WTF Are The Modes?!

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Lunkhead
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WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby Lunkhead » Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:38 pm

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?
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby AJOwens » Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:59 am

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.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby Pigfarmer Jr » Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:59 am

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
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby jast » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:53 am

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.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby Lunkhead » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:05 pm

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." :/
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby jb » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:48 pm

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.

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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby jast » Wed Nov 28, 2018 2:14 am

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.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby lichenthroat » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:22 pm

Thanks to all of you who have offered explanations and posted resources. I feel much closer to understanding this now.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby thirdcat » Thu Nov 29, 2018 5:47 am

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.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby ujnhunter » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:54 am

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.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby jast » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:39 am

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.
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Re: WTF Are The Modes?!

Postby fluffy » 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.

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