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how do modes work, really?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ILLINOX, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. This has been discussed a lot earlier in the thread. No, a scale and a key are not the same thing. One of the problems with the way we discuss modes is that we use the word mode for a couple of different things. A mode can be a scale but can also be a key (or "key," if you want to reserve the term key for standard major-minor keys).

    A scale is just a set of notes associated with a key. It's only half of what you need to establish a key, the other part being the tonal center or tonic (or final, in the older modal terminology). The same set of notes with a different tonal center is a different key. Again, this was discussed quite a lot earlier in this thread, so you might want to review that.

    No, G-G on the white keys is not a G mixolydian by definition, though that's one of the things it can be. And no, if you play a sequence of notes that looks like G mixolydian (mode = scale, just a set of notes), that doesn't automatically mean you're IN G mixolydian (mode = key.
  2. I think you guys are talking about two different senses of key signature. I think Stick is referring more to the pattern of sharps/flats/naturals in the key, which applies regardless of whether you write it out or not, whereas you're using the term in the stricter (and, I think, more correct) sense of the particular notational convention you employ when you do write it out.
  3. k2aggie07


    Jul 6, 2011
    Houston, TX
    I don't see how you can possibly tell without further context. If I play G to G and nothing it else, with no bias toward any particular note, it is any and all of those things.

    Edit: but I understand that in the context of a body of music, there is a difference between a C major scale rooted in G to match the current chord and something composed or played in G Mixolydian.
  4. I'm also not a big fan of this "scale/mode to every chord" approach *as a blanket approach to playing through chords in a piece*. (I make the qualification because there are times when it can be useful.)

    We've been over this ground several times in this thread already, but perhaps the biggest reason I mistrust this approach in functional harmony, especially for people just starting to get a handle on harmony, is that it tends to encourage an approach of looking at chords in isolation--"atomistically," if you like--when really the idea is more to connect them in the larger framework--"holistically," if you like that kind of thing. The whole meaning of key (or modality, for that matter, if properly understood) is that the various events that occur within it *are* linked somehow; you don't invariably go to a separate harmonic world every time you go to a new chord.

    Here's a crude analogy. If I want to go from New York to LA, as I often do, should I book a nonstop from JFK to LAX, or should I book flights from NY to Pittsburgh, from Pittsburgh to Cleveland, from Cleveland to St Louis, and so forth? That's kind of the effect that you get when you do the I ionian, ii dorian, V mixolydian thing in a diatonic functional harmonic context. Very often, it's simply unnecessary, in that it adds complication without adding an iota of explanatory power. I'm of the school that says that an analysis should be no more complicated than is necessary.

    As we all know, there are times when you can't get a nonstop to where you want to go. Sometimes you *do* have to take a bunch of separate flights, and maybe even add in a bus or train or boat trip to fill in the gaps. (Imagine trying to get from, say, Pikeville, TN, to Antartica.) In the terms of my admittedly inexact analogy, that would be kind of like dealing with harmony that's not functional or even strictly modal. If there is no clear key or modality, you do kind of have to take the harmonies as they come and connect things as best you can.
  5. teleharmonium


    Dec 2, 2003
    Once again, your desire for one-upmanship gets you into trouble.

    That set of notes is accurately described as G mixo. It is not exclusively that, nor necessarily best described that way in every context, but it will never be objectively wrong to call that set of notes a mixolydian mode on G.
  6. AndyMania


    Jan 3, 2010
    I was practicing last night on the bass and was messing around with playing in the key of C. I was messing around with F and playing from F to F. I definitely heard F as the tonal center. G to G resolves nicely to C but I heard G as the center. Starting on diffferent notes of C major and ending on a C doesnt always work.
  7. AndyMania


    Jan 3, 2010
    I also found out if I start on B and go:C,D up a fourth to G down a major second to F and resolve on D, it sounds great compared to resolving on C.
  8. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    How did you go from "accurately described" to "nor necessarily best described"?

    Oh, you said something about context.

    If YOU can read and understand what I have said, I have been very clear about context, it may begin to be understandable to YOU.

    Tele, this has nothing to do with "one-upmanship".

    YOU are free to call anything you want anything you want.

    YOU can tell me that the color of an orange is red. I couldn't careless.

    I'm sure the next time YOU are extemporizing over a set of changes in E Phrygian, and YOU play a series of notes - c, d, e, f, g, a, b, c - YOU will be happy to claim that YOU are indeed in C major, playing tennis, or 'triangulating".

    Go for it! No one is stopping YOU.

  9. teleharmonium


    Dec 2, 2003
    It's really not complicated. There are multiple, factually accurate ways to describe some things, such as a set of notes. Sometimes a certain name may be more useful in a given situation than the others - but that does not make the others wrong.

    F'rinstance, my car can accurately be described as a Honda, a passenger car, or a two axle vehicle.

    In the context of me looking at the sign for the Chicago Skyway to see what the toll is, my car is best described as a two axle vehicle, because that's how rates are listed on the sign.

    However, my car does not cease to be a Honda while I am reading the sign.

    Likewise, G to G on the white keys does not cease to be G mixolydian when the musical context it appears in changes, even thought it may also be something else.
  10. peledog


    Jul 9, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    So what is the tonic or tonal center of major keys vs minor keys? The only real difference that one can 'hear' is that the third is flat or natural.

    Anything else?
  11. The tonic or tonal center is the name of the key or modality you're playing in. if you're in A major, it's A; if you're in A minor, it's A; if you're in F dorian, it's F.

    The tonal center is NOT the same as the root of the chord you happen to be on. You don't change tonal centers *just* because you change chords. If you play C Am F G C, the tonic is C all the way through, even though the chord roots change.

    It's not just the 3rd that's altered in minor vs major; the 6th and 7th are frequently altered as well.
  12. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    After drinking a bottle of scotch, heating up some lava lamps, putting on some rose-colored glass... I must say, you are on to something.



  13. Billnc


    Aug 6, 2009
    Charlotte NC
    Lagavulin Scotch?
  14. AndyMania


    Jan 3, 2010
    Okay Im clear now about what is meant by tonal center.

    So, A to A, B to B, F to F in the key of C, they ALL have a tonal center of C.

    In regards to functions, if I play F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F and emphasize the note F, would the functions be labeled as:

    I,II,iii,iv,V,vi,vii,I or still be IV,V,vi,vii,I,ii,iii,IV???

    The reason I ask is because I notice that the tonic C, does not always sound good as a resolving note.
  15. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    I do not think you have a clear understanding of what a tonal center is, yet.

    Playing a series of tones doesn't necessarily establish anything on it's own (unless you are teleharmonium, but he analyzes music with triangulation and tennis racquets). :eek:

    You asked: "In regards to functions, if I play F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F and emphasize the note F, would the functions be labeled as: I,II,iii,iv,V,vi,vii,I or still be IV,V,vi,vii,I,ii,iii,IV???"

    If you can harmonize that series of tones, it will help establish a tonal center - rhythm, phrases and placement of the chords on certain beats will also help.

    Starting with your first list - "I,II,iii,iv,V,vi,vii,I" - in F Lydian, harmonizing the scale in triads gives you this: F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Diminished, C Major, D Minor, E Minor, F Major - or I, II, iii, iv[SUP]Ø[/SUP], V, vi, vii, I.

    Here is a Lydian chord progression - AABA Form:

    || F | G | F | G | C | Em | F | G |

    | F | G | F | G | C | Em | F | F ||

    || F | F| C Em | F | F | F| C Em | F | G ||

    || F | G | F | G | C | Em | F | G | F ||

    * * * *

    But, if you are in the Key of C Major (or C Ionian), the Roman Numeral numbering, STARTING ON F, would be this: IV, V, vi, vii[SUP]Ø[/SUP], I, ii, iii, IV - F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Diminished, C Major, D Minor, E Minor, F Major.
  16. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Completely agree with you there, until very, very recently I was doing that very same thing - isolating chords.

    It been a major breakthough in my jazz improv, an almost night and day difference. It's allowed me to be much more expansive with the ideas that I play.
  17. AndyMania


    Jan 3, 2010
    is there a way I can post a video here to show yuo guys what Im talking about? If not, what site besides youtube can I upload a video and paste the link here?
  18. +∞[SUP]∞[/SUP]

    Beginners need to get this fact clear.
  19. helterschecter


    May 2, 2011
    Think of modes not as music and just as a series of numbers. A mode is a set of number that repeat themselves in the same order but starts of at a new number each time it repeat..but always in order. For example if you have 1234 next would be 2341 then 3412 followed by 4123. The mode is goes as many times as there are numbers..or notes so if it 1234 you would do it 4 times or if it was 12345 you would go thru it 5 times untill you get back to your original starting point. So musicaly if it was a b c d e f..just to make it easy you would go a b c d e f. Bcdefa. Cdefab. Defabc. Efabcde. Fabcdef and that it how modes work
  20. Well, no, it's really not how modes work. Did you read anything else in this thread?

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