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Aren't all the modes just one scale???

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cire113, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    hold on a sec. modes, as we are familiar with them, ARE a medieval concept. that they have (mistranslated) greek names is of little importance. but "mode" as an overarching musical concept is not attributable to any one culture or time. both ancient greek and medieval european music were modal in nature, but otherwise the two systems have few similarities. the modes of medieval music represent only one of many sets recognized by the ancient greeks.

    uprigbassjunkie - i think you are mixing up periods. medieval music was primarily vocal and the secular stuff might have used psaltery and harp. but no keyboards! the problems with enharmonic notes on gambas and keyboards started in the renaissance and were due to the departure from pythagoreanism. so equal temperament (as a pretty good pythagorean approximation) would sound ok for medieval music, but not so good for renaisance/baroque music.
  2. Now it's these sort of back and fourths that make a thread about modes interesting...

    Go on...
  3. In post # 11, I predicted we would get to 90 posts, we are at 103 and counting.........
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Sorry to say your post supports the idea of modes being used in Classical times as well as Medieval times, though both are at least a thousand years apart?????
    All I am pointing out is that Modes are not a Medieval concept if they were conceived by the Greeks a thousand years earlier.... They may have been a Medieval practice or development but there construction and idea had been around long before Medieval times.

    Now I am not being picky or awkward, but we are talking different era and at least a thousand years apart so to mix the two develops a new idea of history.
    After all, you do contradict yourself in your own post so it is un-clear what you are saying.

    If modes are a Medieval concept, then the Greeks could not have used them thousands of years earlier, so they could not be "recognised by the ancient Greeks" as you say.

    But we do know that the Ancient Greeks developed and used a Tetrachord theory, so we can suppose that they did indeed use modes before anyone in Medieval Times.

    Now a search on the web will bring up lots of info on things like Tetrachord Theory, which I was taught, but not modes. Again always interest in any info that would contradict.
  5. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    Fergie - i think you are conflating some things. humans have been creating modal music for for as long as music has existed. "mode" being some melodic framework containing a pitch hierarchy. no one owns this idea. nor tetrachordal theory, which has arisen intuitively among many cultures.

    i am saying that the modal system discussed in this thread (as opposed to the modes of the arab world, the mediterranean, turkey, india, china, japan, indonesia, etc.) is a reflection of european aesthetics at a particular point in history. it is NOT a remnant of ancient greek music, even though it uses greek names. this was due to the re-discovery and translation of ancient greek treatises in the arab world and then europe, and a general romanticization of antiquity.

    the ancient greeks DID recognize a pythagorean scale of the type e f g a b c d e (along with who knows how many non-pythagorean scales). but scale is not the same as mode. the scale is just a set of pitches. the mode is the set of 'rules' that govern how the scale is employed. on that point, ancient greek and medieval european practices are completely different.

    the take home message here (as far as i see it) is that we have completely lost the meaning of "mode." as they are used in contemporary western music, they are technically scales. this unfortunate terminology is a result of history, not practice. i am not trying to make "mode" out to be some mystical, untouchable thing, but it is simply on a different level than how most western musicians are used to thinking. in north indian music, you would spend months learning ONE mode. all this is the reason why so many western musicians are confused about the application of modes *ahem scales.* it is just a set of 7 scales, of which the familiar major and minor are 2.
  6. Years ago I had the same question - "modes? what? why? how?" - I got the same onslaught of "oh, not this again..." and "they don't matter..." and "it's a bigger question than that..." - But I, like everyone who asks, I felt knowing more about the modes was important - for whatever reason - so I did the next best thing.

    I decided to start taking lessons again - with a teacher who could teach me 'the modes' and hopefully show me why they matter - or IF they matter. I found him - he asked me what I wanted to learn - I told him I wanted to brush up on my theory - and mentioned the modes - that I was less interested in 'how to play bass' and more interested in 'how the bass factors into music' - and he was able to do all that in a few short lessons.

    Now I have studied music 'formally' since the age of 6 and I've been playing bass for 30 years now (about 23 or so when I was taking lessons again), so I already had some pretty substantial insight into general music theory to work with.

    As I said in my earlier post, my teacher studied with Adam Nitti for a while and he used the very same lessons with me that Adam posted in his youtube video to explain the modes - what, why and how.

    The result; I KNOW something about what the modes mean to me. I know that there is no easy answer to "what are the modes and how can I use them?" - but there is information that is absolutely derived from "the modes" that we're all referring to in these posts and that information can be easily shared, explained and used.

    I think the Adam Nitti video - and the exercises he uses to learn the fingerboard are a GREAT entry point into practical use of "the modes" - which I think is what many of us who ask about them really want to know.
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    LOL i am sorry to say you are contradicting yourself again..
    Please understand I have no interest in arguing points that are all ready accepted, or in the semantics of language in how this is presented.
    For me I was taught that the four original modes the Greeks wrote about were later expanded by Western composers, so thus the Greeks conceived the idea.

    Scales are the same as modes, in their construction and maybe in their use..they are both just intervals organised in a certain way...this the Greeks done so as far as we know the idea was conceived as far as we know by them being the earliest writings we have on the subject. The fact that the instrumentation was not present at the time to fully use them is nether here nor there. Sometimes in life ideas have to wait till technology catches up.

    Older instruments really did not have the ability to change key, so they could be seen as being modal or diatonic to certain keys..a bit like Harmonicas, harps, xylophones, etc but with the introduction of chromatic instruments,and say valve technology in brass instruments, more modes, scales and keys,and such became available to the composers, so the need to study a certain mode or key became less important to the player as music now modulated and incorporated various instruments through arrangement of them and the notes they produced.

    Now all this is as I said just *just part of what I was taught and as such so were many others. I neither have the depth of knowledge or education to say what is actually now regarded as the correct way to present or talk about them....which is why I am reading these threads.

    But if you read your posts you dis-agree then agree, then you say not really, but then say it is so...... Again I am not being picky or smart, just pointing out that you agree to disagree with what you post......not what I post.
    All i say is the Greeks are the earliest known written examples I know of in terms of written music theory that we still use today in some form.
    The fact Greeks used Tetrachords the ideas of making more or new variations of intervals may have been apparent to them, but with no way to represent them in musical instrumentation.

  8. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    The fact that now Modes in this thread seem related to 2 very different era in music is a sign that there usage have evolved during time. In those days, there was no "bass playing" related to modes like today.

    So having said so, I still continue my battle towards modes applied in modern harmony as a "Foundation" to proper bass lines based on the harmonic functions of the chords in relationship with the modes. My best example is always the 3 minor 7th chords that can be part of a diatonic chord progression. Even if the chords will be the same: 1-b3-5-b7, the scales will be different and a bass player should be aware of those differences to support the harmony effectively.

    I use modes in a lot of ways and the most important one is to make a harmonic relationship to the key center thru the chords progression.

    This is to my ears and experience the evolution of the usage of modes in modern bass playing.

    Modes need practical examples to be understood in the real world and this is what is lacking in a forum like this.

    Any well-trained pianists,guitarists and bassists would be a big help to anyone interested in the study of modes to get the concept behind them in today's music.
  9. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    and i am sorry to say that this is a fairy-tale version of music history. i know the story music teachers give their students. i have heard it many times in many different ways, and it is just simply not true. speaking in the most broad musicological terms, scale and mode are not the same thing. your personal interpretation may differ, but it does not change the facts.

    and what you say about musical instruments...it is the opposite. which came first, the axe, or the desire to cut wood? instruments that could change key developed BECAUSE composers wanted to change keys. the instruments employed by the ancient greeks were sufficient for the performance of ancient greek music. modality is not about instruments, it is a conceptual framework for composition and improvisation. all you have to do is read a treatise on medieval european music and you will see, there were HIGHLY specific rules for composition based on the relationships of pitches.

    but since that conceptual framework has been lost over the centuries (not saying good or bad, but it clearly has), it is more accurate to treat the ionian, dorian, phrygian, etc. system as a set of scales. it has become much more about harmony (i.e. what should i play over a C major chord) than melody; at that point it is no longer modal in nature.
  10. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    LOL this is my point, again you contradict yourself scales and modes are not....but then they are????.

    You make the exact same point as I do about instrumentation and composition and it seems we agree on most of what is being said but you do indeed seem to say one thing then contradict it later.....this is my confusion with trying to understand what you mean.
    But rather than explain these issues you just present more,so I will narrow this one down as quoted by you.

    So if scales and modes are not the same thing, then why should we treat modes as scales?

    Since modes and scales are the organisation of tone and semitone then why are they different?

    The only difference is their names, their construction ( the organisation of tones and semitones) are the same for both.

    I believe we agree on a lot of things being said, but you might disagree because you believe it's the things being said and most of them, that we agree on.:)
  11. jackwell1029384


    Dec 12, 2011
    same key so therefore the same notes, you just start the scale on a different note every mode
  12. Regardless of why the modes exist or who did what first, I have found one very useful thing to know about them is that they provide you convenient frameworks by which to spontaneously compose melodies. Like Nitti points out so eloquently, "knowing the modes" (meaning knowing the permutations of scales derived from a particular key center) provides you with instant access to frameworks (scales that have distinctive and interesting interval patterns) beyond the root.

    That, and they give you a keen familiarity with the neck as well as a way to move up and down the entire thing and never hit a 'bad' note. But again, 'out' notes are as essential to creating truly interesting music as are 'in' notes. But 'out' notes tossed out naively or without purpose is called noodling - which never sounds good. Knowing the modes can help keep noodling out of the mix.

    "Knowing the modes" - in the context frequently discussed here - means learning the scale patterns derived from a major scale that contain the same notes but start on different degrees of the major scale. Because of the moving starting points, the sequence of intervals shift - and because of the shift, the overall 'flavor' of the sound of each scale changes - they don't sound major, but they all work in the key - so you can use them and handily compose riffs, licks, lines that are always IN - but have distinctively interesting sounds in spite of the fact that they all use the same notes.

    C Ionian is the 'same' as D Dorian is the same as E Phrygian in that they all have no sharps or flats in their key signatures. They are different in the ordering of their sequences of tones and semi tones. A scale that starts off with 2 tones (whole steps) an a half step is going to sound bright, happy, major. A scale that starts with a whole step, then a half is going to sound sad, minor. Ones that begin with a half step or 3 whole steps are going to sound 'different' - exotic - unexpected - etc...

    Each of the modes provides a wide variety of 'flavor' possibilities in context. Knowing the scale patterns gives you ready access to those flavors. Knowing how each of the modes 'feels' can help you instantly impart that flavor in the moment.

    The variety of melodic opportunities one can apply over any particular chord or key is endless. Using what you know about how the modes work can narrow you in on some ready-made systems that have 'build-in' interest and appeal.

    It's a mechanical system and is only as good as the mechanic who is using it, however. But it's always nice to have a 'ready-made' tonal system that can enhance your ability to improvise and compose.
  13. neebs


    Oct 25, 2011
    Manteca, California
    OH man, thanks. I was looking for the scale modes, and couldn't find it anywhere. I asked a friend how to move more about the neck, instead of staying boxed into a certain area. He said learn the different modes, but he said it was more of a side effect of knowing different ways to express music.
  14. Yes, modes are a different way of expressing our music. We are up to 115 posts now. People understand modes in many different ways. We all seem to know how to make them, however, how to use them is another story.

    Have fun.

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