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Modal Music - How to tell?

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Maryrrf 03 Jul 04 - 08:50 AM
Pied Piper 03 Jul 04 - 10:05 AM
s6k 03 Jul 04 - 10:07 AM
Deckman 03 Jul 04 - 10:54 AM
GUEST,Russ 03 Jul 04 - 12:24 PM
Mudlark 03 Jul 04 - 12:45 PM
M.Ted 03 Jul 04 - 04:19 PM
s&r 03 Jul 04 - 04:31 PM
Deckman 03 Jul 04 - 04:41 PM
greg stephens 03 Jul 04 - 05:57 PM
Tattie Bogle 03 Jul 04 - 06:37 PM
Bobert 03 Jul 04 - 08:28 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 04 Jul 04 - 12:16 AM
M.Ted 04 Jul 04 - 01:06 AM
GUEST,Clint Keller 04 Jul 04 - 01:50 AM
Nerd 04 Jul 04 - 02:02 AM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Jul 04 - 05:37 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 04 Jul 04 - 06:01 AM
GUEST,Jon 04 Jul 04 - 07:28 AM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Jul 04 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 04 Jul 04 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 04 Jul 04 - 01:32 PM
M.Ted 04 Jul 04 - 01:54 PM
Mudlark 04 Jul 04 - 05:04 PM
greg stephens 04 Jul 04 - 06:42 PM
Barbara 04 Jul 04 - 07:38 PM
Nerd 05 Jul 04 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Russ 05 Jul 04 - 07:21 PM
Maryrrf 05 Jul 04 - 09:23 PM
Mudlark 05 Jul 04 - 09:37 PM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Jul 04 - 09:49 PM
Deckman 05 Jul 04 - 09:56 PM
Mary in Kentucky 05 Jul 04 - 10:48 PM
Mary in Kentucky 05 Jul 04 - 11:03 PM
Mary in Kentucky 05 Jul 04 - 11:27 PM
GUEST 05 Jul 04 - 11:38 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 06 Jul 04 - 12:36 AM
Kaleea 06 Jul 04 - 12:46 AM
pavane 06 Jul 04 - 03:36 AM
Maryrrf 06 Jul 04 - 09:02 AM
GUEST,Russ 06 Jul 04 - 09:45 AM
pavane 06 Jul 04 - 11:05 AM
Chris Green 06 Jul 04 - 12:32 PM
Maryrrf 06 Jul 04 - 12:52 PM
M.Ted 06 Jul 04 - 01:16 PM
GUEST 06 Jul 04 - 05:36 PM
Ed. 06 Jul 04 - 05:45 PM
Maryrrf 06 Jul 04 - 05:49 PM
Ed. 06 Jul 04 - 05:55 PM
Ed. 06 Jul 04 - 05:57 PM
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Subject: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 08:50 AM

I've been trying to understand modal music. I printed off "Modes for Mudcatters" and I'm still not quite getting it, I think. Can one listen to a song and say "Oh this is modal" as opposed to "It isn't modal"? And what would tip you off to the fact that it was modal? Would one be able to just listen to songs and say "Okay this is Mixolydian and this one is Aeolian, etc.? I'm afraid I have some kind of mental block and am finding the whole concept hard to grasp.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 10:05 AM

All music that uses the notes diatonic (means made up of 2 sizes of tones; semi and whole tone) scale (or part of it in 5 note pentatonic scale) is model.
So Major is a name of a Mode, the Mode that starts on the First note of the Diatonic scale and uses that note as its tonal centre (usually though not always the note the tune returns to at the end of a full phrase)
The modes with their fancy Greek names just start on different notes of the scale.
Modes
PP


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: s6k
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 10:07 AM

the modes all have a different sound to them.

Ionian is the major mode - it has a happy sound, and is used in rock music, folk music, etc.

Aeolian is the saddest mode. it is EXTREMELY sad, to the slit your wrists point. mainly used in very slow songs.

Phrygian either sounds dark, or spanish. it is used exclusively in spanish music.

Mixolydian has a very bluesy sound, used in blues songs, or melodic rock.

Lydian is much like the Ionian mode, but has a few different notes. it sounds happy, but has some "exotic" sounding notes, which gives it a sort of mediteranean feel.

Dorian is a sad mode. not nearly as sad as Aeolian, just slighly sad. mainly used in slow rock songs

Locrian, is hardly ever used. you dont have to worry about it unless you are a hardcore theorist.

i am speaking here from a guitarist perspective, but the rules apply to all instruments.

i have a very good MPEG video, by Frank Gambale. he explains modes and then gives examples of all the modes in use. it lasts 100 minutes.

if you have broadband, go to http://www.suprnova.org and do a search for guitar lesson, choose the frank gambale MODES lesson.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 10:54 AM

I will offer you one VERY simplistic clue, speaking as a guitarist. I expect to get roundly criticised for this offering, just because it is so simple. And I'll state it here first: It's not 100% accurate. But here goes:

Say you are playing in the key of "D", for example. And you find that the melody goes to a place where a "C" chord" fits best. Or another example. say your are playing in "G", and you find you need to use an "F" chord.

That would be a definate clue. I hope this helps, Bob


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 12:24 PM

If you approach modes only from the conceptual side you'll never get it.

If you want to be able to hear modes, you have to practice listing to modes.

If you want to practice listing to modes you need a truly modal instrument. In the US the most common modal instrument is a traditionally fretted (no 6 1/2 fret, no 1 1/2 fret, etc.) lap dulcimer.

So, buy or borrow a traditionally fretted dulcimer. Tune it into a mode. Whack away at it. Be sure to fret ONLY the melody string. The remaining strings are intended to be constant drones.

Stick with the old common tunes. Old Joe Clark. Soldier's Joy. Shady Grove. All their notes will be there on the melody string.

Try the same tune in different tunings. Each tuning changes the "character" of the tune in significant ways.

Listen, listen, listen.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Mudlark
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 12:45 PM

Having no formal music training, I use the Deckman mode of figuring what's "modal"...but if all diatonic music is in one mode or another, what makes the Deckman sort sound so different, and what mode is it, then. I have both a guitar and a dulcimer. The May Carol, for instance, sounds definitely "modal" to me, and played on a guitar needs a Dm, a C and an Am, for instance. So far, I've been not been able to find a dulcimer mode to play this in, maybe because I only know Mix, Aolian, and Ionian. Gregorian chants also sound "modal" to me...is it just one mode that has that odd, moody sound?

I have as much trouble understanding music theory as I do higher mathmatics....


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 04:19 PM

I hate questions about "Modal Music" because nearly all the time, the discussions just make the question more confusing---there are a couple of reasons for this--

First, as has always true in the history of questions and answers, posts from people who don't actually know the answer, but think they do--Second, the people get confused because "Modal" is used in at least three, maybe four, completely different ways, and the discussion breaks down because no one can figure out how what anyone else is talking about fits in with what they are talking about--Third, the person asking the question doesn't know enough about music to make any sense out of the answers, anyway--It's enough to make a person run screaming from the room whenever the word comes up--But I won't--

Here is the simple answer to the question--The music you are listening is modal if it has no chord changes in it--yep, it's that simple--you don't have to know the names of modes(and, you couldn't recognize them all if your life depended on it--there are literally thousands of them)--

If you want a better aural illustration--and have Limewire or some other P2P file sharing program, search for these two versions of the same song: Andy Stewart's "The Green Hills of Tyrol"(also called "The Scottish Soldier" and any version of it by a Highland pipe band--listen, and you will know-

Modal music tends to have drones instead of chords--which are usually either or both the first and fifth note of the scale, and which ring through the entire course of the tune--

Real modal music uses untempered, or uneven scales--which means that the steps between note are not equal--so the perfect fifth and fourth intervals that are needed to construct chords don't really exist for a lot of the other notes in the scale--

Real modal music doesn't use vertical harmonies(the sort that occur in chords), either--

Now it is certainly possible to play modal melodies on a tempered scale, and it is possible to harmonize them, but then, even when they have "modal" features(like using a phrygian scale) they have been modernized are not really modal any more--

Of course, using the word "modern" is confusing too, because a lot of progressive jazz is modal, and so is a lot of funk, rap, and contemporary R&B music--so they key is to listen--if you hear a chord shift, from tonic to dominant, it isn't modal, if you recognize that the chords move through the circle of fifths, it isn't modal--but if everything stays in the same tonality(even if sounbds like it should change) it is modal--


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: s&r
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 04:31 PM

Thank you MTed for a unique definition - I think

Stu


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 04:41 PM

I agree with EVERYTHING that M Ted has said, he's quite accurate. However, you need not become a brain surgeon to learn how to loose your head ... in music. You can keep it simple and fum. Bob


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: greg stephens
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 05:57 PM

MTed: that is not a simple answer, it is merely further complicatimg the issue by offering yet a new meaning for modal. And a completely incomprehensible one at that. What do you mean exactlY?
   Most people would say, for example, the Old Joe Clark is a modal tune. You appear to be saying that it is a modal tune if someone plays it with a drone accompaniment, but it is not a modal tune if they accompany it with guitar chords. I'm sure everybody else in the world but you(MTed) defines whether a tune is modal or not according to the scale it is in, not according to how you choose to accompany it.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 06:37 PM

Another less technical explanation (and thanks for all the very informed advice) is when you can't make up your mind whether a tune's in a standard major or minor key - it's probably modal. Also when you expect a sharp and you get a natural (as in Old Joe Clark).


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Bobert
Date: 03 Jul 04 - 08:28 PM

Well, I ain't got no music education at all but I learnt D modal from Sparky Rucker, who also ain't got none...

With that said, at least fir the D Modal, it seems to have a nice melancholy mountainy ring to it. Ohter modals I've heard also have this particular sound to them.

Now, I wouldn't swear to it but think Blind Lemon Jefferson used the D modal in his "Keep My Grave Kept Clean"... Well, that's the way I hears it and thats the way I plays it...

Prolly no help whats so ever...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 12:16 AM

Ms. Maryrrf

What these VERY kind and VERY patient folk are telling you is:

Your question, and answer, are found in multiple previous threads

READ - BEFORE YOU POST!!!

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

HOWEVER, your's is one of the more on-target, interesting, and appropriate to folk-music postings in what has become a UK tower of babel.

Keep asking good questions kid - that's how we learn.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: M.Ted
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 01:06 AM

Actually, Greg Stephens(to distinguish you from our other Greg), the question was, how can tell I if something is modal, and I gave a rule of thumb(it was a good question, too)--the explanation of what "modal" means is not very useful for most people, because it is just a word that they have heard, and they don't have a frame of reference--why would most people say that "Old Joe Clark" is a modal tune, and what would that mean to them? What difference does it make to them?


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,Clint Keller
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 01:50 AM

I've got a Native American-type flute built into a 5-foot cedar walking staff. (couldn't resist it; it followed me home), and it's tuned to some kind of pentatonic scale. Anything you play on it can probably be accompanied with one chord, or a drone.

So, is this modal or related to modal? Or is it that a minor pentatonic scale is just an elaborate 7th chord? Or is that the same thing?

clint


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Nerd
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 02:02 AM

But MTed, presumably SOME of the people who want to know if a tune is modal are (say) fiddlers, flute players, or unaccompanied singers. In that case, they are not using chords, and your definition has no meaning.

In fact, as greg stephens points out, it does not address the tune per se at all, but the harmonies or drones one chooses to add to it. As a singer, the drones vs. chords thing helps me not one bit.

You also complicate matters by then saying that the lack of chords is merely a consequence of a gapped scale. So is THAT your definition of modal, a gapped scale? If so, why not say that?   Of course, a gapped scale is an odd definition, since the primary named modes are no more or less gapped than most other scales in use in classical and pop music.

One problem, I think, is that maryrrf began with an odd question: "is it modal?" If we accept, as most musicologists would, that modes are just another name for scales, then all music is modal. The question is WHAT mode it is in, not "is it in a mode?" People than make up their own meaning for "modal" and use that. Many people use it just to mean "music not in the common scales of classical and pop music." So, to speak modally, "not Ionian or Aeolian, but in other modes." So you get your pentatonic, etc. Others use it to refer specifically to certain scales: Mixolydian, Lydian, Phrygian, etc. In the end, as M.Ted points out, there's no consistency in the way the term is used.

To answer another of Maryrrf's questions, yes, a skilled and highly literate musician who studies the modes can listen to a song and decide which mode it is in; but it is often easier to do so by transcribing the tune than by ear alone.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 05:37 AM

I'm with Gargoyle...


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 06:01 AM

Perhaps the most graphic definition of modes to the modern mind would be:- overlapping portions of the C major scale: or successive octave-stretches along the white keys of the pianoforte. Ecclesiastical modes were the Middle Age perversion of the Greek modes. While overthrown by Nineteenth Century scales and tonality, traces of their influence persevere, and many of the old chants will in use in the Roman Catholic and Anglican services are more or less exact specimens of the capabilities of the modes. The Twenty-first Century will probably qualify and develop our own system of keys our of shape and recognition. The complete overthrow of the ideas of tonality and modulation of the earlier part of the Twentieth Century is indeed even now beginning. We are already over the doorsill of the nullitonis or omnitonic harmonies, and the multitude of accidental sharps and flats and naturals required to notate the highly chromatic music of our day renders inevitable some radical change in the highly chromatic music of our day renders inevitable some radical change the system of keys: meanwhile, the obsolete modal systems have at least a keen historical interest and importance. There is place here for only an allusion to a few of the salient points. Full statement of the details and controversies on them would fill a large library.

Though the Greeks properly gave music a very high place in their educational system, they were to much engrossed in theories, rules and restrictions to build up large material. Their musical resources were of the slenderest. While their noble tragedies were Wagner's idea of opera, the music to which they were set seems to have been of the most limited range and variety; and furthermore, absolutely lacking in harmony even in the Middle Age sense.

The Greek system differs from ours in being all of a minor tendency, in having the notes named down-wards and in paying attention only to melody and not at all to chords. The white piano keys from e' (just above middle C) to the E and octave below represent their oldest and central mode, the Dorian. By remember that all these steps are whole tone except the two semitone from c' to b and F to E, and by representing a whole step by a (+) and a half step by a (-), it will be seen that this Dorian mode descends by the following steps, ++-++-tetrachords. The word chord with them meant "string" not "harmony," for their whole music took its rise from their lyre, a stiff and limited, unfretted instrument of many poetical associations but stinted in practical possibilities called the Dorian tetrachord. The superimposed on the top note e' a similarly tetrachod of the tones a', g', f', e, and added below another e,d,c,B. To those they added the low A as a supplementary (in Greek ,prslambanomenos). The outer couples of tetrachords overlap. Between the middle two is an imaginary lime of separation (diazeuxix), Each of these was therefore a "dijunct" (diazengmon) tetrachord. The "complete system" (systema teleion) of two octave (a' down to A) was divided thus into four tetrachords, each of them given the name which (with its English translation) is shown in the chart here overlapping of "conjunct" (<>I>synemmenon tetrachord in which the b was flat toned d',c',bb, a (++-)

The octave from e' down to E was, as already stated, called the Dorian mode Other portions of the systema were given other names d to D being called the Phrygian c' to C the Lydian and b to B the Mixo-Lydian

They conceived a way of extending these octaves by duplicating one of the tetrachords below (in Greek "hyp",. Thus, if the upper tetrachord ('e to a) of the Dorian mode be transferred and octave below, and fastened to the lower tetrachord, we shall no longer have e',d',c',b,a,g,f,e, (++-++-) but a,g,f,e,d,c,B,A, which also is ++-++-, with the added step + proslambanomenos). This is call the Hypo-Dorian mode.

The Phrygian, Lydian and Miso-Lydian modes do not descend by the same whole and half steps as the Dorian, but as follow: Phrygian (+-+++-+, Lydian (-++-++-, Mixo-Lydian (+++-++-). It will be found, however, that these modes are capable of the same hypo treatment, thus making two more modes, Hypo-Phrygian and Hypo-Lydian - for the Mixo-Lydian (b to B) being too low to add a tetrachord beneath, it is added above, giving e' to e, which is identical with the Dorian. The principal note ionic of the regular modes was the top note. Each hypo-mode kept for its chief note the chief note of the original )or its octave). The names and ranges of these seven modes with two others added later are shown in the chart, which shows also the names and the translation given each note and each tetrachord.

With this system as a foundation and with the use of the conjunct tetrachord and its b flat as an entering wedge, the Greeks gradually added several notes above and below their systema, and inserted half steps between the full steps until they acquired a complete chromatic scale on which they transposed their scales with much melodic freedom. Harmony, or course, they did not have. These transposed scales were not named like the original modes from the chief notes, but were given the name of the scale whose steps they resembled. By making use of the + and - or other sign of indication half or whole steps, it is easy to plot out the steps of any scale and find it prototype and its name in the original modes.

The Greek notation was by letter and symbols. It is too complicated to explain here.

A method of manipulating their scale melodically may be mentioned. The tetrachords as described were call diatonic but in the Dorian e,d,c,b if the d were omitted, the tetrachord became e-c,b, and was called the older enharmonic A later plan was to keep the d, but lower it by half a tone (that is, to tune the d string to csharp), later plans, called the newer enharmonic was to tune the d to a pure third with the e making the tetrachord e,c,c,b; the two c strings differing slightly in tone

This group of three tones, c,c,b, or C#,c,b, was the pyknon (plural pykna Other variation in the treatment were called chroai )colorings). Definite melodies were given definite names, a melody being a nomos (i.e. arrangement, order, or settyin).

Upon this false, but elaborate, system enormous ingenuity was spent, and appalling complexity and scholarship of a kind were made possible to the delight the typical theorist. In respect of melody, the Greek modes offered far more freedom than the church modes, which however, possessed the modern invention of harmony.

Written By the editor Robert Hughes Music Lover's Encyclopedia Garden City Publishing, New York, 1903 p.763.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 07:28 AM

Maryrrf, I think it is a listening skill that I haven't got. I can recognise mix. but that's about it. Anyway onto how to tell...

One method would be to write the tune in abc and run it through Barfly. Phil Taylor seems to have come up with a system that is very clever at guessing the correct mode for a piece. You would need a Mac for that. I do know of a Windows port of the logic used but I think that it would have been done on a strictly for that persons use only basis.

Other sources to look at for modes are the Barfly help files (even if you can't run the program, you may be able to extract the help files - there is an excellent one on modes there) and Jack Campin's modes which I have to admit goes beyond me! I think there is also some stuff at (the late) Bruce Olson's site http://users.erols.com/olsonw/

Jon


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 12:50 PM

Well done Gargoyle - the most elegant factual and understandable explanation I have seen yet.

There have been heaps of other threads on this topic in the past.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 01:16 PM

Now before someone gets their panties in a pinch – let us move on to what Rupert Hughes writes about:

ECCLESIASTICAL MODES

Music, along with all the other early Christian arts, borrowed largely from the Greeks, but rejected their warmth and ornate sophistication for a stark rigidity.

Early church musicians took the Greek modes as best they could understand them, making as many mistakes as was usual in the degenerate classicism of those times. The Byzantine school perverted Greek music and passed it along, as it had done with painting and architecture. The range and the chromatic graces of later Greek melody were deserted for a heavy march through one octave of one key. Furthermore, the scale was considered now as ascending, instead of descending.

St. Ambrose is traditionally credited with establishing four modes for church music. From these St. Gregory was believe to have derived four new modes. The original four are call Authentic, i.e., "governing" or "chief." The latter four are called Plagal, i.e., "oblique" or "inferior." To these were added other modes, some of them being denied a right to exist. As with all the old Greek modes, all the church modes are to be found on the white keys of the piano; no chromatic was allowed except, finally, b flat, which was admitted to avoid the forbidden tritone and the diminished fifth. A melody that did not stray out of its octave mode was called perfect; one that did not use all of its range was imperfect; one that overstepped its octave was superfluous; one that used up both a mode and its plagal was in a mixed mode.

Greek name were used for the church modes, but with many differences from the old nomenclature.

And authentic mode is based on its Final or lowest note; the next most important note, usually a fifth or a third above, is its dominent A plagal mode is found a fourth below its authentic, and the final of the authentic serves also for the plagal. The dominant of a plagal is a third below that of its authentic (save where it falls on b, in which case c is used).

Curiously enough, the two modern keys which we think of as white keys, c major and a minor, were not added until the sixteenth century, and then as the Ionian and AEolian modes.

Besides many impressive hymns the church modes have been unconsciously allowed to fit many popular modern tunes. (Ms. Mary - Here is the answer to your original thread question - ) It is not hard to test the mode-ship of any air. First if necessary, bring the melody into a range requiring no key-signature. If it now contains any accidentals save b flat, it is not in any of the modes. Otherwise note the tone on which the air ends. This will be the final of its mode. If this is the lowest, or almost the lowest note used, and if the melody does not soar higher than an octave above it, the air is in an authentic mode. If the final is in approximately the center of the melodic range, and if the range does not exceed the fifth above, or the fourth below, it is in a plagal mode, or it may be in a mixed mode. The name of the final indicates the mode. The airs "God save the Kind" (or "America") and the "Blue Bells of Scotland" are authentic melodies. The "Old 100th" and "Eileen Aroon" are plagal "Jock o' Hazeldean" is in a modern sense of tonality as our modern music would seem anarchistic to an old master. Superb treasures were given to immortality in those stiff and arbitrary forms. Yet, after all, the modes deserve their eternal obsoleteness. They were unsatisfactory and arbitrary in their own day. They are hopelessly inappropriate to the modern musical ideas and ideals. The majestic beauties of some of their results are but as the impressive fossils of earlier involution. Their fate should warn us against stolid satisfaction with our own musical system.

Sincerely,
RUPERT HUGHES via Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 01:32 PM

As a side-note on Mr. Hughes - from:
http://wordways.com/ghost.htm

GHOST WORDS
by Murray Pearce
Word Ways, 1986

Lexicographers are human, and as a result their dictionaries contain errors, not many to be sure, but lengthy lists of errors in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second and Third Editions (Web 2 and Web 3) have been presented in past issues of Word Ways. These errors consist for the most part of misspellings, words out of alphabetical order and missing cross-references or variants mentioned in definitions. Even the fact that a word is missing (WOULDN'T in early printings of Web 3) has been cited as an error. A rarer type of error is the inclusion in a dictionary of a non-word or "ghost word," a term coined by etymologist Walter Skeat in 1886. On occasion such inclusion is not an error but a hoax, admitted or not, on the part of the compiler. The most famous of such words is ZZXJOANW, the last word in the Dictionary of Terms section of the Music Lovers' Encyclopedia compiled by Rupert Hughes in 1903 and revised and newly edited by Deems Taylor and Russell Kerr in 1939. Purporting to be a Maori word defined variously as "drum," "fife," and "conclusion," the legitimacy of the word was thoroughly demolished by Philip Cohen in "What's the Good Word?" in the November 1976 Word Ways.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: M.Ted
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 01:54 PM

I said nothing about a gapped scales--that is not the reason that you cannot make chords out of an irregular scale--in modal music, the intervals are not tempered, so the interval between, say, the first and fifth scale step may be a perfect fifth, but the interval between the second and the sixth is not a harmonic interval at all--tempering was developed to create harmonic intervals between all the notes in the scale, to allow harmonies to be written--

Read me now, believe me later: MODES ARE NOT SIMPLY SCALES--they have are a set of rules that accompany them, that are used in composition--Church modes have one set of rules, Jazz modes have another, and the Turkish, Persian, and Egyptian modes have their own as well--Gargoyle has kindly posted a bit of material, and a lot of similar stuff is now pasted into or linked to the PeterT thread mentioned above--

Modal systems came before "major/minor/diatonic/tempered scale/harmonic" systems--this music is based from modal systems, so there is a lot of what you find in modal music is also in the newer stuff--this is a cause for confusion, because for some reason, people think it is an either/or situation--

If I was not clear above--a lot of modal material has been reworked as harmonic material, which means that it is played on tempered instruments, and chordal accompaniments are created--that means that they are no longer modal, they become a hybrid--Mohammed Abdel Wahab, for instance, the great Arabic composer, introduced western vertical harmonies in his compositions--til then, Arabic music was strictly modal--Same with Andy Stewart--

The elements in modal music are intended to make melodic composition possible--call it what you want, the modern system with the circle of fifths, etc, was created from the old system to make harmonic music possible--


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Mudlark
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 05:04 PM

Lots of interesting reading, even if I don't understand all of it...and I probably wouldn't have read any of it if Mary had just gone to an old thread on modes. Thanks to all for the good input.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 06:42 PM

MTed : I dont think the original question on this thread was about the old modes and their musicological history. It was about how to spot what is distictive about what is called a "modal tune" in American folk circles today. That is rather different.
    It would be simpler to say "flat sevenths" rather than a lot of the very interesting stuff you and Gargoyle have posted, which is fabulous stuff to have accessible: but not really on-message. "Modal". like "folk" can mean a lot of things.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Barbara
Date: 04 Jul 04 - 07:38 PM

Well, there's about as many ways to hear music and understand it as there are people.

Usually by the second hearing, I can tell by ear what mode a tune is in.

I started learning how to do this when I was in choir in high school, and I'm now in my 50s. So, I'd say, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

When I hear a tune or a song, my "ear" notices where the whole steps are and where the half steps are, and then figures out where "one" or "do" is. It makes that decision assuming that we are in Ionian, or major, most of the time. (Minor is the main exception).

95% of the time in folk music, the last note you sing will be the tonic, or base note of the scale ("do" or "one").   

I use Pied Piper's method of visualizing modes, but I use numbers rather than "do, re, mi" to file tunes, so I see in my mind where they start and end on a number system. That's just me.

One class I took taught us to recognize different intervals by tagging them with popular songs.
1 - 2 My coun-try (t'is of thee)
1 - 3 A song (of love is a sad song, Hi Lilli...)
1 - 4 When I (was just a lad [Lemon Tree]
    -- and so on.

(and for the purists, yes I know about Lemon Tree, but 1 - 4 is the same interval as 5 - 1 and is Lemon Tree in lydian, or does it modulate?) the trick is to train yourself to recognise the space between one note and the next. Later you can worry about modes.

Garg, I missed why Dorian runs from 'e to E, rather than 'd to D.

Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Nerd
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 06:38 PM

M. Ted

according to many musicologist, and many music encyclopedias, etc., etc., the modes ARE Scales. Just because rules accompany composition in the modes doesn't stop the modes from being scales.

Once again, the problem is exactly as you pinpointed:

people get confused because "Modal" is used in at least three, maybe four, completely different ways, and the discussion breaks down because no one can figure out how what anyone else is talking about fits in with what they are talking about-

But then you confused matters by picking one you think is important/right/whatever and telling people that your definition is the right one.

Then you confused it even more by expressing it in a mighty strange way ("no chord changes") which may be entirely irrelevant to a piece of modal music since it is all melody. I can sing a "modal" or a "non-modal" (in your definition) piece unaccompanied and it will have no chord changes (or chords) at all. Hence it was not that helpful a rule of thumb.

I think you were right in your post that such discussions get away from the point. MY point is that, in contemporary musicology, modes are often defined as SCALES. Furthermore, some of these scales are given specific modal NAMES. When someone like Cecil Sharp defined a tune as modal, he did it with reference to these named scales. Therefore, this is how many people in folk music define modal, and modes. As you say, there are other definitions, yours (apparently) among them.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 07:21 PM

Maryrrf,

Sorry you asked?

You can read endless debates, discussions, and pontifications about modal music. Or you can get a dulcimer and listen.

Which sounds like more fun to you?


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 09:23 PM

First of all I apologize to those who were annoyed that I asked the question, and thanks to everybody who responded. I DID read the previous threads about modes, and I still wasn't able to grasp the concept. I thought I'd give it another try but it still isn't very clear to me. I have never been able to understand music theory very well although I've always been able to pick things up by ear very quickly. It seems that the subject of modes is not simple - judging from the responses and debates generated by my question. Anyway I have a mountain dulcimer on order which should be arriving in a couple of weeks and that's where the question of modes came from - it seems they play an important part in dulcimer music. I will just do as Russ suggested - I have books that tell you how to tune the dulcimer to the different modes so I will just do it and listen and play. I may not always know what mode I'm playing in (just as I don't always know exactly what key I'm in when I play the guitar - especially when I'm using a capo) but I'll manage. Again, thanks to all who tried to help and sorry that some felt the question shouldn't have been asked on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Mudlark
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 09:37 PM

Well, I for one am glad you asked, Mary, as I have as much trouble w/music theory as you do, probably more. I play the dulcimer, and I still have only my ear to go on as to what is "modal" music, and what's not. For my purposes, aside from just "sounding" modal, if melody can be played all or nearly all w/o changing chords (on guitar, for instance) or needs a chord that isn't in the usual progression, it's likely a "modal" tune. And tho I find much of music theory incomprehensible, I stlll like reading about it.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 09:49 PM

Maryrrf,

I've been a 'muso' since the 1950's when I was first induced to undergo 'formal classical music training'. I never heard modes mentioned as such at first, but they gradually intruded on my musical consciousness. As such, I've been struggling to acquire 'an understanding' of 'modes' ever since. I sympathise with your ... confusion?...!

There are many people's different 'versions' of 'definitions of modality', which complicate understanding. Your current intended approach of 'just doing it' will lead to a more instinctive understanding.

Remember, it is the journey, not the destination which is important.

Robin


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Deckman
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 09:56 PM

Marryrrf ... You have NO reason to apologise for daring to ask your question on MC. This is why MC is here.

Music is a very strange world: it goes from very simple to very complex. I have been honored to be able to hang around with some of the best "musicians" in the world. And THEY will all go to their graves still arguing about "what is music", and how is it "best played," and also, "what is model."

On a world wide forum like this, you will get world wide answers and opinions. Hopefully most answers will be polite and appropriate and accurate. And you certainly have received that so far with your question.

Music is simply wonderful. Keep exploring it. Keep wondering about it ... and keep asking about it. Best wishes ... Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 10:48 PM

I like the answer from s6k, and I think it answers Maryrrf's original question. Mary, if you can hear the difference between major and minor chords and hear songs which are primarily major or minor, you're on you way to "hearing" what I think you mean by the "modal" sound. I personally like the "Greensleeves" or "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor" dorian sound.

In your original question, "What would tip you off to the fact that it is modal?"...we've talked about why that is not really a "proper" question, but I think I understand what you mean. My answer would be...if it sounds "different" from major or minor, then it's one of the other modes. (and we often slangily refer to the "other ones" as modal.)


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 11:03 PM

I like to associate a song with each sound (similar to the way Barbara learned intervals.)
...from this link...

****************************

Ionian Mode is called the "natural major" mode. Many traditional American songs you can sing or hum are 'natural major' tunes.

Aeolian mode is called the "natural minor" mode. Many traditional Scottish and Irish tunes sound good in this 'weeping and wailing' mode. Wayfaring Stranger, Good King Wenceslas, and Shady Grove/Mattie Groves are the best known Aeolian songs.

Mixolydian mode is only "slightly minor", and is used extensively for neo-celtic music, Irish fiddle tunes, and the masterpieces of Turlough O'Carolan.

Dorian mode is not so minor sounding as Aeolian mode, but more so than Mixolydian. Barbara Allen, Scarborough Fair, and Greensleeves are well known Dorian tunes.

*******************************

...and Barbara's Lemon Tree is Locrian.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 11:27 PM

a thousand pardons!...I meant to say Lemon Tree is Lydian. (discussed in one of the former threads)


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 04 - 11:38 PM

Maryrrf:

Leave out the third--play just the first and fifth.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 12:36 AM

Ahhhhh MARYRRR,

I have a mountain dulcimer on order

This little phrase can change the ENTIRE context of your thread (sorry you did not post it at the start) any particular type of "mountain dulcimer?"

Which section of the world do you reside? I can place you in contact with a marvelous musician (his lessons are not cheap - but it would be worth the time rent a motel and spend two weeks under his tutilage until you get the rudiments down.) He is with a living-history exhibit on the USA east-coast.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Why the "modal interest?"


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Kaleea
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 12:46 AM

I'm a thinkin' that them thar galz or fellers who say somethin'iz "modal" are a talkin' 'bout most anything that is NOT the regular Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do sounding scale (the modern major scale) like in the Sound of Music (or possibly a minor scale).
    The short answer is if you (or somebody who knows where the piano notes are even if you don't) go to a piano & play middle C & then play all the white keys up to the next C key it'll sound like the regular Do-Re-Mi thingie Julie Andrews sang. Then if you start on the next white key--D--& go up on all the white keys till you get to the next D key, that is a mode, the Dorian mode, & it sounds kinda funky. So if you start on any white key other than C, & play only the white keys up an octave (8 white keys total), you'll be playing one or another of the modes. So, all of them thar funky sounding scale type things are modes. They have different names which don't mean a hoot in a hollar to the average feller or gal.
    Yeah, my Mountain Dulcimer is fun cause I can play in various modes, but I just play what I want to & don't worry about it. When I teach, I put the correct notes on the Tablature so they'll be able to get it tuned. I also will put the name of Mode on the Music, but it takes a while for folks to develop an ear for the various modes.
    I studied all of the early church modes in Music History & Music Theory in college, & various early literature (music) from plainsong forward & have a good working understandint of the modes. HOWEVER, I do have a Mountan Dulcimer book with a several page explanation which makes absolutely NO sense to me. If I can't get the guy's explanation, I can certainly understand why people often tell me that it makes no sense to them, either. Some people consider Bagpipe music to be modal. Some consider old Bluegrass, Old Time, or Mountain songs-somtimes thought of as "Hillbilly" & the like as the above mentioned Old Joe Clark to be modal.
   So, YES, one can listen to a tune & know if it is "modal" but the important thing is if you like the tune just try to find it on your insrument, or havesomeone teach it to you, & play it & have fun.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: pavane
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 03:36 AM

For Windows users, HARMONY also has the ability to check the song's mode against its key signature.

When you generate chords, it will ask if it thinks the mode is wrong, and suggest what it could be.

For safety, HARMONY will not generate 'dominant 7th' chords if the tune is known to be modal, because these are not applicable to all modes. (For example, just play G instead of G7 before a C)

(Actually, that is one way of checking from printed music - lack of 7ths can indicate modes, particularly Dorian & Aeolian)


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 09:02 AM

Actually, the piano key explanation was pretty enlightening and even I was able to grasp it. Thank you,Kaleea, for that.   Gargoyle, I live in Richmond, Virginia. There's no way I'd be able to afford to rent a motel for a couple of weeks but I might be able to afford a couple of dulcimer lessons. This link (scroll down just a little bit to the first dulcimer - a cherry teardrop shape) shows a dulcimer very close to the one I'll be getting. I want to use it to accompany the ballads (lots of Child ballads - both American and British versions) that I sing.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 09:45 AM

Maryrrr,

A traditionally fretted dulcimer is not fretted like a guitar.

Once you have tuned the dulcimer to a particular mode, you will always know what mode you are playing in because the dulcimer's diatonic fret system "traps" you in that mode.

With traditional dulcimers the traditional way to change the mode you are playing in is the retune the entire dulcimer.

As long as you don't make chords and as long as you play all the tune notes on the melody string, you will be in that mode.

You can make chords on a dulcimer (I do), but be careful that you don't lose that classic dulcimer modal sound.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: pavane
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 11:05 AM

Tom Lehrer had the best explanation of modal tunes in his introduction to 'Rickety Tickety Tin'

"It just means I play a wrong note occasionally"


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Chris Green
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 12:32 PM

The two most common modes apart from Ionian (major scale) and Aeolian (minor scale) seem to be Dorian and Mixolydian particularly when it comes to tunes (as opposed to songs!). The way I remember it is that Mixolydian is a major scale with a flattened seventh and Dorian is a minor scale with a sharpened sixth ie

A Dorian - ABCDEF#GA

A Mixolydian - ABC#DEF#GA

If you're working in DADGAD learn all the modes in D and buy a capo!


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 12:52 PM

Wait a minute? So DADGAD is modal too?


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: M.Ted
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 01:16 PM

Modal music has rules that go beyond simple the names of the scale, and if the music does not follow those rules(or attempt to follow them, as, since Gargoyle's post above points out, the modal system was, artificial) it isn't modal--that is my point, pure and simple--

It is fine to say that a song uses a Dorian scale(which, by the way, Greensleeves, doesn't--there wouldn't be a leading tone in a Dorian scale, C# if you are playing it in the key of Dm, which there most assuredly is), or that Old Joe Clark uses a Mixolydian scale, though someone could argue that it is simply a dominant scale--

I don't make this point about what the proper terminology should be to be a jerk, I make it because it is necessary to avoid confusion--there are folks who frequent this place who play Lap dulcimers and all the variety of pipes, and there are folks who come around that play early music, and those who sing and perform old church music, and there are a few who play Greek and Middle Eastern music, all of which use modal music of one kind or another(Banjo can be modal, too)--

BruceO(may his name ever be praised), used to remind us, periodically, that there were one hundred and sixty or eighty odd scales that had been found to be used in British Isles/or what every you want to call it, folk music--the "Greek Mode" names were grabbed as a convenient way of describing some of these--but they are rough approximations only--and there is a lot swept under the rug--


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 05:36 PM

MTed,

music cannot "attempt" to follow rules. Musicians or composers can, but (as you no doubt know) we cannot infer their intention from the music itself (this is what would be called "intentional fallacy" in literary criticism).

Are you saying the music must come close to following rules? Who defines close?

Who defines "what the proper terminology should be?"

You, apparently.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Ed.
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 05:45 PM

Wait a minute? So DADGAD is modal too?

No, DADGAD is a guitar tuning. I don't mean to be rude, but if you can't understand the above...


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 05:49 PM

Yes, I know DADGAD is a guitar tuning.


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Ed.
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 05:55 PM

So why are you asking if it is 'modal'?


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Subject: RE: Modal Music - How to tell?
From: Ed.
Date: 06 Jul 04 - 05:57 PM

You may as well ask if a piano is 'modal'


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