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Understanding the Terminology of the Modal Method I: Simple signs.

I had to develop specific terminology and symbols when working on the method outlined in my book, which takes a little bit of explaining, but is worth the effort. I shall first use a simple example of modulating from the key of C major to the key of D major, one that avoids using the two major scale modulations, C Major to G Major to D Major, which I find uninspiring and predictable, and instead use the Melodic to Major change. Take a look at this extract from page 36 of the M3 book, shown in example 1 in the images:

NB: The symbols are only available in a specific font and are not available to use in the fonts in facebook.

Now, we can start to unravel the shorthand way the information is conveyed in the above example. When the root of a mode is raised, the symbol for that is (+1) and the resultant mode is placed after the equals sign. The arrow shows the focus is now on another of the modes in the current scale, in this case F Lydian +, which is again altered by raising the root, and is then resolved to mode III of D Major, F# Phrygian.

The following example shows a more complex series of changes that includes a circle of fifths change, see example 2 in images:

This is an interesting way of changing from C Major to F Major, again avoiding the obvious Major scale modulation:

Mode V of C Major has its root raised (+1) to become mode VII of A Harmonic minor (A B C D E F G#). Then the anticlockwise symbol means a change back through the circle of fifths to D Harmonic minor (D E F G A Bb C#) but with the bass note of G still being played. The arrow shows the focus is now moved to mode VII of D Harmonic minor, C# Alt bb7, which then has its root flattened to resolve to the key of F Major.

Now, I have stated in previous posts that the material here would get progressively more advanced, and I am taking incremental steps in that direction. Ideally, what I am hoping for is that not only will people be exchanging favourite ways to get from one musical space to another via the shorthand that the symbols touched on allow, but also how they use these changes in their own music. Let us continue.

The symbol for flattening the root of a mode is simply (-1). Here is an example that contains (-1), see example 3:

This final example is a basic change from C Major to A minor, or a relative minor modulation, but a more elaborate route is chosen for the change. (I love elaborate routes, for me that is what makes the music enjoyable, the variation in ways to basically get from one place to another, over and over again. Like a favourite place in your environment to visit, but a hundred different paths to reach it.)

So, the first mode in C Major has its root raised to move in to D Melodic, then the root of mode IV is raised to enter into Harmonic Major territory, which I love using with Melodic. The next change that occurs is mode VI of Harmonic Major (F Lydian +#2) has its root raised to change into A Major (F# Aeolian) and then finally the root of C# Phrygian is flattened to enter into A Melodic and the resolution to the key of A minor.

One could argue, that why not say that the third of so and so is flattened here or the fifth of so and so is raised there, but the simplicity of just altering the roots means that the terminology is uniform, patterns become explicit and unusually complex changes become observable and even practical.

I use this shorthand method to understand great composers and modern musicians alike, both in the way they colour their compositions and in their improvisations, and more importantly, to explain the music of others quickly and easily to students once the methodology is understood. I also use it in composition myself, especially in the complex sections where I want lots of change and uncertainty before the resolution returns once more. Next time, more symbols and more possibilities.

NB: The process and terminology presented here is copyrighted and will only be explained in detail on this group, so please refrain from sharing to other groups, unless you have my explicit permission.


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