O.K., I've learned the seven modes..Now what?

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by bridger, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. HogmanA

    HogmanA Senior Member

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    You've said this before and maybe I'm looking at this wrong, but there does seem to be a useful application.

    It explains the sound a song may shift to, even though the key appears to be the same, just by emphasising a different note to act as key.

    I played with a vocalist once who did this wonderfully (but had no notion of modes and would roll her eyes impatiently when asked about it).
    eg.
    A song in C major. Then shifting the key centre to D (and Dorian) using all the same notes. This is obvious. But what about all the shades in between? What name should we give to these shades? and this seems to me actually the real purpose of 'modes'.
    any other use is just alternative scales, surely? and naming of them completely arbitary.





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  2. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    :confused: Not to me.

    How does "shifting the key centre to D (and Dorian)" work exactly? What does that mean in practice? Do you change the chords of the song? Do you just start accenting the D note (whatever the chords are)?

    If the former, then you are of course changing the song itself, and anything is possible. You can certainly modulate to D minor from C major (and continue in D dorian mode), so that D sounds like the new keynote - but then you're not in C major any more.

    If the latter, that's just "accenting the D note". It's not dorian in any way. The "mode" is still C major. The effect of the D is different on each chord, of course, but still not modal. On the C chord, you're emphasising the 9th. On the F chord, the 6th. On an Am chord, the 4th. These can all be nice effects, but they're not modal, and nothing to do with D dorian.

    If there's a long time spent on the Dm chord, then a "dorian" effect will start to become apparent - but that's the case however you play the scale, whatever note(s) you accent.

    The point is that by definition you can't be in a key and a mode at the same time. No more than you can be in two keys at the same time. Terms need defining properly and consistently otherwise they become meaningless. (Modal terms are consistently misused, even by some teachers, which is why the concept causes so much confusion.)
     
  3. HogmanA

    HogmanA Senior Member

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    When you say we could change the chords - then you would have truly changed key. The point of Going from C major to D Dorian is that the chords don't change.

    How can a song be in 2 keys at the same time? By a term I learned from you (and really fills in so many of the problems I had when thinking about certain aspects of theory). Superimposed.
    The chords stay the same, the melody changes. |The ear hears both at the same time (I have produced the effect myself, I'm not making up pure theory).
    It could be though , that C major and D Dorian aren't the best example.

    How about another - the Relative Minor? Sometimes a piece of music is ambiguous and it's not clear whether it's in , for eg C major or A minor, especially for a short time, hence the instruction that to determine the key of a piece of music, the final chord should be used to help determine this. This ambiguity is what I'm talking about - an ambiguity brought about precisely because of the relative nature of the scales.

    Even yourself, talk about such things as improvising over the V using Mixolydian mode! if that's not relative, I don't know what is!

    The relative minor is so strong, it shares a key signature and has the distinction the chord built on its degree is a primary triad.



    If the modes aren't thought of as relative, then they may as well be new keys in their own right, eg D minor - the minor scales are already adapted, sharpening the 6th degree already happens with melodic minor (I know only ascending, but the point stands).

    For all my argument, I know just enough to know that there is probably a good (and practical) reason why you might make such a blanket and absolute statement about the relative nature of modes.
    Might be me not getting it!


    (incidentally, I'm not a fan of modes at all - I would rather think in terms of major and minor and do when I can - until the relationships between sounds demands another explanation).





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  4. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    To be picky, it's more correct to say "Improvising over the V AS IF you were using mixolydian".

    eg, over G, in key of C, as if you were in G mixolydian.

    The point is that you aren't in G mixolydian, but you can pretend to be, if thinking like that helps you, so long as you remember that really you're in C the whole time.

    (I know it all seems like semantics at times, but these are real distinctions. We "should" be naming the key, or mode, from the tonic. When we play over the G chord, as V in C, then C is still the tonic).

    :)
     
  5. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Right, but the tonal focus does - the perception of which note is the keynote.
    That only means two keys at the same time when you're talking about polytonality, as in some Stravinsky. I don;t think that's what we're talking about here. ;) (I don't know of any polytonal rock.)
    Changing the melody over the same chord sequence is not a modal effect, that's my point. I'm sure it sounds different and good, it just isn't modal.
    Maybe....
    Right, but it's a kind of flip-flopping. It's never in two keys at the same time, it's a matter of not being sure which at a particular moment.
    It's extremely common for a sequence to shift around between major and relative minor, with some vagueness about the changeover point. That's how "pivot chords" work, which belong to both keys.
    The melody (or an improvisation) could have some effect here, in those ambiguous areas, in directing the ear to one key centre or the other. But the chords are still in charge, overall.
    :eek: Not me! That's one thing I can be sure I've never said - except to say it's nonsense.

    One doesn't "use" mixolydian mode on a V chord. One uses the scale of the key. It's the chord that makes it mixolydian (if it lasts long enough), regardless of how you play. I.e., it's more true to say the mode uses you!
    To define a chord as "V" in the first place means that it should not (strictly) be defined as "mixolydian".
    For a G7 chord to be truly mixolydian it has to be the tonic, the I in key of G. (The V chord in mixolydian mode is minor.)

    As huw says, these are semantic points, but words and definitions matter! The whole problem with modes is people defining them differently, and using the words in ambiguous ways. Modal terms DO have a couple of different senses, and it's easy to conflate them.

    However, there is one notorious tune (or rather a collection of two or three tunes) which might seem to support the case (I think) you're making.

    The chord progression D-C-G-G is - as has been proved - modally ambiguous. Is it V-IV-I-I in G major? Or I-VII-IV-IV in D mixolydian?
    It's possible to change the way you play over it to suggest either one. (Although the effect can still be subjective, and debatable.)

    So, Sweet Home Alabama - according to most listeners - sounds like D mixolydian. Werewolves of London - using the exact same sequence - sounds like G major (again according to most listeners). The difference is down mainly to the vocal melodies, which focus either on D or G.
    Then again, the fact there is (or was) lively debate on the issue shows that the effects are not objective, and depend partly on one's unconscious listening prejudices, and partly on how one consciously chooses to listen to each tune (which elements one focuses on).

    Still, this ambiguity is a result of the chord sequence itself being ambiguous, allowing some degree of modal control via melody. I agree that some relative major/minor sequences can also be vague in this respect, especially in modern pop/rock. But otherwise, the majority of chord progressions are very clear about their key/mode centre, which can't be changed by how you play over them.
     
  6. HogmanA

    HogmanA Senior Member

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    Sorry about attributing the Mixolydian over V thing to you! :laugh2: my mistake!
    I was talking about polytonal -even in rock, but I was also talking about that flip flopping as well - either one could be too minimal to change the key signature mid piece, but some explanation may be required for the resulting relationships - because what are triads but a vertical slice in time of 3 or more separate melody lines and if one voice has it's own identity due to its timbre, or rhythm, it may introduce a relative yet separate effect. How to then explain its relationship to the other voices - and is this not polytonal? I'm sure I could find an example in rock eventually (at least I think I could - I may be very mistaken!).
    The Sweet Home Alabama/ Werewolves example is also what I was meaning, as in ambiguous and this too requires knowledge of the relative nature of the modes.
    I suspect that even if I have a point (of sorts!), it is too small a point in practical terms - yes, I do concede that!
     
  7. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    You are forgiven. :)
    Again - sorry about this - I'm picking you up on definition. Polytonal means at least two keys simultaneously. I.e. different scales, not modes of the same scale. (Bitonality is the term for two simultaneous keys.)
    https://www.britannica.com/art/polytonality
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytonality
    If you know of any rock music like that, I'd like to know! (I wouldn't be surprised if some adventurous avant gardist has tried it, I just haven't heard any.)
    Nope. The relationship to other voices is simply one of harmony, within a particular (single) tonal or modal context. Timbre and rhythm make no difference in this respect. (Of course you can have polyrhythms, which are not uncommon in rock, common in jazz, and the very foundation of African and Latin rhythms.)
    Audio examples of anything that you're talking about would be very revealing!
    In order to describe it, yes. Not in order to hear it in whatever way you choose.
    Well, as I say, I'm sure what you're talking about is a very real effect. It's just that (I suspect) it's not correctly defined in modal terms.
     
  8. To Need a Woman

    To Need a Woman Senior Member

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    A lovely (and rare) example of a lydian sound here over the D chord from 3:21ish. It sounds very dramatic... reminds me of a movie score.

    I'm not sure how it's made work, because the song is in Em, so you'd expect it to be D mixolydian!

     
  9. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Quick thoughts after a quick listen (once through), so I may not have everything ;)

    1) Every few times around the main chord progression it seems to finish on an A major chord, rather than an Am. Done purely for contrast, and because it sounds nice, but in terms of notes, that's introducing a C# instead of the C natural that had been in play up to that point.

    Personally I like to look at things from the tonic (E), so one might say that implied a momentary use of E dorian instead of E natural minor. However, the point is swapping from a "one sharp" note set to a "two sharps" set. Looked at modally against the D chord (which as I say, I wouldn't normally do) that's going from "D mixolydian" to "D major". From there one would only need to take one further step to a "three sharps" note set, or "D lydian". So my point here is simply that the move you're seeking to explain has been set up previously.

    2) Having said that, I really don't hear anything at 3:21 onwards that I would call "D lydian".

    I mean, I hear what you're talking about but it never seems to rest with either a D tonic, or a "three sharps" note set. What I'm hearing here is more akin to the "development" section in classical symphonic form, where there is movement through a number of keys/tonalities with the actual movement being the point - ie what's important is that it doesn't come to rest. Sure, it cycles through a sett of changes a few times, whereas a "classical" development would be perhaps less likely to repeat, but this part of the music seems to be all about motion & not coming to rest. There's a nice mediant chord change/tonality shift in there which helps with that feeling of motion, if I'm not mistaken.

    Anyway - just a couple of brief thought before 9 am, & before coffee!

    :)
     
  10. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Unlike huw, I do hear what you mean by D lydian at 3:21. The melody rises up a scale including G#.
    The chords are a little ambiguous, because the harmony is quite rich, but it's one bar of D with the passing G# at the end, leading to a bar of D/F# (or F#m with an occasional D bass in the first half of the bar). Then a bar of C, also with a lydian F# in the melodic phrases, followed by Em. The 5th bar is C (lydian) again, then half a bar each of Em and D, and I didn't listen beyond there.

    In fact, that section begins at 3:05 - following an A major - with 6 bars leading up to 3:21:

    |Cmaj7#11 - - - |Em(9) - - - |Cmaj7#11 - - - |Em9 - Em/D - |
    |Cmaj7#11 - - - |Em(9) - - - |D ...

    So it could be said to be in C lydian up to that point, although I'd say Em sounds more like key centre to me. The D chord then brings in the G# note (definite lydian hint, if brief), before the D/F# (F#m?) bar - and then the 8-bar sequence repeats.
     
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  11. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    I don't think we're in disagreement here Jon - I do hear the G#, I just wouldn't call it D lydian because D isn't established as a tonic, & I'm not keen on Chord/Scale Theory naming. As you say, even the "C lydian" feel in the lead up to that point is really still just E minor.

    Still haven't had that coffee... Maybe I'll go & fix that now!

    :)
     
  12. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    I agree D isn't the tonal centre, but I think it's valid (just) to call that G# a "lydian effect". It's about as fleeting as it could be, but it seems a deliberate act to use the #4 melodically - when G would obviously be the note to fit the context.
    The "lydian" effect of the F# on the Cmaj7 is more debatable, because it's diatonic to the overall E minor tonality. My guess is he (she? they?) liked the F# effect on the C, so just translated it to the D - without being concerned about either key or mode.
    I suppose, given the overall E-centred feel, "mode mixture" is a better interpretation, with the D(maj7#11) coming from E mixolydian, while the rest seems to be mostly E aeolian (although the preceding section seems - from a quick listen - dorian.
     
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  13. Frogfur

    Frogfur Senior Member

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    Forget five of them and learn to play the remaining two 400 different ways..
     
  14. To Need a Woman

    To Need a Woman Senior Member

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    Thanks huw
    I hadn't copped that the Am changes to an Amaj when the car gets over the first mountain. The funny thing is, you can continue playing your Am over the Amaj in the song, and it doesn't sound too bad!
     
  15. To Need a Woman

    To Need a Woman Senior Member

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    Thanks JonR
    You did, a couple of years ago!
    I wouldn't have thought of the part from 3:05 as being in C lydian. I only here modes (outside of major and minor) if they're played as a melody. I'm a beginner! However, after realising the D lydian part, there was a C lydian scale was in my head. For a while I was wondering if it was C lydian over the D! I'd no idea why C lydian was in my head at the time!

    That's why I only heard the D lydian and not the C. Huw must be the opposite of me, hearing modes more as cadences. JonR perhaps hearing it both ways!
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  16. Dick Banks

    Dick Banks Senior Member

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    Learning and practicing the parallel modes is extremely rewarding, but at first is also EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING.
    The first time I tried to play C Dorian--my left hand "wanted" to play either C Ionian -or- D Dorian. I had to "make it" play C Dorian. But once it started "cooperating," it opened up a whole new world as far as tonal structure.
    BTW, many blues/rock players start their parallel mode training with the Mixolydian mode, which is used quite liberally in those disciplines.
    And of the seven, my experience is that Locrian is used the least--it seems "dissonant" in most applications, since it's predominant chordal pattern is the dim7. But there are some very cool jazz pieces that take advantage of it...
     

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