the track initially perfectly in tune with the piano and then suddenly only a few chords later completely out of tune for magical chords and then so to understand what's going on here we first need to know about sense so if you take the notes on the piano the distance between them is a half step or a semitone and the tradition in music theory is to divide that further into a hundred cents so one half step is 100 cents a whole step or whole term would be 200 cents so kolya here is managing to change the overall pitch of the piece by 1/2 of a half-step a quarter tone so that would be $0.50 and that's definitely usually a pretty audible jump if I play you three blind mice see if you can spot the point at which we go up a quarter tone you so reasonably easy to hear I think in fact from reading up about it the generally accepted limit of human perception is around five cents so now here's the same tune but this time with only a five cent change but of course things might be different when you're dealing not just with the melody but with chords as well so here are the first four chords of C major and here they are again but now I've added fifteen cents on to the distance between each chord so I think in that case although it's a pretty small difference I've added it's kind of noticeable and definitely noticeable by the end if you're remembering the initial pitch we've moved up now our 45 cents are pretty much a whole quarter tone so how does it work in Jakob's piece because he too uses just four chords and somehow the change isn't as audible how does he manage without aria is really noticing well this is where it gets really clever to understand it we have to understand the way a major chord that you play on the piano differs from the major chord that you find when you look at the harmonics or the overtones of a note I talked about this briefly in a previous video on chords but when you play any note you don't just hear the note itself but as part of the physics of how sound waves resonate and vibrate most sound waves that you're hear coming from any instrument will include quieter notes hidden within it and these go up in a well-known series the harmonic series you have the original main note or the fundamental as it's usually known and then a note an octave and then a fifth and then another octave and then third and so on so you can see the first few harmonics already spell out a major chord so as you carry on up the series the harmonics get closer and closer together so the higher ones although they're extremely quiet are much more chromatic if I play a note piano into a frequency analyzer you can see all those extra notes here getting quieter and quieter but also getting closer and closer together this analyzer actually shows the pitches that are sounding so the grid represents the 12 notes of the piano of the equal-tempered scale as it's known and here for the notes see you'll see here's the bottom see the main note but within that sound there's the C an octave higher a G an octave higher and so on if I turn up the volume on one of these haa monix you can hear it more prominently try focusing in on this pitch That's not me adding anything it's the sound that was already there made by the piano I've just turned that part of it up a little bit so all of those harmonics sit within the sound of a single note and the varying intensity of each of the harmonics is what gives an instrument its particular sound or tamra if you look again you'll see our original C G and the C above but if you look closely at the e harmonic then naturally is sounding e you'll see that it doesn't quite fit the equal-tempered notes so the fully in tune a the one that's present as part of the sound wave of the note is actually slightly lower than an e that you would play on the piano so here's the pianos e you can see it's bang on the line but the e found from the harmonic of the C is slightly below bang on slightly below in terms of those scents this is actually 14 or so cents lower 14 hundredths of a semitone and the same is true of the v although it's harder to see here because the v on the piano is actually much closer to the true natural v it's only about five cents away so this is a kind of a surprising feature that many of us forget in our day to day music making that the tuning of the piano or any equal-tempered instrument is slightly out of tune but coming back to jacob collier what I think is so clever about his modulation is that he exploits this difference between the two ways that the third of the scale can be played and this allows him to shift the modulation without it sounding quite as obvious so he uses the note B at the top of the chord and beneath it the chords below changed tuning system in the first chord he uses the B as part of a D chord it's a d 13 so a d chord like this would normally resolve onto G major so he treats this B as if it was a pure interval as part of the overtone of the G major of the G note and as you remember that slightly narrower than the one were used to from the piano and so in G major No so what this allows him to do is to bring the whole cord underneath the be up slightly up by that difference of 14 cents so it doesn't sound out of tune as we saw it's actually more in tune than it normally would be but the entire cord underneath has shifted up 14 cents so from one chord change we've already come almost a third of the way to our goal of a $0.50 for a full quarter tone the third chord of the series is a kind of a minor 9th so if you slack two fifths on top of one another from the root a you get another kind of B and again as we saw the naturally tune fifths are five cents smaller than the piano fifths so two of them makes a total of ten cents so again the cord underneath can move up by ten cents without that B sounding out of tune and so you can see how with this kind of remarkably cunning and technically brilliant maneuver he manages in such a short space of time to make something that doesn't noticeably sound out of tune at any point and yet shockingly as he shows in the clip goes from being in tune with the piano to being horribly out of tune so I can already hear many of you asking well why would anyone do this what's the point especially if it's designed for you not really to notice it I think there's no doubt a large part of it was just for the sheer fun of the challenge and I'm totally down with that Jacob Cole has talked in several places about how he thinks of cords in terms of darkness and lightness so for him more flats would feel darker and more shops in accord would feel lighter so this seems to be a kind of continuation of that idea of just pushing the sharpness to a slightly new area with this half shop and this is something that Jacob seems to have continued to explore in his recent work but for my next album I'm doing all the songs are in different places you noticed that hardly any of them are a 440 a couple of them are but it's like just because you can be more emotional if a key is in a different place so I think it's important to remember that for somebody like Jacob who has perfect pitch there may be a sense that the different keys have different feelings because he can identify them but for most of us apart from the fact that instruments resonate in certain keys there isn't anything fundamental you could point to about each individual key which would make it brighter or darker but it's clear that for Jacob these are expressive tools that he's adding to his repertoire and he's clearly just enjoying using them to be honest I don't really mind I just find it quite exciting and inspiring that somebody is able to expand the whole vocabulary of music in this way which perhaps has never been done before the only thing I find slightly annoying is that he's 24 it's going to be fascinating and exciting to see where he goes and what he comes up with next so thank you so much for watching and thanks to my patrons on patreon for supporting the channel do let me know in the comments what you think of Jacobs music if you enjoyed the video do consider subscribing and I'll see you next time


  • wokeil says:

    I've just started learning theory and I love this type of content. The science of feeling is what music is for me

  • Retro6502 says:

    About the 5 cent change – most people can distinguish two tones played in succession that differ by 5 cents. But playing across 4 notes like in the video, it probably won't even register as the note being slightly out of tune to someone who doesn't have perfect pitch.

  • TheRealMetalmeal says:

    1:54 it's actually called Limitless, but close enough!

  • Fredrick Hight says:

    I thank you with all my heart for introducing me to Jacob Collier I will be researching him and enjoying his work. I was first introduced to perfect pitch (as I never learned theory to lately) from Rick Beato and his son Dylan video (Why adults can't learn perfect pitch) it's a really wisdom based video helping to understand to help pregnant couples to further their children's chance at wisdom with music and certain types to be precise. I've subbed to you and also look forward to learning much more from you. Greetings from across the big pond from Empire Alabama. God Bless!

  • jake danger says:

    Could anyone link that moment in the turn of the screw, thank you so

  • Will Esterling says:

    David, I have a thought concerning the statement you made toward the end of the video. You mention that Jacob has perfect pitch, and therefore the different keys have different feelings for him, and you imply that those without perfect pitch do not experience this phenomenon. However, I wonder if we were to perform one of Jacob's pieces in a different key, would the same sense of Light v. Dark remain? For example, if we were to take a Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in Eb Major, Op. 55; does it honestly matter that the piece is specifically in Eb Major? Would the emotional content of the piece remain if we transposed it to any other key? I believe it would. This is a product of how we experience temperament now a days. Further explaining, a CM chord and a GM chord, played alone with no further context would sound indistinguishable from each other to someone without perfect pitch, given enough time in between the hearing of these two chords. However, it is a CM chord when played next to a GM chord that provides tonal/emotional context to a listener without perfect pitch (i.e. light v. dark). What are your thoughts on this?

  • Mick Namens says:

    The progression from the seconds to third chord sounds suspicious regarding pitch change. It's kind of an unrelated jump on harmonies.

  • Mauricio Sica says:

    Hi, David . Great video. Thanks for make it so simple. About microtonality, is this not an old problem transformed into a new discovery? Ancient musicians that help establishing the tempered tuning were very aware of the problems that microtonality and perfect tuning were for modulation with keyboard instruments. Maybe the innovation is finding expressive tools in this old problem.

  • Stephen Lawrence says:

    @David Bruce Composer, I wonder whether you could help me with a little research project? I am wondering whether the physical nature of the piano can mean that some notes (or harmonics of those notes) can actually 'bend' after beeing first sounded? Ie because they are physically close and also connected to the same metal frame, whether vibrations than travel thru the frame and transfer energy between different vibrations, thus damping or promoting certain frequencies. I wondered whether your amazing frequency analysis machine could help with that? I'm also keen to know how the decisions about which tuning to use in a particular chord sequence affects the mood generated by the chord change. Eg in Schubert, he frequently will have 2 chords with a common note – but when performing this, one may decide that it is precisely that common note which must change in order to remain in tune with the other harmonising notes, and that it is this frequency change that gives the modulation is character. I would be really interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks! Stephen

  • Stephen Lawrence says:

    I 'learned' Middle-Eastern tuning by learning the sound of 10th 11th & 12th harmonics in sequence. Then I insterted that into various modal scales; suddenly those 'weird' notes were no longer weird – as long as you have a 3:2 ratio somewhere in the scale as a reference point. I think Turkish musicians do this all the time; they have various notations for the inflections they use, and fretted instruments have small frets to do this. (A theorbo player I once saw adjusting her frets to suit the temperament of a particular piece, and she had one little fret for the difference between Ab and G#, in Fminor and E major)

  • rus Archer says:

    perfect pitch would definitely play into it
    but does he maybe have synesthesia, too?

  • Gabe Noland says:


  • Carlos Andrés says:

    Thanks, amazing video. Adam Nelly should really watch this, the few times he had mention Jacob, he was very shady about it.

  • modalmixture says:

    I think Jacob is trying to convey the spiritual transcendence of the text using a kind of harmonic transcendence. The modulation takes us out of the earthly world of 12TET into a brighter, more spiritual plane closer to god. At the end of the song, Jacob modulates again and takes us back down to earth, ending with a justly-intoned plagal cadence – a very warm, humanistic sound that grounds us back within ourselves. Everything he does has an emotional context to it, even if we don’t consciously perceive it on first listen.

  • The Guitar Pros says:

    Nice analysis Dave! Jacob is opening a whole new world of music concepts and ideas for the next generation of musicians and setting the bar way high for multi instrumentalists…..

  • Datashat says:

    Super interesting analysis! Is there a useful chart somewhere that lists all the detunings of ET necessary for JI intervals? Like C to E is -14?

  • Stoob says:

    I don't think one should approach the A432 issue on THEIR airy-fairy terms. 🙂

  • gustavo anibal says:

    stupid item

  • Datashat says:

    The actual modulation in question is at 4:58

  • Judson Christudas says:

    02:04 Orchestradjent!

  • Kunchang Lee says:


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