Modes In Parallel
In music, parallel means "on the same root note". For example, A major and A minor are parallel keys. When we play two or more modes starting on the same root, we can really hear the different musical colour they offer.
For example, if we played A Dorian followed by A Phrygian, both minor modes, we'd instantly hear the difference between these two modes, although there may only be one or two notes difference...
Note: We'll look more at changing between modes (sometimes called modal interchange) in a coming lesson, as this is a more advanced concept.
This "parallel" concept is the basis upon which the process outlined in this lesson is formed. Once you establish a fixed root note, your ear connects with a "centre of musical gravity". We can call this the key centre. From that centre, we can really hear the different colours each mode offers our music.
The ear is then trained to pick out the often subtle differences between the modes, which translates into other keys.
As well as melody, each mode has its own harmonic system. For example, each mode has its own sequence of chords, based on its intervals, that can be used to form chord progressions (parts of songs, essentially) and flows of harmony that invoke that mode's flavour.
It's quite difficult to explain, which is why ear training is the best way to get that "eureka" moment!
Using the parallel concept from the video, use the below patterns to create shapes and movements for each mode in A and really explore their sound. I've provided tabbed examples for each one...
Ionian / Major Scale
The primary major mode around which most major key music is written (whether intentionally or not).
Raise the 4th of Ionian to get the mysterious sounding major mode of Lydian. Let the sound of that #4 (sharp 4th degree) soak into your brain!
Lower the 7th of Ionian for this commonly used major mode. Listen up whenever you touch on that b7 (flat 7th degree)...
Aeolian / Natural Minor
The primary minor mode around which most minor key music is written...
Raise the 6th of Aeolian for the more "open" minor sound of Dorian. Can you describe the feeling when you touch on that 6th?
Lower the 2nd of Aeolian for this flamenco or middle eastern sounding minor mode. The b2 (flat 2nd degree) has a very harsh, tense quality...
Modal Jam Tracks
Using the above method, I've created some five minute modal tracks (all in the key of A) you can use to practice over (try both melody and harmonising using shapes from the above patterns), or just listen to help internalise each mode's unique sound and feel.
Ionian / Major Scale
Aeolian / Natural Minor Scale
How Ear Training Will Make You A Better Musician
Much of the time, we won't have visual cues for keys or chords. By training your ear to recognise common movements, you'll know which "system" the music you're listening to is formed around and be able to jump right in and play along or develop it.
You'll be surprised at just how much music uses these six modes (three major, three minor). That's not to say you should intentionally write your songs in a particular mode - that would be unnecessarily constraining.
But it's clear that composers and songwriters gravitate towards these modes, even if they don't understand where these movements come from!
So it's hugely valuable to be able to recognise the "Dorian sound", the "Mixolydian sound" etc. as and when it arises, whether you're looking to add a solo or an accompanying harmony part.