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Thread: Modes. Why is it so hard?

  1. #61
    ,.¤oOo¤., theox's Avatar
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    Hi guys. Let's take the following progression:

    Em7 Cmaj7 Em7 Cmaj7
    Am11 Fmaj7#11 Em7 Cmaj7

    Looks awfully C major, doesn't it? Still, I play it as E minor (emphasizing F# in the melody), not as E phrygian as 'theory' would suggest. I play it as if Fmaj7#11 - which is the only chord in the progression that isn't diatonic to G major - just gives it a nice 'twist' in form of a quick modulation to C major.

    I definately notate this as the key of Gmaj/Emin.

  2. #62
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 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.
    So although it may be in the key of say C major, the song may contain foreign notes such as G# or F#.
    Quote Originally Posted by Harper Dictionary of Music
    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.
    Therefore the key is not E phrygian, it's C major or A minor.
    Quote Originally Posted by Harper Dictionary of Music
    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.
    So by looking at the Key signature we can narrow the key down to a major or its relative minor.

    What about key changes?
    Quote Originally Posted by Harper Dictionary of Music
    If the change in key effects a long section, it is ususally indicated by a new key signature.
    notice the word ,"usually"
    Quote Originally Posted by Harper Dictionary of Music
    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.
    That makes sense. So if the key change does not have a long duration, it is just easier to show the accidentals, otherwise it would just be easier to show a new key signature.
    Quote Originally Posted by Harper Dictionary of Music
    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.
    I didnt say it would sound like the key of C. According to this definition of "Key", The key for for this piece is C major or A minor. If you have a different Definition for this, can you please post it.
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  3. #63
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theox
    Hi guys. Let's take the following progression:

    Em7 Cmaj7 Em7 Cmaj7
    Am11 Fmaj7#11 Em7 Cmaj7

    Looks awfully C major, doesn't it? Still, I play it as E minor (emphasizing F# in the melody), not as E phrygian as 'theory' would suggest. I play it as if Fmaj7#11 - which is the only chord in the progression that isn't diatonic to G major - just gives it a nice 'twist' in form of a quick modulation to C major.

    I definately notate this as the key of Gmaj/Emin.
    I would also show Em in the key signature although the F in the Fmaj7#11 chord, would have to be marked as a natural every time it came up.
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  4. #64
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    No I take that back, It does not have the F# therefore I would mark it as the key signature as A minor/C major. I think i would rather mark up the F# in the melody.
    Last edited by Los Boleros; 12-10-2004 at 12:50 AM.
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  5. #65
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    LB,

    it's one of those cases where both are true at the same time. i've been advocating a different way of thinking about chord progressions that sound modal. but for the purposes of naming, even a progression in what you might think of as e phyrgian is still going to have the c major/a minor key signature. and you should say it's in that key. but you can think of it as being a phrygian progression. "modal keys" is a way of thinking about particular major/minor key progressions. both things end up being true because one is 'fact' and the other is 'perspective.'

    theox,

    i am at a loss to understand why you would bring phrygian into this for that progression. there's nothing phrygian about it.
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

  6. #66
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fortymile
    LB,

    i am at a loss to understand why you would bring phrygian into this for that progression. there's nothing phrygian about it.
    I can understand why he said that. Because of the Em and FM7 you would tend to think of the melody during the Em chord to be E,F,G but instead he is using E,F#,G but I am guesing that that mode is only lasting through the Em chord? Am I right on that? If I am then I feel very strongly that the key is CM/Am. and the F# in the melody is treated like an accidental. If however the F# in the melody is used over other chords, then I would reconsider that.
    Last edited by Los Boleros; 12-10-2004 at 01:17 AM.
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  7. #67
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    well, all i did was play the progression alone on the piano without a melody, and the progression itself is very smooth and melodic with none of the characteristic phrygian tension, due to the fact, i guess, that the emin-fmaj7 transition is not a focal point as it would tend to be in a phrygian riff. also, the cmaj7 is quite prominent. according to the russo dude, the cmaj7, if used as frequently as it is here, would strongly undercut any attempt at sounding phrygian, and tend to pull your ear back into perceiving cmajor as the tonal center. it would tonicize the actual tonic, which from the chord standpoint alone, is Cmaj. but i myself would argue more strongly that the e/f progression is just not prominent enough to make the thing sound phrygian.

    and you're right, choosing f# as a melody note would further undercut any sense of phrygian, which, like i said, isn't even there to begin with in the first place.

    it might also undercut the sense of c major, which is i think what he is arguing. if he uses that note in the melody frequently enough, he might be acheiving what he says is going on, making it appear as if it's actually in g major/e minor. but def not phyrigian. but it's cool because phrygian doesnt apply here anyway.

    for what it's worth, from the chords alone, i hear c major as the tonic. and might continue to do so, even with the weird melody. it depends. i might just perceive that F# as a weird tension over top of a Cmaj-resolving progression.

    i should read this more carefully but i'm in a rush right now. hope i didnt make a critical error with what he's saying about his proposed key.
    Last edited by fortymile; 12-10-2004 at 03:38 AM.
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  8. #68
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    this seems similar to, say, a blues progression where you are bouncing back and forth between flatIIImajor down to I. the flatIIImajor leads the riff and starts it off, but the progression is clearly beginning at a state of excitement and tension, which doesnt really qualify that opening chord as a tonal center.
    Last edited by fortymile; 12-10-2004 at 03:39 AM.
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

  9. #69
    Endless Possibilities adambum's Avatar
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    you guys either spooked me and confuse me at same time... How I wish there will be an article bout' this to really explains these things... If only I'm in the same place as Los Boleros, I will surely be his student...
    "You have a blue guitar, you don't play things as they are"

  10. #70
    ,.¤oOo¤., theox's Avatar
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    I play E aeolian except for the Fmaj, where I also often avoid the F. So it's E minor all the way through.

    To other improvisers it's quite necessary to notate the key center as E minor instead of Cmaj/Amin to get the wanted 'sound' and avoid all this confusion. So I'll stand behind my first statement.

    But hey, it's a matter of interpretation... I just see it as E minor and if I as a composer wants the improviser to play E minor, I write E minor.

  11. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    So if the key change does not have a long duration, it is just easier to show the accidentals, otherwise it would just be easier to show a new key signature.I didnt say it would sound like the key of C. According to this definition of "Key", The key for for this piece is C major or A minor. If you have a different Definition for this, can you please post it.

    I understand what you are saying here, and to an extent, I can't disagree with it. I guess my question in response to all of that, and maybe someone more knowledgeable could jump in and satisfy my curiosity on this, is how can a note(such as E in this example we have been discussing) present as the tonic when another note(C or A in this case) is actually the tonic? How can we identify that progression as being in the key of C Major or A minor if neither of those root notes have the feeling of resolution that a tonic should have? Maybe it would be more appropriate to identify it as E minor with the F natural being an accidental, or something more to that effect. It's not like we're talking about a ii-V where your ear is constantly pulling you to resolve to the I whether it's actually played or not.

  12. #72
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by debaser
    how can a note(such as E in this example we have been discussing) present as the tonic when another note(C or A in this case) is actually the tonic? How can we identify that progression as being in the key of C Major or A minor if neither of those root notes have the feeling of resolution that a tonic should have? Maybe it would be more appropriate to identify it as E minor with the F natural being an accidental, or something more to that effect. It's not like we're talking about a ii-V where your ear is constantly pulling you to resolve to the I whether it's actually played or not.
    My interpretation comes from this definition of the word Key. In the Definition listed above, it says that the key is defined by the Key signature,(the sharps and flats shown in the key signature). It says nothing about feeling or resolution. Acording to the Definition, the key signature narrows it down to a major or a minor key. I guese you could mark the key signature with the F# thus making it Em and marking the F as natural everytime the chord apears as per my first guese. Maybe the answer lies in the frequency of the F# in the melody, as my first guese was that theox was only using the E Aeolian during the chord of Em. Since the frequency is more often than that, it may make it easier to mark the key as Em.
    Quote Originally Posted by fortymile
    the progression itself is very smooth and melodic with none of the characteristic phrygian tension, due to the fact, i guess, that the emin-fmaj7 transition is not a focal point as it would tend to be in a phrygian riff. also, the cmaj7 is quite prominent. according to the russo dude, the cmaj7, if used as frequently as it is here, would strongly undercut any attempt at sounding phrygian, and tend to pull your ear back into perceiving cmajor as the tonal center. it would tonicize the actual tonic, which from the chord standpoint alone, is Cmaj. but i myself would argue more strongly that the e/f progression is just not prominent enough to make the thing sound phrygian.
    You are mixing up Modes as they apply to the chord of the moment with some kind of modal progression. If you were looking at that progression without the melody that included the F# then you would no doubt, come up with the key of Am/CM. The phrygian mode would only apply to the Em Chord as the chord of the moment and that is where E Phrygian would normally belong. Instead though, the song is using E Aeolian during that chord. That is what was meant.
    Last edited by Los Boleros; 12-10-2004 at 03:41 PM. Reason: quoted wrong person, sorry
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  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    My interpretation comes from this definition of the word Key. In the Definition listed above, it says that the key is defined by the Key signature,(the sharps and flats shown in the key signature). It says nothing about feeling or resolution. Acording to the Definition, the key signature narrows it down to a major or a minor key. I guese you could mark the key signature with the F# thus making it Em and marking the F as natural everytime the chord apears as per my first guese. Maybe the answer lies in the frequency of the F# in the melody, as my first guese was that theox was only using the E Aeolian during the chord of Em. Since the frequency is more often than that, it may make it easier to mark the key as Em.

    I know that you are using that definition. I read your other post, which contained the definition- that's why I'm asking the question. Also, I'm referring to the example fortymile was asking about earlier, not the one that theox brought up. If the term key doesn't have anything to do with resolution, then it doesn't serve a lot of practical function outside of a key signature as far as I can tell.

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by debaser
    .... If the term key doesn't have anything to do with resolution, then it doesn't serve a lot of practical function outside of a key signature as far as I can tell.
    Key , as derived from a functional analysis does have to do with resolution.
    Key signature , IMO is of limited use. If you're given a key signature of CMaj / Amin and neither of those chords are present in the music, you're left to perform a functional analysis. In this case, you'll likely come up with E Phrygian. That fits the key sig., so far. What if, you support your resolution to E minor (chord) by using the V7. Now you've indicated Harmonic minor (at least for the duration of the V7) and left your key signature behind.

    Interpreting Harmonic and Melodic minor also rely on functional analysis. As soon as you've determined one of these scales "at work", you alter the accidentals in the key signature.

    Functioning key and key signature are very different things, IMO

    Does this address the point -

    It's Friday and I'm a little giddy......

    -best,
    Mike

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo
    Key , as derived from a functional analysis does have to do with resolution.
    Key signature , IMO is of limited use. If you're given a key signature of CMaj / Amin and neither of those chords are present in the music, you're left to perform a functional analysis. In this case, you'll likely come up with E Phrygian. That fits the key sig., so far. What if, you support your resolution to E minor (chord) by using the V7. Now you've indicated Harmonic minor (at least for the duration of the V7) and left your key signature behind.

    Interpreting Harmonic and Melodic minor also rely on functional analysis. As soon as you've determined one of these scales "at work", you alter the accidentals in the key signature.

    Functioning key and key signature are very different things, IMO

    Does this address the point -

    It's Friday and I'm a little giddy......

    -best,
    Mike
    That's exactly what I was trying to get at. It addresses the point perfectly IMO.

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