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Theory Of Modes

modes music theory

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#1 lachenal74693

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:33 AM

I recently came across this brief description of modes:

      

"The word ‘mode’ comes from the Latin for ‘manner, or method’ but musical modes

all originated in ancient Greece, so they have Greek names. The modes were named
after various regions, perhaps to represent the people who lived there, because
Greek musical theorists were philosophers too, and associated the arts with
aspects of morality.  
 
Bascially a mode is a type of scale, as in ‘doh re mi fa so la ti do.’ Alter
just one of those notes and you can call your scale a “mode”. Long before people
started thinking about pieces of music having “keys”, each mode is believed to 
have begun on a different note of the scale, conferring its own character to the
set of notes running, for example, C to C (Lydian mode) or E to E (Dorian mode)
and so on.
 
 The seven main categories of mode have been part of musical notation since the
 middle ages. So, the list goes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian,
 Aeolian and Locrian. Some of them are major modes, some are minor, and some are
 ambiguous. Some modes are sadder or holier than others."

 

 
That description doesn't quite tally with my (limited) knowledge of modes. Perhaps
someone with a better knowledge of the theory of modes than myself could point up
what is wrong with this (or, of course, what is right)?
 
Thank you.
 
Roger.


#2 Teriodin

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 08:06 AM

The Wikipedia article on the subject goes into a lot more detail about it, including historical and modern definitions.

 

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Mode_(music)



#3 Jack Campin

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 12:39 PM

I have a tutorial on modes on my website:

 

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

 

which I have been rewriting for a few months - it's already the largest document on the subject on the web and the new one will be about 4 times as big.

 

The quoted passage is historically rubbish and about as totally, uselessly meaningless and ignorant as it is possible to get.



#4 lachenal74693

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 01:22 PM

I have a tutorial on modes on my website:

 

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

 

which I have been rewriting for a few months - it's already the largest document on the subject on the web and the new one will be about 4 times as big.

 

The quoted passage is historically rubbish and about as totally, uselessly meaningless and ignorant as it is possible to get.

 

I already have a copy of JCs tutorials on my tablet (as he knows). It's my standard reference for modes,

and it was this magisterial ( :)) and seminal ( :)) work which prompted my query in the first place...

 

"...historically rubbish and about as totally, uselessly meaningless and ignorant as it is possible to get..."

 

Thank you. I thought it was garbage when I finally got around to looking at it this morning but thought I'd

better check.

 

Time to 'fess up - where did it come from? The Classic FM web site - some time last December.

 

Can't find it now, as it's such a messy web site. Makes me wonder about the value of all their other

'Discover Music' posts (http://www.classicfm...discover-music/). Ho hum...


Edited by lachenal74693, 13 February 2017 - 01:24 PM.


#5 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 02:43 PM

I've just had a look at Jack Campin's tutorial, which is centred on Scottish music. I find his approach as laid out in the Introduction right on the button. He loses me when he moves on to gamelan and Persian music.

 

In short, if a tutorial about modes is to be of any practical use, it must concern itself with their use in one particular music. If you're interested in a discussion of the modes used in Irish traditional music, I'd be pleased to offer a few practical tips. These have to do with singng and playing the instruments commonly used traditional music in Ireland today.

 

Cheers,

John



#6 lachenal74693

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 02:54 PM

Time to 'fess up - where did it come from? The Classic FM web site - some time last December.

 

Can't find it now, as it's such a messy web site. Makes me wonder about the value of all their other

'Discover Music' posts (http://www.classicfm...discover-music/). Ho hum...

 

 

Found it! - http://www.classicfm...-musical-modes/



#7 Jack Campin

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:55 PM

Catherine Bott is credited with writing that.  In her day job she is a very, very good singer and should know better.  I suspect she was drunk as a skunk at the time and put it together on her phone in a pub when a subeditor called in a hurry.

 

 

 

if a tutorial about modes is to be of any practical use, it must concern itself with their use in one particular music.

 

I am increasingly going exactly against that.  There are analytical techniques currently used for some genres which give a lot of insight into others where they haven't been used before.  And it's enlightening to see how the music you know unexpectedly resembles stuff you don't know, when you look at it right.  (It is also illuminating to know when you've gone over some kind of technical chasm into a genuinely different way of stringing sounds together; you know you need to listen in a new way).

 

I zero in on Scottish music (a) because I know it and (b) because it contains illustrations of a heck of a lot of different musical procedures, enough to batter any glib national generalizations into the ground.  The same framework will work much more widely.  (Just now typing in a Hungarian song which is identical modally to a lot of Scottish ones, and with the same phrasing, but uses rhythms you'd never hear west of Vienna).


Edited by Jack Campin, 13 February 2017 - 07:57 PM.


#8 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 08:53 AM

Jack,

I understand your thoughts on exotic musics. It is, in fact, good to know that your native tradition uses devices that are known by other names elsewhere.

On the one hand, it gives you the feeling that yours is not the only tradition that sees melodic structures in an odd sort of way, and on the other hand it keeps you from getting big-headed about yours being in the only tradition that plays with these wonderful effects.

 

Nevertheless, I do see a dichotomy between the Enginer and the Craftsman, the Musicologist and the Traditional Musician. It's the intimate knowledge of his particular material - be it wood, bricks or textile fibres - that enables the craftsman to produce something both useful and beautiful. But most craftsmen need the good tools that the engineers have developed for them to work with the material.

Admittedly, a cabinet-maker doesn't need to know anything about drilling, milling or sawing metals ...

 

Cheers,

John



#9 Jack Campin

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 05:21 AM

There is an intriguing dichotomy which may relate to what you're saying there.  Modes as applied to folk music are generally descriptive - people who create the music do so by following implicit rules which they can only partly describe, if at all.  It's very useful for a performer or arranger to know what modes the composer used, but that comes later.  On the other hand, in art music traditions like the improvised music of the Middle East, the mode comes first - a player always knows exactly what mode they're playing in and why and what mode they're going to modulate into.  The tonal structures may be exactly the same in both cases but the background psychology could not be more different.



#10 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 11:21 AM

There is an intriguing dichotomy which may relate to what you're saying there.  Modes as applied to folk music are generally descriptive - people who create the music do so by following implicit rules which they can only partly describe, if at all.  It's very useful for a performer or arranger to know what modes the composer used, but that comes later.  On the other hand, in art music traditions like the improvised music of the Middle East, the mode comes first - a player always knows exactly what mode they're playing in and why and what mode they're going to modulate into.  The tonal structures may be exactly the same in both cases but the background psychology could not be more different.

Jack,

If I may say so, your penchant for the exotic seems to have jaded your view of musicians closer to your Scottish home! :mellow:

 

An Irish musician worth his salt can describe the mode of a tune, and of course a group of Irish musicians know beforehand what mode a certain tune, which they wish to play together, is in. Not only in the Middle East does the mode come first. (And not only in folk music; the first thing we encounter in a classical music score after the clef is the "key" signature, which, taken together with the last note in the bass, defines the scale and the mode.)

 

I'll grant you that the traditonal musician has, for the most part, an artisan's grasp of the material that enables him to make beautiful things from it. But the more literate among them can tell you that in song X you have to sing the ti a whole tone lower than the doh, that is, half a tone lower than ti "normally" is, and that if you're playing it on your D whistle, you take G as your home note. An old fiddle book  would refer to the tune being in the "scale of so."

 

Of course, the musicologist would describe the tune in question as being in Mixolydian mode. A neat abbreviation, as long as you know that, on a practical level, it means different things to singers, whistle players and fiddlers.

 

Cheers,

John



#11 Jack Campin

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 12:46 PM

I'm thinking of what happens when you think a tune up.  Twice when I've done it, I ended up in standard types of hexatonic scale - dorian/minor for one, mixolydian/dorian for the other.  I only realized that after writing them down.  It happened because I was using kinds of melodic formula that result in those modes; I never had any conscious intention of leaving a gap in the scale.

 

As I said, it's useful for a performer or arranger to know the mode after the tune has come into existence, but in my experience you don't think of it when composing one.



#12 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 04:10 PM

Jack,

 

Basically, you talk in the dialect or accent that you heard from your surroundings as a child. Similarly, you compose in idioms that you heard when you started listening to and trying to sing along with music. As an Irish child, I heard lots of major, Dorian and Mixolydian tunes, and when I have to think up a tune, these are the scales I tend to use quasi instinctively.

 

Of course I heard a lot of classical and light music, too, and I'm not totally unlearned in classical music theory, so I'm quite comfortable with thinking out major-key tunes that modulate up a 5th and back down again, or with the classical harmonic minor keys, etc.

 

The choice of mode somehow happens - I can "say" things in Dorian that I can't in Mixolydian, and vice versa. The choice of classical "key" (C-major, Bb-major or G-major, for instance) is much more arbitrary, and depends on the range of my singing voice and/or the easy keys of the instrument to be used.

 

Cheers,

John





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