WTF Are The Modes?!

Ask questions and get answers about how to make music in any particular way. Hardware or songwriting or whatever.
Post Reply
User avatar
Lunkhead
Beat It
Posts: 6957
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 12:14 pm
Instruments: many
Recording Method: cubase/reason/mac/tascam4x4
Submitting as: Berkeley Social Scene, Merisan, Tiny Robots
Pronouns: he/him
Location: Berkeley, CA
Contact:

WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by Lunkhead »

No, not The Swanky Modes:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(music)

Do you know or care what they are? How do you think about them? Do you have good resources for learning and internalizing them? What's your favorite mode?
User avatar
AJOwens
Panama
Posts: 919
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:50 am
Instruments: bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, flute
Recording Method: Reaper, Reason Adapted, M-Audio 1010LT + 2496 (Windows XP)
Submitting as: James Owens
Pronouns: he/him
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by AJOwens »

The wikipedia article covers what I was taught in school: pick a white key on the piano, any key, and march up an octave on the white keys. That's a mode. Stick to those notes in your melody (in the same or other octaves) and you're using a modal melody. But I've also encountered a broader definition: pick a set of notes and stick to it. So, for example, the black keys give you a "pentatonic mode". Or if you take a standard major scale and flatten the 2nd and the 6th, you're playing in some kind of Arabic mode. (Someone schooled in Middle Eastern music once told me about several variant Middle Eastern modes.) Then there is the "whole-tone" scale (C D E F# G# A# C), and a half-whole-half-whole "octatonic" scale that Jeff Robertson mentioned in the Art Bomb thread.

I think we all use modal melodies, especially in rock where a flattened seventh is common (that's Mixolydian), but we're not necessarily conscious of it.
User avatar
Pigfarmer Jr
Ice Cream Man
Posts: 1321
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:13 am
Instruments: Guitar
Recording Method: Br-900CD and Reaper to mix
Submitting as: Pigfarmer Jr, Evil Grin, Pork Producer, Gilmore Lynette Tootle, T.C. Elliott
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

The first five minutes of this video is a pretty elementary explanation of using the Lydian mode. Take the same concept and apply it to other modes. (I've not watched the entire video.)

https://youtu.be/d_DxhbYwJDA
User avatar
jast
Ice Cream Man
Posts: 1251
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:03 pm
Instruments: Vocals, guitar
Recording Method: REAPER, Steinberg UR44
Submitting as: Jan Krueger
Location: near Aachen, Germany
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by jast »

Want to actually listen to all of the standard modes in action? Here's a video of a guy doing some short guitar jams in each of them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwaeBUYcO5o
Intro to actual examples starts at 4:20.
most of my music
Song Fight-related stuff I host: ZIP archives // Circle of Titles
User avatar
Lunkhead
Beat It
Posts: 6957
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 12:14 pm
Instruments: many
Recording Method: cubase/reason/mac/tascam4x4
Submitting as: Berkeley Social Scene, Merisan, Tiny Robots
Pronouns: he/him
Location: Berkeley, CA
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by Lunkhead »

I have tried the whole "it's just an X scale but starting on note Y" thing. That has really not sunk into my mind. I think I am going try instead the path of "It's a major scale but with a flat/sharp X and a flat/sharp Y etc." :/
User avatar
jb
Hot for Teacher
Posts: 3940
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 10:12 am
Instruments: Guitar, Cello, Keys, Uke, Vox, Perc
Recording Method: Logic X
Submitting as: The John Benjamin Band
Location: WASHINGTON, DC
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by jb »

Lunkhead wrote:I have tried the whole "it's just an X scale but starting on note Y" thing. That has really not sunk into my mind. I think I am going try instead the path of "It's a major scale but with a flat/sharp X and a flat/sharp Y etc." :/
In my experience, you just have to memorize them. For singing it's fine to do exercises around solfeggio, but to get any work done requires more detail than such an instinctive activity contains.

This page seems good: https://fretello.com/the-magic-behind-musical-modes/
"Get Lucky" is in Dorian mode. How about that.

JB
blippity blop ya don’t stop heyyyyyyyyy
User avatar
jast
Ice Cream Man
Posts: 1251
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:03 pm
Instruments: Vocals, guitar
Recording Method: REAPER, Steinberg UR44
Submitting as: Jan Krueger
Location: near Aachen, Germany
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by jast »

Yeah, I'm with Lunkhead here. My view is that the "X scale starting on note Y" serves as a good explanation of the origin of these modes, but looking at how each modal scale compares to others is a lot more illuminating.
  • Ionian = major scale
  • Lydian = major scale but with augmented 4th
  • Mixolydian = major scale but with minor 7th
  • Aeolian = (natural) minor scale
  • Dorian = minor scale but with major 6th
  • Phrygian = minor scale but with minor 2nd
  • Locrian = minor scale but with diminished 5th: diminished tonic triad and thus can be difficult to use
To better understand how the modes fit into an overall progression, it can also be helpful to look at the dominant triad, i.e. the V/v chord according to the mode.
  • Ionian, Lydian, Locrian: major dominant triad
  • Dorian, Mixolydian, Aeolian: minor dominant triad
  • Phrygian: diminished minor dominant triad
The weirdest one, again, is Locrian: it has a straightforward major dominant triad, but due to its diminished base note it's actually kind of a four-and-a-half dominant rather than the usual perfect V/v. Using the tonic and dominant chords of Locrian sounds like the progression never actually "resolves" to anything, and as a consequence I strongly dislike anything written in pure Locrian.
most of my music
Song Fight-related stuff I host: ZIP archives // Circle of Titles
User avatar
lichenthroat
Push Comes to Shove
Posts: 317
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 12:54 pm
Recording Method: MuseScore & Ardour or Reaper
Submitting as: Lichen Throat, Dimetrodon, Sparetooth
Pronouns: he/him
Location: New Mexico

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by lichenthroat »

Thanks to all of you who have offered explanations and posted resources. I feel much closer to understanding this now.
User avatar
thirdcat
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed May 02, 2018 1:45 pm
Instruments: guitar, bass, keys, drums, programming
Submitting as: Third Cat
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by thirdcat »

Mixolydian is good, Dorian is lovely, Phrygian is nice for getting an "exotic" sound I think, I've used it a few times for guitar solos. The other two I haven't found much use for yet.

Agreed with the idea that it's best to think of them as major or minor but with one scale degree different, that was the thing that made 'em make sense to me.
User avatar
ujnhunter
Ice Cream Man
Posts: 1596
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 1:09 pm
Instruments: Bass, Keyboards, Crummy Guitar & Animal Noises (especially Donkeys)
Recording Method: Reaper 5.9x, Tascam FireOne/Behringer UMC202HD/Avid Eleven Rack/Line 6 UX2, Win 7 PC / Win 10 Laptop
Submitting as: Cock, Chth*.*, D.A.H. (Der Alter Hahn)
Pronouns: His Infernal Majesty
Location: CT, USA
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by ujnhunter »

The best information or advice I can give about the Modes/Scales are by using the "White Key Hack" on a MIDI Piano Roll... Starting with C Major i.e. Ionian (which is all the white keys starting on C and ending on the higher octave C) using 1/8 notes in a bar. You can then slide them all up one half step at a time to get all of the different Major Scales because the Halfstep/Wholestep spacing stays the same in every Mode or Scale you just start the sequence on a different Note.

You can use the same exact "White Key Hack" for the Modes (which are just all the white keys but starting on a different Note) i.e. D to D (all white keys) is Dorian, E to E (again... all white keys) is Phrygian, etc... you can then do the same exact shifting up all Notes one half step at a time to get all of the different Dorian/Phrygian/Lydian/Mixolydian/Aeolian(Natural Minor)/Locrian Scales. Again the Halfstep/Wholestep spacing is always the same. All you ever need to know is the C Major starting point (all the white keys starting on C and ending on the higher octave C) and you can figure out any Major/Minor Scale or Mode by shifting all the Notes of the Scale up or down at once...

Hope this is useful for someone as I've found this information has really opened my eyes in being able to write the music that's in my head.
-Ujn Hunter
Photovoltaik - Free 6 Track EP - Song Fight! Liner Notes
Billy's Little Trip wrote:I must have this....in my mouth.....now.
User avatar
jast
Ice Cream Man
Posts: 1251
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:03 pm
Instruments: Vocals, guitar
Recording Method: REAPER, Steinberg UR44
Submitting as: Jan Krueger
Location: near Aachen, Germany
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by jast »

Lydian has its place. Not in my music collection, though... I was trying to find an example but I don't have any.

Here's a real song written in Lydian (with brief intermissions that depart from it):


IMO it works best as a temporary mode to contrast against something more straightforward in other sections of a song. It introduces an element of disorder basically, a little dissonance, without getting too extreme.
most of my music
Song Fight-related stuff I host: ZIP archives // Circle of Titles
User avatar
fluffy
Eruption
Posts: 10427
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 10:56 am
Instruments: sometimes
Recording Method: Logic Pro X
Submitting as: Sockpuppet
Pronouns: she/they
Location: The Plaidlands (also, Seattle)
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by fluffy »

I like the mode where you go up 3 half-steps, then 1, then 4, 1, 5, 9, ...

It's the "pi á la" mode.
User avatar
irwin
Mean Street
Posts: 610
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:09 pm
Instruments: insecurity
Recording Method: scotch
Submitting as: suckweasel, kasper, nutwalls
Location: Woodland, CA

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by irwin »

Late to the party, but...
fluffy wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:31 pm
I like the mode where you go up 3 half-steps, then 1, then 4, 1, 5, 9, ...

It's the "pi á la" mode.
This is a phenomenal joke and I am totally stealing it.

If you are a music and math nerd, you should look up Irving Kaplansky's "Song About Pi".
"Ouch. I wonder if this guy sounds like this when he speaks." -- Puce
pegor
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
Posts: 183
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 1:50 pm
Instruments: stratocaster
Recording Method: blaming the equipment
Location: 39°5′50″N 120°57′14″W

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by pegor »

I made this in my effort to understand modes. I think it's correct. It is all the modes of the C Major scale. The first note of each scale is blue the second note in the scale is red, etc. It illustrates the interval differences of each mode, which I think is what gives them their individual feel (minor/major/flat7/dim kinda thing)
Image

I also use the mnemonic" I Don't Play Loud Music Any Longer" to remember the order.
User avatar
josh
Push Comes to Shove
Posts: 329
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:43 pm
Instruments: Guitar, Bass, Kazoo, Vocals, Keys
Recording Method: Reaper, 4-Track Cassette
Submitting as: Zack Facco
Location: Cambridge, MA
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by josh »

One way to explore modes is to compare the sound of a piece of music in C Major (Ionian Mode) vs C Minor (Aeolian Mode). They both gravitate towards the same tonal center (i.e. the note C feels most like home in both cases), but the moods will be quite different! This is because different chords and melodies will be used as they will be built from different groups of notes. The same relationship exists with the other modes. Another interesting thing to do is find a set of "modal vamps". Justin guitar has a set that all use C Major as the parent scale. Which means that you could load them up in a playlist and noodle on the same 7 notes (C,D,E,F,G,A,B) and experience directly how those notes feel different in those contexts. It's also interesting to note that you probably already have some sense of what modes are because I imagine from time to time you have improvised over a chord progression using the same scale while emphasizing different chord tones. For example if you play over the progression C F Dm G and mostly (or entirely) use notes from the C Major scale, you'll be exploring the sound of the Ionian, Lydian, Dorian and Mixolydian modes as you pass through those chords, particularly if you make use of some of the more colorful non-chord tones, such as B over the F chord and the Dm chord or F over the G chord.

As a side note I would immediately throw out the concept of thinking of Modes as "using the same scale but starting on a different note". That may be a good way to find the notes associated with a particular mode, but it's simply not a practical (or musical) way to think about it, since you would rarely use a mode that way! It's a shame it's so common to use that as the first (and sometimes only) explanation of what a mode is...
User avatar
Lunkhead
Beat It
Posts: 6957
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 12:14 pm
Instruments: many
Recording Method: cubase/reason/mac/tascam4x4
Submitting as: Berkeley Social Scene, Merisan, Tiny Robots
Pronouns: he/him
Location: Berkeley, CA
Contact:

Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Post by Lunkhead »

Just saw this now, this is great!
pegor wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:39 pm
I made this in my effort to understand modes. I think it's correct. It is all the modes of the C Major scale. The first note of each scale is blue the second note in the scale is red, etc. It illustrates the interval differences of each mode, which I think is what gives them their individual feel (minor/major/flat7/dim kinda thing)
Image

I also use the mnemonic" I Don't Play Loud Music Any Longer" to remember the order.
Post Reply