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Thread: Modes and Pitch Axis Theory - a little confused.

  1. #16
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Dec 2002
    Twickenham, UK
    Quote Originally Posted by mwtzzz View Post
    I don't have a whole lot of time to type an answer
    Don't worry - the thread is 2 years old, so I'm sure he won't mind waiting a little longer...

  2. #17
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    Oct 2012
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Don't worry - the thread is 2 years old, so I'm sure he won't mind waiting a little longer...
    Lol. yeah

  3. #18
    Registered User ernzzz's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    -A Mode can be understood as when you take one Scale (i.e. Major Scale aka Ionian), and play those same notes over a tonal center different than the root of that scale... but diatonic to the scale..

    For instance, you take C Ionian scale, and play it over a C Major chord = sounds like C Ionian or C Major...

    But, if you play the very same notes, over a Dm chord = sounds like D Dorian (cool jazzy feeling)

    Playing the C Ionian scale from the second note, D, over a Dm context is in fact playing D Dorian..

    -So there is no point in relativizing everything to the major scale anymore, if you know your modes..

    If the root is D, and you play a Dm chord, and you play D dorian over it... you are in fact playing D dorian!! (wich will be enharmonic to C major, but you see the point, no need to say C major..)

    -So we could extend this to the rest of the notes..

    C Ionian has this notes = C D E F G A B

    wich correspond to this chords = C, Dm, Em, F, G7, Am, Bm7b5

    That means you can use any of this chords to create a chord progression, wich will be diatonic, and wich will imply whatever ideas or feelings depending on how you use them (that is functional harmony)

    So knowing the modes order, and extrapolating it to the C major scale we get:
    C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Eolian, B Locrian

    You must get yourself to the point of being familiar with each of these modes, but summarizing (and of course in a subjective way):

    Ionian= happy resolution
    Dorian=jazzy, cool
    Phrygian= Flamenco/Arabic
    Lydian= dreamy, misterious, hippy
    Mixolydian= Celtic, Hindu
    Aeolian=epic, sad?
    Locrian= terrorific, surreal (not really used, as it is quite unstable)

    Of course its all dependant on every and all other factors like, tempo, tessitura, arranjement, the kind of instruments used, etc.. (if you play Major Scale with a Sitar, it will surely sound Hindu!! but if you play it with a Guitar, it will be harder to express that feeling with the same Major Scale... also the opposite is true.. if you play Mixolydian with a guitar you can easily make it sound hindu, but if you play Mixolydian with a Sitar, it will be a perfect match...)

    -So, if we wanted to create a F Lydian chord progression we could use any of these chords: F, G7, Am, Bm7b5, C, Dm, Em

    And the scale will have this same notes: F G A B C D E

    (Also bear in mind, that you can use ANY note of the scale to decorate the chords, and make them have a determined sonority wich matches the feeling or ideas you want to convey... you can play naked triads, but you can also decorate the chords as much as you want, as long as you dont play notes outside of the scale...)

    -What happens now, is that not only the F Lydian scale has a unique and characteristic feeling or mood into it, but also the functional harmony of the chords changes!!!

    For instance, the 7th chord will not be the V anymore.. it will be the II.. and somehow, this II7 has a strong feeling of resolution towards the root I..

    Or for intance, the IVm (Dm) chord, has a strong leading tendency towards the V (C)... and the V (C) has a strong leading tendency towards the II7..

    Functional Harmony of the modes, is something wich is not taught, cause it hasnt become as standarized or popular as your typical Major and Minor key (Ionian and Eolian).. But it exists nonetheless, just as Major and Minor functional harmony exists.. nobody can deny this!

    Some views argument that functional harmony in Modes other than Ionian and Eolian (Major and Minor scales), is faulty or broken, cause they dont have a V7 etc..

    But to me it is just as legit as the Major or Minor scale.. i mean, what makes the functional harmony of Major Scale any better than say Dorian or Mixolydian?

    It surely changes, and has different effect, but they are just as useful to me..

    -So, you can apply all this on any other scale, and develop its modes.. The most useful will be knowing the modes of the Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor scales..

    In Melodic Minor I find most useful: Melodic Minor, Lydian Dominant, Superlocrian

    In Harmonic Minor: Harmonic Minor, Phrygian Dominant, Dorian #4

    there is also the Harmonic Major (and its modes), and the Major Locrian (and its modes), but those are quite wild scales wich are rarely used..
    Last edited by ernzzz; 10-22-2012 at 05:13 PM.
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  4. #19
    Registered User ernzzz's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    -On a side note, i would like to add that sometimes you can use outside notes over a chord, to decorate it, or to imply a different feeling, or a different key/harmony/modality..

    For instance in Flamenco (as in Blues) some ambiguity exists with the 3 and b3..

    In theory you need to play Phrygian scale (1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7), over a minor chord; but squite often you will be playing it over a maj-b9 chord, wich creates some ambiguity..

    It sounds right for one reason: if you take the Phrygian scale, and raise its 3rd... what you are left with is the Phrygian Dominant scale, wich is one of the the Harmonic minor modes, and wich has the same kind of flamenco/arabic feeling, but even more so..

    You could also do the opposite, that is playing Phrygian Dominant, over a minor-b9 chord...

    Another typical example would be in a Minor context, using Harmonic Minor instead of Eolian (Natural Minor) to make it sound more eastern...

    or for instance, when you play blues-funk in E Dorian, and the progression goes to the IV7 chord (A7); you can play E Melodic Minor (wich will be A Lydian Dominant) to give a more surrealistic kind of feeling..

    that could be called modal substitution I guess...

    Endless other harmonic effects exist, and that can make music much more interesting... and also help to define a player's style; Larry Carlton will use some harmonic effects, Pat Metheny would use some others..

    -Pitch Axis, is something i'm not so experienced with, but as far as i know:

    Pitch axis is when you maintain one note as tonal center ALL the time, but you modulate to other tonalityes/modalityes, giving an effect of harmonic movement or modulation...

    anything is valid as long it sounds good, and as long as it has at least one or more notes in common..

    So its all about what feeling or idea you want to convey.. you choose how smooth or abrupt those transitions have to be

    Personally i havent fully used this yet on any of my compositions, but it is certainly an interesting topic..

    For a good example you can listen to the song "The Riddle" by Steve Vai...

    here's an AMAZING structural analysis of the song:

    And this is a more Harmonic one:

    From 0:00 to 0:50- yeah you can call it E Lydian or B major scale, but he melodically gravitates more to a C# tonality (C# dorian). Even though the E is "peddaling" through the piece, it is not really a drone. The bass has rhythmic stops and starts. There are lots of chords moving throughout the piece.

    0:51-1:15- The G# tonality is sort of like mixolydian (C# major), since he melodically avoids the E or E# note at first. But the thumping bass (E natural) adds the impressionistic flavor of melodic minor. This is the section where he cuts loose and won the speed contest from some stupid magazine. C# melodic minor over an E bass can be thought of as E augmented lydian. But don't forget there are G# and F# triads moving around w/ the keyboards. Very cool, intellectual, deep.

    1:16-2:32- Back to the C# dorian stuff over E bass. At 1:40 the band stops so he does an A minor pentatonic descending run ending on F#, then back to C# dorian.

    2:33-2:56- this is the E mixolydian section. The guy who analized this section described it as 70's jazz. Actually this is the main theme from the previous track "Answers", only the tone is weird, so it is like the melody is a distorted, slow, dreamy version of something vaguely familiar. Very clever Mr Vai.

    2:57-3:48- this is the love making, paradise section. Very sexy, but again, there seems to me a pull to C# dorian, not E lydian, but that is my ear. It is a very different mood than the earlier section that used the same scale and bass.

    3:49-4:13 The E minor rock section. He uses the pentatonic w/ lots of bends and vibrato. Wish I could call it E dorian, but he avoids the C/C# note all together. It is just E minor RAWK!

    4:14-4:39- This is another impressionistic section, I could not find a description of it in the other guy's review. He uses E lydian dominant (B melodic minor) and again cuts loose w/ speed. Funny how both virtuoso sections of this tune use melodic minor (not an easy pattern to play quick and fluid).

    4:40-5:04- this is the very interesting E harmonic minor section where he harmonizes guitars rather than take an Yngwieish speed solo. This part of the tune always used to jump out at me from nowhere when I first started listening to this album. Now I get the whole E pedal and how it ties all the different scales and tonalities together leading to the ....

    5:05- "happy" E Ionian ending. I don't think the pledge or whatever kills the flow of the tune, it is not literal. I think it flows nicely and this ending is meant to be a little ironic. Notice how it gets crazy and dissonant there for a minute before the final end.
    Last edited by ernzzz; 10-22-2012 at 11:39 PM.
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