The Difference Between Parallel and Relative Modes

June 9, 2015

Colorado Music Academy - Blog

Hey Guys,

Thanks to VISHALICIOUS for requesting a blog topic for this week. In this post I’m going to dicuss the difference between parallel modes and relative modes.

Two modes are parallel if they share the same tonic. That is, D Major, D Minor, D Dorian, D Mixolydian, etc… are all parallel modes. Using a parallel mode will cause a chromatic alteration to your usual key signature. For example, Phrygian uses b2 (when compared to a minor key or Aeolian mode), while Mixolydian uses b7 and Lydian uses #4 (compared to a major key, or Ionian mode).

In composition (or improvisation) parallel modes allow the use of borrowed chords, via modal mixture, to add color to piece. See my post on modal mixture.

The most common form of parallel modes is between parallel major and minor keys (Ionian and Aeolian). Some pieces in a minor key will borrow the parallel major…

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