Par­al­lel Worlds

Black and white, yin and yang: op­po­sites need each other and it’s the same with mu­sic. Milton Mermikides cre­ates bit­ter-sweet chord pro­gres­sions and melodies by us­ing par­al­lel ma­jor and mi­nor keys.

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY: CHORDS -

in­volves us­ing the notes and chords from two (or more) keys to build melodies and chord pro­gres­sions. We are draw­ing upon chords and notes from more than one key, if not si­mul­ta­ne­ously, then in rapid suc­ces­sion. not a shift from one key to another, but more of a shar­ing of keys. There are many op­tions as there are 12 pos­si­ble root notes and many dif­fer­ent scales; how­ever, here we will look at just the all im­por­tant ma­jor and mi­nor scales and the keys that share the same root. Keys that share the same root are called ‘par­al­lel’. To make things as clear as pos­si­ble we’ll limit our at­ten­tion to C ma­jor and C mi­nor. We are go­ing to build chord pro­gres­sions and melodies by us­ing both C ma­jor and C mi­nor, ex­pand­ing sig­nif­i­cantly our mu­si­cal op­tions and al­low­ing us to cre­ate a so­phis­ti­cated mix of the ‘bit­ter’ flavour of a mi­nor key with the ‘sweet’ vibe of a ma­jor key. The tech­nique of be­ing in a ma­jor key and 'bor­row­ing' from the par­al­lel mi­nor (and vice versa) is used by a wide range of artists from The Bea­tles to Beck and The Shad­ows to ra­dio­head, michael Jack­son to mad­ness, Ste­vie Won­der to nir­vana and count­less oth­ers. It is a fun­da­men­tal (although not al­ways well ar­tic­u­lated) con­cept in a wide range of mu­sic.

In or­der to adopt a par­al­lel ap­proach us­ing C ma­jor and C mi­nor we need to un­der­stand both of these keys very well, how they dif­fer in terms of notes and which chords are found in each. Let’s com­pare the scales: you’ll no­tice that four of the seven notes stay the same, while three of them (e, a and B) are flat­tened in the mi­nor scale. Ex­am­ple 1a and 1b com­pare these two scales within one oc­tave on the guitar. The three notes that are one semi­tone lower are the 3rd, 6th and 7th de­grees of the scale. In the ta­ble be­low, the ma­jor 3rd, ma­jor 6th and ma­jor 7th are in yel­low; and in blue - the mi­nor 3rd, mi­nor 6th and mi­nor 7th. The other notes (C, d, f and G) are un­changed.

now, let’s look at the chords that emerge from these two scales (also known as the di­a­tonic chords – di­a­tonic sim­ply mean­ing ‘from the key’). firstly, let’s com­pare the tri­ads (three-note chords) in the two keys di­a­tonic Tri­ads of C ma­jor and C mi­nor:

Do re­mem­ber, we are fo­cus­ing on one par­tic­u­lar con­cept in this ar­ti­cle and by do­ing so we can dig deep into its im­pli­ca­tions.

There are a lot of chords to learn here (and all are dif­fer­ent in the two keys). I’ve in­cluded ro­man nu­mer­als so that we can talk about these chords gen­er­ally. The ro­man nu­meral de­scribes the root of a chord in re­la­tion to the ma­jor scale. The sym­bol af­ter the ro­man nu­meral is the chord type. (m is mi­nor, dim is di­min­ished, and no sym­bol means ma­jor). So IV is a ma­jor triad built on the 4th de­gree of the scale, IIm means a mi­nor chord built on the 2nd de­gree, VIIdim is a di­min­ished chord on the 7th de­gree, and bVI is a triad built on the flat­tened 6th de­gree of the ma­jor scale.

We can ex­tend these tri­ads up­wards to in­clude four notes to pro­duce four types of 7th chords: maj7, m7, dom7, m7b5. here are the di­a­tonic 7th chords in the two keys to­gether with ro­man nu­mer­als - di­a­tonic 7: how all these chords are con­structed and might be played on the guitar is shown in ex­am­ples 2 and 3 (ex­am­ples 2b and 3b show the 7th chords as they are the­o­ret­i­cally con­structed but are awk­ward to play on the guitar; ex­am­ples 2c and 3c are far more guitar-cen­tric – and less painful). This is a lot of in­for­ma­tion to take in, even to me­morise - let alone have any ef­fec­tive cre­ative or au­ral un­der­stand­ing over. So it’s best to look at the con­cept in small sec­tions. ex­am­ple 4 shows

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