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Modal Scale/Keys
What makes modal scales different?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (16 votes) 
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Gordon Shumway
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OK, yes major and minor are referred to as "modes" of a scale, but I think the expression is just a loose one - it shouldn't be taken to mean they can be included with modes that are external to the Western classical music tradition. Historically they may have originated as true modes, but now they are just "flavours".

There's also a possible logical fallacy - if they are a subset of all modes, then you shouldn't necessarily assume that their characteristics extend to all modes. They are modes of scales that Equal Temperament has worked on for the purposes of modulation and modern music theory. That has left other modes behind.

If you want to apply classical chord progressions to oriental modes, that's fusion. And doing it by using a keyboard (or a violinist with ears that reproduce a keyboard's intonation) to reproduce oriental modes is only a rough approximation.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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Traditionally, Western music theory views "keys" and "modes" as separate concepts -- tonal and modal music are constructed differently. Keys superseded modes when music theory became centered around chord progressions rather than modal counterpoint.

On the other hand, the use of modal scales in Celtic folk music and in 20th century art music is usually in a tonal framework built on chord progressions.

I think "modal scales" is valid. But the term "modal keys" still sounds very strange to me from a music history and theory perspective. I still tend to think of it as a modern treatment of a mode, and not a key.

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ELCBK
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@Gordon Shumway , @AndrewH -

THANK YOU!  THANK YOU! 

I did ask Mouse to fix the Heading of this thread, to clarify a little - wished I'd done it long ago - you may still not find it appropriate, though. (lol) 

...plus, I still have questions!

I concede that our 'Western Major Scale' is not a 'Mode' to us.

If I was from an Asian Country, for example, then I could see where our 'Major Scale' might not even be a recognized 'Scale' or maybe it is a scale, but a 'Mode' of another - doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 

Don't think I could ever assume ALL Scales, or Modes, have the same characteristics - some have microtones, different intervals ascending & descending - even different sequences, different amounts of notes, etc... other than what we recognize in the 'West'. 

It doesn't mean they don't exist, my whole point - my purpose of wanting to explore 'Exotic' and 'Altered' Scales (terms only relative to Western music). 

Now, if we (in the West) recognize that 'Modes' are nothing more than 'Types of Scales', they're based on the idea their tonic (1st note of their scale) is one of the 2nd - 7th original notes common to any one of our 'Major Scales'.  The 'mode characteristic' is that they continue on with the pattern, the sequence of intervals started/set forth in the 'Major Scale' - a snake that bit it's tail and rolled (like a wheel) down the road, except these modes/scales can also roll backwards. (lol) 

Only makes sense that modes based on scales other than our 'Major Scale' would also have different characteristics. 

1.) In Western music, aren't ALL scales outside of the 'Major Scale', some sort of mode? 

2.) Don't 'Blues' & 'Jazz' scales have 'Modes'?

3.) There's the 'Pentatonic Scales' and the 'Melodic Minor Scales', but what is stopping modes from existing for them?  Their 'Modes' would have their own, specific characteristics. 

4.) Is the 'Key Signature' of a Classical Piece based on the 1st scale used, or is it just what scale the majority of the piece uses?  Or, is a new 'Key Signature' used at every 'Modulation'? 

5.) Aren't 'Modes' ever used in Classical Music? 

In our Fiddle music; 

  • tunes are based on 'Scales' 
  • 'Mode' is a type of 'Scale'  
  • the 'Scale' used for a tune, determines the 'Key' of the tune 
  • a 'Mode' used for a tune, also determines the 'Key' of the tune 
  • the 'Key' a tune is in, IS based on a 'Scale' 
  • tunes with parts that change to a different 'Scale/Key' (not just a stray note or 2) - 'Modulate' 
  • And, there are further terms for types of 'Modulations'. 

6.) Is there any way we can agree on some of these LOOSE, GENERAL terms - so we can move on to explore other 'Scales' and their 'Modes'? 

The 'Ancient Greek' tunings, with their 'Tetrachord Scales/Modes'

the Medieval 'Gamuts', our 'Altered' Scales and

what we consider 'Exotic' Scales, from all over the World...

All of these make music intriguing! 

giphy.gif

I really want to learn about ALL of them and

hope many others here will, too! 

Very much appreciate all your help.

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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ELCBK said
@Gordon Shumway , @AndrewH -

THANK YOU!  THANK YOU! 

I did ask Mouse to fix the Heading of this thread, to clarify a little - wished I'd done it long ago - you may still not find it appropriate, though. (lol) 

...plus, I still have questions!

I concede that our 'Western Major Scale' is not a 'Mode' to us.

If I was from an Asian Country, for example, then I could see where our 'Major Scale' might not even be a recognized 'Scale' or maybe it is a scale, but a 'Mode' of another - doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 

Don't think I could ever assume ALL Scales, or Modes, have the same characteristics - some have microtones, different intervals ascending & descending - even different sequences, different amounts of notes, etc... other than what we recognize in the 'West'. 

It doesn't mean they don't exist, my whole point - my purpose of wanting to explore 'Exotic' and 'Altered' Scales (terms only relative to Western music). 

Now, if we (in the West) recognize that 'Modes' are nothing more than 'Types of Scales', they're based on the idea their tonic (1st note of their scale) is one of the 2nd - 7th original notes common to any one of our 'Major Scales'.  The 'mode characteristic' is that they continue on with the pattern, the sequence of intervals started/set forth in the 'Major Scale' - a snake that bit it's tail and rolled (like a wheel) down the road, except these modes/scales can also roll backwards. (lol) 

Only makes sense that modes based on scales other than our 'Major Scale' would also have different characteristics. 

1.) In Western music, aren't ALL scales outside of the 'Major Scale', some sort of mode? 

2.) Don't 'Blues' & 'Jazz' scales have 'Modes'?

3.) There's the 'Pentatonic Scales' and the 'Melodic Minor Scales', but what is stopping modes from existing for them?  Their 'Modes' would have their own, specific characteristics. 

4.) Is the 'Key Signature' of a Classical Piece based on the 1st scale used, or is it just what scale the majority of the piece uses?  Or, is a new 'Key Signature' used at every 'Modulation'? 

5.) Aren't 'Modes' ever used in Classical Music? 

In our Fiddle music; 

    • tunes are based on 'Scales' 
    • 'Mode' is a type of 'Scale'  
    • the 'Scale' used for a tune, determines the 'Key' of the tune 
    • a 'Mode' used for a tune, also determines the 'Key' of the tune 
    • the 'Key' a tune is in, IS based on a 'Scale' 
    • tunes with parts that change to a different 'Scale/Key' (not just a stray note or 2) - 'Modulate' 
    • And, there are further terms for types of 'Modulations'. 

6.) Is there any way we can agree on some of these LOOSE, GENERAL terms - so we can move on to explore other 'Scales' and their 'Modes'? 

The 'Ancient Greek' tunings, with their 'Tetrachord Scales/Modes'

the Medieval 'Gamuts', our 'Altered' Scales and

  

Pentatonic can be major or minor.

major: CDEGAC?

minor: ACDEGA?

"Modal jazz" was invented in about 1957. Listen to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. He only used one mode, though, more or less (Dorian?). Have you not looked it up in Wikipedia?

Debussy used Eastern modes. They had a world fair in Paris in, err, 1889? Might have been earlier. There was a gamelan orchestra. He also used full tone scales.

Gamut just means scale? No, the original ut (do) was A, but someone like Guido d'Arezzo lowered it to G and the scale beginning on G was called GammaUt or gamut? Don't know. Don't know where I read it.

An ancient Greek tetrachord was such as EFA wth a 4th note. That note could be G, F# or the quartertone between E and F. They added a second tetrachord BCE with a similar 4th to get an octave.

See ancient Greek Music by Martin West.

Buy the AB Guide to Music Theory by Eric Taylor.

It's not going to best for you if you ask questions and we Google the answers!

Andrew

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iFIDDLE
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  • tunes with parts that change to a different 'Scale/Key' (not just a stray note or 2) - 'Modulate' 

how about 4 measures?  who made that rule anyway?  Greeks?  people from the far east in ancient times?  medievel monks?   how many notes does it take to qualify?  🤨 😏

devil-violin

isnt all music modal?

ionian IS a mode 

I'm glad the information is out there now that makes learning easier, especially youtube.  appreciate the links Emily finds as well.  if nothing else it keeps the subject up front and discussion going.  A little understanding today...some more down the road...a little more later.  all helps as time goes along.

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ELCBK
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Smiley Broke Apart Smiley

No, not asking anyone to Google, anything

Just asking, offer what you can - don't think anyone here's going to buy any books on Music Theory. 

Would like to spark peoples interest, though.

So, is the Minor Pentatonic Scale the ONLY recognized 'Mode' of the Pentatonic, 5 note, Major Scale?  Seems a waste - I'll have to read more.

Browsing Wikipedia: says the Ancient Greeks used 3 standard tunings of 4 strings, 'diatonic', 'chromatic', and 'enharmonic' - each a 'tetrachord' of 4 strings, or a 4 note scale.  Cool stuff for another thread. 😊 

I did learn something about the 'Gregorian Mode' (Church Mode)!  

Thought it was just one mode, turns out it's actually TWELVE!  There's 6 'Authentic Modes' & 6 'Plagal Modes'.  Important factors of each scale is a 'Dominant' note & a 'Final' note - not what I'd think!  Here's the chart. 

Gregorian Modes

Will check out more about the Gamut, Guido d'Arezzo & his 'Guidonian Hand'.  Medieval music is good for another thread. 🙄 

https://d4u3lqifjlxra.cloudfront.net/uploads/example/file/2025/Guidonian_hand.jpg

 

Maybe I'll discover something cool I'd love to use as a riff. 😊 

...many rabbit holes. 

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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ELCBK said
So, is the Minor Pentatonic Scale the ONLY recognized 'Mode' of the Pentatonic, 5 note, Major Scale?  Seems a waste - I'll have to read more. 

These are primitive and ancient systems. They have found Neanderthal bone flutes that are pentatonic. Although a lot of old flutes were double flutes, one for each hand, so they only had 3 holes each. I don't know why only 3:- 4 holes would give 5 notes.

Auld Lang Syne and Old MacDonald Had a Farm are both pentatonic, it seems.

You can certainly play Old Mac with just the notes GACDE

OLS with the notes GACDE, but many insert a B, which seems to be wrong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/....._Lang_Syne

I've just done some Googling. I'm not sure about the second video - there seems to be some fanciful interpretation going on. I saw a TV programme years ago that was not one of these. I have to go to bed now.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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June 30, 2021 - 9:43 pm
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@iFIDDLE -

4 measures seems more than a stray note or 2. (lol) 

Yeah, I'm thinking on the 'Global Scale' (pun intended) they're all modes. 😏 

@Gordon Shumway -

Cool Neanderthal info! 😎 

EUREKA! 

I just knew there had to be something more about 'Pentatonic Modes'

Think I just fell in 💖 with Satta33!  ...listen.

4 Modes Pentatonic Minor

3 Modes Pentatonic Balinese

3 Modes Pentatonic Hirajoshi Kumoi Chinese

3 Modes Pentatonic Insen Japanese

3 Modes Pentatonic CM7, ad6, Major

More Modes! 

7 Modes Hungarian Minor

The 'Enigmatic' Scales! 

Enigmatic Scales - Modes, Chords, Arpeggios

The 'Enigmatic Scale' (scala enigmatica) is an unusual musical scale, with elements of both major and minor scales, as well as the whole-tone scale. It was originally published in a Milan journal as a musical challenge, with an invitation to harmonize it in some way.  Interval pattern: H [W+H] W W W H H (Wikipedia) 

giphy.gif

 

Ever heard one?

...'nuff treasure for one day?

- Emily

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AndrewH
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20th century classical music explores all kinds of scales, beyond reviving the church modes.

There are also octatonic scales, especially the symmetric octatonic scale that alternates whole steps and half steps. Rimsky-Korsakov used that one a lot, and was followed by a whole bunch of early 20th century composers (Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, and others).

Scriabin frequently used what he called the "mystic chord" or "mystic scale" (containing the same notes), which is essentially a whole-tone scale with one note raised a half-step.

The Walton viola concerto is a very interesting piece harmonically. The first movement is simultaneously in major and minor and derives its tension from that conflict. It modulates a few times, but in almost every key it uses an interesting octatonic scale that includes both the major and minor third step. The third movement is frequently in Locrian mode.

One thing I find really interesting is the fusion of scales from two different folk traditions. I discovered a great example recently in Taiwanese composer Kuo Chih-Yuan's orchestral suite "Recollection": the first movement is inspired in part by the Bacchanale from Saint-Saens's opera Samson and Delilah, and combines the double harmonic ("gypsy major") scale from that Bacchanale with the pentatonic scale.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

You just made my day! 

So refreshing... that creativity. 

You definitely found the best treasure! 

Thanx for sharing all that, Andrew. 

https://clipartart.com/images/emoji-music-clipart.png

 

...lovin' it! 

- Emily

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I'll leave you to look up octotonic because I don't know what that is.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH - 

Thank you for telling me about the Octatonic Scale (and more)! 

WOW! 

The Octatonic Scale can let you play in 2 Keys at the SAME time!  

'Bitonality' 

Here's the low down on this 'Symmetrical' Scale (by 12Tone).

Mysteries of the Octatonic Scale

giphy.gif

...only has 2 Modes! 

- Emily

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ELCBK
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I've started into Klezmer music, here's a very detailed article on Klezmer Modes by Josh Horowitz.  It's supposed to be a 'summary definition with some mechanics of the modes'. 🤣

What really caught my eye though, was it included 'Sub-Modes', 'Modal & Sequential Progressions' and 'Modal Interchange'! 

Wish this was a little easier to read - I had to go brush up on 'tonality' (another thread)! 🙄

The Main Klezmer Modes 

Klezmer thread link here:

Klezmer Thread

giphy.gif

 

...oy vey! 

- Emily

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