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Modes for Mudcatters: A Synthesis Primer

Related threads:
Tech Talk: Modes and Scales Again (117)
Musical Modes...Anyone Understand? (75)
Transposing Chords and Keys (37)
More About Modes (70)
modes tutorial update (17)
The Naming of Modes (38)
Is the tempered scale overrated? (56)
Modal Music - How to tell? (98)
Modes vs Scales (47)
a mnemonic for the modes (106)
Music Theory Mavens: D down to C, etc.? (28)
Relative Minor Key signatures? (45)
15 Keys, 3 are duplicates. When Used??? (19)
Who Named the Modes? (49)
What is a key, anyway? (31)
Why Keys? (53)
Modes? (56)
singing in key of G (17)


Peter T. 28 Mar 00 - 02:29 PM
Alice 28 Mar 00 - 02:41 PM
MMario 28 Mar 00 - 02:50 PM
Whistle Stop 28 Mar 00 - 02:57 PM
Amos 28 Mar 00 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 28 Mar 00 - 03:38 PM
Peter T. 28 Mar 00 - 03:42 PM
Jim Krause 28 Mar 00 - 03:42 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 28 Mar 00 - 04:13 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 28 Mar 00 - 04:19 PM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 28 Mar 00 - 06:34 PM
Pete Peterson 28 Mar 00 - 06:52 PM
Bev and Jerry 28 Mar 00 - 06:59 PM
Mary in Kentucky 28 Mar 00 - 07:37 PM
catspaw49 28 Mar 00 - 07:45 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 28 Mar 00 - 09:13 PM
Rick Fielding 28 Mar 00 - 09:41 PM
Caitrin 28 Mar 00 - 09:54 PM
Escamillo 29 Mar 00 - 01:02 AM
Peter T. 29 Mar 00 - 09:39 AM
rainbow 29 Mar 00 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,Bruce O. 29 Mar 00 - 06:09 PM
Peter T. 29 Mar 00 - 06:44 PM
Marion 07 Sep 00 - 12:03 PM
Bill D 07 Sep 00 - 07:10 PM
M.Ted 07 Sep 00 - 09:26 PM
Marion 10 Sep 00 - 10:55 PM
Marion 10 Sep 00 - 11:01 PM
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death by whisky 11 Sep 00 - 08:05 AM
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Marion 17 Sep 00 - 06:26 PM
GUEST,John Bauman 17 Sep 00 - 10:26 PM
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nutty 23 Nov 00 - 06:00 PM
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Burke 30 Nov 00 - 07:12 PM
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Subject: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Peter T.
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 02:29 PM

With some trepidation, I have put this simple synthesis together for my own purposes -- if I can explain something to myself, I can usually remember it for at least a week - and thought it might be useful to others, ranging from people interested in fiddle music to listeners to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (the famous opening piece, "So What?", is in Dorian mode). I thought it might also be an example (maybe bad!!) of other educational projects Mudcatters might generate here. As I say at the end, I happily invite corrections and complaints -- I am just getting started on this huge topic, and could have it all screwed up! It is based on the two earlier big threads on this topic, as well as the New Grove Dictionary, 5 guitar books, e-mails from kind Mudcatters, and a couple of days of head-scratching and plonking around.

MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A PRIMER

(with thanks to Sorcha, M. Ted, OckiemockBird, Praise, Arkie, alison, soddy, Art Thieme, Frank Hamilton, Bruce O., and others)

This primer is designed to explain as clearly as possible the concept and role of modes in music. It assumes a very basic knowledge of the current familiar major and minor scales that are what most people work with on the piano and the guitar. The examples are based on being able to work with or vaguely envisage a piano keyboard. Art Thieme, in the recent "Tech Talk:Modes and Scales Again" thread, uses an Appalachian dulcimer (which I don't have, shame on me).

All this is really preliminary to talking about what all this means for applications to understanding folk music and folk songs, and not for theory for its own sake. So it is in two parts: 1) an introduction to modes; and 2) a much shorter section of applications to folk music, to which I am hoping the experts on this site will continue to append material and examples.

1. Modes: An Introduction

Modes are patterns that identify different scales, or clusters of melodies from which patterns can be inferred. The history and language of modes is very complicated because they come out of medieval music, church music, and are now being applied to a whole range of other less formalized music; as well as (less usefully) to non Western music, or any music that is different than the mainline system. So, as M. Ted points out, they really have three distinct and different applications:

1) Describing early church music;
2) A more recent use to analyze and describe the different types of scales that occur in folk music, and certain oriental musics;
3) The contemporary use of modal scales in performance of jazz and pop music, and in some modern classical music.

The bizarre language of modes -- Dorian, Lydian, Locrian, Mixolydian, etc., that puts people off, derives (in legend) from an early Greek attempt to identify different patterns in music -- the patterns were supposedly named after Greek islands that were part of the Greek Confederacy -- and adapted into Byzantine musical practice, Gregorian chant, etc. through the medieval period. These names were further adapted (and applied) to quite different configurations of notes later on, due to historical misunderstandings. In the 19th century, when people started looking at folk music that did not conform to what was now the mainline pattern, they used modes as a way of classifying them (controversially).

The most important single thing to keep in mind in what follows is that I am using the term mode very roughly here to signify a pattern of intervals that goes from the first note of a scale (say C) to the next C, one octave higher. This is for convenience sake.

The two modes that we are most familiar with -- and that have crowded out the others from our ears -- are the Major and Minor mode. These were originally the Ionian and the Aeolian modes (the minor is actually derived from a more complicated mix, but generally this is true). If you sit down at a piano, and start at middle C and play all the white keys till you get to the next highest C, you have played a diatonic C scale in the Major mode, which is like the Ionian, and that is a shorthand people give it today, referring to it as Ionian as well. To remind those for whom music class was a long time ago (like me!): "Diatonic" roughly means playing the right notes for a certain scale: "chromatic" means playing every note there is: on a piano that would mean adding in all the black keys as well, which would then take it out of the C scale. The C-scale on the white notes has the following structure : C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C or, looking at the intervals between each note (W=Whole step; h=Half Step): W-W-H-W-W-W-H. You may recall that in this scale, between E and F and between B and C there are the half steps (which is also related to why there are no black keys between them on the piano). The related minor scale (A minor), also stays on the white keys, but because it starts on A-B-C-D E-F-G-A, its structure looks like: W-H-W-W-H-W-W. If you do the C scale for two octaves, it goes: W-W-H-W-W-W-H-W-W-H-W-W-W-H. This is the C structure, but if this time you start on the 6th note, A and then go forward, the pattern of W's and H's change. This different pattern of whole and half steps identifies this as the Aeolian or Minor mode; but it is obviously related to the C scale in the related Major mode.

O.K. Now one way of thinking about more new modes (not the only one, but it seems to me to be convenient), is to go back to the C scale for a moment. This time, instead of going up from C to shining C on the white notes, move up one note to D and go to D on the white notes. This -- like the A-minor scale -- gives you a different pattern of whole and half steps. We move up one, so: W-H-W-W-W-H-W. This is now a Dorian pattern.

There are a couple of important things here. The first is that in the history of modes, the most important concern was that the first note of the scale (or, to be historically more accurate, the last note, which is the same) sets up a tonal centre of its own. That is, starting on D and going to D creates its own musical universe. For a moment, forget you have ever heard of a C scale, C major, or anything like it. You are just going from D to D on the white keys. D- Dorian.

Now, suppose that you return to the Major scale. That is, you are now going to go from D to D in the same Major mode of the C scale you started with. To make D to D work in the same pattern that made C work, and still remaining in that Major mode, you have to add two sharps (#). That is: D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D. This then gives you the original W-W-H-W-W-W-H Major pattern we started with in C (adjusting the step from E-F and B-C, as well, of course, as the step from F-G and C-D). This gives you a D scale -- and the key of D -- in D Major.

The difference between D-major and D-Dorian is that in order to get D-Dorian (remember that on the piano it would be all white keys starting on D), you have to flatten those two sharps that you have in the Major to get a Dorian pattern. All Dorians, whatever note they start on, can be characterised by those two flats -- on the 3rd and the 7th -- applied to the related major scale.

Let us try this with the C-scale we started out with. Remember, this is all clean of sharps or flats, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. To get C-Dorian now, you flat the 3rd and the 7th. C-D-Eb-F-G-A Bb-C. If you know some music theory, you will know that a key in Major mode that has two flats is B. So if you start with B-Ionian, the closely related Dorian is C.

So this sets up the easy rule to memorize for starting in modes. Take a scale, like C, move up one note, preparing for a new octave , change the pattern, and you get a D Dorian. This is true for any scale in Major mode: A-Dorian is thus related to G major; G-Dorian to F major, and so on. Using a C-scale, and checking out the other modes, we would then have the following list, moving up a note each time, changing the octave span, and changing the pattern differently each time:

C-Ionian (our major scale)
D-Dorian
E-Phrygian
F-Lydian
G-Mixolydian
A-Aeolian (our minor scale)
B-Locrian.

Each of the modes can be thought of this way for useful purposes. So, as related to a Major (Ionian) scale (sometimes called "natural modes"):

Ionian goes: W-W-H-W-W-W-H (all natural)
Dorian goes: W-H-W-W-W-H-W (b3, b7)
Phrygian goes: H-W-W-W-H-W-W (b2, b3, b6, b7)
Lydian goes: W-W-W-H-W-W-H (#4)
Mixolydian goes: W-W-H-W-W-H-W (b7)
Aeolian goes: W-H-W-W-H-W-W (b3, b6, b7)
Locrian goes: H-W-W-H-W-W-W (b2, b3, b5, b6, b7)

Keeping these interval patterns correct, you can start on any note you want, anywhere. Using the Ionian scale is just for comparative convenience, just as using the C-scale with its white notes makes it clearer when things like flats and sharps get added. You can start anywhere -- though traditionally the modes were associated with those special final/tonal notes such as D (Dorian).

One last piece of pure theory before getting to work. Because of the changes in the flats and the sharps in these patterns, when the notes of these new scales are put into stacked chords, the dynamic relationships change. The standard Major scale dynamic is a I(tonic)-IV (Subdominant)-V7(Dominant)-I chord structure, with the Dominant (with the 7th to give it extra pull) seeking to resolve to the I (tonic). In these new modes, however, for example, the Mixolydian with its flatted 7th; the VII (subtonic) chord which is usually weak in a Major scale, becomes quite strong, and can act as an alternative dominant. That is part of what gives these new modes their characteristic "flavour".

Frank Hamilton and others put the stress on listening. For example, if you have a tune that seems to be strongly in a standard G scale -- maybe it starts on a G and ends on a G -- but has no F#, then a trained ear would opt for a Mixolydian mode. More on this in a second.

2. Putting Modes to Work

To continue on this more practical line, and still speaking of chords, soddy notes as follows:

The most frequently used modes in fiddle music are the Aeolian, the Dorian, and the Mixolydian.... In the Dorian mode, the I chord is minor (unlike the standard D chord in the D major scale), the IV chord is major, and the V7 chord is minor, although more often the VII chord is used, which is major. In the Mixolydian mode, the I chord is major, the IV chord is Major, and the V chord is minor. Usually (again) the VII chord is substituted for a V chord. "Old Joe Clark" is a Mixolydian tune.

Frank Hamilton speaks about this in a related way, bringing in the idea of chords whose use imply the mode they are creating. That is, if you play the important chords in these modes, the rest of the mode is implied. You can then use the scale of that mode to improvise with. He says (I have moved his remarks around and added to them):

" An A minor chord and a G major chord (or E minor) define an A-Aeolian mode (or one might say, we hear that we are now in a minor key). A C minor chord and an F major chord define a C-Dorian mode. A G-major chord and an F-major chord define a G-Mixolydian mode. A C-major and a D-major chord define a C-Lydian mode. E-major or E-minor chord and an F-major chord define an E-Phrygian mode. The Locrian mode is not really found in the folk music tradition."

Also, as Okiemockbird points out, none of this is hard and fast: he speaks of a compositon of his that wanders between C-major (no sharps), and G-major (one sharp). He thinks the work is vaguely Mixolydian. Why? To repeat what was said earlier, because although the piece is structured around a G scale (G is the note upon which the piece ends, so it is for the moment assumed to be the tonal centre) the piece has no sharps. What this means is that he is thinking of the piece as being in G, which would usually mean G major, but now with the usual one sharp (F#) flattened out of existence, so it follows the Mixolydian pattern (a flattened 7th).

Sorcha says a similar thing about "Old Joe Clark" :

"It is usually in A, but it is an A without the last G#; if you play the G# is will sound O.K., but without it there is a more "minory" or Appalachian feel to the tune. A lot of Scottish tunes are also in A without the G#, as you can get a more bag-pipey feel to the sound."

Okiemockbird gives another example of what to do, and what to avoid: just to get a better feel for this. In E-Dorian -- E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D-E - he would use E-minor, B minor, G-major, A-major, D-Major, and other chords containing these notes, but stay away from A-minor, which would be normal in an E-minor piece.

On a related matter, thinking about improvising, suppose you are playing music in a major key -- say C -- and the music is sitting on a dominant 7th (V7), which would be a G7 chord. You can use that G7 as the tonal centre around which you can play the G-Mixolydian scale over that chord until the day happens that you want to go back to C again. (Sailors!) Similarly, with a IIminor 7th (like Dminor 7 in a song in C), you can play a D-Dorian scale (and others -- one book says that E -Phrygian scales work well over Dminor 7ths). This is part of what Miles Davis and Bill Evans are doing in jazz albums like Kind of Blue -- they slow the music down to the point where the standard "dominant chord tension" is replaced by a more meditative, repetitive music based on modal scales being played over chords that have temporarily lost their Major home -- this is why these songs sound as if they could go on forever -- they are not being pulled hard towards a standard tonic. This is why composers at the turn of the 20th century looking for sounds outside of the main system turned to folk songs and non-standard modes.

A few extra notes from the earlier threads:
It was noted by several people that the only new modes over and above Major and Minor that one usually runs across are the Dorian and the Mixolydian.

A small practical trick noted by Okiemockbird is that if you raise the 6th note in a standard Aeolion minor scale, you get a Dorian mode. So, in Aminor, if you sharp the 6th, you get: A B-C-D-E-F#-A, which is A-Dorian. When you are working in chords in A minor, this means that two of the important chords -- the II and the IV -- are changed in useful ways. The II, which was a diminished chord, becomes a minor; and the IV becomes a major triad (adding a 7th to that makes the chord into an alternative dominant).

Lastly it is worth repeating that modes are not necessarily clean and neat: the tone of any song or songs may not be immediately fittable into one of the "official" modes. Bruce O. notes that he has over 160 modes in his data base. There is a complex history concerning the application of modes to folk music, most famously in the modal scheme (originating with Gilchrist) adapted by Sharp in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1917), and differing descendants (Bertrand Bronson is mentioned in the threads). Some theorists concentrate on clusters of tunes, not modes. Contributors to other threads also noted that the idea of "final tones" in modal schemes is complicated when you have "circular" forms where there is no strong end to the song.

The relationship of modes to other folk musics in other cultures, with their special microtones and structures, seems to be very controversial, and of diminishing usefulness the farther away you get from the West.

To conclude: the general advice is, of course, to listen and play, to familiarize oneself with modes, either comparing them as they differ from the standard Major/minor modes, or as they are in themselves. To this end, here are a number of songs suggested by Mudcatters:

Songs/Music in each mode:

Dorian: Garry Owen, Cuckoos Nest, 17 Come Sunday, Lisdoonvarna, Cold Frosty Morning

Mixolydian: John Hardy, Tom Joad, Paddy O'Rafferty, Three Sheepskins, Jolly Beggarman, Morisco, Old Joe Clark

Phrygian: White Cockade, Campbells are Coming, Bessie Bell & Mary Gray

Lydian:Beethoven's String Quartet, Opus. 132.

Locrian: Couldn't find any.

Thanks again to all. I would obviously appreciate corrections and complaints that I have got something wrong (there will be some, I am sure), and additions to the practical side, songs, etc., for everyone's benefit. A second edition would correct (or replace) this first. I have had a whole new world of music opened to me in working on getting this clear(ish) in my own mind. I appreciate the help I have got over the last week.

Yours, Peter T. P.S. A new Mudcat mode: Maxolydian.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Alice
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 02:41 PM

wow, you've been busy typing. Good job.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: MMario
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 02:50 PM

this should be saved as an "article" for the e-zine!!!!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 02:57 PM

Wow! Peter, you have performed a valuable service. This is much better than trying to remember my music theory studies from 25 years ago! It also should help remind all of us how much the Mudcat has to offer. Many thanks.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Amos
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 03:03 PM

I took the liberty of adding this to the LINKS section under Music Theory. Hope that wasokay.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 03:38 PM

I've found that using numbers for the number of semitones between notes, 1, 2, and so is much more convenient than W, and H or S and T, and a lot easier for a computer to handle. You can also extend it to include all possible modes. [See file on modes on my website for the semitone sequences for normal 7, 6, and 5 note tunes and a few others].

It's only a step from there to my mode number which directly codes the scale of the tune, not the difference of it from the scoring mode. [Some tunes have been scored in as many as 4 different modes] File COMBCOD2.TXT now gives stressed note codes of 6232 tunes in 172 different modes or scales. The scales of these and common scoring notations for them are given in file CODEMATR.TXT


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Peter T.
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 03:42 PM

Could you put your website name/link here, Bruce? I can't open the other thread any more, so can't remember if you listed it there.
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Jim Krause
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 03:42 PM

Peter, I am certainly impressed. That was quite good. I was glad to offer any help I could to your efforts. Cudos & congrats.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 04:13 PM

www.erols.com/olsonw
[see quicklinks above]


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 04:19 PM

There's another advantage to using 1 for a semitone and 2 for a tone. After you've gone through the octave add up all the 1's and 2's (and others for non-normal modes) and if they don't add up to 12 then you made a mistake somewhere.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 06:34 PM

How the devil you sifted through all that information and distilled it down to something even I can understand is a miracle. This one's a keeper. You have my undying gratitude and admiration, Peter T.

Neil


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Pete Peterson
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 06:52 PM

My compliments to the chef! and thanks for a VERY nice piece of work. I now have some very nice ways of trying to explain it to other people which are bette than the ones I was using-- and I learned a lot here, too! thanks


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 06:59 PM

Peter:

Nice wordk!!! And lots of it, too!

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 07:37 PM

Thanks Peter! Now I can replace (or add to) the notebook I've filled by printing all the previous threads.

Some additional stuff I picked up...but should be verified again since I forgot where I got it...

Dorian Mode: What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?

Lydian Mode: Lemon Tree (Peter, Paul & Mary)

Mixolydian Mode: Gregorian psalm tone 7 (I think from Okiemockbird); Rattling Roaring Willie (I think from Jack Campin and can be heard at Barry Taylor's )

Locrian: Gentle Thoughts Meditative Chant (from Sorcha...if anyone wants to hear it maybe I can figure out how to do the Miditext program)

Thanks again!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: catspaw49
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 07:45 PM

Peter I refuse to believe you did this. Admit it, it was the Heron wasn't it???

Fantastic job my friend, and after you make whatever changes you may decide upon or last minute additions, I agree, This needs to be in the Mudcat E-Zine.

EXCELLENT WORK....... and my best to Waylon.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 09:13 PM

Nice work, Peter--it seems to be pretty accurate--of course every point raises another question, which would turn it into a book--though that may be inevitable!!!!

I have a couple clarifications though-- your tend to classify the major and minor scales as modes, and I think you have to explain the difference between diatonic scales and modes--

The major and minor scales may have the same notes in them as modes, but modes are a precursor to the diatonic scales--they M/m scales can be used in ways that the modes cannot be used--

Through the use of changing harmonies, they make it possible to change the tone center of the melody to any of the other scale notes, without changing the underlying tonality of the melody--

Another way of saying this is that in the key of C major, you can change the tone center of the melody to B and you ear still "hears" it resolving back to C--

The G7 scale is called a Dominant Scale, not a Mixolydian scale--because it has this special relationship to the C scale--

Other things that major/minor scales do that modes don't, is allow for the possibility of key changes, and allow the melody to be change from major to minor, or for a melody phrase to repeat with one of the intervals raised or lowered--

Also, it would be good if you make some attempt to explain what the nature of those 160 scales that Bruce O keeps mentioning---

Anyway, well begun (Big Grin)


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 09:41 PM

Thank you Peter.

Rick


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Caitrin
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 09:54 PM

Peter...wow! As person who's never had a music theory class, this has been very helpful. I had heard of modes before, but I wasn't really sure how they functioned. This was both educational and interesting...many thanks!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Escamillo
Date: 29 Mar 00 - 01:02 AM

Thanks a lot and congratulations, El Pedro. It happens more and more that an article posted by a Mudcatter becomes part of our library. And this is GREAT.
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Peter T.
Date: 29 Mar 00 - 09:39 AM

Mary of Kentucky's eagle eye (from an e-mail):
there is a typo in roughly the 15th paragraph, where I say that "if you know some music theory, you will know that a key in Major mode that has two flats is B."

Should of course be Bb (Major). Thanks, Mary.

Glad this is seen as helpful. I would like to read even short primers on (1) playing the blues (pentatonics and all that); (2) on sounds and scales in non-Western folk music; (3) some more on learning to play different instruments; and a synthesis of some of the other really informative long threads here. I know there are books available on these, but I found the personal versions and tips of Mudcatters more helpful (and more fun). Thanks to Mary again for more song additions. Any others?

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: rainbow
Date: 29 Mar 00 - 10:30 AM

wow! thanks for this... also there are usually interesting comments on modes in dulcimer threads due to the nature of the instrument...

... lorraine


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 29 Mar 00 - 06:09 PM

I've made up a mode slide rule as a GIF and put it on my website, so you can print it out from your web browser. (Click on MODERULE.GIF). Cut the scale off the top so you can slide it along to give the keynote you want at the start of the mode, and slide it down to the mode you want. Notes tell how to get the normal 6 and 5 modes from these. I didn't put on the non-normal harmonic minor, but it's just aeolian with the 7th not flatted. www.erols.com/olsonw


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Peter T.
Date: 29 Mar 00 - 06:44 PM

Neat. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 07 Sep 00 - 12:03 PM

I am refreshing this, as I just got around to reading my hard copy of it and was very impressed. Thanks, Peter.

Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Sep 00 - 07:10 PM

As an "Uncontrite Modal Folker"...(have a tee-shirt that says so)...I appreciate that summary!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Sep 00 - 09:26 PM

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water again!!!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 10:55 PM

Here are two more documents I have found that may be useful:

Click here then click on Modal Harmony

This article deals with what chords should be used to accompany tunes in Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian modes.

Modes and Scales in Traditional Scottish Music

The introduction to this one is tantalizing, but it looks terribly long and complete - and its millions of examples are given in abc - so I haven't worked up the courage to study it yet. But take a look if you're studying about modes.

Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 11:01 PM

Errata:

The second link should be:

Modes and Scales in Traditional Scottish Music

Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Barbara
Date: 11 Sep 00 - 01:09 AM

And I think the Beatles song Within You, Without You is in locrian. Check it out.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: death by whisky
Date: 11 Sep 00 - 08:05 AM

....and what about the Diddleian mode for all those Irish tunes!!!!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 11 Sep 00 - 10:55 PM

In Peter's article and the "Modal Harmony" article I gave a link to, the "practical side" of modes is all about the kinds of chords need to harmonize modal tunes.

But what I want to know, as a fiddler, is how to use modal tunes in medleys.

I know that every major key has a relative minor key; is it also useful to say that the Ionian mode of a given note has a relative Dorian and relative Mixolydian?

It's my observation that going from a major key tune into another tune in the relative minor works great (i.e. G major tune followed by E minor tune), but that going from a major tune into what would be its relative Dorian (i.e. D major in E Dorian) doesn't work at all.

A lot of the tunes in my scrapbook I can identify as Dorian, but I'm less sure about Mixolydian - are "Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "Mairi's Wedding" Mixolydian? If they are, then I've tried going from a major into the relative Mixolydian and found that it's workable but not as seamlessly as into the relative minor.

I wonder if E minor and E Dorian tunes would flow well together, or A major with A Mixolydian tunes, since they share the same starting guitar chord...

These are my observations, but they're based on a very small sample and some doubts as to whether I've identified the modes correctly.

I'd like to know if there is some systematic way of laying out what tunes can go with what.

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 10:16 PM

I'm refreshing this in the hopes that someone will take an interest in my question.

In the meantime I've learned that Wind That Shakes the Barley and Mairi's Wedding are in major keys, not Mixolydian. Wind That Shakes the Barley has two sharps in its signature but seems to centre around the note A, so I thought it was A Mixolydian, but I guess maybe it's just one of the "circular" tunes that have been mentioned.

And in the hopes of luring M.Ted back into the water... I wonder if you've already answered my question with:

"Other things that major/minor scales do that modes don't, is allow for the possibility of key changes, and allow the melody to be changed from major to minor..." (M.Ted, above).

So does that mean if you start with a G major tune you can switch casually to an E minor tune, and make a leap to some other major key and have it not sound too disjointed... whereas if you start with a tune in E Dorian it should only be followed by other tunes in E Dorian?

I'm also trying to understand this statement:

"Through the use of changing harmonies, they make it possible to change the tone center of the melody to any of the other scale notes, without changing the underlying tonality of the melody--" (M.Ted again).

So if you have a song where you play G chord on the first two bars, then C on the next two bars, then D on the next two bars... does that mean that in bars 3 and 4 the tone centre is C, and in bars 5 and 6 the tone centre is D, and the underlying tonality is G? Is that what you mean by changing the tone centre? Or can you say that bars 3 and 4 are actually in the key of C major and that there has been a short-lived modulation?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Hedy West (current membership)
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 10:46 PM

Marion,

If you've chosen G triad (chord) as your home base, you've chosen G as your tonic. It would be a real drag to hang around there forever. (Who'd want to keep listening?) So, the most common strayings off are

1st, to the C triad, undermining (but not destroying) the tonic weight of G by using it as the 5th of of its subdominant (i.e., the pitch that lies a 5th under it, therefore "sub" dominant)

2nd, to the D triad, G's dominant (which by repeating G's 2nd overtone, seems simply to echo the G triad and give more weight to it. Because the D triad also contains the pitch F#, it's a cinch to create a demand to return to tonic G. F# is G's "leading tone" - it leads to G - & voila, there you are back home feeling very satisfied after a little trip.

And all the time you stayed in G tonic.

First vacation finished. You can study where you want to stray next time.

Hedy


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 11:12 PM

Hi Hedy, and thanks for answering. Does your use of the phrase "current membership" mean that you're new to Mudcat? If so, welcome, and I like your writing style.

I'm familiar with the I IV V progression of short-lived chords within a song or tune. Does it also apply to the sequence of tunes within a medley? I mean, would you play a G major reel on the fiddle (with your guitarist playing G, C, D, Em) then go straight into a C major reel (with the guitarist playing C, F, G, Am) then a D major reel then another G major reel?

I remember from another thread someone said it was cool to shift from some G tunes into A tunes. This I to II sequence isn't something you see often in guitar chords for individual songs.

I wonder if there's any connection between how the chords of bars within a tune go together and how the keys of tunes within a medley go together.

thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Hedy West (current membership)
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 01:57 AM

Merion,

The "current membership" is a device to differentiate between me-real & me-faux: I was "honored" by an impersonater on this website starting I think in January. "Current..." is the real-version; I've just been talking strolls here a couple of weeks. Thanks for the welcome.

I wrote that bit above in answer to your, "So if you have a song where you play G chord on the first two bars, then C on the next two bars, then D on the next two bars... does that mean that in bars 3 and 4 the tone centre is C, and in bars 5 and 6 the tone centre is D, and the underlying tonality is G? Is that what you mean by changing the tone centre? Or can you say that bars 3 and 4 are actually in the key of C major and that there has been a short-lived modulation?"

"Tonal centre" is synonymous with "tonic". You seemed to have been asking whether one is changing the tonic/tonal center each two measures in a standard I IV V I progression.

Your, " Doesit also apply to the sequence of tunes within a medley? I mean, would you play a G major reel on the fiddle (with your guitarist playing G, C, D, Em) then go straight into a C major reel (with the guitarist playing C, F, G, Am) then a D major reel then another G major reel?"

In standard traditional playing, I do not think that formula was followed; BUT, that ought to be a most satisfactory sounding formula. Folk forms are shorter, and didn't generally get carried away to larger applications of harmonic movements - that was what happened in Western classical music, and to what marvellous places it DID get carried! Viz., in Brahms, there's glorious "carrying"!

It's MY opinion that you CAN do what you discover you CAN do.

The one-step-up tonal movement is a sort of one-time-thing, a bit of a static terracing that doesn't move you along with the dynamic of creating a demand for the return of the tonic, like the I IV V I sequence. (Or some more elaborate variations of the same). BUT, it's fun.

So, have it!

Hedy


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Turtle
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 12:21 PM

Wow, Peter, this is amazing. I remember the two long threads, but I never saw this compendium back in March. And then just this week I was talking about modes with a friend of mine who plays accordion, and I told her I'd seen something on the Mudcat and I'd try to excerpt the useful bits for her, and voila! here it is all neat and tidily summed up for us, and conveniently refreshed by Marion (thanks Marion!).

Thank you, thank you.

Turtle


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 03:46 PM

Lots of people helped relieve my excruciating stupidity -- and the new additions are interesting too.
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 06:26 PM

Turtle, next time you're looking for this thread, you can go to "Links" (not "Quick Links") and look in the music theory category. So what are these two long threads whereof you speak?

Thanks for the clarification Hedy. But I'm not sure about your statement that I can do what I discover I can do, at least at this stage in my learning. My intuition is that it's important to know what the rules are and how to use them (or call them "conventions" or "accumulated wisdom of our craft" if you don't like the sound of "rules") before starting to deviate from them. This is a bone I have to pick with my fiddle teacher - whenever I ask a question like "when should I use unisons?" he always answers "whenever you want to - whatever sounds right to you." While I'm sure that he's right in that it's ultimately the musician's decision how to play something, as a beginner this isn't useful advice, because I don't know when I want to play unisons (or strictly speaking I never want to play unisons because they're more difficult than single notes), and I'm not educated enough to tell when they fit.

But maybe you didn't mean "do whatever you want" and just wanted to say "trust your ear to tell you what fits". There's truth to that, I'm slowly discovering. I am still hoping that somebody will confirm or deny my thesis that:

"So does that mean if you start with a G major tune you can switch casually to an E minor tune, and make a leap to some other major key and have it not sound too disjointed... whereas if you start with a tune in E Dorian it should only be followed by other tunes in E Dorian?"

But whether or not I find out if this is a standard rule, it is definitely what my ear seems to be telling me, so it's the rule I'm going with for now.

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,John Bauman
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 10:26 PM

Jeeeeez I wish I culd get my mind around this. My particular learning disability seems to be that I can't grasp a theory concept very well until I can also hear it illustrated. Did anyone get one of those mode slide rules that guest Bruce was offering back in march? Know how to get one? I spent the better part of the day a month ago creating a colour chart of the intervals so I could teach myself the modes but intervals don't translate easily to the guitar and it is a painfully long process to get up to speed in any mode so as to catch the "sound" of the mode--and dammit, no Julie Andrews singing do, 1/2re, mi, fa, etc in my mind. Howdidja learn the sound?

John


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Hedy West (current membership)
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 09:02 PM

Marion,

You sound meticulous. That can be useful, if you don't let it block you. I consider "rules" building materials, and not "no-no's". Some rules can seem to contradict other rules, and it's up to you and your ear to sort out what you want to use. You gotta be the final judge, rather than depend on a teacher or another creature to select what ingredients you want to use to construct your music. Sure, it sounds amorphous, but how very nice to have a selection!

If you want to know my opinion (and you may not want my opinion), it is: Listen much and carefully. Take sharp notice of the sounds that thrill you, and figure out how they're made, then practice them. When you have them under control, experiment with them, and take careful notice of whatever creeps into your own playing that you like, either by design or by accident. It's up to you to develop an esthetic. My dearest core-rule for myself is: avoid the gatekeepers at ALL COST. They'll spoil all your joy and turn you to dust. And that's NOT what music is about!

You have to be the somebody who confirms or denies your thesis. And, since you say, "...it is what my ear seems to be telling me..." follow your ear. It's the only one you have. Do it; you'll reassess it unavoidably.

Adios,

Hedy West


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 22 Nov 00 - 11:31 PM

I've upgraded the stressed note-key-mode software on my website to support semitone sequences. Instead of the W and H that Peter T. used in the first note above I use 2 and 1. So W (whole step) is 2 semitones and H (half step) is one semitone. I can then use 3 and higher numbers that are needed for other modes. The numbers, rather than letters, for semitone sequences lets you do any mode, and you can check it, because the sum of the all the digits of a semitone sequence must equal 12. Lydian is then 2221221 and Ionian is then 2212221, etc. (Cyclic permutation of 2212221 gives semitone sequences of the 7 'greek' modes)

About a year ago some said in this forum that there were 180 modes in Turkish music and they all had names. I've now got that many modes among the 6504 British Isles tunes coded on my website. They don't all have names, but they don't need them, because my mode# identifies them uniquely (and you can get the actual scale relative to the keynote from it by simple math- no tables needed).

The (numerical) semitone sequence is also a unique mode identifier, but over 95% of the digits are 1's or 2's and in a long list of semitone sequences the numbers all start looking about the same (almost as bad as reading long binary numbers). The tunes in my COMBCOD2.TXT file vary from a 3 note scale- Mode# 10, semitone sequence 228, to an 11 note scale- Mode# 2046, semitone sequence 21111111111. That last one demonstrates the difficulty in using semitone sequences for mode identifiers. How long does it take you just to count up the number of 1's in it? 2046 is a lot easier to deal with (and 2047 is the maximum possible, a 12 note scale)

See the tune code files and program at: www.erols.com/olsonw


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: nutty
Date: 23 Nov 00 - 06:00 PM

I always found it interesting that Plato descibed our major key C - C as the lavascious mode........ not suitable for serious music and liable to lead astray all those who used it
Now I know why music is fun


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Nov 00 - 01:05 AM

Where did Plato say that? It's also been said (I forget who, but it was't Plato) that the devil has all the best tunes.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Marion
Date: 29 Nov 00 - 08:22 PM

I've heard that Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said "Why should the devil have all the good music?" to justify the technique of putting hymn lyrics onto drinking songs. Maybe this is the quote you mean.

Marion


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Burke
Date: 30 Nov 00 - 07:12 PM

If Booth said it he was quoting someone else. I've seen it attributed to Booth, Martin Luther, & one of the Wesley's. Bartlett's quotations has only been able to trace it to the biography of an English preacher named Rowland Hill 1744-1833.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Peter T.
Date: 01 Dec 00 - 09:04 AM

You mean, Sir Rowland, the modern Mr. Postman himself?
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Burke
Date: 01 Dec 00 - 10:00 AM

No, Mr. Postman, 1795-1879, was 50 years younger than the preacher.


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Sorcha
Date: 21 Apr 01 - 11:26 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Apr 01 - 11:52 AM

Thanks for refreshing! You can lead a banjo player to water but can you make him drink!


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Subject: RE: MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 21 Apr 01 - 03:18 PM

Peter T.-- I am in awe. What a truly fine piece of work!!!!!!!!

CC


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