Writing Key Signatures For Modal Music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Jul 27, 2018.


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  1. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Your check ($!) is in the Mail, WUTP!
     
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  2. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Yes. F#minor is correct.
    Your check ($$!) is in the Mail, WUTP!
     
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  3. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    The words “thank you” don’t come even close to expressing how grateful I am for those checks.
     
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  4. IamGroot

    IamGroot

    Jan 18, 2018
    Amusing thread.

    Music Theory III starts in a month.
     
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  5. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    I will say that the disparate variety of answers has made me feel a little better about this :D
     
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  6. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    Sorry for messing up your thread. I will delete my comments. A thread will not teach you Harmony. There is always a possibility of interpreting just a two chord progression as 50/50 - I/IV or V/I.
    Like, is the glass half empty or half full.
     
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  7. IamGroot

    IamGroot

    Jan 18, 2018
    I don't have a dog in this fight.

    What I hear is | A / / (Em7) | D / / (G)|

    For all intents and purposes, its 50% A and 50% D. The Em7 makes the D sound more tonic but its iffy.

    I think the Grateful Dead spent time in Berkeley, not Berklee. I would no go too far out to pound theory analysis on any of their music. It was a jam riff ameniable to psychotropic substance abuse.
     
  8. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    These threads continue to make me chuckle. The OP asked how to write a key signature for modal music, and all we've seen is discussion of functional harmony and scale degrees in the context of tonal music. The concept of functional harmony has little relevance in modal music as movement, tension and resolution are functions of the melody - its the function of the notes that matters, not the chords. The question, as asked, is a sort of conceptual mashup, but given that's the state of modern music I suppose there can be little harm in trying to mash up a reply of sorts...

    What has to be remembered is that, back in the early days, before equal temperament, modes were not transposable, so the Final of Dorian, for example, always and only ever was, D. There was no E Dorian. Final of mixolydian was always G, never A, so the OP question never arose...

    If the melody is in a given mode, say A Mixolydian, we can determine the final of the Ionian mode of that Mixolydian scale, in our example, D, and apply the signature of the major key named after that note, i.e., 2#.
    However, this does NOT mean the key is D, it just means that we minimise the accidentals when we write the music out.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2018
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  9. Blissful_Lad

    Blissful_Lad Inactive

    Feb 22, 2018
    LA/NYC
    Not true, I clearly explained the customary uses of key signatures and modes. However, everyone is free to deviate and make up there own "rules".

    Nope. A Mixolydian is a "major mode", therefore the key signature is three sharps - A Major.

    And, as Groove Master indicated with his example of "So What", D Dorian - a "minor mode" - therefore the key signature is one flat - D Minor.
     
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  10. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    It's OK to get distracted temporary and/or even get "excited".
    What is sad - very sad - is that right here at TB with all that "so called" KNOWLEDGE of Harmony, theory, etc..., a TB member could write a "strange" statement that "A Mixolydian must have three sharps," or D Dorian has one flat. :help:

    Any knowledge/understanding about MODES is absent, but...

    It's getting sadder that two TB members (that I highly respect) "liked" it. :crying:

    I think somebody just "presumed" that the melody is A Mixolydian.

    Just by listening to that very simple melody, one could easily find the following notes:
    A melodic phrase starts on C# and ENDS on A or a slightly developed phrase starts on F# and ENDS on D, plus there are E and B notes.
    Let's take those "strong" notes A - C# D - F# and play as a CHORD.
    P.S. That's my favorite inversion of Dma7.

    N.B. I could not hear even ONE note G - a very important "flavor" note for that "A mixolydian".

    P.S. This song - Franklin's Tower - has more relations to some Eastern European POLKA than to some American Blues, but I think you knew it already.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  11. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, Mea Culpa - you and @Groove Master did get closer to the answering the question than most.

    But I still can't fully reconcile the absurdity of putting something in the key signature only to negate it with accidentals in the score. You presented your convention as a rule, but it isn't, it's a convention. Sure it might be a useful one, but it's not the only way. In my classically-focussed world, D Dorian, A Aeolian, F Lydian, G mixolydian etc all use the C Major signature...
     
  12. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Didn't listen to it and don't know it - I was just giving an arbitrary example...
     
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  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    In much 20th century music (blues, rock, funk, etc.) it is common to play the flatted 7th instead of (or in addition to) the natural 7th. The song is still considered to be "in a major key" (not modal!) and is notated as such.

    The best term I've heard for a major chord built on the b7 scale degree (wish I could remember who said this so I could properly give credit) is "four of four." Think of the progression B7-E7-Amaj. B7 acts as "five of five" or V/V (secondary dominant). This is not considered a "modulation" away from the key of A Major, even though B7 is non-diatonic, because it has a strong and symmetrical pull back to A. If you sort of "invert" this progression (so you're going the opposite direction around the circle of 5ths) then you get the common rock progression Gmaj-Dmaj-Amaj. G acts as the IV/IV. Even though Gmaj is not diatonic to the key of A Major, this is still considered a "tonal" progression (not modal) with a strong and symmetrical resolution back to A.

    Just like you can string together secondary dominants V/V/V, for example F#7-B7-E7-Amaj, so too can you play IV/IV/IV and it can sound great, for example Cmaj-Gmaj-Dmaj-Amaj. An example of this concept from the Grateful Dead songbook is "I Know You Rider." It's in the key of D Major but has a prominent Fmaj chord on, "Gonna miss your baby..."
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  14. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Actually Ive just given that tune a spin from YouTube - very little about it chimes with my understanding of modal - its just a couple of chords with so many chromatics in the other parts that any sense of intended modality is destroyed. I like the groove and spontaneous nature, but modal? No.
     
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  15. IamGroot

    IamGroot

    Jan 18, 2018
    "So What" modulates between Dm7 and Ebm7 modally.

    The Dm7 is D Dorian, which is key of C major (no accidentals).
     
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  16. I tend to stay out of these type of threads since they are so "controversial" but I'm curious as to where you learned this approach to modes.
     
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  17. Exactly... I've never, ever seen "So What" written with a flat in the key signature. I have no idea how that could possibly work since you already know the modality is Dorian, it has to be based on C Major. If you base it on a tonality with one flat, that being B flat, then the parent key is F which makes the D minor an Aeolian mode, not Dorian. That's just bizarre... This is why I don't like to get into these threads, but I see stuff like this and I can't help myself.

    The whole point of something being modal is that, the song is in a mode of a certain parent key. I suppose the Eb minor section is the dorian mode of Db, but nobody thinks of it that way. The Eb minor section is usually written out with a bunch of accidentals. If you play the song, you just know how to do it without all the over think.

    Anyway, modes are not parent keys in and of themselves in modern usage. Maybe they were originally, but that was 400 years ago (I don't know), and that stuff simply doesn't apply anymore. There's no practical value in thinking that way in modern music. No one I've ever played with (or even talked to about music) approaches modes as independent parent tonalities.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
  18. Whousedtoplay

    Whousedtoplay

    May 18, 2013
    TEXAS
    Yes, but Franklin's Tower has very little to do with some Bluesy flatted 7th.
    What's more, the melody does not incorporate that "flatted 7th" - G note. It's just "pure A major (G major -as D G B - somebody could identify it as Emi7) and D major.

    Those chromatics come not from the Blues Notes but from "ill-tempered clavier", sorry, "ill-tempered vocal folds".
    Trust me, I'm a big specialist of it. :laugh:
     
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  19. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    LOL :thumbsup:
     
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    You are correct that the b7 is not stylistically limited to "bluesy" sounding songs. The b7 can also sound poppy, rockin', funky, folksy, world-musicy, etc. depending on the musical context.

    Since we agree "Franklin's Tower" does not have a "modal" sound, all the more reason to write it with a "tonal" key signature of A Major.
     
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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    Jul 31, 2021

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