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Thread: Modes. Why is it so hard?

  1. #46
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug McMullen
    If I get the chance I'll type out some of Russo's remarks about modal progressing so you get a feel for what he's saying and how he says it. Doug.
    This would be a good thread to post that stuff on. Thanks!!
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  2. #47
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    hey man, thanks. i will actually see if i can find that book in the library too. it sounds like it's well known.

    well, i might not understand the HM scale. i was just using it as an example, and saying that if it's essentially just a scale, and if you can harmonize it and get a set of chords in a certain order, then you have to be able to do the same thing with the modes, because they too are simply scales, nevermind the fact that they are derived from the major scale. they're scales, and so they can be harmonized, and yes you end up with the major key chord set, but the order is different.

    and it loooked like LB was saying that it was the dom5 chord in the HM harmonization that makes HM a uinque set of chords. and i was saying 'ok, but its not the chord that makes it unique, really, because that chord is formed via the scale. so its the scale that births that weird V chord.'

    as for studying regular chord progressions, that's kinda what i do, though not very systematically. but every chord progression i encounter i look at whats going on diatonically. i have read (but could stand to re-read) a couple of helpful sections in books i found which talk about supertonic, subdominant, the harmonic functions of chords, etc. there are only seven diatonic chords and i know them pretty well, but i should check a bit more about how the individual tones in them resolve, maybe. not sure what else to look at right now.

    as for revisiting my notion of what a key is, i am, in this thread, but its leading me to weird notions. i'm getting dizzy. i understand that a set of diatonic chords--no matter in what order-- has only ONE KEY associated with it. and yet i cant help but think that the order of them and where your ear feels the home/resolve is, should have some hand in what you call the key. like, a c major key that feels like e min is the home should maybe be thought of as: the key of C maj (phyrg). i know it sounds weird and im not saying it's ultimately useful. but why cant you think of it that way?
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

  3. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by fortymile
    hey man, thanks. i will actually see if i can find that book in the library too. it sounds like it's well known.

    well, i might not understand the HM scale. i was just using it as an example, and saying that if it's essentially just a scale, and if you can harmonize it and get a set of chords in a certain order, then you have to be able to do the same thing with the modes, because they too are simply scales, nevermind the fact that they are derived from the major scale. they're scales, and so they can be harmonized, and yes you end up with the major key chord set, but the order is different.

    and it loooked like LB was saying that it was the dom5 chord in the HM harmonization that makes HM a uinque set of chords. and i was saying 'ok, but its not the chord that makes it unique, really, because that chord is formed via the scale. so its the scale that births that weird V chord.'

    as for studying regular chord progressions, that's kinda what i do, though not very systematically. but every chord progression i encounter i look at whats going on diatonically. i have read (but could stand to re-read) a couple of helpful sections in books i found which talk about supertonic, subdominant, the harmonic functions of chords, etc. there are only seven diatonic chords and i know them pretty well, but i should check a bit more about how the individual tones in them resolve, maybe. not sure what else to look at right now.

    as for revisiting my notion of what a key is, i am, in this thread, but its leading me to weird notions. i'm getting dizzy. i understand that a set of diatonic chords--no matter in what order-- has only ONE KEY associated with it. and yet i cant help but think that the order of them and where your ear feels the home/resolve is, should have some hand in what you call the key. like, a c major key that feels like e min is the home should maybe be thought of as: the key of C maj (phyrg). i know it sounds weird and im not saying it's ultimately useful. but why cant you think of it that way?
    No offense intended, but I think that you are making this more difficult for yourself by trying to analyze this stuff in terms of semantics, rather than functional musical tools. Whether the V7 chord in harmonic minor is generated fromt he scale, or the scale is generated from a chord progression which exists a priori is not really important - it's a chicken/egg question. As far as your understanding of what a key is, I think it suffers from confusing key signature and the use of the word "key" meaning tonal center - these are entirely separate issues, whether you're referring to tonal or modal harmony.

  4. #49
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    Harmonic minor:
    It is my understanding that this scale was created as a result of composers' desire to "tonicize" (sp?) the i chord in a minor key. The 3rd of the V chord in Nat. minor was raised, to create a dom 7 chord.

    I believe this ideal addresses one of the points which, Doug in particular, is trying to make - (please correct me if I've misinterpreted)
    You certainly can create 'progressions' in any mode of the major scale that you choose. However, using strictly diatonic chords, you do not have the standard tension and resolution practice that serves to "tonicize" your I chord. This point is why, *I think* the use of melody and non diatonic chords have been mentioned.

    You certainly do not have to use these 'standard practices', if it sounds good, it is good but, this seems to be one of the points of confusion.

    -best,
    Mike

  5. #50
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Re: Key

    Ya know, Doug said the same thing once regarding Key Signature and key but I looked it up and found this.

    If you look up the definition of Key signature,"The sharps and flats placed at the begining of a musical staff, immediately after the clef sign, to indicate what KEY the music is in."

    That is the only explanation given so therefore I am inclined to believe that Key is determined by the Key Signature. As in what ever the Key Signature says it is, that's what it is. Therefore something in A Dorian would show up in the key Signature as G Major/ E minor.
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  6. #51
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    i'm not that chartreadingmaniac, but i heard, that if there are a lot of key changes within a tune, the key isn't specified by sharps and flats at the beginning. they are rather placed immediately before the note that they are altering.
    so it is up to the musician to call the key how he sees it depending on the melody and how it works with the chords tension/resolutionwise.
    i can be totally off though.

  7. #52
    some guy Doug McMullen's Avatar
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    Mike said:
    You certainly can create 'progressions' in any mode of the major scale that you choose. However, using strictly diatonic chords, you do not have the standard tension and resolution practice that serves to "tonicize" your I chord. This point is why, *I think* the use of melody and non diatonic chords have been mentioned.
    Exactly right, mike (although mostly I mentioned non-diatonic chords because I think early on in studying harmony folks often go down a false trail in their thinking where they decide: diatonic = in key = good; and non diatonic = off key = bad... ... so I like to point out that non-diatonic chords are some on the most flavorful spices on the shelf.)

    Los Boleros wrote:
    If you look up the definition of Key signature, "The sharps and flats placed at the begining of a musical staff, immediately after the clef sign, to indicate what KEY the music is in."

    That is the only explanation given so therefore I am inclined to believe that Key is determined by the Key Signature. As in what ever the Key Signature says it is, that's what it is. Therefore something in A Dorian would show up in the key Signature as G Major/ E minor.
    Hey LB... Music dictionaries are not good places to get questions answered about anything even slightly modernistic. Like key signatures for modes etc.

    Key signature is just a convenience of notation... that don't have to mean anything actually musical about a piece. We can write a piece of a music that when played is musically in the key of C, and we can put a key signature of Gb on the staff when writing it out. There's no good reason to do this I can think, but it can be done. That's the point about key signature vs. key... a key signature is a notational convenience, nothing more, whereas a key is a musical phenomenon that exists in the ear and mind of the listener.

    William Russo in his chapters on modal in chord progressions agrees with your choice of using a G key signature for an A Dorian progression, but he gives two other key signature choices and mentions that he occassionally uses them.

    "I should like to point out that key signatures in modal writing take three forms: (1) the key signatures of the scale from which the mode is derived... [as in A dorian = G key sig -- Doug.]
    (2) the key signature of the major key built on the same tone... [F dorian key getting F major signture, then manually correcting flats and naturals on the staff -- Doug] (3) an open signature [no sharps or flats, aka key sig of C, with sharps flats added as needed -- Doug]
    I know I promised to write out some of Russo verbatim on the subjectof modal progressions... but his approach is very straight forward, commonsensical, and contains very little in the way of tricky non-intuitive bits. The gist of it is this:

    You can write modal chord progressions using the diatonic set of chords... the trick is tonicize your 1 chord.

    Tonicize a modal chord generally requires: Playing your tonic chord a lot, putting it in meterically strong places, and just generally structuring the song so that it says: Hey this is the Chord of Resolution right here, Folks! Here I am.

    Generally avoid the V7 and the I chord of the parent scale as they will threaten the modal key center and for that reason completely avoid V7 - Is of the parent scale (for example in modes of C major, like say D dorian, don't go playing G7 a lot, Don't play C a lot, and definitely do not play G7 followed by C.)

    Use the modes IV and V chords to cadence to the modal I. (*Locrian's V and Lydian's IV chords do not support the modal tonic well).

    Use modal root movement... that is, if your root movement, as played alone is modal sounding, your chord progression stands a good chance of functioning modally. Earlier in this thread 40mi suggest Em F G as a modal chord progression for E phyrigian -- I shot him down saying he was just hearing Em F and G chords in root position creating a modal melody on the roots... Well, Russo it seems would say that my point about the root movement is correct but that doesn't invalidate the progression, on the contrary, it is part of what makes it work as an E phyrigian progression (so kudos to 40mi. there).

    Russo touches on using melody to support the modal progressing, but I haven't gotten to that part yet.

    Doug.

  8. #53
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug McMullen
    Hey LB... Music dictionaries are not good places to get questions answered about anything even slightly modernistic. Like key signatures for modes etc.

    Key signature is just a convenience of notation... that don't have to mean anything actually musical about a piece. We can write a piece of a music that when played is musically in the key of C, and we can put a key signature of Gb on the staff when writing it out. There's no good reason to do this I can think, but it can be done. That's the point about key signature vs. key... a key signature is a notational convenience, nothing more, whereas a key is a musical phenomenon that exists in the ear and mind of the listener.
    yes but that does not seem to contradict what my dictionary says. If The Key Signature says that the key is A minor, but the F note in the music is posted with a Sharp, Then I would consider this an modification from the key of A minor. The reader then coud say that it is A dorian mode happening there. If every F in the segment was F#, then it would probably be included in the Key signature, Thus changing the Key to G Major.
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  9. #54
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    "No offense intended, but I think that you are making this more difficult for yourself by trying to analyze this stuff in terms of semantics, rather than functional musical tools. Whether the V7 chord in harmonic minor is generated fromt he scale, or the scale is generated from a chord progression which exists a priori is not really important - it's a chicken/egg question."

    ---
    a total bypassing of semantics is the (hopeful) end-result of this exercise. semantics are, in my life,what causes almost all initial confusion in learning music theory. because in so many cases the words people use to explain theory relate much more to sheet music conventions--the system of communication that's evolved to talk about theory--than the mechanics of what's happening. only bypassing this stuff can i learn what 'words' i need to be ignoring and where to put my focus and how to know what's really functional. believe me, i care absolutely nothing for semantics.

    "You certainly can create 'progressions' in any mode of the major scale that you choose. However, using strictly diatonic chords, you do not have the standard tension and resolution practice that serves to "tonicize" your I chord. This point is why, *I think* the use of melody and non diatonic chords have been mentioned."

    ---
    i briefly suggested this earlier (in the post about the tonal ingredients and resolution tendencies of the V7 chord)...but not so lucidly.

    "Key signature is just a convenience of notation... that don't have to mean anything actually musical about a piece. "

    ---this is the way i generally like to explore theory. by getting a handle on what the conventions/conveniences of communication are, and then going underneath them to see what the concepts are. the words are confusing and tend not to answer the questions by themselves. sometimes i think they actively obscure the answer

    his approach is very straight forward, commonsensical, and contains very little in the way of tricky non-intuitive bits. The gist of it is this:

    "You can write modal chord progressions using the diatonic set of chords... the trick is tonicize your 1 chord." Tonicize a modal chord generally requires: Playing your tonic chord a lot, putting it in meterically strong places, and just generally structuring the song so that it says: Hey this is the Chord of Resolution right here, Folks! Here I am.

    --
    wow, really!? re-tonicizing the diatonic chords is the entire thought behind my argument. then if you combine this with what LB and others were saying, you can use melody to help reinforce this aural trick.

    Generally avoid the V7 and the I chord of the parent scale as they will threaten the modal key center and for that reason completely avoid V7 - Is of the parent scale (for example in modes of C major, like say D dorian, don't go playing G7 a lot, Don't play C a lot, and definitely do not play G7 followed by C.

    --i think i said this should be true, too, a couple posts up from here. this is encouraging. i'm gonna grab this book from the library tonight if i can find it.

    Use modal root movement... that is, if your root movement, as played alone is modal sounding, your chord progression stands a good chance of functioning modally. Earlier in this thread 40mi suggest Em F G as a modal chord progression for E phyrigian

    --->
    if what russo says is correct, then the G7 should be avoided or used sparingly since it's the V7 of C, and will prime your ear to accept C as the tonic. even if C makes no appearance in the song, you will feel it lurking every time you touch G7. maybe this is the reason why modal vamps are the norm. avoiding the V7 and I in any key and tonicizing another chord for a modal sound removes two possible chords, giving you five to work with in all. one has to be your new modal "tonic," so you have four to reasonably work with, and of those four, some are going to sound just better than others, and reinforce the feel of the mode better than the others.

    thanks a lot for posting this stuff doug. i've been looking for a resource to help answer this question, literally for years
    Last edited by fortymile; 12-09-2004 at 01:21 AM.
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  10. #55
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    and thank everyone for going into it in such depth. i believe this issue has just been resolved for me.
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    Ya know, Doug said the same thing once regarding Key Signature and key but I looked it up and found this.

    If you look up the definition of Key signature,"The sharps and flats placed at the begining of a musical staff, immediately after the clef sign, to indicate what KEY the music is in."

    That is the only explanation given so therefore I am inclined to believe that Key is determined by the Key Signature. As in what ever the Key Signature says it is, that's what it is. Therefore something in A Dorian would show up in the key Signature as G Major/ E minor.
    Obviously, this can't be true. I'm not trying to be argumentative, but if you are playing the progression fortymile was referring to earlier - E min, F maj., G maj. and back to E min, it will undoubtedly show up on a key sig. as C major. However, aurally speaking, there is no way that C is going to sound as the tonic against that progression, which, to me, would be the defining factor. C major is definitely the parent key that these intervals are derived from, but if you reference E Min. as the tonic- melodically and metrically as Doug was saying, it will definitely take on that role.

  12. #57
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    debaser, are you saying that while key is key, tonality cannot be ignored when it comes to the perception of key?

    doug, i found the russo book at the library and was able to read a few pages before the place closed. that guy's book is an extraordinarily clear read. it's just a huge book and written in a very concise way that makes me just want to sit down and absorb it all. i notice he's also the author of 'composing music: a new approach," which is a book i know i have skimmed in bookstores sometime during the past few years. (it's always on the shelf). it's possible i picked up this theory of modal harmony from that book and just forgot about where i saw it.

    i am going back there tonight to finish the modes section.
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

  13. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by debaser
    Obviously, this can't be true. I'm not trying to be argumentative, but if you are playing the progression fortymile was referring to earlier - E min, F maj., G maj. and back to E min, it will undoubtedly show up on a key sig. as C major. However, aurally speaking, there is no way that C is going to sound as the tonic against that progression, which, to me, would be the defining factor. C major is definitely the parent key that these intervals are derived from, but if you reference E Min. as the tonic- melodically and metrically as Doug was saying, it will definitely take on that role.
    Lets look farther into Key

    Quote Originally Posted by The Harper Dictionary of Music
    A Group of tones related to a common center, called the tonic or keynote, which make up the tonal material (notes, Intervals,chords) of a composition. The notes of a key put in order of rising pitch (from low to hight) make up the scale. However, although a key uses notes of a particular scale, it is not identical to a scale. For one thing, even though a composition is written in a particular key, it may contain notes that do not belong to the scale of that key. Furthermore, a key not only involves a series of indivisual notes, but also a relationship between those notes and the chords that are made up them. Thus the term key is often used interchangeably with "tonality", that is the use of "tonal center"(or tonic or keynote) to which chords are relatedin one way or another to which composision usually returns for a sense of rest and finality. Tonality applies to music written between 1600 and 1900. Before 1600, music was organized in terms of tonal material- church modes, tetrachords, etc.- and began to avoid the use of a particular key, preferring to write atonal music. (see atonal music)
    Last edited by Los Boleros; 12-09-2004 at 11:25 PM.
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  14. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Harper Dictionary of Music
    Key continued.

    Since the tones of a key make up a scale, it follows that there are as many keys as there are scales; thus in European and American music there are twelve major keys and twelve minor keys. The Relationship between the notes and the chords built on them are the same as any major scale, so that a composition in one major key can be transposed (moved) to any other major key; the only difference is one of pitch. The same is true for the minor keys. The key of a composition is indicated in the begining of a composition by the Key Signature. which shows the sharps or flats, if any, used to form the key. The key signature does not, however, show whether the key is major or minor.
    now we are getting somewhere........... let me contiue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Harper Dictionary of Music
    Lathough more than one key may be used in a composition, chiefly for the sake of contrast, a work usually begins and ends in the same key. Often times different keys are used for the different movements of a sonata or symphony, and within certain forms, such as sonata form, a change of key may be an essential part of the design. If the change in key effects a long section, it is ususally indicated by a new key signature. If the change is temporary, it ordnarilly is not indicated specifically, although the relatively large number of accidentals (sharps, flats, natural signs) in the score may imply that a change of key is taking place.
    Change of a key whithin a section or short piece is usually made gradually rather than abruptly, in a process called modulations. Such changes are easier to to effect between two closely related keys (called remote keys). The most close related keys are:
    • Parralel Keys, that is , major and minor keys haveing the same tonic (keynote), such as A major and A minor, B flat major and B flat minor, etc. These also are called tonic major and tonic minor, A major being the Tonic major of A minor and A minor being the tonic minor of A major.
    • Relative keys, That is , mahjor and minor keys that have the same key signatue ( same number of sharps and flats) , such as C major and A minor (both of which have no sharps and flats), G major and E minor (both of which having one sharp), etc.These are reffered to as relative minor and relative major, C major is the relative major of A minor and A minor being the relative minor of A major.
    • Related keys, That is, major and minor keys that differ from one another by only one wharp or flat in the key signature, such as C major (no sharps or flats) and G major and E minor ( (having one sharp), F major (one flat), and D minor (one flat).
      Because two keys related to one another in ways described a share a high proportion of the same chords (which may, however, have different harmonic function) , it is fairly easy to modulate by means of a shared chord called pivot chord. from one key to another. Thus a piese in the key of C major might modulate to G magor via the chord G-B-D shich is both dominant triad in C major and the tonic triad in G major.
    That's what is says. now let's look back and read it.
    Last edited by Los Boleros; 12-09-2004 at 11:57 PM.
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