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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 10:10 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Although I was asking what Key they were in, not what mode :)

To me, key is mode and mode is key. If the tune's in D major, I'm obviously not going to call it D Ionian to be 'clever'. But, if it's in, say, A Aeolian or A Dorian, I'm not going to call it A minor without at least some qualification (e.g. technically correct mode in parentheses). The difference matters to me and might matter to anyone when it could affect such basic considerations as whether to try an E or Em chord with it first. Sometimes a tune harmonises well against its true mode (e.g. with E chords for A Aeolian or Dorian) and sometimes it doesn't (in which case you might need Em for same). Play Mairi Bhan Og in A minor with G#s and E chords (as often notated and done) and you kill it for me, so any consideration of a tune's key has to take into account the possibility that it's modal rather than straight major or minor.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:43 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Play Mairi Bhan Og in A minor with G#s and E chords (as often notated and done) and you kill it for me, so any consideration of a tune's key has to take into account the possibility that it's modal rather than straight major or minor.

I didn't know this tune, but a quick search turned up both iterations right away. Although the examples I found were played in different keys, the difference made by a natural seventh (played here) or sharpened seventh (played here) was pretty stark, regardless. The natural seventh is easier on my ears, from a purely Trad standpoint. Reading your post, I'm assuming this is your preference, too.

This lack of immediate comprehension on my part is an example of how limited my theory is. I can speak of a note in terms of number, but once we start in on Aeolian or Dorian modes, or the different types of minor scales, I'm pretty well sunk. Whatever key it's in, I have to take the tune as it comes, which was also the case with me listening to the two versions of Màiri Bhàn Òg.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:12 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
I can speak of a note in terms of number, but once we start in on Aeolian or Dorian modes, or the different types of minor scales, I'm pretty well sunk.

So let's take a D whistle, take off our fingers one by one and keep going till we reach our starting point an octave up...

D to D is major, and we all know that.
E to E is Dorian, which is like natural minor with a sharp 6th (the C#).
A to A is Mixolydian, which is like major with a flat 7th (the G nat).
B to B is Aeolian, which is sometimes called natural minor. It's the sharpening of the 7th from A nat to A# that makes it truly minor and gives rise to the alternative melodic and harmonic minor scales, which probably aren't that relevant to much true trad.

For trad purposes, you can probably pretty well ignore Lydian (G to G, or major with a sharp 4th) and certainly ignore Phrygian (F# to F#) and Locrian (C# to C#).

What's interesting to me is the harmonic implications of staying truly within a mode...

E Dorian should logically have a I, IV, V primary chord set of Em, A (note the major chord IV where E minor would have Am) and Bm, but will very often want D as a kind of alternative dominant.
A Mix should logically have A, D and Em (minor chord V where A major would have E), but many nominally A mix tunes will work as well or better with E.
B Aeolian should logically have Bm, Em and F#m (minor chord V where B minor would have F#), but probably not cry out for A as strongly as E Dorian asks for D.
The moment you start using B instead of Bm as chord V for E Dorian or F# instead of F#m as chord V for B Aeolian, I'd say you're pushing that tune out of mode and into the minor. But perhaps there's less risk of this in E Dorian when that alternative dominant D chord's usually pretty obvious, whereas Aeolian tunes are maybe more vulnerable? But then again you have to hack Mairi Bhan Og to fit a major V!

[Edited to correct the B Aeolian bit, where I had 'probably not cry out for G' because I was thinking of A Aeolian to match a white-note C major/Ionian context instead of my whistle-based D starting point.]

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Last edited by Peter Duggan on Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:31 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
I can speak of a note in terms of number, but once we start in on Aeolian or Dorian modes, or the different types of minor scales, I'm pretty well sunk.

So let's take a D whistle, take off our fingers one by one and keep going till we reach our starting point an octave up...

D to D is major, and we all know that.

You forgot to say it's the Ionian mode, as well. :wink:

Continuing on:

Peter Duggan wrote:
E to E is Dorian, which is like natural minor with a sharp 6th (the C#).
A to A is Mixolydian, which is like major with a flat 7th (the G nat).
B to B is Aeolian, which is sometimes called natural minor. It's the sharpening of the 7th from A nat to A# that makes it truly minor and gives rise to the alternative melodic and harmonic minor scales, which probably aren't that relevant to much true trad.

For trad purposes, you can probably pretty well ignore Lydian (G to G, or major with a sharp 4th) and certainly ignore Phrygian (F# to F#) and Locrian (C# to C#).

Yes, I'm well aware that the modes are to be readily found in this fashion, and aware of which ones don't work in Trad. I just don't retain the nomenclatures and their associated structures, is all; I had to look up Ionian mode to be sure of what I meant to say above. The one exception for me, again, is Mixolydian: Mom was always dragging me out to hear highland pipers, so I bonded intimately with that mode from an early age. Later on, when I found out what it was called, the name stuck.

Peter Duggan wrote:
What's interesting to me is the harmonic implications of staying truly within a mode...

This is where theory would give me a real leg up as a backup player. Even without much theory one can go far in exploring those implications, but it has to be by the seat of your pants, and that means you might miss some really good possibilities.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:43 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Yes, I'm well aware that the modes are to be readily found in this fashion, and aware of which ones don't work in Trad.

I'd expected that, but thought I could be helping anyone reading by using the generic 'you'. :)

Nanohedron wrote:
Peter Duggan wrote:
What's interesting to me is the harmonic implications of staying truly within a mode...

This is where theory would give me a real leg up as a backup player. Even without much theory one can go far in exploring those implications, but it has to be by the seat of your pants, and that means you might miss some really good possibilities.

And seat of your pants works because you can hear it! When I'm explaining 'modal' to my pupils at school, I always demonstrate harmonising with those logical chord sets because that gets across the characteristic 'olde worlde' (cringe!), neither major nor minor, sound far more strongly than just running up and down the notes. It doesn't matter to me if their church origins were fundamentally melodic because what my pupils can hear — and what's most likely to stick — is whatever stresses the different sound world(s).

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:04 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Yes, I'm well aware that the modes are to be readily found in this fashion, and aware of which ones don't work in Trad.

I'd expected that, but thought I could be helping anyone reading by using the generic 'you'. :)

And it's good you did. I just had to be a bit snippy about it, didn't I. :wink:

I was talking about Western music with a South Indian friend - we were at a bar and listening to the pop fare over the speakers - and he found it incomprehensible that Western music (I insisted) didn't have raags. Western music typically has structure, I told him, but aside from that, it's pretty much an open field. Or so I believed. Only recently I heard someone on some kind of broadcast say that, to this day, the vast majority of Western folk and pop music is still overwhelmingly based on our modal scales, and I realized that this is indeed true after all, so next time I'll have to amend my position and say that the modes are the closest thing we have to raags, only at the grassroots level it's an embedded cultural inheritance rather than something consciously prescribed. This modal basis is what makes Western music what it is. That might have been what he was detecting, although he's not a musician himself.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 6:03 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Peter Duggan wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Yes, I'm well aware that the modes are to be readily found in this fashion, and aware of which ones don't work in Trad.

I'd expected that, but thought I could be helping anyone reading by using the generic 'you'. :)

And it's good you did. I just had to be a bit snippy about it, didn't I. :wink:

I was talking about Western music with a South Indian friend - we were at a bar and listening to the pop fare over the speakers - and he found it incomprehensible that Western music (I insisted) didn't have raags. Western music typically has structure, I told him, but aside from that, it's pretty much an open field. Or so I believed. Only recently I heard someone on some kind of broadcast say that, to this day, the vast majority of Western folk and pop music is still overwhelmingly based on our modal scales, and I realized that this is indeed true after all, so next time I'll have to amend my position and say that the modes are the closest thing we have to raags, only at the grassroots level it's an embedded cultural inheritance rather than something consciously prescribed. This modal basis is what makes Western music what it is. That might have been what he was detecting, although he's not a musician himself.



I do a lot of jazz gigs on bass, walking though the standards. The relentlessness of diatonic harmony really starts to get apparent. Cycling though the chords, back to the tonic, cycle through again, lots of I/VI/II/V, lot of II/V/I, oh here comes a minor7b5 to a dom. It's great, I love it. but especially if you play, like BeBop you really feel diatonic harmony as a straightjacket. When jazz embraced modes it was a such a relief! The floaty feeling, the lack of momentum though the cycle, is really stunning. It's hard to play bass under a modal tune like "So What," because you can't build tension and momentum the way you normally would. Modal-based tunes show up as really freeing, because they escape from the structure of the Key signature


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:14 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Modal-based tunes show up as really freeing, because they escape from the structure of the Key signature.

It's that bit that I don't get, because modes impose a structure at least as rigid as the classical major and minor keys.
Peter Duggan wrote:
What's interesting to me is the harmonic implications of staying truly within a mode...

Same here. And, for me, that includes not using, in guitar accompaniment, a note which is missing from the (gapped) mode a tune may be in. And there are many tunes in gapped modes.

Of course, it's very difficult, if you're playing guitar, to stick to this discipline - chord progressions which seem natural to guitarists often include notes which are missing from the tune. Take The Geese in the Bog. It's in A minor, of some sort, but it doesn't have the sixth degree of the mode so, played the way I like to play it, you can't tell whether it's in Aeolian or Dorian. I really like that ambiguity, and it can be heard regardless of whether you know the source of the ambiguity (that's it's in a gapped mode) or not. In the case of that tune, I would much prefer it if guitarists refrained from playing either a D minor chord or a D major chord anywhere in the tune, and avoided F natural and F sharp altogether.

And another tune which I much prefer left ambiguous is The Blarney Pilgrim (yes, it's in a gapped mode!). A lot of people assume that parts of it are in D major, but none of it is. There is no F sharp, and there is no F natural - there are no Fs at all. So it's nice to avoid playing a D chord. Difficult though, if you're a guitarist ...

It's why I much prefer sessions where there are no guitars or other harmonic accompanying instruments.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:42 am 
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benhall.1 wrote:
Peter Duggan wrote:
What's interesting to me is the harmonic implications of staying truly within a mode...

Same here. And, for me, that includes not using, in guitar accompaniment, a note which is missing from the (gapped) mode a tune may be in. And there are many tunes in gapped modes.

This is something I've also thought much about...

Should you always harmonise pentatonic tunes with chords derived only from their five notes, or mixolydian tunes with a minor V? Not necessarily (and there are many, thinking especially of nominally mixolydian GHB tunes, where that might sound plain weird). But you still have to use your ears and be sensitive to mode.

Does the absence of seven different notes always indicate a gapped mode? Again, not necessarily, because sometimes a tune might just not have used all the notes. (Does the absence of a seventh in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star indicate a gapped mode? I think not.) But gapped modes exist, with the no-sixth, Aeolian/Dorian ambiguity being a prime example of where to tread carefully.

Much good trad accompaniment also eschews the classically conventional chord progression model for sliding sus and added note forms, often producing elements of drone or pedal point as the shapes move. So we can't just say make sure you have the right I, IV, V etc. because it's not necessarily that simple, and the key (no pun intended!) as always has to be use your ears (but hopefully in informed ways)!

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:18 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
PB+J wrote:
Modal-based tunes show up as really freeing, because they escape from the structure of the Key signature.

It's that bit that I don't get, because modes impose a structure at least as rigid as the classical major and minor keys.

I too don't understand this one, but I fear any conventional explanation would draw on deep theory, and I'd be lost from the get-go. Examples would go a long way in helping me out!

benhall.1 wrote:
Of course, it's very difficult, if you're playing guitar, to stick to this discipline - chord progressions which seem natural to guitarists often include notes which are missing from the tune.

Not necessarily so difficult, to my thinking, but it's all in how you approach it, and mindlessly falling back on conventional chording won't cut it. In backing trad, I always start with open chords as the basis of all I do. Tackled that way, Trad backup is actually easy (if I may be so bold), because you can't go wrong with open chords if you have nothing else; they are sure, at least, not to offend. Any add-ons become texture, and this is where the craft of Trad backing (and its artistry, at higher levels) comes in.

Not only do open-based chord forms sound unfailingly good with Trad, they allow the melody to establish what is major or minor, which I think is as it should be. In Trad, the tune comes first. Let me repeat that: The tune comes first. The melody is the proper framework upon which all else hangs, for better or worse. Since there is no need for backup in legitimate Trad, there is likewise no need for backup to redundantly point out what is already apparent in the melody; indeed, rather than being supportive, I think obviously major or minor chords are an imposition, and frequently a gross one. "Ham-handed" is a word that comes to mind.

So - if this makes any sense - when I speak of what key a tune is in, I typically mean it in the most neutral way, neither major nor minor. I leave it to the tune alone to flesh out such details. That's my basic approach. The rest is simply added color and atmosphere, but for such added bits to succeed, taste counts. If you can't be bothered with questions of taste, then maybe you should do everyone else a favor and leave your backup gizmo at home.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:47 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
benhall.1 wrote:
PB+J wrote:
Modal-based tunes show up as really freeing, because they escape from the structure of the Key signature.

It's that bit that I don't get, because modes impose a structure at least as rigid as the classical major and minor keys.

I too don't understand this one, but I fear any conventional explanation would draw on deep theory, and I'd be lost from the get-go. Examples would go a long way in helping me out!



So from a jazz perspective, if you listen to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s5FZBisaf8

and compare it to this, which gets started around 35 seconds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylXk1LBvIqU

The Charlie Parker tune is what's called a "bird blues:" Charlie Parker pretty much found every substitution you could make in a blues, and it has a Lot of chords, and that ads a lot of harmonic points of view, but the root motion is really relentless--even more than a standard blues, because the chords are moving quickly and all that Bb/Eb A/D Ab/Db stuff is going on

Image


In the second example, which is famous as one first modal jazz records, most of the chords are stripped away and there's no "momentum:" it's not cycling relentlessly towards a resolution and then back out. Davis's whole solo is in D Dorian and Eb Dorian: he never leaves the mode. The alto player on the other hand does leave the mode. It feels, to me and to lots of other jazzbo types, as more free, even though as noted technically you should confine yourself to Dorian, and as a bass player you're just humping on D dorian for minutes at a time. All the solos are great.

I'm not sure if this will make sense or not!


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 4:17 pm 
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Hmmm ... In the UK, I can't get to your first YouTube link - it's banned in my country - copyright, I guess. The second example isn't modal in any sense that would apply to trad tunes. And it has its own rigidity. But, frankly, it just sounds classically tonal to me, and I do have a very good grasp of theory. There's nothing remotely 'modal' in either the trad or the church mode sense about that example. It's just minor. End of.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 4:40 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
I'm not sure if this will make sense or not!

Jazz is stratospheric stuff for groundlings like me, but even so I can hear a significant difference of foundation - not just surface - in what Parker and Davis are doing. Of course I hear each as quite different examples of Jazz, but not being educated to it, the full implications of that difference, and what makes 'So What' groundbreaking, are as yet beyond my grasp.

I do appreciate the examples, because they help me hear that there's something more afoot than I had realized. But when it comes to talking about it, I hate to admit it but I'm afraid you might have to bring it down to a child's level. :oops:

benhall.1 wrote:
The second example isn't modal in any sense that would apply to trad tunes. And it has its own rigidity. But, frankly, it just sounds classically tonal to me, and I do have a very good grasp of theory. There's nothing remotely 'modal' in either the trad or the church mode sense about that example.

Maybe "modal" in Jazz means something else, then? I think fundamental to this part of the discussion is the fact that Trad and Jazz have different emphases; whereas in Trad the melody is the ground, and chording is basically incidental in its value, in Jazz it seems the other way around. I understand that's putting it way too simply, but I expect it's not all that far off, either.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 7:02 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
Hmmm ... In the UK, I can't get to your first YouTube link - it's banned in my country - copyright, I guess. The second example isn't modal in any sense that would apply to trad tunes. And it has its own rigidity. But, frankly, it just sounds classically tonal to me, and I do have a very good grasp of theory. There's nothing remotely 'modal' in either the trad or the church mode sense about that example. It's just minor. End of.



LOL. I never said it was like trad. But it's clearly in the dorian mode, "End of." I mean for (bleep)'s sake: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_What_(Miles_Davis_composition) also http://www.stevekhan.com/sowhata.htm


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 7:19 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
PB+J wrote:
I'm not sure if this will make sense or not!

Jazz is stratospheric stuff for groundlings like me, but even so I can hear a significant difference of foundation - not just surface - in what Parker and Davis are doing. Of course I hear each as quite different examples of Jazz, but not being educated to it, the full implications of that difference, and what makes 'So What' groundbreaking, are as yet beyond my grasp.

I do appreciate the examples, because they help me hear that there's something more afoot than I had realized. But when it comes to talking about it, I hate to admit it but I'm afraid you might have to bring it down to a child's level. :oops:

benhall.1 wrote:
The second example isn't modal in any sense that would apply to trad tunes. And it has its own rigidity. But, frankly, it just sounds classically tonal to me, and I do have a very good grasp of theory. There's nothing remotely 'modal' in either the trad or the church mode sense about that example.

Maybe "modal" in Jazz means something else, then? I think fundamental to this part of the discussion is the fact that Trad and Jazz have different emphases; whereas in Trad the melody is the ground and chording is basically incidental in its value, in Jazz it seems the other way around. I understand that's putting way too simply, but I expect it's not all that far off, either.


I feel like talking about jazz gets irritating to some people so I apologize if that's the case. No it's modal jazz and Davis is particular stays very consciously in the Dorian mode in his improvisation. Jazz is very interested in harmony. The melody is something to be played with attention and care, beautifully, but the melody is a set of harmonic questions or possibilities: if the melody note is A moving to C what chords could I play? This is why it sometimes sounds ridiculous, because it's monkeying with the expected harmony. You're ideally varying the harmony all the time-substituting one chord for another, or adding extensions to a fairly basic chord. It's more or less rule bound depending on the style of jazz. The Charley Parker tune is just a blues with a lot of clever chord substitutions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEt8Y6Yo56E)

The Miles Davis example was part of a deliberate and self conscious effort by jazz musicians to escape from the diatonic harmony of tin pan alley and explore modal music. The big theoretical text was this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydian_Chromatic_Concept_of_Tonal_Organization Mark levine's book Jazz Theory is very good.

What does this have to do with trad? Probably nothing, except at least for me, one of the things I like about Irish music is the way it doesn't neatly la di da or race back back to the tonic. I'm not expressing that very well. I actually can't at least not yet. I hear something that's hard to express.


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