Endings 2 supplement — The Truck Driver’s Gear Change

Macy Gray.  Image via   www.hollywoodreporter.com .

Macy Gray.  Image via www.hollywoodreporter.com.


One familiar move in pop music is an upward modulation of key so that the melody may be restated with a sense of increased urgency and reach.  (This move is sometimes referred to as the Truck Driver’s Gear Change because it suggests the climbing of a hill.)


“I Hear a Symphony” by the Supremes contains several such modulations, beginning at the 1:10 mark.  Note how each key change suggests a wider scope.  It is as if we can see more terrain from our higher perch.

Macy Gray’s “I Try” employs a slightly more complex approach.


The song starts in D major.

It changes keys (to F major) for the bridge (at 2:13). 

It returns to the original key for a final pre-chorus (2:38).

And then it steps up (to E-flat major) just before the final chorus.  Note how this elevation of keys occasions an elevation of energy.  As the song modulates upward, Macy Gray’s lead vocal reaches further.  She shouts and talks back to the song, as if she now addresses us from a perch with 360 degree vista.  The elevation of key helps create the sense of an ending that looks both forward and backward.

Thank you for reading.