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Composition – Same Tune with Different Modes

Different Modes

I decided to explore parallel key modulation further and write a tune with different modes. I write the melody and harmonize using the major key first, and then modulate it to the parallel minor key without changing the direction of the tune. Since I am currently exploring C major, I decided to do C major and C minor.

My Perspective

When I write a tune, I definitely decide on a mode before writing. Major keys and minor keys evoke very different emotions for me; I would choose one over the other based on what emotion I would like to express. For this tune, I wanted express some nostalgia that I have felt around New Years Day. I find that C major is right for this feeling, because of it’s simplicity. Here’s a picture of the first draft of my tune!

I then played it in the parallel (harmonic) mode. The difference is huge! What I intended to be a light wishful tune became a dramatic tune that suggests a hint of pain. Take a listen for yourself! Which one do you like better?


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Mozart Sonata in C – Parallel Key Modulation

While I was working on the Mozart C major Sonata, two bars caught my attention. In my experience, often, a bar on it’s own does not generate a meaningful feeling. However, two bars, when placed next to each other, can have a profound aesthetic that the chords alone did not achieve.

You can hear the moment I’m talking about at 1:54. These chords are based off the same root, but have different modes. The first harmony is a G major chord, and the second harmony is a G minor chord. The first harmony is the end of a cadence, signalling an end of a section. The second harmony begins the next section, forging forward with a different mood.

Parallel Key Modulations

The G major section ends on a cheery note, flaunting it’s scale in flying runs. The G minor section retains this acrobatic attack, making me wonder more about how a change of mode can be used.  After doing some research online, I found that music theorists call this parallel key modulations. The following video gives instructions on the variety of ways you can modulate using parallel key modulations.

I love the effect that the parallel key modulation has! I am looking forward to exploring it further the next session I play and incorporating it into my own tunes.



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Parent Involvement

Parent involvement is an important aspect of piano lessons. In my experience, all piano students that reach any level of success has the common factor of an involved parent.

Why is it important?

Relatability is a large part of why parent involvement is important. Many parents request piano lessons for their children to provide them opportunities that they did not have in their own childhood. While this is great (and admirable!), this often means that the student is the only piano player in the house.

Let’s compare learning piano to learning a language. If a child only hears a new language (let’s say French) once a week, for half an hour, how will he/she pick up the ability to speak and read the language? We often expect our piano students to produce a 4-8 bar song within weeks of piano lessons. Would we expect children learning French to recite short stories within weeks with no home guidance?

Furthermore, having no one to relate to is highly discouraging. Not only is picking up a new language (music) difficult to begin with, having no one going through the same journey adds a level of isolation.


There are a couple ways we can implement parent involvement, even if the parent has little music experience! I encourage the parents to improvise together; to learn and grow from each other’s interpretation of music. For parents who have a stronger musical background, I encourage them to learn duets together. This is a great exercise for both musicality and discipline on both parts. Lastly, I encourage parents to practice with their children. Although I understand it is hard to find time to practice in a busy adult life, practicing with your child will give you a different perspective of what the student is going through.  You may even try learning the same songs as the student progresses!

Extra benefits

First of all, two for one piano lessons! By paying the price of one, parents can learn what the student is learning. Secondly, this is a great bonding exercise for child and parent, and encourages the value of discipline. Thirdly, it encourages the longevity of interest in lessons. As piano lessons are a long term investment (often years!), parents should feel the incentive to continue fanning the flame of interest for the student.

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