• Can I Teach You About Modal Scales And How To Determine Their Parent Scales?

    in Experienced players,General Music,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    This lesson is for those who love modal scales and would love to know how their parent scales are determined.

    Modal scales are used a lot in Jazz and Gospel music and since the 60s which is the golden age of modal Jazz, there’s been a lot happening with modal scales.

    Let’s take out a few moments to talk about modal scales before we proceed.

    Modal Scales — Explained

    The major scale is usually played from the first tone in the key to its octave. For example, in the key of C major:

    …the C major scale is played from C to C:

    …and that’s because C is the first tone in the key.

    “Now, Pay Attention To This…”

    Starting and ending the major scale on every other tone of the scale (even the first tone) to its octave produces modal scales. For example, starting and ending the E major scale:

    …on F# (playing from F# to F#):

    …produces the F# Dorian scale:

    …which is (for all intents and purposes) a modal scale.

    So, you can start and end on the second tone, third tone, fourth tone, etc., and you’ll have a variety of modal scales.

    “Here Are All The Modal Scales Using The E Major Scale As The Parent Scale…”

    The E Ionian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the first tone of the E major scale (which is E):

    The F# Dorian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the second tone of the E major scale (which is F#):

    The G# Phrygian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the third tone of the E major scale (which is G#):

    The A Lydian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the fourth tone of the E major scale (which is A):

    The B Mixolydian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the fifth tone of the E major scale (which is B):

    The C# Aeolian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the sixth tone of the E major scale (which is C#):

    The D# Locrian Scale:

    …starting and ending on the seventh tone of the E major scale (which is D#):

    The Concept Of The Parent Scale

    All modal scales are derived from major scales and the major scale where a particular modal scale is derived from is known as the parent scale.

    Altogether, there are seven modal scales in the key of E major:

    E Ionian Scale
    F# Dorian Scale
    G# Phrygian Scale
    A Lydian Scale
    B Mixolydian Scale
    C# Aeolian Scale
    D# Locrian Scale

    …and every one of them has the E major scale as their parent scale. A closer look at all the seven modal scales, you’ll see that they’re basically the notes of the E major scale that are played by starting and ending on other tones of the scale.

    So, in the next segment, I’ll be showing you how to identify the parent scale of any given modal scale in any key.

    Here’s How To Determine The Parent Scale Of A Modal Scale

    The Ionian scale and the major scale are basically identical.

    So, for the C Ionian scale:

    …its parent scale is the C major scale:

    That said, let’s look at the parent scales of other modal scales.

    The Parent Scale Of Dorian Scales

    The C Dorian scale:

    …is basically the Bb major scale:

    …played from C to C:

    So, for every Dorian scale, the parent scale is a whole-step below the first tone. In the case of the C Dorian scale:

    …the parent scale is a whole-step below C:

    …and that’s Bb:

    “Here’s Another Example…”

    The parent scale of the F# Dorian scale:

    …is a whole-step below the first scale tone and a whole-step below F#:

    …is E:

    So, the E major scale is the parent scale of the F# Dorian scale.

    The Parent Scale Of Phrygian Scales

    The Phrygian scale is derived from the major scale by starting and ending on the third tone of the scale. So, every Phrygian scale should be associated with the third tone of the scale.

    Considering that the C Phrygian scale:

    …is associated with the third tone of the parent scale, we should determine the major key that has C as its third tone.

    “In What Key Is C The Third Tone Of The Scale?”

    C is the third tone of the scale in the key of Ab major:

    …so the Ab major scale is the parent scale of the C Phrygian scale.

    Also, if the Ab major scale:

    …is played from C to C:

    …we’d have the C Phrygian scale:

    The Parent Scale Of Lydian Scales

    Playing the major scale in such a way that it starts and ends on the fifth tone of the scale produces the Lydian scale. Therefore, all Lydian scales are basically starting on the fourth tone of the parent scale.

    For example, starting and ending the C major scale:

    …on F (which is the fourth tone):

    …produces the F Lydian scale:

    Now, a closer look at the F Lydian scale:

    …shows that its parent scale (which is the C major scale):

    …is a fifth above F:

    This is because from F to C:

    …is a fifth.

    So, to all Lydian scales, the parent scale is a fifth above its root.

    “Think About This…”

    If you’re asked to play the E Lydian scale (starting from E):

    …you can go up a fifth (to B):

    ….and derive the parent scale (which is the B major scale):

    …then you play the B major scale from E to E:

    …to derive the E Lydian scale:

    Clearly, the parent scale of all Lydian scales are a fifth above the first tone of the Lydian scale.

    So, if you’d want to form the Lydian scale, just use the notes of the major scale (which is the parent scale) that is a fifth above the root of the first tone of the Lydian scale you’d want to form.

    The Parent Scale Of Mixolydian Scales

    The parent scale of the Mixolydian scale is a fourth above its root.

    So, the parent scale of the C Mixolydian scale:

    …is just a fourth above C (and that’s F):

    …and this means that the C Mixolydian scale:

    …is derived from playing the F major scale:

    …from C to C:

    “If That Is Correct…”

    You can also form any other Mixolydian scale using the parent scale that is a fourth above the first tone of the Mixolydian scale you’d want to form.

    For example, the parent scale of the D Mixolydian scale is a fourth above D:

    …and that’s G:

    So, using the G major scale:

    …you can form the D Mixolydian scale by playing the G major scale from D to D:

    …and here’s the D Mixolydian scale:

    Final Words

    Using the concept of parent scales, you can know the exact notes of a mode and play or memorize them easily and that’s exactly what I want you to do in this lesson.

    Take your time and practice all what you learn, then invest some time into knowing how the parent scale of every mode is determined.

    I’ll see you in the next lesson.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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