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Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?

Related threads:
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Transposing Chords and Keys (37)
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modes tutorial update (17)
The Naming of Modes (38)
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saulgoldie 19 Jul 11 - 02:14 PM
MartinRyan 19 Jul 11 - 02:16 PM
maeve 19 Jul 11 - 02:24 PM
maeve 19 Jul 11 - 02:26 PM
Richard Bridge 19 Jul 11 - 02:27 PM
Richard from Liverpool 19 Jul 11 - 02:33 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jul 11 - 02:39 PM
Don Firth 19 Jul 11 - 03:24 PM
Newport Boy 19 Jul 11 - 04:02 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jul 11 - 04:17 PM
Don Firth 19 Jul 11 - 04:53 PM
Little Robyn 19 Jul 11 - 06:06 PM
Don Firth 19 Jul 11 - 06:25 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jul 11 - 06:36 PM
GUEST,leeneia 19 Jul 11 - 09:12 PM
Bobert 19 Jul 11 - 09:32 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jul 11 - 09:34 PM
John P 19 Jul 11 - 10:58 PM
Little Robyn 20 Jul 11 - 03:30 AM
Mavis Enderby 20 Jul 11 - 04:01 AM
Jack Campin 20 Jul 11 - 04:23 AM
Little Robyn 20 Jul 11 - 05:21 PM
Jack Campin 20 Jul 11 - 06:13 PM
English Jon 20 Jul 11 - 06:28 PM
Artful Codger 21 Jul 11 - 11:01 PM
Richard Bridge 22 Jul 11 - 08:19 AM
The Sandman 22 Jul 11 - 08:27 AM
The Sandman 22 Jul 11 - 08:30 AM
Jack Campin 22 Jul 11 - 09:32 AM
Richard from Liverpool 22 Jul 11 - 09:58 AM
GUEST,999 22 Jul 11 - 10:04 AM
Jack Campin 22 Jul 11 - 11:24 AM
GUEST,leeneia 22 Jul 11 - 11:27 AM
Richard from Liverpool 22 Jul 11 - 12:41 PM
The Sandman 22 Jul 11 - 12:53 PM
Jack Campin 22 Jul 11 - 02:15 PM
Little Robyn 22 Jul 11 - 06:44 PM
Jack Campin 22 Jul 11 - 07:00 PM
Little Robyn 22 Jul 11 - 07:38 PM
Jack Campin 22 Jul 11 - 08:03 PM
DrugCrazed 22 Jul 11 - 08:21 PM
andrew e 22 Jul 11 - 08:37 PM
DrugCrazed 23 Jul 11 - 08:50 AM
pavane 26 Jul 11 - 02:14 PM
Jack Campin 27 Jul 11 - 05:30 AM
doc.tom 27 Jul 11 - 06:17 AM
foggers 27 Jul 11 - 07:16 AM
Jack Campin 27 Jul 11 - 07:26 AM
Richard from Liverpool 27 Jul 11 - 11:18 AM
The Sandman 27 Jul 11 - 01:11 PM
Stewart 27 Jul 11 - 03:41 PM
Crowhugger 27 Jul 11 - 04:04 PM
Jack Campin 27 Jul 11 - 07:20 PM
Richard from Liverpool 27 Jul 11 - 07:32 PM
Richard Bridge 28 Jul 11 - 04:31 AM
Jack Campin 28 Jul 11 - 05:22 AM
Richard Bridge 28 Jul 11 - 05:34 AM
Jack Campin 28 Jul 11 - 07:26 PM
DrugCrazed 28 Jul 11 - 07:39 PM
Tootler 29 Jul 11 - 07:06 PM
The Sandman 30 Jul 11 - 06:23 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 11 - 07:25 AM
Richard Bridge 30 Jul 11 - 05:37 PM
Jack Campin 30 Jul 11 - 06:34 PM
Richard Bridge 30 Jul 11 - 09:15 PM
Don Firth 30 Jul 11 - 09:37 PM
Jack Campin 31 Jul 11 - 06:50 PM
Phil Edwards 01 Aug 11 - 04:29 AM
Don Firth 01 Aug 11 - 04:30 PM
Jack Campin 01 Aug 11 - 05:05 PM
Jack Campin 01 Aug 11 - 05:37 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 02 Aug 11 - 11:33 AM
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Subject: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: saulgoldie
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:14 PM

Does anyone here understand the concept of musical modes? Does much of "our kind of music" involve this sort of thing? Do I need to "know" it?

Pasted from Wikipedia:

* * * * * * * * * * * *

4 Modern

    * 4.1 Modern modal scales on the natural notes
          o 4.1.1 Ionian (I)
          o 4.1.2 Dorian (II)
          o 4.1.3 Phrygian (III)
          o 4.1.4 Lydian (IV)
          o 4.1.5 Mixolydian (V)
          o 4.1.6 Aeolian (VI)
          o 4.1.7 Locrian (VII)

* * * * * * * * * * * *


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:16 PM

Lots of earlier threads on this. For probably the best -
Click here

Regards


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: maeve
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:24 PM

Saul, here's a preliminary list of threads dealing with modal information; lots of good material there while you await replies to your question. I just used the Filter box on the home page to search for "modes" as found in the entire time span. One could specify a shorter time span. I edited the initial list, including only those directly applicable to your query.
        
Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?         

More About Modes         

modes tutorial update         

The Naming of Modes         

Modes for Mudcatters: A Synthesis Primer         

Modes vs Scales         

a mnemonic for the modes         

Who Named the Modes?         

Tune Req: Instrumental Bluegrass - minor modes?         

Spirituals: Melody, Modes-- That SOUND         

Help: Dulcimer books arranged by modes         

Tech Talk: Modes and Scales Again         

Modes?


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: maeve
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:26 PM

Martin's link is excellent in that it also shows at the top of the top of the page.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:27 PM

The basic is very simple.

Look at a piano.

All the white notes are in the key of C.

Play them from C to C, that's one mode.

Play them from D to D, that's another.

Play from E to E, another.

From F to F another

From G to G another

A to A another

B to B another.



Begin to see why I'm a sceptic?


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:33 PM

I was very lucky because as a child I sang a lot of gregorian chant in the different modes, and it's definitely helped to understand the system, because I had a hands on experience from a certain age.

I'll have a bash at explaining it as I would do if I was sat down at a piano, which isn't necessarily the best way to explain in text, but it's the easiest way I know.

A major scale (and major is effectively Mode I, the Ionian mode) is a certain progression of notes - you start on a given note (say C, or D, or whatever) and you go up in a set order: up a Tone, up a tone, up a semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. All major scales are that same progression. So if you're playing within a major key, that basically means that there's a pool of 7 notes that you're drawing from, and all of those notes have a certain relationship with one another. So if I write a tune in a major key it has a particular feel.

Ok, now let's imagine that the notes I'm using AREN'T within a major scale, so don't come out of that set series of starting note, up a tone, up a tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone.

Let's say that the scale starts on a given note and then goes up tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone.
If you listen to that, you can hear that you've got a run of notes with a slightly different feel to the run of notes you'd expect from a major scale. If you're picking notes only from within this series of notes, then you're working in Mode II, the Dorian mode.

Or you start on a given note and then go on a run of tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone. If you work only with the notes in that series, you're in the Mode IV, the Lydian mode.

It's all about the different permuations of sound you can create between different notes. If you're only working in major or minor, you're missing out on whole different kinds of sound.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:39 PM

You might think "what the hell is the point of any of that?" after reading those comments.

Guess what? You'd be right. Modal systems do have a point, but that 7-mode system doesn't.

As far as I know this document of mine is by far the most comprehensive description you'll find on the web of how modes work in folk music. You'd have to dig in some pretty serious ethnomusicological literature to get more.

http://tinyurl.com/scottishmodes


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 03:24 PM

It gets interesting when you take one of the seven "white-note" scales and play that same order of steps and half-steps, starting on another note.

For example, G to G. Then, instead of the G major scale (G A B C D E F# G), you have G A B C D E F natural G.

This alters the chords you need to play if you're going to accompany a song in this mode (which bears the name "Mixolydian," by the way). Instead of the usual G, C, and D7 as your three primary chords, you have to dump the D or D7, because the chord contains an F#, which is NOT in the Mixolydian mode. So what do you play in its place? F major. In fact, the chord change from G to F and back to G is the characteristic sound of songs in the Mixolydian mode.d

The Mixolydian mode is found a lot in folk music from the British Isles, and much of it has migrated into the southern mountain communities of the United States, with the English and Scots-Irish who migrated to the area.

If a song in the Mixolydian mode doesn't fit your voice in the scale starting on G, there's no law or rule of music theory that says you can't change it to, say, D. In that case, the three primary chords would be D, G, and (instead of A or A7) C. No sweat!

Another mode frequently found in folk music is the Dorian mode. This (on the "white note" scales) runs from D to D. D major goes D E F# G A B C# D. But because in Dorian mode starting on D, there is no F# or C#, the notes are both natural, the three primary chords would be Dm, G major and C major. So the Dorian mode has a distinctly minor sound, but the accompanying primary chords are one minor and two majors.

You do run into the other modes, particularly in Anglo-American folk music, but the Dorian and Mixolydian are the most frequently encountered.

HISTORICAL NOTE:

The early ballad collectors were primarily interested in the ballads as poetry rather than as songs (note the titles of many early collections, such as Bishop Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry). Cecil J. Sharp was a well-grounded musician, and he was one of the first to collect the tunes as well as the text. Earlier collectors who did collect tunes would hear a source singer sing a note that was outside of a "normal" major or minor scale, assume that because this was an unschooled singer, he or she was singing a wrong note?so they wrote down what they thought the correct note should be. Sharp didn't make this assumption. He wrote down exactly what he heard. And when he analyzed the tunes later on, he made the discovery that the singers were NOT singing "wrong notes," the songs they were singing were modal!

That was a very big "AHA!" and one of the things that makes Sharp a very important collector both in England and in America.

Contrary to popular belief, modes are not that strange and mysterious, nor are they as complicated as most people try to make them.

Explore! Enjoy!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 04:02 PM

Just in case any newcomers think Jack is just blowing his own trumpet, can I endorse what he says. I've read his document twice, and I'm working slowly through it a third time and still finding new insights.

And I thought I knew about modes before I started! Thanks, Jack.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 04:17 PM

Sharp got the idea of using that mode system from Lucy Broadwood.

The idea of describing folk music that way dates back to Glareanus, 400 years earlier. He thought it didn't fit very well. He was right.

You can't make sense of any European folk idiom without taking account of gapped scales. They've been part of modal theory in Indian music for a few centuries, and Bartok was using them to describe the music he was collecting at the same time as Sharp. They give you much more useful information.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 04:53 PM

I was going to get into gapped scales next, Jack, but I'm working under time constraints at the moment. I was shooting for a fairly easy starting point.

Much more to be written, of course, but their still not as complicated and confusing as people generally try to make them

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 06:06 PM

Basic modes for folkies is much easier than that. The ones you need most are -
on the white notes of a piano, from C to c = Ionian
from G to g = Mixolydian
from D to d = Dorian
from A to a = Aolian
Most British/American/Aussie/Kiwi 'folk songs' use those ones, except for areas where there is an Asian or European influence.
The first 2 are most common for songs but if you're playing at a diddly session you'll probably need the other two as well.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 06:25 PM

Got it in one, Little Robyn.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 06:36 PM

If you make it "much easier" like that, you have a bunch of labels which may be easy to apply but which tell you nothing.

Hint: look at "Click Go the Shears", which is about as familiar a Kiwi folksong as you'll get. It isn't in any of the modes you listed. (Someone trained in Indian classical music would immediately figure out what's going on there). Give it the right modal description, and it starts to look pretty puzzling, since other tunes like it are very remote in space or time - where did THAT came from?

A good theory doesn't just categorize things, it creates mysteries.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 09:12 PM

there's another kind. I call it the professorial modal.

Say I've found an unusual and creative piece of early music which uses a strange new set of notes. I exclaim, "Isn't this cool? So creative, not bound by the rules yet!"

There has to be someone in the room who's taken too many music courses. This person lowers the eyelids, looks down the nose, and says in a dismissive voice, "It's modal."

They're usually wrong, but they're good at breaking the mood.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Bobert
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 09:32 PM

Well, I know nuthin' about theory but I play a couple of what I call "modals"... What happens in them is you get a an eerie mountain music sound out of 'um...

Double dropped D with both E strings dropped to Ds is cool...

Here's one of my own EBEBBE (starting from the high E to the fat E)... If you tune to this tuning you'll leave yer geetar in it for a month...

B~


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 09:34 PM

The people who most often say "that's modal" are not-very-good guitarists who don't want to make the effort to understand the music they're playing, so they just label it as something exotic.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: John P
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 10:58 PM

A slight amplification of Little Robyn's list:

C to c = Ionian
from G to g = Mixolydian
from D to d = Dorian
from A to a = Aolian

Ionian is your everyday major scale.
Aeolian is minor.
Mixolydian is "Old Joe Clark" and "She Moved Through the Fair".
Dorian is "Scarborough Fair" and "What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor?".

Obviously, no one needs to know the name of the mode or how it is constructed in order to play music, either by ear or by reading. Where some practical knowledge of modes becomes useful is if you're finding the guitar chords for a song, coming up with a harmony, doing any kind of arranging.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 03:30 AM

The "Click go the shears" that I know is Australian and is in a straight major key!!!!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 04:01 AM

I'm not sure "don't want to understand the music they're playing" automatically means "not very good guitarists".

Bobert - I'll have to give EBEBBE a try. One of my favourites is DADDAD (the "g" string tuned way down to D, in unison with the regular "D" string"). Gives a nice haunting sound with a slide. Similarly I really like triple C on the banjo (gCGCC). I'm in a similar position to you regarding theoretical knowledge but both tunings can give an eerie mountain sound.

Cheers,

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 04:23 AM

Okay, here's what I was driving at with "Click Go the Shears".

It's in the lydian/major hexatonic mode (the fourth only occurs as an inessential passing note, if you sing it at all). There are a LOT of tunes in that mode in folk song from the British Isles. But there's more to it than that. Most of the notes in the scale only occur on falling phrases; this is common in Indian ragas (like Desh) but not so common in songs from Western Europe. The scale used for rising phrases is very minimal indeed. Basically the tune progresses by quick scrambles upwards and then a slower fall through narrower intervals over quite a wide range. This melodic shape is found all over the world, but it's more typical of technologically primitive societies like aboriginal Australia. The tune is also rather unusual in resolving to a tonal centre near the top of its range instead of an octave lower as you might expect.

I've only heard it in NZ - I'll take your word for it that the song is Australian, but the tune is presumably English.

Musically useful modal systems take account of gaps, scale asymmetries and melodic shape.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 05:21 PM

Actually, if you do a little research on the cat. there is an earlier entry from Bob Bolton - dated: 11 Aug 04.

"It's wryly amusing to read what was said in some of the old notes! I especially like:

"... CLICK GO THE SHEARS ... Perhaps the most famous of the Australian bush songs, the tune is derived from an old English song, "Ring the Bell, Watchman". "

I wonder how some of the orignal cast members would have reacted to knowing that Click Go The Shears was a direct parody of an American song - Ring the Bell, Watchman ... written by Henry Clay Work to celebrate the ending of the American Civil War!"

As far as we can figure, it's a simple major tune, normally played with basic 3-4 chords, regardless of where it finishes.
He also wrote My Grandfather's clock, Marching through Georgia, Father dear Father come home with me now, and lots of other lesser known songs including the melody for Charlie and the MTA or The ship that never returned.
They all seem to be in good old major keys (and it proves you can write melancholy songs in a major key).

Robyn


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 06:13 PM

I didn't realize it had a known composer. So, I looked at Work's other two best known songs, "Marching through Georgia" and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp".

The verse part of MtG is straightforwardly tonal (moving briefly to the dominant). The chorus (much more memorable) is hexatonic, but a different kind of hexatonic - the seventh is missing, so it's major/mixolydian.

TTT is hexatonic again, lydian/major, all the way through. The fourth only occurs as a dispensable passing note.

Work wrote tunes that caught on. He was instinctively using the techniques of traditional music to do it.

("Grandfather's Clock" is heptatonic, but like the other three it's in a plagal mode - Work seems to have had a thing about that).


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: English Jon
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 06:28 PM

So....anyone who can prove that a Lochrian melody isn't just a Mixolydian tune centred around the 3rd wins this years prize for something or other.

(/ducks)

Cheers,
J


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 11:01 PM

Aren't Lochrian tunes Scottish? Or did you mean Locrian? ;-}

And once again, the silly "white key" explanation--that really explains nothing about the character of modes--rears its ugly head. If that's the best you can offer to "clarify" modes, please say nothing and instead let people read the more intelligent, complete explanations that have already been posted here--and at Jack's site.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:19 AM

So what's silly about the white key explanation? It's true isn't it?


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:27 AM

yes,Richard it is.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:30 AM

how funny,Jack Campin describing click go the shears as a kiwi song, an example of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, jack you may be very knowledgeable about modes, but your way off with that one.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 09:32 AM

So what's silly about the white key explanation? It's true isn't it?
There isn't much point in knowing something just because it's true. You want it to be interesting or useful.

"Click Go the Shears" is a Kiwi song, to the same extent that the Skye Boat Song is Scottish and The Star Spangled Banner is American. Obviously the tune came from somewhere else. Maybe the words did too - the usual versions seem to be Australian - but nobody knows exactly where or when it was written (maybe as a parody of a Temperance song). It doesn't matter a lot since the shearing culture in NZ and Australia was much the same and the song spoke to people both sides of the Tasman.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 09:58 AM

I tried to explain above by talking about tones and semitones rather than giving the "white key" description, but as it's been called silly, I think it's only fair to mount a prinicipled defence: The white key explanation is useful for anybody with access to a keyboard to sit down and play through the different modes and HEAR how different they are. Basically it's the easiest way to get a sense of the different flavours.

You can write pages and pages and that's all very useful for getting a technical and in depth understanding, but the most simple "hear it for yourself" method is the white key one.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 10:04 AM

"RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?"

I can barely get my head around pie a la mode, let alone that.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 11:24 AM

The white key explanation is useful for anybody with access to a keyboard to sit down and play through the different modes

If you've got some music to play. There's a tradition behind this stuff, a repertoire of melodic ideas for each mode that doesn't just emerge from random noodling.

(Not to knock random noodling - I've done quite a lot of it, though mostly not on keyboards).


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 11:27 AM

Here's my theory of the modes.

In the middle ages, people in religious communities had an enormous amount of music to deal with. Music for the eight prayer services a day (matins, prime, compline and all that) music for masses, music for feasts, and perhaps for other things.

The musicians may have been selected at random or for reasons we wouldn't understand. Like that a brother has no musical talent, but he was born under a good sign for music. Or she's tone deaf, but her father was a musician by trade. A person could be chosen to sing because s/he has a beautiful voice, but the person could have been completely unschooled.

They probably had a little keyboard (organ played with a bellows), but who knows when we started naming the keys on them? (as in "D is here between the two black ones.") Maybe the keys went unnamed for a long time. Not only that, many people didn't even know their letters in order to read writing, much less to read music.

I think somebody invented the modes to help these poor musicians out. Trouble is, they don't help much. If somebody tells you that a certain chant is in the Aeolian mode, that tells you it probably starts on the key that's between the second and third black note (A). And it probably ends there. But where do you go from there?

It wasn't long before people started writing music down. It's a much better system, and the modes were more or less forgotten. In my opinion, it's fun when we encounter a modal song, but it doesn't actually help us master it sooner or better.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 12:41 PM

I think the MAIN usefulness of talking about modes in this forum, or any forum, is that it opens people's eyes. A lot of people strum or sing away in major or minor, but there's so much more to the world than that.

Even thinking consistently in the "aeolian mode" will sound different to thinking in a minor key (a lot of minor pieces sharpen the leading note - if you stick to the aeolian mode, you don't do that, you keep a tone between the leading note and the tonic, and just that one alteration can give a whole different feel).

The modes give a way of thinking about music which are more than just the major and minor scales. Yes, there are important historic reasons for studying them, but I think the main reason I like to talk about them and get people thinking about them is that they're mind expanding in quite a significant way.

The same can also be said of pentatonic scales etc, which also have a mind expanding quality, but the original question here was about modes, so I've such to that.

I'll try an analogy: Playing in ONLY major or minor keys, and never playing in modes or anything else is like saying "there is only 4/4 and 6/8 time", and not being aware of all the other permutations of timing.

But there's also a very practical point to all this, and as for whether I think musicians ought to be more aware of this kind of thing - absolutely YES they should! On two occasions now in the past year I've sung mixolydian songs starting on D, and found someone joining in with a guitar, strumming chords of Dmajor and Amajor, not realising that the Amajor chord includes a C# that obliterates the mixolydian character of the song and clashes with the way I was singing the melody.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 12:53 PM

HA HA , if click goes the shears is a kiwi song then the hors wessel song is jewish, and god save the queen is irish, your shooting crap jack and ye know it.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 02:15 PM

Leeneia - your take on the origin of the mediaeval mode system seems pretty much right (except that organs weren't used in church wen it was invented). There were a a whole bunch of chants that needed to be organized for performance by relatively untrained singers, and it's hard to switch mode in mid-performance if you're not used to it. So it worked better if you could stick to the same mode for the whole service (or maybe the whole day, or in the case of the Syriac church, all week). This implied a classification system. (A further consequence was that whatever didn't fit that system became officially deprecated, and survived only in isolated areas, like Mozarabic or Ambrosian chant).

However. That is not what many other people have wanted a mode system for, and it certainly isn't how traditional music has worked for centuries. Folk performers switch mode very fast, maybe several times in the same tune. But these switches of mode correspond to changes in technique, melodic style and harmony, so knowing when they occur is useful (and is just as useful even if you don't use the standard musicological labels for them). Also, folk music uses a much larger variety of modes than the nine recognized by the late mediaeval Church. So modal systems for folk music have be a lot more complex and flexible, and have to be capable of labelling much smaller chunks of music. (The modal systems used by jazzers take it even further, but they're nuts).


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 06:44 PM

But there are a large number of singers/guitarists with absolutely no knowledge of how to read written music or with any understanding of music theory and I have managed to teach several of them basic ways to accompany their songs so they sound 'right'.
Your explanations may be accurate and perfectly understandable to people with music training but I know a lot of people who wouldn't be able to follow it at all.
So if someone with limited music asks about modes, most of them can find a keyboard and try out the white notes (if someone tells them which note is C) and hear for themselves the difference in sounds.
BTW 'Click go the shears' was one of the 'Australian folksongs' enforced on kids at school here in NZ - I really hated it back then and don't think much of it now.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 07:00 PM

I didn't get any Australian songs at school, and I think I was at school in NZ about the same time as you - I got some English ones instead and hated them.

"Click Go the Shears" was something I heard fairly often, though, quite independently of the school system. I never learned it or paid much attention to the words, but shearing was a big enough deal that it obviously NEEDED a song, so why not that one?

BTW if you can point your musically-untrained friends at my tutorial and tell me exactly where they get lost, I'd appreciate it. (I want to make it as readable as possible and I know most of the readability problems are near the start). The readers I anticipated having trouble with it were people with *too much* musical education of the wrong sort.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 07:38 PM

The friends I'm talking about were turned off the minute I said the word MODE and I had to drag them to the piano to show them. When they heard it they understood a little but I had to find the chords for the songs. We're talking guitarists with absolutely no musical knowledge - just your basic 3 chord basher but we progressed to more than that.
(But when I mentioned 'relative minor' I got "Come on Robyn' don't talk like that".)
We still built up a pretty good repertoire (without Click go the shears).
Which NZ schools did you attend? Did they have radio broadcasts that included singing? We heard songs from all over the world, as well as a few Maori songs, some classical ones and yes, lots of English songs. They were on each week and we had songbooks that went with them.
Andulko, Ah lovely meadows, Can't you dance the polka, The Swazi warrior, Lilli Burlero, Schubert's Wandering, and rounds galore.
I'm not sure when school broadcasts stopped - I don't remember them when I became a teacher in the early 60s but maybe it was resistance from the classroom that saw their demise.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:03 PM

I was at Hamilton West and Hamilton East Primary, Peachgrove Intermediate, Hamilton Boys' High. 1958 to 1966. I don't remember school broadcasts - the teachers used to bring in their own records. The ones that most stuck in my mind were Tom Lehrer and "Carmina Burana". I guess my music education at school was pretty dire, but LPs were becoming available, my parents were open to a fair range of things, and the Auckland classical radio station 1YC was just about audible in Hamilton on my parents' wedding-present Marconi valve radio from 1947 with the aid of a very long aerial I rigged up across the garden. I was listening to stuff like Bartok string quartets and Messiaen's "Turangalila" that way before I left school. There was also a very good touring chamber music programme that brought first-rate internationally reputed groups (like the Borodin and Vegh String Quartets) to play public concerts in my school's assembly hall for a ticket price of peanuts.

The earliest record I can remember listening to was Jimmy Shand on a 78, one of my father's. I always loved that stuff but had a vague instinct that I shouldn't. My dad was a great fan of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir and used to sing their songs in the bath.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:21 PM

A quick thought on music theory in general: If you have to ask why you need it, you don't need to know about it.

You can write pieces that are modal without knowing what modes are, and you can have a lot of fun with classically trained people by writing a modal piece with a VII-I cadence. I've had people tell me that I'm doing it wrong, which I replied with "No, you're doing it by the book as opposed to by ear".


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: andrew e
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:37 PM

Music theory is just a way of describing what you hear.

It's useful to know if you want your music to sound like a particular style.

What sounds "Good" is a matter of opinion and is related to what we have heard before.

By the way I have an A Cappella SATB arrangement of Click Go The Shears if anyone would like it!


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 08:50 AM

You can still do an awful lot by ear. Granted, people will know if you're faking it, but I managed to do a very good job of faking celtic music for 3 years before I started listening properly.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: pavane
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 02:14 PM

Much so-called "Celtic" music is fake anyway - not celtic at all.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 05:30 AM

Nobody else here has mentioned "Celtic" anything. Why is it supposed to be relevant?

I don't use the term in my tutorial and I deliberately selected the examples to show how modal techniques straddle any imagined ethnic boundaries.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: doc.tom
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 06:17 AM

I heard someone (no names, no pack drill) refering to DADGAD as a 'celtic' tuning the other day. And then, of course, in ther States, Dave Webber and Annie Fentiman have their CDs as 'file under celtic'!


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: foggers
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 07:16 AM

Hi

This is a really interesting and stimulating thread! I am a largely self taught musician, and various formally trained chums tried to explain modes to me in the past, but with limited success, mainly because I could not see the relevance at that time.

However, after a long break from regular practice and performing I came back to folk music about 4 years ago and especially fell in love with the Appalachian dulcimer and the folk tradition of that area. At that point I realised that I now NEEDED to understand modes in order to make sense of the tunes and songs I wanted to learn, especially in terms of working out appropriate accompaniements on dulcimer, banjo or guitar.It is also crucial for making sense of a diatonic instrument like the dulcimer and the different tunings needed to play in different modes.

We acquired a battered set of Sharp's Appalachian collection and I noticed that the text indicated for each tune the mode and if the scale was gapped (i.e. pentatonic, hexatonic). By sitting at the piano and picking my way through these, suddenly it fell into place.

So now I would say I have a practical knowledge of a range of modes I encounter in the music I listen to and make. I tend to use simple ways of understanding modes as a set of intervals, each with its own unique pattern of whole and half steps. I understand that if a tune is gapped, it can leave things ambiguous as to which exact mode it is, and I also understand that the mode crucially influences the harmonies (voice or instrument) that will work for a melody... I have had some cringing experiences of the kind described by Richard of Liverpool where well-intended peeps at a session have enthusiastically joined in and obliterated my own dulcimer playing with chords that just do not fit the mode!


The language of the modes is simply a short-hand that we have inherited, and I have a daft mnemonic for remembering them in order,(if you must know, it's this: "In Dorset Pixies Like Mulled Ale Lots"). I have also noticed that when I am recalling a mode I KNOW i close my eyes and visualise the pattern "on the white notes" in order to remind myself of the sequence of intervals. So the "white note" method obviously has some value as a possible starting place for action-oriented learners like me because it was sitting at a piano with Sharp's tunes that helped me to hear and comprehend the different modes in the first place. However, it was only a starting place for understanding the patterns of intervals, and I can see that it could be a stumbling block for some (what if you ain't got access to a piano? Or what if it leads to you to assume that the modes can only be in THOSE keys?)

So I would certainly say that having a simple but functioning knowledge of modes has helped my musical skills move forwards quite exponentially. I have progressed much quicker than I would have just by experimenting; theoretical knowledge about modes has been a great stepping stone for me.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 07:26 AM

Someone on TheSession posted a nice example of a modal screwup by a cloth-eared accompanist:

http://comhaltas.ie/music/detail/comhaltaslive_350_1_pat_burton/


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 11:18 AM

Jesus wept.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 01:11 PM

it happens all the time,
particularly those tunes that start off in d mixolydian sometimes using an f# in the tune and some guitarist plays a d minor chord instead of d major or a d power chord /dyad,


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Stewart
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 03:41 PM

Here's my $0.02 worth.

For what it's worth.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 04:04 PM

Whew, that's a painful one Jack. I had to turn it off after not long at all, but then I had to listen again to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. That's quite the musical tension! Still shuddering...


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 07:20 PM

Stewart, there's a lot wrong with the history on your page. That seven-mode system mode postdates Gregory by about a thousand years (and longer for the Locrian mode, which was a 19th century invention). I don't know where you got that account of Arabic modes but it's way off beam.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 07:32 PM

I know that it's usually stated that "aeolian is the same as our minor scale", but I think this can lead to misunderstanding. Yes, a 'natural' minor scale would start on the tonic and then rise tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, tone tone. However, when people play minor scales, they often play them as 'harmonic minor' scales, sharpening the seventh degree, or as 'melodic minor' scales, sharpening both the sixth and the seventh degree on the way up, then playing as you would in the aeolian mode on the way down. As a consequence, a lot of music written in a 'minor' key is not aeolian at all, but includes sharpened notes, particularly on the leading note (seventh degree).

My main point is simply that although the aeolian mode is the same as natural minor, what people imagine as minor, and what people have written in minor, is quite often not aeolian. So "aeolian = minor" is generally misleading.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 04:31 AM

I'm not getting your point, Dick, about the D major rather than the D minor - if by D mixolydian you mean the mixolydian that uses the notes that are two semitones above the mixolydian that uses all the white notes on the piano, then the key is D major (or its relative minor, B minor) neither of which has a D minor chord in it. It's nothing to do with modes, just the key.

If you mean however the mixolydian that runs from D to D then it's not in that key at all but in G major (or E minor) - neither of which (again) has a D minor chord.

Or am I missing something?


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 05:22 AM

Richard, you have got ypurself into a terminological snarlup.

Dick's point makes perfect sense to me. Tune is in Dmix (one sharp). Guitarist hears the tonal centre as being D, hears a C natural, thinks that means D minor and wellies into a Dmin chord. Wonders why the singer or fiddler looks pissed off.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 05:34 AM

Yes, I know of the difference between those two mixolydians. One is in D, one is in G.

One sharp: G major or E minor. No C natural in the D minor chord, it's A, D, F.

I still don't see what that has to do with modes.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 07:26 PM

Richard, sorry, but with that level of understanding you are a liability as an accompanist.

D mixolydian is not G major. It does not centre on G and when accompanying a Dmix tune you will never resolve to a G chord at the finish.

Please go away and read something. This is absolutely basic stuff that you aren't getting.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 07:39 PM

Actually, he's right. It is a G major scale, just starting on D. If that's how he works it out then that's fine for him.

Also, guitarists in sessions who don't use their ears are not helpful. The only excuse allowed for wrong key playing is mishearing the shout. The solution is either to use Alpha, Delta etc, or a little box where you press a pedal and it pops up the key.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Tootler
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 07:06 PM

I agree with Jack. Dick makes perfect sense.

Richard, you seem to be mixing up discussion about a scale with discussion about a chord.

The point Dick is making is that the accompanist hears a tune centred on D with a major key feel so is expecting D major with a C# leading note.

However, he notices that all the C's are actually C natural so makes the false assumption the tune is actually D minor so starts playing Dmin chords rather than Dmaj. The result is discord as he will be playing Fnat on his guitar against F# in the tune and fiddles, flutes etc. will go bonkers and quite likely tell him where to get off if he doesn't desist.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 06:23 AM

over the last two evenings,I have played at 2 sessions, the thursday night session was a delight not one accompanist other than a very good bodhran player, there was no speeding up during tunes, all the playing   was steady the standard was very high.
last night by contrast I along with 2 other competent fiddlers was trying to have to hold the session together not only against guitarists who were occasionally clueless, but also speeders up, I consider myself no more than a competent / good player , but it was hard work with people [a few of whom] were not listening carefully to rhythm and melody.
mixolydian tunes should be accompanied by major chords or power dyads , dorian tunes minor chords or power dyads, sometimes of course tunes change from one mode to another during the tune the best thing is not to join in unless you know the tune or have heard the tune or if you do join in,do it very quietly.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 07:25 AM

an example of a mixolydian tune is banish misfortune,it uses mainly d major and cmajor chords and has f #in it.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 05:37 PM

If the guitarist listed the sharps he'd know what key he was in. One sharp - G major (or E minor, listen for the difference) but not starting of finishing on a G major chord. Given that - and if I'd done that I'd have been on the correct chord - it does make me wonder whether insistence on describing some subsets of notes in a particular key as "modal" is deliberate or learned obscurantism.

As for "the shout" what happened to the old fashioned hand signals: one finger up, one sharp. One finger down, one flat. Two fingers up, two sharps. Two fingers down, two flats, and do on?


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 06:34 PM

Okay, this is Banish Misfortune as I know it (and it seems an exact match for Dick's description):

X:1
T:Banish Misfortune
M:6/8
L:1/8
Q:3/8=110
K:DMix
e|fed cAG|A2d cAG|F2F DED|F2F GFG|
A3 cAG|AGA cde|fed cAG|Adc d2:|
e|f2d dcd|f2g agf|e2c cBc|e2f gfe|
f2g agf|e2f gfe|fed cAG|Adc d2:|
e|f2g e2f|d2e c2d|ABA GAG|FGE FED|
c3 cAG|AGA cde|fed cAG|Adc d2:|

Each part begins and ends in D. As I read it, the only other chords you really need are C major and A minor. (Dick would like power chords in a few places - I'll leave him to say where he'd put them).

What does your description of it as being either in G major or E minor tell you to do?


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 09:15 PM

It tells me that D and C and A minor are available chords - but that D minor is not.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 09:37 PM

Historically, modes were used primarily as polyphonic forms and were essentially pre-harmonic. Sure, you could take a vertical slice out of the notes a chapel full of monks were chanting and put a chord name to it, but actual, harmonic frameworks as such didn't come into music in a really important way until a couple of centuries later.

If you abandon the whole idea of modes, you lose a lot of tradition, which seems a bit odd for someone who is interested traditional music.

Putting guitar chords to modal songs is a modern addition, and although it can work very nicely IF tastefully done, I think it needs to be done with a very light hand.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 06:50 PM

Historically, the first use of modes we know about WAS harmonic, in the harp music of ancient Sumeria.

Modal systems have been used to describe a lot of different kinds of music. They aren't limited to doing simple classifications in the monophonic diatonic idiom of mediaeval chant - the theory was more complex before that and has been expanded enormously since.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 01 Aug 11 - 04:29 AM

Listening - briefly - to that Comhaltas clip reminded me of something Paul Jennings wrote once about being at a party where someone decides to play a few tunes on the piano. The melody is fine, but unfortunately the pianist only knows one chord, which he plays repeatedly throughout, "giving every tune a mournful Hebridean feel".

The first time I read that I laughed so much I had to put the book down - you can just hear it. (And I think I've just heard it again.)


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Don Firth
Date: 01 Aug 11 - 04:30 PM

The harp music of ancient Sumeria.

Jack, I'm sorry, but unless you have some connection with the occult, we have no way of knowing that. You're talking 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. The musical instruments that have survived from that era consist mostly of lyres, very primitive harps, and various kinds of pipes and flutes. Since no method of notation has survived, any theories about the kind of music they played and what its harmonic structure was (if any) is pure speculation, based on listening to the music of peoples we assume to be their modern descendants and then extrapolating from there. We don't KNOW the structures of the scales (modes) the ancient Sumerians used, nor do we know whether or not their melodies were harmonized?and if so, in what manner.

Jack, I don't know what you musical training and background is, but mine comes from three years at the University of Washington School of music and another two years at the Cornish School of the Arts, a music conservatory. Early music (including speculations on how music itself got started in the first place), including modes, was covered quite thoroughly. And since I'm acquainted with such things as the experiments of Pythagoras with the monochord on up to early European music (among other things, having spent some time singing with a medieval men's group where we were very precise about the autenticity of what we were doing), I am thoroughly acquainted with such things as modes and gapped scales.

And what rings in my mind now is the admonition from more than one music professor:   "Don't try to make it more complicated than it already is!"

I think the folks on this thread are primarily interested in knowing what's going on when they encounter modal and gapped scales in folk music and ballads, what to do with them, and, if so moved, how to accompany them on the guitar or other modern harmonic instruments.

Let's not make it overly-complex.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Aug 11 - 05:05 PM

We have quite a few texts on tuning the harp from Sumeria. The notation doesn't transcribe any full compositions, but it clearly describes a heptatonic system of modes with dyadic harmonies.

Try the New Grove for a few pointers. This has been decoded in the decades since you were in college and won't even be hinted at in texts you read back then.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Aug 11 - 05:37 PM

Reasonable set of references here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Mesopotamia


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 02 Aug 11 - 11:33 AM

More detail about the Mesopotamian mode system here:

Ancient Near Eastern Music Archaeology (pdf)


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 02 Aug 11 - 12:22 PM

A real easy thing to keep in mind is that Ionian mode is the major scale and the Aeolian mode is the minor. So the minor scale is the 6th degree of its corresponding major. Both scales will use the exact same notes. For example, if one mode has a B-flat, the other also uses the B-flat. In fact, all the modes of a single scale use the identical notes. There's ways to use them to get jazzy or bluesy effects and so on. I'm not much of an expert on that. But a good music teacher going one-on-one with you would be a big help.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Aug 11 - 01:14 PM

Don't try to make it more complicated than it already is!

There's an opposite risk, which I think you're falling into.

Describing a piece as "modal" doesn't mean it's in an idiom from the Middle Ages, and it doesn't mean your arrangement of it has to be pseudo-mediaeval. That way lies Walkaboutsverse-think.


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Subject: RE: Musical Modes...Anyone Understand?
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 Aug 11 - 02:40 PM

Thanks for the references, Jack. The second one looks like it will be pretty interesting to go through.

But on these threads, I think "Don't try to make it more complicated than it already is!" is a good principle to stick to.

Modes are alternative arrangements of steps and half-steps within scales. It's not a case of "were," it's a matter of "are." Many modern composers are making use of modes, and they're not necessarily trying to sound medieval. Far from it. Nor am I advocating trying to make, say, guitar accompaniments for a folk song or ballad that's in one of the modes sound "medieval," although if one knows what one is doing, this can often be done with good effect.

But the question was, "Musical Modes ? Anyone Understand?" The answer is "Yes." And they're not that difficult to understand if you look at them as simply alternative arrangements of steps and half-steps in the scale. And if you want to accompany a song that happens to be in a particular mode, without "clanking," you need to adjust your chords to include only notes contained in the scale.

This is not as difficult as it may sound. Case in point:   in Joan Baez's recording of "John Riley," the melody is Dorian mode. This is the same as the natural minor (A B C D E F G A) with the exception that instead of a half-step between E and F, it is a whole step (E to F#). The primary chords one would use to accompany a song in natural minor a Am, Dm, and Em. The Dm chord contains D, F natural, and A. But the Dorian mode does not contain an F natural, it contains an F# instead. So?instead of a Dm, you play a D major, which is made up of D, F#, and A.

Simple as that!

This does not mean that your guitar accompaniment is going to sound like you're playing it on a medieval citole.   If you want it to, you're going to have to work a little harder than merely selecting chords to fit the mode.

Don Firth


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