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"church" Modes

scales harmony

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#1 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 05:01 AM

I was replying to a request in another thread (regarding the Mixolydian mode) as follows:

Well, the "church" modes - I had a look at the current Wikepdia exposition this morning and got the impression of it being too detailed and thorough for a "primer" by far. I will be happy to explain it myself but I have to be busy vocationally this day.
 
If you have a piano keyboard at hand you might just try to play 8-note-scales starting from different notes, thereby never quitting the "white" keys. There you'll have them, the modes. If we ignore the last one - from B to B - for the moment they are six. Three of them allow to built major chords on the root note, three of them allow to built minor chords instead.
 
It's just an extension of the major/minor concept (you know: "natural" Amin as being "parallel" to Cmaj due to sharing all of their notes). The next common mode might be the Dorian one (from D to D using just white keys). It's the world of "Scarborough Fair" and the likes.
 
I have to leave it at that for the moment - you might check out this site as a starting point.

 

I then suggested creating a separate topic for discussing these casually recurring questions which I do herewith.

 

Best regards to all - Wolf

 

edit: typo from the original post corrected
 


Edited by blue eyed sailor, 19 February 2014 - 05:02 AM.


#2 Jack Campin

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 06:59 AM

The "church mode" system as processed into the folk scene is too simple to be much use for anything.

 

I have a tutorial on modes in traditional music which gets much more into the nitty-gritty:

 

http://www.campin.me.uk/Music/Modes/



#3 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 08:25 AM

The "church mode" system as processed into the folk scene is too simple to be much use for anything.


I don't know exactly what you are referring to by that, but there seemed to be the desire for sort of a primer. Besides, my own personal background to this topic is more related to "classical" or Jazz music anyway.

However, IMO even the simplest system or concept (as to the current topic: just starting with maj/min parallelism which is in my experience not common knowledge) will be helpful as long as it is not misleading.
 

I have a tutorial on modes in traditional music which gets much more into the nitty-gritty:
 
http://www.campin.me.uk/Music/Modes/


Thank you for providing the link to interesting topics of yours - I will have a more detailed look any time soon. :)

#4 JimLucas

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 09:13 AM

I was replying to a request in another thread (regarding the Mixolydian mode) as follows:

Well, the "church" modes....

 

I find it interesting to see you -- and obviously other sources -- calling them "church" modes, since I've mostly heard of them as "Greek" modes.  The names certainly derive from the Greek.

 

Well, some quick Googling tells me that there are apparently differences between the two... and also between each of them and something called "modern" modes.  But the names are the same and the differences are subtle and seemingly irrelevant for my purposes.  The simple shared concept is that each mode is based upon -- and usually ends on -- a different note of a diatonic (do-re-mi-...) scale.  ("Based upon" is where things start to get complicated, so I'll stop there.)

 

My own purpose is not to name or classify music, but to make music.  What's more, I tend to do so not by prescription but by experimentation.  I.e., I'm aware that some folks have compiled rules saying, e.g., that a particular note in one mode (e.g., Dorian) should be harmonized by one chord but that to harmonize the same note in another mode (e.g., Mixolydian) a different chord should be used, but I've never bothered to learn such rules, because my taste often doesn't agree with them.  Not surprisingly, I find this particularly true with forms of folk music which didn't contribute to the musics from which the rules were derived, e.g., various Balkan and Eastern traditions, but also Swedish, Irish, Scottish, and "even" English.

 

A beginner1 might find it useful to learn a few of these rules, but should be aware that they are context dependent.  If you use them, listen to the result, and if it doesn't sound right to you, experiment with alternatives.

 

1 "Beginner at what" is a question that's asked all too seldom.  Beginner at creating arrangements with harmonies and chords?  Beginner at a particular instrument (e.g., concertina), where the "easy" or "simple" arrangements have different structures than on another instrument (e.g., guitar, or piano)?  Beginner at playing music on any instrument?  My above statement could apply to any of these and more, but the subsequent path is likely quite different in each case.



#5 Jack Campin

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 09:54 AM

Jim's concerns about the usefulness of modal theory would be pretty accurate if the "church" or "Greek" system as generally known by folkies were all there was to it.

 

The real thing is very different and much more helpful.



#6 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 12:23 PM

Jim, I'm not talking about "rules" that much. As to me it's just useful to know from which material chords are likely to be built when I have a melody for instance with a minor third and a major sixth (i.e. Dorian). And yes, I do apply this to the music. Once I listened to David introcing me to Apley House I decided to harmonize the "B" section which is noted in another key but without changing of accidentals in the proper Mixolydian mode, i.e. with a minor chord on the V, which worked pretty well as to me. Another example would be understanding American movie scores (well, some of them) and play around in that mood, which seems in fact widely to be constituted by a certain mode (Lydian). I was delighted by this discovery which enabled me to ambulate in sort of a New World of its own. It's these experiences which I actually have in mind...

Best wishes - Wolf

#7 JimLucas

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 01:39 PM

Jim's concerns about the usefulness of modal theory would be pretty accurate if the "church" or "Greek" system as generally known by folkies were all there was to it.

The real thing is very different and much more helpful.


I've started (barely started) looking at your web pages. It looks like interesting stuff, and I may some day finish reading it (a main page with links to 20 more), yet it claims to be specifically about Scottish Traditional Music, which I'm fairly certain is only a (small?) part of "the real thing".

How am I supposed to discover, in any reasonable length of time, whether there are portions that might be helpful to me now, for my purposes, at this stage of my development... and which portions those might be? How much more difficult for someone totally unfamiliar with the concepts and possibly just beginning to consider writing or arranging some music? (Note that Wolf started this thread specifically in response to a question from what may be just such a person.)

Even after reading (and almost certainly re-reading) all the relevant material on modes, how long would it take me (or some other person) to feel how it relates to the music(s) I/we hear, play/sing, and compose?

Does the "folky" concept of modes cause significant musical damage? Or is it merely oversimplified and worthy of refinement as one's level of understanding increases?

And how does all this relate to innovation?

Note: I don't demand answers to those questions, but neither do I consider them to be rhetorical. I don't even know if they have answers that are either simple or unique.



#8 Jack Campin

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 02:00 PM

Apley House (if you've got the same tune I have) is more subtle than that.

X:1
T:Apley House
M:C|
L:1/8
Q:1/2=108
K:G
B2G2 Bcd2|e2c2 A2c2|B2G2 g2G2|B4 d4:|
f2a2 bagf|e2g2 g2fe|f2a2 bagf|e4 d4:|
e2c2 cdec|d2B2 BcdB|g2G2 G2A2|B4 d4:|

The outer sections are in the major/mixolydian hexatonic scale of G, ending on the fifth.  The second part is also hexatonic - no C there.  It isn't quite so clear what the tonal centre is in that part.  You're saying you read it as being in D major/mixolydian hexatonic and you have an Am chord at the start of bar 8?

 

Makes it clearer what your choices are if you recognize the gaps as being part of the mode.


Edited by Jack Campin, 19 February 2014 - 02:02 PM.


#9 Jack Campin

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 02:59 PM

it claims to be specifically about Scottish Traditional Music, which I'm fairly certain is only a (small?) part of "the real thing".

 

That mainly means I'm using Scottish music as my source of examples wherever possible.  The methodology is much more general than that, and if I need an example from Turkish or Chinese music I include it (either to show that some feature is shared with other music or else to show something not found in Scottish music at all).

 

Because I'm doing it all within ABC, there are some things I can't do.  I can mention equitonic scales like slendro but I can't include examples that use them.



#10 JimLucas

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 03:04 PM

Jim's concerns about the usefulness of modal theory would be pretty accurate if the "church" or "Greek" system as generally known by folkies were all there was to it.

 

The real thing is very different and much more helpful.

 

I've started (barely started) looking at your web pages.  It looks like interesting stuff, and I may some day finish reading it -- a main page with links to 20 more, -- yet it claims to be specifically about Scottish Traditional Music, which I'm fairly certain is only a (small?) part of "the real thing".

 

How am I supposed to discover, in any reasonable length of time, whether there are portions that might be helpful to me now, for my purposes, at this stage of my development... and which portions those might be?  How much more difficult for someone totally unfamiliar with the concepts and possibly just beginning to consider writing or arranging some music?  (Note that Wolf started this thread specifically in response to a question from what may be just such a person.)

 

Even after reading (and almost certainly re-reading) all the relevant material on modes, how long would it take me (or some other person) to feel how it relates to the music(s) I/we hear, play/sing, and compose?

 

Does the "folky" concept of modes cause significant musical damage?  Or is it merely oversimplified and worthy of refinement as one's level of understanding increases?

 

And how does all this relate to innovation?

 

Note:  I don't demand answers to those questions, but neither do I consider them to be rhetorical.  I don't even know if they have answers that are either simple or unique.



#11 Jack Campin

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 04:00 PM

Does the "folky" concept of modes cause significant musical damage?

 

Mainly, it's less useful than a fuller analysis.  Example, looking at Apsley House: if you notice where the gaps are, you know you could play the outer parts on a diatonic instrument in C, and the middle one (even if you conceive the tonal centre as D) on one in G.  Which might give you ways of exploiting the instruments you have to hand which would give you a more interesting sound.  The purely seven-note "church mode" system won't tell you that.

 

 

Where it can sometimes be downright damaging: if people insist on harmonizing every tune they see as if it were in a seven-note scale.  The result, for gapped-scale tunes, is a heavy texture where everything sounds the same.  Leaving the gaps unfilled gives you an immediate change in sonority when you modulate to a mode with the gaps filled, or in different places.  This is immediately audible when playing a tune unharmonized in a resonant acoustic - the chords that ring are those internal to the mode, like the "power chord" on A that you get in "pentatonic minor" pipe tunes.



#12 JimLucas

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 04:44 PM

Jim, I'm not talking about "rules" that much.


I wasn't referring specifically to you with that comment, but more in general.
 

As to me it's just useful to know from which material chords are likely to be built when I have a melody for instance with a minor third and a major sixth (i.e. Dorian). And yes, I do apply this to the music.


Fair enough. Different tools for different craftsmenpersons.  My own usual methods are less formal.  Almost certainly there's an element of what you mention, not as a formal rule that I've learned from someone else, but as something that over time I've learned to feel... both from listening to the music of others and through personal experimentation.  In fact, on the English concertina some of it is "in my fingers", and if I want to try something different I need to make a conscious effort.
 
An example:

Assume the melody has an E.  What simple chords (triads constructed from diatonic scales) contain an E?  There are E major, E minor, A major and minor, C major, and C# minor.

Well, if the key signature is one sharp, then E major, A major, and C# minor are out, since all contain a C#, which is not part of the scale.  Experience tells me that if the tune seems to be in E minor (Aeolian), Em is the most common chord, then Am, and C the least likely of the three.  If the tune seems to be in G (major), my order would be C, then Em, then Am.

Lacking further guidance, I could try all three and decide which I like best... against that particular note at that particular point in that particular tune.  But there's more to it than that.  Usually the flow of the melody -- the surrounding notes -- will direct me toward a particular one of those chords, not necessarily the "most common".  And that's simply a matter of my taste, based on years of hearing music of many kinds and noticing what I liked and what I didn't like.  Now maybe that coincides with certain prescriptions regarding "modal" music, or maybe not.  I don't know, and I don't seem to need to know.

There's even more to it than that.  I sometimes use different chords or harmonies1 for a given note on different times through a tune.  In particular, in accompanying a song I might use a major chord in a "happy" verse and a minor chord at the same place in a "sad" verse.  Or I might decide for some reason or other to use a chord not from "the list", which would give a very different feeling.


1 I don't believe that all harmonies are "chords" in the usual sense.  A simple drone or a single second voice, for instance, doesn't necessarily constitute a sequence of "chords"


If the rules help you, that's great, though I believe that it helps to keep them simple and few.  But I also suspect that as you gain experience you'll want more and more to experiment with "breaking" the rules, as you say you did with Apley House.  I think that's good, maybe even important.

#13 JimLucas

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 05:33 PM

Does the "folky" concept of modes cause significant musical damage?

 
Mainly, it's less useful than a fuller analysis.  Example, looking at Apsley House: if you notice where the gaps are, you know you could play the outer parts on a diatonic instrument in C, and the middle one (even if you conceive the tonal centre as D) on one in G.  Which might give you ways of exploiting the instruments you have to hand which would give you a more interesting sound.  The purely seven-note "church mode" system won't tell you that.

Well, that's something I can see without referring to any "system". It's part and parcel of deciding which whistle(s) to use on particular tunes. But is there a system that will tell me that, if I don't already know enough to ask the question?
 

Where it can sometimes be downright damaging: if people insist on harmonizing every tune they see as if it were in a seven-note scale.  The result, for gapped-scale tunes, is a heavy texture where everything sounds the same.  Leaving the gaps unfilled gives you an immediate change in sonority when you modulate to a mode with the gaps filled, or in different places.  This is immediately audible when playing a tune unharmonized in a resonant acoustic - the chords that ring are those internal to the mode, like the "power chord" on A that you get in "pentatonic minor" pipe tunes.


Maybe this is just a matter of differing perspectives? I would say that it's not the folky concept of modes itself that causes the "damage"1 but the misuse of that concept, specifically the failure to recognize that there are other concepts and that that particular one isn't appropriate in all cases.

 

1 I will note but prefer not to discuss the fact that there are people who would not consider the result to be damage, but fine architecture.  Tastes (or lack thereof) differ.



#14 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 06:25 PM

Well, things are getting a bit complicated meanwhile - albeit me accounting the basic concept quite simple.

Jack, if you have a look to the original topic you will notice that I - let's say by accident - was just discovering the ambiguity (what you call a "gap") of pentatonic (or, if you want, to a lesser extent, hexatonic as well) scales and thus an "extra" worth of different options for added harmony.

And you've got it right: with Apley House it's pretty much the same. But in that case it hadn't been just a matter of choosing from different options of harmonization but, from my perspective, of accidentals. When the whole tune (covering all three parts) is written out with just one accidental (F#) it will be Gmaj - Dmix - Gmaj (with an Amin chord in the B part, as you say, albeit only at the start of bar 10, which you might have wanted to say as well) instead of the apparently common Gmaj - Dmaj - Gmaj, where you obwiously have to add a C# (which doesn't conflict with the melody due to it lacking of C natural either).

And Jim, therefore I wouldn't look upon that manoeuver as "breaking the rules", rather obeserving them with respect to the staff notation. However, you're right in insisting that this is to be seen without any "system" as well: if you just confine your playing (i.e. harmonizing) to the material from Gmaj, i.e. G-A-B-C-D-E-F#.

I just re-recorded my pretty rough Demo from thence for further discussion (without further rehearsal):

=> Apley House twice thru <=
=> Apley House thrice thru <=
 
apleyhousebyuq7.jpg

Edited by blue eyed sailor, 20 February 2014 - 03:36 PM.


#15 Jack Campin

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 07:28 PM

The dance instructions, if I understand them right, suggest something.

 

The first four bars appears to coincide with a bit of birling across the line, but no movement up or down the set - it's a kind of prelude, getting in position for what follows.  The second and third parts share similar rhythmic figures and form a unit: the first couple moves down the set and then the second couple moves up.  It's a there-and-back pattern that maybe ought to be backed up by a definite there-and-back in the tonality.  A Mixolydian cadence at the end of the second part doesn't signal that as sharply as a tonal V-I would.  So I reckon Amaj-D or even A7-D in the last bar of the second part would be preferable - it's like the dancers would hit the end of their bungee where the tonality changes from D major back to G major, and that would be obvious with a C# in the harmony of bar 8 and a Cnat in the melody of bar 9.

 

But I'm not much of a dancer and I'm largely guessing.  Anybody know this dance?


Edited by Jack Campin, 19 February 2014 - 07:30 PM.


#16 Mike Franch

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 10:04 PM

Just danced it Monday, and am familiar with it.

 

The distinctive feature of this dance is when the couples turn single and then cast into a line of four for the lead up.

 

Previously, the men have fallen (stepped) back and come forward turning single, and then the women the same. (This takes up the first 4 bars of music X 2.  Everyone is where the dance started.  Nothing unusual so far. 

 

In the B1 music, the couples take right hands across (star) (i.e. Man 1 and Woman 2, Woman 1 and Man 2) and move halfway around the set, so the second couple are above, the first couple below (i.e., second couple closer to the band).  All that is pretty standard, there are lots of dances with these figures. But since dances flow, the hands across is important because it flows into the distinctive Apley House figure, the turn single and then casting into line of four, which occupies the B2 music.  This is also the part of the dance where some dancers get confused.

 

There's a lot of energy in the C1 music, with the two couples forming a line of four and leading up ("up a double"), then falling back and concluding the round of the dance in C2 by the ones casting and the twos moving up.  This last is necessary for the progression (for the Ones and Twos to progress to new partners), but I see the really "Apley House-ness" of the dance in B2 and C1. There's no birling across the line, but I think one could define A1 and A2 and B1 "preparatory" for the drama of B2 and C1.

 

On this, I'm more of a dancer than a musician, so I'll defer on the mode question, which I don't understand at all.



#17 Jack Campin

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 06:30 PM

Thanks.  So it looks like the point where you want to have a sharply accented cadence is at the end of B1 - put an Amaj-D there, and Amin-D at the end of B2?  That would make use of the ambiguity provided by the gap in a way that neither Wolf nor I had thought of before.



#18 cboody

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 02:41 AM

Seems to me the issue here is how much you want to know.  Jack comes from a background similar to mine, and I relish all the information about gapped scales his discussion includes.  Part of my reason is that I like the intellectually more complete nomenclature, but part of it is because knowing those things gives some useful information about harmonizing.  And yes, I think one can, eventually, learn to hear many of those gapped modes.  After all, most of us can hear pentatonic things.  Why not six note things?

 

That said though, I think the starting point is really to aurally and intellectually understand the "standard" 6 church modes Ionian (what some folks would simply and correctly call a major key) Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian (minor),  Just start on the white notes of the piano and if you start on C you get C Ionian (or as most of us would say C Major), move up one note and you get D Dorian, move up another note and you get E Phrygian, move up one more and you get F Lydian, one more G mixolydian, and one more and you get A Aeolian (or what most folks would call A minor).  But, you say, all those contain the same notes.  Right you are, but it is the patterns of notes (in the scale and in the melodies) and (usually) the final note that defines the mode for us.  Going back to the piano notice where each scale has whole and half steps (just notice where the black keys are.  A black key between two white ones defines a whole step.  Play the scale up and down a few times and you'll hear they will sound different.  So, it is that pattern of whole and half steps along with lots of conventional melodic patterns that give pieces the "modal" sound.  Once you get that in your mind and ear you can go on to think about harmonizing things and dealing with those pesky scales that don't use all 7 notes so you can't always be sure what mode they are in.

 

Notice I said "church" modes.  The Greek modes use the same names, but apply them to different scale patterns, something that left us in antiquity.  The names are Greek, but applied (and originally misapplied) to the church mode scale patterns.

 

Now, I've either confused everyone or help some folks out.  I hope the latter....  There's lots left out here, but if anyone has questions I'll be happy to try to clarify...at least clarify what I mean :)


Edited by cboody, 21 February 2014 - 02:43 AM.




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