Key signatures for modal tunes

Key signatures for modal tunes

Is there a ‘correct’ key signature for modal tunes?

As part of my "tunes I really should know by now" program I’ve been learning An Phis Fliuch, which given that it has a single sharp but resolves on D (it sounds modal to me, anyway) I am deducing is in Dmix.

Flicking through a tune book the other day I came across it written with two sharps in the key signature but all the C’s naturalised. Musing over this on one of my many long distance car journeys, I came to the conclusion that this would be the ‘right’ way to annotate the tune. It doesn’t make any difference to us melody players, but points the backers at D as the tonic, not G. I notice that the version of the tune in the database here is listed as G major, but someone has pointed out in the comments that it is actually Dmix.

Any thoughts?

Apologies if this has been covered before - I did a search but didn’t find it.

Eno

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Well, theory has never been my strong suit, but I think Dmix is in the key of Gmaj. You’re right that the mode gives more info, which is useful since it tells you what note the tune resolves on.

Two sharps but accidentals on the Cs…that would confuse the hell out of me, trying to play Dmaj and getting confused over the Cs…I’d rather have the standard Gmaj key signature myself.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I would call it D mix. The point is one # does not necessarilly
mean the key of G. I would expect any D mix tune to be notated like that, that is you look at the first couple of bars and its
obvious its not in G. Much as some Blues music and blues based Jazz music might be notated like that. One # is also
immediately recognisable as we all know as the key signature of A Dorian and also relative Em. I think key signatures represent a group of notes rather than a tonal centre, or a certain shape to be more descriptive.
I wouldn’t call it modal either. I would call "The Gooseberry Bush" a modal tune.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"The point is one # does not necessarilly
mean the key of G. I would expect any D mix tune to be notated like that, that is you look at the first couple of bars and its
obvious its not in G"

So it’s Emin instead of Gmaj…but that’s the same key signature isn’t it, even though they are different keys?

I mean, isn’t the point of the key signature to give you an idea of what notes are sharp or flat, without having to scan all of the notes in the tune?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Of course it’s modal: it’s in the mixolydian mode. All of these tunes are modal—Ionian (major), Aeolian (natural minor), Mixolydian, and Dorian are the main modes for Irish trad music.

An Phis Fliuch is Dmix because the home note or tonal center—the note this tune wants to resolve to—is D, but the "c"s are natural (and "f’s remain sharp). Yes, the same (one sharp) key signature also works for G major, A Dorian, and E Aeolian (minor).

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Screetch, it really might help you to go to the link I posted above and look over the two tables on that page. The examples there also give a simple explanation for how to distinguish between the various modes and keys.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yes, I’ve looked at it, but I still don’t understand the point of using a key signature with two sharps but accidentals on the Cs. What is the problem with one sharp?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Screetch,

What chuneboi is saying is that a single sharp means that the key is either Gmaj, Ador, Dmix or Emin; it doesn’t differentiate between them. Only by listening to the tune can you deduce what scale is actually being played. The final note is often the tonic - if when the tune ends you find yourself wanting to add a couple more notes until it feels ‘complete’ then the final note you play would be the tonic since it seems ‘right’.

Having said that, this is not the first time I’ve come across this sort of peculiarity. I had originally suspected a mistake by the person that transcribed the tune, especially if the sharp in question is on a note that is never actually played in the tune. Now I figure there must be a reason why the tune was written down this way, and I was just trying to work out why.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’m starting to believe those that say you should throw the sheet music away…

I understand that the key signature doesn’t give enough info to know the mode, but then why try to use the key signature to make that distinction? That just confuses me more. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just write "Dmix" on sheet music?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Screetch, transcribing An Phis Fliuch with two sharps and accidentals on the Cs is a common mistake, typically made by someone who recognizes that D is the home note but who is unaware of the mixolydian mode. That’s most likely why the version in the tune archives here is labeled as "G major"—the contributor wasn’t aware of the Dmix option.

The key signature really just tells you what scale to play—you have to identify the home note to suss out what key and mode the tune is in.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yes it would, and usually I do. πŸ˜‰

The answer is probably that the sheet music system was developed for classical music, which doesn’t use the other modes.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"Wouldn’t it be easier to just write Dmix on the sheet music?"

With some tunes, the key/mode isn’t clear. For example, a tune in A Dorian without any Fs could also possibly be in Amix.

Bear in mind too that the key signature can change on any stave. In more formal written music, it’s not unusual to have frequent changes in the key signature. Seeing the sharps and flats on the stave is a quick reminder for the trained musician.

Just be glad there are no Irish trad tunes in C flat (seven flats)….

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

OK, maybe I get it now…the tune was written with two sharps because it resolved on D, so the person writting it down assumed it must be in the key of D. But the accidentals had to be added because the Cs were natural.

It takes a lot to get through my thick skull sometimes. That really had me confused.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Lots of people make mistakes when writing down tunes. And music notation wasn’t devised with Irish trad tunes in mind.

Plus, lots of Irish tunes are ambiguous or murky. Consider all the C sharps and flats in a tune like Dinny O’Brien’s (https://thesession.org/tunes/1667). No matter what key/mode you put it in, you’ll end up inking in accidentals. Lots of tunes wander between modes. The first half of Bank of Ireland is in Dmix, and the second half is D major. Some tunes are pentatonic—using only 5 notes of a scale. Backers can give such tunes totally different hues depending on what mode they choose to impose on the melody line.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Er, I meant C sharps and *naturals* in that previous post….

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

On second thought, I see the point of using two sharps to help make the mode clear, but it still feels wrong to me because two sharps mean someting very different to me…maybe my classical background is hurting me here.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Wow, thanks for the music lesson Puddy Tat I really wasn’t aware of all that stuff.
The point I’m making is that I’ve understood "Modal" music was music like Indian music or the music of say John Coltrane where the melodies or improvisations are not defined
by key signatures, but use shifting modes based on single central tones, or similarly encompass several key signatures at once, a simplified example of that being the Gooseberry Bush, as previously mentioned, a tune that uses
two "modes"at once.
What I am saying in the broader musical world the term is incorrect, probably someone thought it sounded good. D mixolydian is more accurate.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Hey, I learned what little I know about modes from trying to figure out how to post tunes here. Had to dredge up old music theory from my days as a rock guitar player. That’s why I came up with the table on that link above—just to help me navigate and remember the modes.

Yep, jazz and rock players sometimes play one mode over another, and they may talk about a "modal" solo or riff, meaning something a bit different than what modal means in Irish music.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

A few points, just to confuse people ( πŸ™‚ ) :

Music notation *wasn’t* developed with classical music in mind - at least not as we know it. It was developed for much earlier music, including, but not limited to, early church music. And the music that it was developed to notate was modal.

There’s a reason why there are so many accidentals in modal music - it’s that certain degrees of the scale, mainly Cs, Bs and Fs, but some others sometimes as well, are ‘inflected’. This means that they can appear as sharpened or flattened depending on the context. Both this and the previous point show Irish music’s relationship to music written in the ‘Church modes’.

… and the above means that, no, neither the Gooseberry Bush nor the Bank of Ireland are in ‘2 modes’. They’re both in Dmix throughout.

It would be nice if everyone understood modes, but it’s clearly not going to happen, and that leads to some strange keys listed for tunes in the database here. For instance, Emin given as the key for Have a Drink With Me https://thesession.org/tunes/1922 when it’s in G
and G given as the key for Old Man Dillon https://thesession.org/tunes/2200 when it’s in Ador

That irritates me, because it sometimes means that I skip over a tune I’m looking for because I think "No, that can’t be it, it’s in the wrong key" so I assume it’s another tune with the same name and pass on.

Great tables, Will. It’s all kind of hard-wired into me, but those tables are really clear for those without such wiring.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Reading over it maybe what’s causing the confusion is the distinction between key signature and the actual key/mode. One sharp just means to play F sharp and the rest natural, most of the time.

The key signature is just a short-cut to give you an idea of where your fingers should go most of the time, not an absolute definition of the key or mode.

That’s why altering the key signature in such a way as to cause more accidentals confuses me; it defeats the whole point of having the key signature.

But this has taught me that I need to learn a lot more about modes…

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Well Ben, I would say looking at "The Gooseberry Bush" on the
printed page rather than speculating on some "Church Music " theory, (and this thread is about musical notation, is it not), or whether some little Baroque hunchback monk with a comb over with a sense of humour could bend notes a quarter of a tone on his pipe organ, I would definitely observe that the Gooseberry Bush can be perceived as spanning 2 modes at once, the Ionian and Mixolydian,sometimes in the same bar., hence it is a true "modal" tune according to my definition of modal.
As far as "The Bank of Ireland"goes I would wager quite confidently that is a true modal tune as well ( again, the version I have on the printed page) with C naturals and C # ‘s
co existing in an A dorian / D Ionian scenario in the A part, and
the same notes coexisting in a Ionian / Mixolydian scenario in the B part.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

The function of the key signature is reduce the number of accidentals needing to be marked in the score to the minimum. It is not there to tell you what key or mode the music is "in," though it does cut down the possibilities apropos of keys as a helpful side-effect. Paradoxically I don’t see any harm in marking those polkas whose tonic note is A ,but which lack G#s, in three sharps…

Whaddya think, Michael? πŸ˜€

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I don’t think I really mean "accidentals," do I.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

What a load of time wasting rubbish,who cares what key.
Just learn the tune,perfect it,put your heart in it and teach it to
the world.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’m just wondering how many of the hundreds of tunes I play were ever taught to me. πŸ˜‰

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Dear Goose. I don’t think its time wasting rubbish.
Its a discussion on the written form of the musical language.

Of dots and staves and quavers bold
I know detractors around the site
"They did not read in days of old"
And many a time it sounded like sh*te

C.B. Wordsworth

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

The key signature is not there to tell you what key the piece is in? Who told you that?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

But that’s true, the key signature is just there for readability. It doesn’t literally mean the signature of the actual key of the piece.

You can technically use any key signature you want for any piece, if you want to write in a bunch of accidentals and make it difficult to read. And you can have multiple key signatures througout a piece.

The key signature is a strong clue as to the key, though, provided it’s used in the standard way. There’s a standard number of sharps and flats to use for each key to minimize the number of accidentals, but you don’t *have* to use those key signatures when writting down something in a certain key.

And different keys can have the same key signature, even using the standard number of sharps/flats in the key signature.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

The key signature is telling you a lot more than what notes are sharp or flat. A lot of information regarding the tonality and intervallic relationships regarding tension and resolutional tendencies both of both melody and (gasp!) harmony can be deduced from the key signatures including which mode a tune is in based on seeing the key signature in relationship to the melodic structure. It serves the function you’re talking about but there’s a lot of conceptual information there too.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Well, in our music anyone who can make full use of all that conceptual information contained in the key signature probably wouldn’t be looking at a bunch of dots anyway. πŸ˜€

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"including which mode a tune is in based on seeing the key signature in relationship to the melodic structure."

Right, you have to look at the actual notes as well. That information isn’t in the key signature alone. Making the distinction between modes isn’t the job of the key signature, that distinction shakes out when the notes are played.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

A lot of tune books use the wrong key/mode signatures, this is because they were put together by classically trained people with no knowledge of modality.

The correct key signatures for some of the more common modes are as follows

D Mixolydian - F is sharp - same as key of G
D Dorian - No sharps or flats - same as Key of C
D Aeolian - B is flat - same as Key of Dm

E Dorian - F and C are sharp - Same as D Major
G Mixolydian - no sharps or flats
G Dorian - B is flat
G Aeolian - B and E are flat

A mixolydian - F and C are sharp
A Dorian - F is sharp

I could go on with more but I won’t you can figure the rest out from that.

Finally as has been noted there are some tunes which don’t fall comfortably into one definitive key/mode signature. These are tunes where the third, sixth and/or sevenths are flexible, in other words the flats and sharps of these notes are often adjusted by different players, so one might play a C where another will play a C sharp. In these cases I think it’s best to leave out a key signature altogether and just put a foot-note to the effect that these notes are flexible. If you want to note an exact version then put in the accidentals on the score by all means but there’s not much point in putting a C sharp in the key signature of a tune when C naturals are used as much as C sharps.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"It doesn’t make any difference to us melody players, but points the backers at D as the tonic, not G."

Maybe so, but how many backers play from sheet music? Most beginners would use, if anything, a set of chord symbols as a guide - so there is no need to look at the key signature. A competent backer can figure out by listening what chord a tune resolves onto. I suppose, if you’re really clever at reading dots, you could look at the sheet music and work out the chords visually as you play, but I’ve never seen anyone do this.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I seem to recall seeing somewhere long ago an interesting notation to indicate the modes. D mix would be notated, for example, with a sharp on the F line of the staff and a natural on the C line. D dorian would have a natural on both the F and the C lines. I don’t remember for sure, but I’d guess G dorian would have a flat on the B line and a natural on the F line.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Gary. Do you mean they would actually put a natural symbol on those lines? Slim.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

But the naturals don’t add any info—if a line or space isn’t sharped or flatted, it’s assumed to be natural. Sharping the F and putting a natural at C could still be G maj, Em, Dmix, or Ador.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yes, Slim.
No, Will. They do add information. Since you’d never do such a thing for a standard major or minor tune, they warn the reader that there’s something out of the ordinary going on. Of course you COULD misuse this and apply it to a tune in any mode compatible with the particular collection of sharps and flats, but if used correctly on a tune where the mode is unambiguous, it does indicate what the mode is.

The idea is that by looking at the collection of symbols on the staff at the beginning, you can determine both the key and the mode (if the writer has used it properly). For example, if the F is sharp and the C is natural, since the symbols are on the F and C lines the tonic is D (pretend they’re both sharps). Since the C is natural and the D isn’t, it’s mixolydian. It’s trickier for the flat keys.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’m starting to come around to using the key signature of the relative Ionian. Gary I think I’ve seen the system you’re talking about once or twice. It’s interesting and I get how it works but ultimately it might be rather clumsy.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Trying to use the "key signature" (in itself a misleading name) to determine the tonic in Irish music just doesn’t work. For one thing, the nature of the music is of an unaccompanied melody line, so any harmonic accompaniment that is added is artificial and not inherent in the melody itself. Trying to force the melodies into standard harmonic progressions works with some tunes but doesn’t work with others.
For example, flute and uilleann pipes usually play in one or two sharps. One sharp could be D mixolydian, E minor, G major, A dorian, or C lydian. Two sharps could be D major, E dorian, G lydian, A mixolydian, or B minor. So with either case, you have a one-in-five chance of guessing the tonic based on the "key signature", not very good odds.
Then you add in the concept of "inflection" mentioned above. When I play O Farrel’s Welcome to Limerick quite a few of the C’s are C sharps, so neither key signature would accurately reflect the tune.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Mode: Major, Dorian, Mix, Minor
# of sharps
none C, D, G, A
1=(F# ) G, A, D, E
2=(F#,C#) D, E, A, B
3=(F#,C#,G#) A, B, E, F#

# of flats
1 (Bb) F, G, C, D

Ionian mode is the same as Major, Aiolian is Minor.

I can’t get this line up properly. Paste it to Notepad to clean up. I just came home from work, I hope there aren’t too many mistakes.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

The letters of the Keys were supposed to line up in the same column as the names of the modes.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

colums

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

dammit, columns

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Risto, go to the sctls link in my first post at the top of this thread and you’ll get two tables with all this lined up neatly in columns. No need to try to post it here.

Gary, your adding naturals to the key signature assumes that (a) people know what the tonal center of the tune is, and (b) people know that you’d "never do that for a major or minor tune" but you might for a dorian or mixolydian tune. That’s not a common convention—just your ad hoc idea.

Adding naturals to the key signature adds no information. A key sig of F sharp and C natural could still be any of the following: G maj, Em, Dmix, or Ador. You’d have to look at the melody to suss out what the tonal center was.

What would be more useful is a symbol on the key sig that identifies the tonal center—maybe a gunsight crosshairs. πŸ™‚ Put that on the line representing the pitch of the tonal center, and with the appropriate sharps and flats indicated in the key sig, all would be clear.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Gary—E.g, with a sharp at F and a natural at C, the tonic is still unclear. It could be G, E, D, or A. Even if you accept that it can’t be major or minor (whose rule is that?), it could still be either mix or dorian.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"Risto, go to the sctls link in my first post at the top of this thread and you’ll get two tables with all this lined up neatly in columns. No need to try to post it here."

Ok, I wasn’t aware of that link and page, but you are right it’s all there, neat and tidy.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Some people fail to appreciate the relationship between the relative modes. They’d think of CPT’s example of Gmaj, Emin, Dmix, Ador as being unrelated scales which just annoyingly happen to have the same key signature, making the sheetmusic confusing.

On the other hand, backers who are familiar with the music and know their chord scales would be aware that in all 4 cases, you’re using the same chord set for each mode, only each chord functions differently and relates to the others in the set differently depending on which of the 4 modes you’re in.

As for the example given at the top of the thread, whether you write Dmix into the key sig, or whether you make the key sig Dmaj and accidentalise all C notes as naturals, or whether you make up some new way of representing modes in the key sig like Gary’s method, it makes absolutely no difference to the fact that the tune is in Dmix. You can try as much as you like to make the tunes fit more with conventional key sigs used in classical music, but it’s not going to help you much in the end, and you might even screw up and make mistakes like O’Neill did trying to do the same thing.

If you don’t fully understand the theory and you want to, best just to learn about the modes until you do understand what’s going on. It’s not that difficult in the grand scheme of things.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Modal & it modulates.
The tunes’ C naturals are so much fun to play on D flute without keys.* & if you don’t get the half-holes right the 1st time you may find some forgiveness. In the next line you play straight up C#.
It’s a diatonic thing.

*the mechanical kind of keys.

ambiguous modality!

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Spot on, Dow. That’s the point, after all, of the key signature being one and the same for a variety of keys/modes—in the example of Gmaj, Em, Dmix, and Ador, they all use the same scale. But the relative position of the notes changes depending on what key/mode you’re in (what pitch is the tonal center or home note).

That’s why no naturals are needed in the key sig., and why they don’t add any information.

Of course, the salient point as far as playing this music goes is that knowing a tune’s key/mode let’s you know what notes and chords are most likely to fit in the tune. It helps for me as a fiddler to be able to tell a backer, "This one’s in Gdor." Assuming the backer understands keys/modes.

But knowing about keys/modes really isn’t necessary to play this music. Doesn’t hurt, and it comes in handy when you want to transcribe a tune. But otherwise, it’s just a bit of extra info.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

No, Will. The convention is that you would ONLY use a sharp on the F and a natural on the C for tunes in D mix. If the tonic is A you would also put a sharp or a natural on the G. If the tonic is E, you would put sharps or naturals on the G and the D in addition to the F and C. If the tonic is G, the C would have no symbol. If the transcriber is using the method correctly, they’ve correctly identified the tonic and put in (or left out) the natural signs as to communicate the tonic and the mode unambiguously.

The idea is that if you extend the customary notation by using something which apparently is redundant or irrelevant, you can use the presence or absence of that extension to convey additional information. Furthermore, in this case we can deduce the information that the transcriber is trying to convey (but only if we assume that the transcriber understands keys and modes).

Here’s more detail about how different key/mode combinations would be notated:

C Maj - Anat Enat Bnat
C Mix - Anat Enat Bflat
C Dor - Anat Eflat Bflat
C Min - Aflat Eflat Bflat

G Maj - Enat Bnat F#
G Mix - Enat Bnat Fnat
G Dor - Enat Bflat Fnat
G Min - Eflat Bflat Fnat

D Maj - Bnat F# C#
D Mix - Bnat F# Cnat
D Dor - Bnat Fnat Cnat
D Min - Bflat Fnat Cnat

A Maj - F# C# G#
A Mix - F# C# Gnat
A Dor - F# Cnat Gnat
A Min - Fnat Cnat Gnat

E Maj - F# C# G# D#
E Mix - F# C# G# Dnat
E Dor - F# C# Gnat Dnat
E Min - F# Cnat Gnat Dnat

If you delete those key/mode combinations that are extremely rare in Irish traditional music (E Maj, D Min, G Min, C Mix, C Dor, and C Min), the notation is streamlined (eg. all the Bs are natural in the three remaining D modes):

C Maj - none

G Maj - Bnat F#
G Mix - Bnat Fnat
G Dor - Bflat Fnat

D Maj - F# C#
D Mix - F# Cnat
D Dor - Fnat Cnat

A Maj - F# C# G#
A Mix - F# C# Gnat
A Dor - F# Cnat Gnat
A Min - Fnat Cnat Gnat

E Mix - F# C# G# Dnat
E Dor - F# C# Gnat Dnat
E Min - F# Cnat Gnat Dnat

None of these key signatures is used for more than one key/mode combination.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

LOL, Gary, I hope you’re not holding your breath for when such a redundant, unwarranted scheme becomes convention. God forbid anyone reading or writing music notation should know enough about music theory to read standard key signatures to deduce key and mode….

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Not to mention the fact that sometimes the mode is ambiguous anyway.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Right-o, Dow.

What’s really funny about Gary’s system is that Gmaj, Em, Ador, and Dmix would have different key signatures, yet the sharps and naturals would be identical. The only difference is that some naturals are explicitly marked as naturals while others remain "closet" naturals.

LOL, now I understand the reasoning behind "don’t ask, don’t tell." πŸ™‚

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

At last someone coming up with a fresh concept, idea , explanation, good on ya Gary, instead of everyone sprouting of about the modes (like no one knows about it already), an aspect of the science of music that most people with any education in improvisation and /or musicology would have been told about on the first day.
Interesting point by Ben about the Church music though, but on paper I would still say the mentioned tunes are true modal.
Still,judging by the response , a good thread Eno.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Heheh. But CB Slim, if everyone worth their salt already knows about modes, why do we need a new key signature system?

Besides, this thread was started by someone who had a question about modes. In fact, lots of people who play this music don’t have any education in improvisation and/or musicology.

The "fresh ideas" I like from this thread are (1) to simply write the key/mode on above the first bar, or (2) use a "tonal center" symbol in the key sig. When the key/mode are unambiguous. Both of these are a lot cleaner and simpler than Gary’s marking of naturals that are already presumed naturals since they aren’t sharps or flats….

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

For a given tonic, there are three notes (7th, 3rd, 6th) that change as you progress through the modes from Major to Minor. If those three notes come out of the closet as to whether they are sharp, natural or flat, one can read off the tonic simply by looking at which notes are out of the closet. (In E, F is sharp in all four common modes, so the F# has to join the 7th, 3rd, and 6th in the signature.) At a distance, the key signature in this extended sense will look like the usual key signature for the Major with the same tonic. A closer look at whether these three notes are sharp, natural or flat will tell you which mode it’s in. (Again, none of this works if the transcriber doesn’t know the tonic or the mode, either due to their own ignorance or the tune itself being ambiguous.)

I’m not saying this is a system that should be used, just that it is capable of unambiguously communicating the key and mode by a natural (pardon the pun) extension of the usual notation.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Dear Puddy. Gary’s system is class, designed for real musicians using the medium of the written note in my view.
I know I would take a very short time to adapt to these signatures. Also you remain using the ledger lines the area
for communication rather than additional text.
A lot like the principal of tablatures (that are a total waste of time in my view for players of fretted instruments. Good for kids, thats about it.) or ABC, which is a clever system no doubt,
for typed communication, but by the time you sift through and analyse, you would be better off just reading the notation.
Sight reading is according to most , based on immediate
recognition of key signatures clusters of notes, etc, so Gary’s system for me, would immediately fall into that concept.
I don’t like its chances of taking off in this site where anything brought up as "new concept " or a " how about this?" will be
usually shot down by the "great protectors of the tradition."
Ho Hum.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

LOL, I’m certainly not a "protector of the tradition," especially in terms of music notation. Nor am I one of the trad police. You can go ahead and lump me with a stereotype of other members of this site who you deem overly negative, but you’d be dead wrong.

And it won’t stop me from critiqueing an overwrought idea someone else posted on a such a public forum. Or is disagreeing with you and Gary not allowed?

Yes, Gary’s system would work, but it merely champions the obvious. Why not simply mark the tonal center as part of the key signature? Even as simple a mark as a circle on the line of the home note would identify the tonal center and so the key/mode without all those extraneous natural symbols indicating naturals (that are already naturals by benefit of not being marked as sharps or flats).

Cluttering up the key sig with naturalized naturals isn’t the best way—or even a good way—of indicating modality.

(Amazing us musicians have gotten along fine so many centuries without naturals in the key sig…..)

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Nice one, Dow. Modes are definitely ambiguous a lot of the time. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to play certain tunes in several different positions on a diatonic harmonica. I can do Cronin’s in first position on a G harp or first-flat on a D harp. So is it Ionian mode or Lydian mode? OK, I admit to one small tweak… Likewise, the tune to Dirty Old Town is playable in three different positions. Now as it’s a tune without accidentals in any of those three scales, it’s a modal tune, right? But which mode? Or can pentatonic tunes not be assigned modes? And if not, why not? Same with Amazing Grace. Loads of polkas can be played in more than one position. Andy Irvine plays the first and third tunes from the Newmarket Polkas set in first position on an A harp but when I play that set I use a D harp. OK, one little bend in the first tune I admit, but not in the third! And Blarney Pilgrim. A lot of it seems to come down to what notes are "missing" from the scale in particular tunes. I could go on…and on…

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I like the circle idea too! It fits in with my rantings in the previous post. I read the natural symbols not to be stating the obvious but to represent that the actual key was something other than the given, which was stated by Gary. A means of identification rather than a literal musical instruction.
Having said that Puddy, I like the circle, that is class as well.
Well done. And a revolution in the communication of modes
may have come to fruition out of our friction, and my willingness to shovel you into that great pile of stereotypes that exist in the barren, bitter tundra of my mind.
You were a bit rude to Gary though , at the same time, old fruit!
Nothing but best wishes ,Slim!

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Sorry, that should’ve read " the barren Tundra of my bitter mind"

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Shouldn’t that be The Burren tundra, CB? πŸ˜‰

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Nice ambience Ian.
I’m now waiting ….

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

For those who may be interested, here are a very few basic points about Gregorian chant (an otherwise extremely complex discipline):
There are 8 modes, each of which is a diatonic scale with its own particular arrangement of whole tones and semitones.
The beginning of a chant melody will have a number from 1 to 8 which indicates its mode.
The β€œtonic” is the note with which a mode ends or comes to rest.
The β€œdominant” is the note which serves as a centre of attraction round which the melodies tend to revolve. Depending on the mode, the dominant may be 3, 4 5 or 6 notes above the tonic.
At least as important as the scale structure for defining the mode are the melodic formulas for fixing the character of a mode. The distinctive character of each mode is best learned by singing and listening to characteristic intervals, introductory formulas, typical motifs and cadences – if you think about it, the learning of Irish music is similar to these general ideas.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I also like the circle idea. My defense of "my" idea was not that it is efficient, but that is sufficient.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Interesting comparison there, lazyhound. I think the way I sense if a tune is modal (by which I mean mixolydian or dorian, before anyone jumps on me πŸ™‚ ) is by sensing distinctive intervals. They seem to ‘stick out’ musically to me - I’ve often found myself describing tunes as sounding Dorian even when I haven’t worked out the resolving tonic.

I suspect this is what backers who are familiar with ITM are doing when they pick their chord accompaniment, whether it is conscious or subconscious.

There may be another subtle point here. I’ve sometimes noticed people playing versions of tunes which have vital ingredients missing - they sound colourless (if I can mix the senses). I wonder if this is due to reading sheet music and ‘correcting’ these modal nuances back to familiar major keys, without realising that there was a mode change implied.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

What underlies most of this thread is the acknowledgment that music notation is (in comparison to playing music) an inelegant way of trying to document the beauty and nuances of music. Some music transcribers have disfigured trad tunes by making them conform to non-trad conventions and sensibilities. The same thing happens when we try to use the english alphabet to write Lakota Soiux or Blackfeet languages—much is lost in translation.

Which is why standard key signature notation is "sufficient" without Gary’s (or anyone else’s) refinements. Figuring out the mode requires you to ***listen*** for the tonal center. The day sheet music represents every iota of a piece of music is the day that too many people (more than already do) will mistake the dots for real music and forget to ***listen.***

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Here we go again

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Nah. I’m not slamming sheet music. I use it myself. Honest, some of my best friends are dots…. πŸ™‚

Seriously, I was just agreeing with Eno above.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

What about the fact that a lot of the tunes (most of them?) have gapped scales anyway, and so could really be said to be modal anyway, in the strictest sense of the word? How would Gary’s system cope with that? Would you start crossing out the (already-closeted) natural signs? Would you add little code numbers to the key sig?

"I don’t like its chances of taking off in this site where anything brought up as "new concept " or a " how about this?" will be
usually shot down by the "great protectors of the tradition."
Ho Hum."

That’s strange. I was under the impression we were having a discussion, which, surprisingly, looked for a while as though nobody was going to bring it down to the level of a 5-year-old. Oh well. Ho hum.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yeah, I thought we were having a discussion too. Seems like chuneboi has a chip on his shoulder.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Oops my post doesn’t make sense. I meant that [gapped scales] COULDN’T.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yes, but. Even tunes with gapped scales often lean toward one key/mode or the other. In Irish trad, a player might insert one of the "missing" notes as part of a variation, and so impose a sense of mode on the tune. But if that choice is informed by immersion (listening) in the tradition, then it’s likely to sound appropriate to a majority of other trad players. And in that case, the tune—with or without the gaps filled in—could be assigned a key/mode.

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’m thinking specifically of a tune like Rolling in the Barrel, where Gary and I touched on some of these same issue in the comments: https://thesession.org/tunes/500

A case could be made for C nats (Em) or C sharps (Edor), even though the tune can be played without any Cs at all.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Point taken re implied modes, Will, but not sure about this bit:

"But if that choice is informed by immersion (listening) in the tradition, then it’s likely to sound appropriate to a majority of other trad players."

Point taken re implied modes, Will, but I don’t think that necessarily follows with such diversity in the trad. A variation that sounds cool to one person might sound like crap to another person, even if both people have been immersed in the tradition.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

BTW I notice you say "majority", but music is a personal thing in the end, and with such diversity in the tradition, the concept of "majority" becomes kind of meaningless. We can’t even make a "majority" decision on what the tradition is, let alone whether Rolling In The Barrell should have C#s or nats πŸ™‚

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Hey Dow. Grabbing my posted statements as individual quotes and putting you’re comments at the end of them is not
exactly the act of a big man either.
And as far as Cheshire , yes I have chips on both shoulders
about the trad scene as it exists on this site as an instrument
for boring old sh*ts to sprout off cliches about listening and the tradition.
I suppose what I’m going on about is reading Gary’s bio, the guy’s been playing piano for forty years ,is more than likely a great player, done heaps of gigging etc. and he brings up some pretty good ideas (and I seem to recall many years ago seeing a piece of classical guitar music done in that style), only to be dismissed. Any way I don’t care that much.
This thread is really becoming harmony for 5 year olds any way.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Great player? Not even in my dreams. Not much gigging (been paid for sitting in on other people’s gigs three or four times).

Probably the best part about the notation I’ve been describing is that if you ignore the extra natural signs, it tells you exactly the same thing the usual notation tells you. So the optional extra information is there just for those who care to look for it. Of course the same is true for Will’s circle idea or writing the tonic and/or mode on the top of the page.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

It’s an interesting idea. I’m sure I’ve seen modal key sigs written like that before somewhere, but I can’t remember where. I just think it would be really cumbersome having e.g. 3 nat signs in an Emin key sig - it just seems a bit excessive. Most people have problems enough just working out how many sharps or flats they should be transcribing in, let alone what mode a tune’s in - hence the large no. of tunes in the database transcribed as e.g. Gmaj instead of Dmix, simply b/c the transcriber knows how to write the basic abc but hasn’t got a handle on the mode thing.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

The only way to get the tunes sorted properly is to have a knowledgeable person editing the submissions and making corrections, and even then the ambiguous ones will lead to disagreements. I think having such an editor (probably a pipe dream at this point) would make the tune database much more useful.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yep, my notion of "majority" agreement on mode is probably just wishful thinking based on personal, anecdotal experience. E.g., in my experience, most people I’ve played Rolling in the Barrel with tend to interpret it as Edor rather than Em, but with a few C nats, "as needed."

Can I retract my opinion? πŸ™‚

Of course, a written setting of a tune is just that—one setting out of hundreds of possible settings. Not necessarily the "most widely accepted" setting.

So if we’re talking about just making the mode clearer for any given piece of written music, then we’d likely see the same mistakes made by people who don’t understand modes anyway, regardless of extra naturals or circles in the key signature.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

P.S. Jeremy does sometimes correct the key/mode field in tune submissions. And some of us here occasionally try to catch mistakes in submitted abcs, warning the contributer and suggesting a correction, before they become cemented into sheet music. It’s a bit haphazard though.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

So anyway, yeah, good on ya Will for admitting your over-generalisation on the "majority" issue. I do respect the fact that Gary has shared that key sig idea with us, as I’m sure you do too, Will. Whether we agree with it in principle or not, it’s good to throw these ideas out for an airing on forums like this. I for one value them as contributions. We’re lucky still to have some people who can (and are willing to) participate in discussions about things like the technical aspects of harmony etc.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Agreed. Yes, if Gary hadn’t posted the idea here, I would never have gotten to tear into it with both fangs bared. Meow. πŸ™‚

And it spurred me to come up with the tonal center circle idea, which I might actually use with my fiddle students….

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Mark - I think I’ve seen the key signatures with naturals in music for the Great Highland Bagpipes?

I know I’ve seen it several times, in the same way I’ve seen tunes with every single instance of a particular note naturalised.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

OK, I’ve said from the beginning that theory isn’t my strong suit, but I really want to understand this…

I’m seeing some people say things that imply that tunes in a certain mode can be ambiguous in key.

What l’ve been taught about modes is that they are based on standard scales but with start/end notes shifted, such that the pattern of intervals between the notes change.

But that seems to imply that a mode will always relate back to a particular key. It really blows my mind that the key can be ambiguous. I’ve looked at my old theory books and they don’t offer much more information than the above.

Is it that modes are clear as to key as long as they stick to the scale, but can become ambiguous once a few accidentals are thrown in? That I can understand.

Or is it that you can only decern the key if enough of the notes of that scale are used? That I can understand too; if you shift the notes of a scale to a different tonic and then use only certain of those notes in a tune, that could overlap with another scale.

Or am I just missing something? I’m honestly just trying to understand here.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Screetch,

Your last two postulations are correct.

A mode is clear if you stick to the scale; it’s the accidentals which cause uncertainty. And if a particular note is never played, it can be harder to work out what’s what. Then there’s the fact that playing different chords as accompaniment changes the sound of a tune completely. It’s the backer that determines the final product…

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I think we were saying that sometimes a key can be ambiguous in mode, not that a mode can be ambiguous in key, unless it’s a gapped scale of course, in which case it isn’t a mode strictly speaking, although it can imply one.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

But sometimes the key is hard to determine (maybe not ambiguous, but not obvious). Im thinking particularly of tunes that are very circular - where it doesn’t resolve harmonically in the last measure, but instead has a phrase that leads back into the beginning. And I think I’ve seen an example or two where that beginning isn’t in the home key either.

One that’s got me confused right now (maybe because the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet) is Paddy Canny’s version of Sean Sa Ceo. Aside from the Fs shifting around fluidly between natural and sharp. I’m thinking maybe it shifts between G Dorian and G Major, but it doesn’t start or end with a G chord of any kind that I can discern.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I think the problem lies with the very specific definitions of the words: key, mode, root, resolve and modulate.

The music that these words were invented for is harmonically very much more complex than diddley music and to try to shoehorn these definitions into our simple tunes is often, at best, overly complicating things and, at worst, introducing suggestions for harmony that were never intended.

I understand that from a strummer’s viewpoint, You need to know where stuff like tonal centres lie. But you must be careful that you "keep" the confusion of many tunes. One person could say that such and such a tune does not resolve, and another person could say that the same tune actually modulates. But in truth, the tune may actually be deliberately spanning the two. Such tunes demand a "less is more" approach from strummers.

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Exactly. Really the only reason to get so nit picky about keys/modes for these tunes is to write them down as accurately as possible. ***Playing*** them requires a much more flexible sense of tonal center, mode, etc.

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I have been reading this thread on & off. Like many of these discussions once they get tightly wound some good answers get lost in the shuffle.
There are a number of good players who would rather not discuss musical theory as it relates to traditional music. That’s a pity because it often is not so complex. Yes, it can be.
Also, modern western classical training in music theory tends to breeze over Dorian & Mixolydian modes.
Those modes are used by classical composers who often have borrowed them from traditional music. As do some rock & jazz composers.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

IMO it is not very often when you can confuse the key within the group of same amount of sharps, say Cmaj, Ddor, Gmix, Am, that is if you are playing the tune, not just looking the paper. You can hardly confuse a Cmaj tune with a Ddorian tune or Gmix tune. Maybe someone could confuse a Cmaj tune with Am but with experience, no.

The confusion usually occures when you have a difference of just one sharp, say, Am or is it perhaps Ador, or say, Gmaj or is it Gmix. In the Am/Ador case, only the 6th of the scale (F#) differs but then, if the notation has the corrent amount of sharps or the 6th note is present in the tune you can make the difference.

And lastly, if you can not determine a rock solid mode for a tune, then don’t, because there isn’t just one.

No additional systems are reguired IMO.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I disagree, Risto. I think it’s quite common to have ambiguity between different modes of the same key, like Cmaj and Amin. Check this tune out for an example https://thesession.org/tunes/803.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

> I disagree…
Check this tune out for an example https://thesession.org/tunes/803.

Are you saying that that is a good example? The tonic is A, no doubt of that. It falls in the category of the 1 sharp difference as I said above. The mode is either Am or Ador but as there is no 6th (F or F# present you can not determine a rock solid mode for it.


The reason the C chord can be used as the first degree chord instead of Am is because it has some "tonical characteristics" (III degree) in the Amin and Ador scales and can be used instead of it but that does not make it a Cmaj tune.

I for one would use a great deal of Amin and FMaj chords for that tune.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

FMaj7 meant to say

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

A nice tune btw, I might even learn it the other day. With a first quick test a nice accompaniment can be built on Amin, FMaj7, G6. For variation Cmaj instead of Amin.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"The tonic is A, no doubt of that."

Well, there may not be a doubt in your mind, but you have to accept that others (like me) might disagree. That’s the ambiguity.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

>" That’s the ambiguity"

Oh, is it? I’m very dissapointed to see that you just couldn’t let this be.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Oh god, not another one.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Dow, I too am disappointed that you could’nt simply agree with Risto and quit bringing up this Amber Guity, whoever she is. I don’t even see what Amber has to do with this discussion….

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Ambiguity isn’t a person. It’s a word. Are you stupid or something?

[Allows light-hearted humorous comment to sail completely over head in true po-faced "session.org" style]

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Dow I get what you are saying.
Even though someone might assume the tonic to be A I don’t think it has to be on this tune. It really depends on how you play the resolve. And if you add backing chords it depends on the choice of chords. There is nothing wrong with modal music being ambiguous. As long as it doesn’t all happen while people are playing together.
I am curious about which note you might play as the tonic.
Cheers!

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Duh, Dow…read my screen name. I’m not "stupid," as you so self-righteously claim. Right there in bright bile-colored orange it plainly states that I am Cheshire. Cop on, eh?

[Escalating the argument rather than admit a misunderstanding over the terms of disucssion. The standards of civility here are thus upheld.]

πŸ™‚ [smiley emoticon allows perp to get away with anything.]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Could someone please explain to this thickie what the expression "cop on", used above and at least twice by Jeremy (as the variant "cop yourself on") when privately bollocking me, actually means. The OCD is no help.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

It’s slang for "get some common sense." In other words, don’t be an eejit. Be reasonable. Get an effin clue.

Mostly Irish in usage.

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

So, are you saying that Jeremy insulted me?? (insert mock shock emoticon). And did you learn it from him, tat?

"Get a grip" sort of thang??

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yep Steve, it’s usually tossed out in a patronizing way.

Not sure where I first learned it—maybe from my Dad, who retained a few choice terms from his Irish (Co. Roscommon) father.

I don’t recall Jeremey ever telling me to cop on. More often, when communicating his frustration with me, he just goes straight to f*** πŸ™‚

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Ahh, there ought to be a nice, feisty reel called Cop Yourself On….

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Cheshire I think what Steve wants someone to say is that your approach to Dow is ‘ironic’.
You think he (Dow) is not catching on & he thinks you don’t get it ~ ad infinitum.
Your humor may wrongly be interpreted as self-righteous.
But I don’t always get it myself.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I tried to cop a feel once and all I got was a restraining order.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Now that is funny.
Very creepy though ~ if it’s true.

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Actually Tonya, Dow and I were having a go at Risto (and the too-often schoolyard tone of the yella board in general), not at each other. Sorry—bit of an inside joke there between Dow and I (we’ve e-known each other way too long). Steve got that because he understands the backhistory between some of us long-time inmates—er, members—here. But I think he really did want to know what "cop on" means.

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Thank you ~
yours truly,
Chopped Liver

Posted by .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I think you mean "between Dow and **me**", Cheshire. Learn some grammar. Duh.

[Runs out of insults and so resorts to nitpicking incorrect spelling and grammar in order to mock oppponent]

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

It’s called "hypercorrection", Will. Read Labov, William. 1966. "Hypercorrection by the Lower Middle Class as a Factor in Linguistic Change". In Sociolinguistics: Proceedings of the UCLA Sociolinguistics Conference, 1964. William Bright, ed. Pp. 84-113. The Hague: Mouton.

[shows off knowledge by using specialist jargon and then backs it up by name-dropping and/or cut & pasting something off another website like Wikipedia or some online dictionary (see threads on the meaning of "performance".]

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Ouch. You’re correct, Dow. I should know better.

[Bows out so uncharacteriscally gracefully that opponent can only take it as an insidious ploy to make oppopnent look nitpicky and pedantic in the eyes of lurkers.]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Awwww, don’t take it personally Tonya. I for one would never expect anyone else to get the sick, twisted gibberish that passes as humour amongst friends here…..

πŸ™‚

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I know everyone always thinks you’re right Cheshire as "the one and only true upholder of the tradition", but sometimes - just sometimes - you’re wrong, even though everyone has this blind reverence for you and you’ve been on this website since the dawn of time. I think you should cop on and get over yourself.

[Triple-pronged attack here: simultaneously presents self as the picked-on newbie and oponent as the bully in a schoolyard scenario where kids in the lower year groups are bullied by older kids who have been at the school for longer (everyone likes to support the underdog in these scenarios). Secondly, makes dig at a oponnent’s perceived online image as a boring stick-in-the-mud. Thirdly, uses sarcastic remarks such as "get over yourself" in order to be insulting and patronising without risking breaking the "be civil" rule by resorting to direct name-calling.]

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Well, someone’s knickers are in a twist. People are starving in Gazimbhana, and you throw a hissy fit over modes?! Take a chill, my friend, go make love to your s.o., or add a little more Stoli to your porridge in the morning, eh? I’m just having a larf, a little light-hearted gab.

Geesh, and to think I skipped tonight’s house ceili with Frankie, Matt, Jackie, Tommy, and the lads for this. They’ll be missing me, for certain….


[Abruptly pretends he is above the fray, merely having a spot of good-natured repartee, and the obviously mean-spirited troll took it the wrong way. Ensures on-lurkers will know who to side with by dropping big names in a casual reference.]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

[Also wins points by keeping his subtitles shorter than the on-screen action. πŸ˜› ]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

ROFLMAO! It’s sad state of affairs when you can actually tell which people have inspired each particular part of your post, Will πŸ™‚

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

yawn

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

That’s a clever one too, chuneboi, and zzzzzZZZZZzzzzzzZZZZZzzzzz is commonly used by the dickheads too.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Hah—trying to change the subject won’t save you my sniveling little darling. I still have space in my freezer (sound of meat cleaver on a sharpening steel in background) and I’m not afraid to fill it….

[Previous abrupt shift in tactics reveals prismatic personality disorder and allows beautiful but evil, Montana-dwelling "T" persona to emerge. All bets are off.]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Looks like someone is up past his bedtime….

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

He was probably jolted awake when he recognised himself.

*smirk*

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

*Snort!*

[Zeen’s ears are burning. 😎 ]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

For anyone who doesn’t know, Zina, or "Zeens", as we call her, is this really nice person who used to be on this website all the time but has since left because nowadays on this forum there are too many…

I can’t say it again, Will, can I? πŸ™‚

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

What? Cranial Richards? Cephalo-phallics? Talliewhacker Brains?

Go ahead. No one’s reading this but you, me, and slim anyway.

Then again, you’ve got deniability as it now stands….

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Oh for goodness sake, let’s get back to talking about the music. Will, did you see the match?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Match?

I saw the Rockies beat the D’backs again, 4-1. So they’re ahead 3 games to none in a best of 7 series. Looks like JNE will be shipping Pete a new set of banjo strings. Or was it a bottle of Red Breast?

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

BTW, we played a ceili last night, and our guitar strummer had been out of action for over two weeks. She sounded terrifi, as usual, but was just a tad rusty on one or two tunes. Like, on Silver Spear, I had no idea that it’s in C flat mixolydian!

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

er, that’s "terrific" not to be confused with "terrified."

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

That’s enough talking about sport now. Now we look like men about town, the sort you’d go down the pub with to watch the footie and have a drink and a laugh with. We’re so macho we watch matches. Now everyone will be on our side, Will. Don’t you love it?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

It’s fab, Dow. Totally fab.

So now what? Arm wrestling? Truck torque? Sheath knives? Power tools?

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yeah, music’s for wimps and people with a bisexual playboy lifestyle and harbour views. If I’m gonna talk about music, I want it to be as an *aside* to a discussion about my power tools.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Work?! Who gives a toss about work? This is about masculinity!

[Faux umbrage sans emoticons cloaks the poster in full deniability.]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

[Don’t ya just love a long dose of suspense….. 😎 ]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Will and Dow, Congrats on one of the funniest exchanges I have read here in quite some time!
[Without any pretext, offers a complement, simply wanting to be nice and let someone know they provided him some light-hearted amusement!]

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Heh, it was even funnier beforeJeremy edited our man slim out of the script….

[unable to resist one more poke, the tat risks falling out of the tree]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I am so sick and tired of all the pedantic bickering on this god-forsaken website. Everybody finds their own little way around Jeremy’s prime directive with thinly veiled incivility, but veiled enough to allow the poster to point back and say "I did nothing wrong!". Well I, for one, have had it! Farewell and God bless!

[Mock indignation, with an empty threat to leave forever, hoping that it somehow makes the post carry more weight. Only to return with more garbage posts within just a few hours]

P.S. I have to second AlBrown’s sentiments… I was dying of laughter re-reading this thread that I started ignoring about 4 or 5 days ago… πŸ˜‰

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Good riddance ya banjo-blasting sod!

[Dear lord, have we forever doomed ourselves to this dual form of posting? Unable to utter a melody without adding a dissonant harmony underneath? Egads!]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Did anyone notice how many different spellings of the word "opponent" we had during the course of the thread? It doesn’t take much to keep me amused these days.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

[The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.]

Posted .

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I feel out of place. But I have been encouraged to jump in.
I’ll be brief. There was a question regarding the tonic of a particular tune being ambiguous ‘I Ne’er Shall Wean Her’
Dow I was wondering what you might choose as the tonic for this jig?
I have been informed you may be willing to pontificate on the matter.
Cheers!

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I would personally choose C, but (and it’s important to me that I’m not misunderstood on this) I acknowledge that there are other possibilities.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Now you’ve really lost me, Mark.

It’s got to be A hasn’t it, or are you just pulling my plonker (as they say in the vernacular)?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’d put a few Am chords in there if I was backing it, but for me, the tonic is C.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Another tune that’s ambiguous in a similar way is the Geese In The Bog https://thesession.org/tunes/43. I’d say that’s basically in Cmaj too, regardless of what happens at the endings of each part.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

An example of a jig I *would* say was in A minor is John Brady’s McIntyre’s Fancy (in its original key) https://thesession.org/tunes/819. That doesn’t have any Fs or F#s in either, but I had to say it was one or the other - Amin or Cmaj, I’d choose Amin for that one.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I mean *if* I had to say it was one or the other - sorry typo

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I just thought of another tune I’d say was in Cmaj even though it has part endings that make it look Amin: the Short Grass https://thesession.org/tunes/3058

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Here’s another ambiguous one with part endings that look as though it should be Ddor, but again, I think the tonic is basically C: the Rooms of Dooagh https://thesession.org/tunes/2277

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’d play a G chord over those part endings, by the way, even though the "shape" of them is a Dm chord.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Also check out the Kinnegad Slashers https://thesession.org/tunes/1258. Same type of tune as the Short Grass and Rooms of Dooagh, only this time the part endings bring you back to the tonic instead of going into a turnaround. You’d need to transpose it a tone down to compare directly.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"I found a version on here in C with an Am ending"

A lot of backers would play a chord of F over the part endings to bring you back round into Cmaj again.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Wow! I could only see it clockwise for ages and after a few minutes I managed to see it anti-clockwise but then it lapses back into clockwise fairly quickly.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

What a great observation there, David: that your perception of tunes and the way you "hear" their implied harmonies can change from day to day or from moment to moment, often depending on which recordings you’ve been exposed to etc. That’s exactly what I’ve been getting at with this whole "ambiguous" thing. Fascinating stuff…

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I see what you’re saying, and I can see it’s a bit tongue in cheek from the smiley, but just to take you up on that as a point of discussion: why stop at accompaniment in that case? Isn’t any melody player’s interpretation of the tune that’s different from your own interpretation being "forced" on you in some sense, unless of course it’s a CD and you can easily turn it off? I enjoy accompaniment for the same reason as I enjoy the melodies. Listening to the way other people interpret the tune - whether that be the melodic variations or implied harmonies through double stops, regulators, guitar chords or whatever - I see it all as the same thing: just another person’s or other people’s interpretation to listen to, and I enjoy for what it is.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Thanks Dow I see where you say the tonic is C.
The mode might then be Ionian. You can leave the F# out & it remains ambiguous … or it could be Lydian mode.
I’m not trying to pin it down. But I always thought of Irish music as using 4 modes; Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, & Aeolian. Maybe I should include Lydian.
Anyway I like what you are saying about ambiguity.
Cheers!

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Rooms of Dooagh is a great tune, and I love playing around with it’s modality, sometimes playing C sharps at the turns bu resolving to C major.

Good wrap on the thread, Mark (and good on you, Tonya, for sticking with it). πŸ™‚

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"Another tune that’s ambiguous in a similar way is the Geese In The Bog https://thesession.org/tunes/43. I’d say that’s basically in Cmaj too, regardless of what happens at the endings of each part."

It would be interesting to hear what the bag pipers would use as the drone for this tune. To me the tonic is A at least in most of the parts, I didn’t go through all the parts. In my ears C as a drone doesn’t sound so good but goes occasionally. To me the tune itself is minorish when listened it without disturbing it with chords.

What chords can be used in a tune is a different thing than what the tonic is. I’d say the tonic is A and the tune could be strummed through with Am and near the ending of most of the parts is a quick place for Emaj, the V degree of the Amin scale.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

One could notate in the key signature by putting a question mark on the C line. And of course you’d need one on the F line anyway.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

…is a quick place for Emaj, the V degree of the *Amaj* scale.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Risto, are we looking at the same tune? Emaj sounds horrible to my ears.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

OK I know I said ambiguity provides lots of possibilities, but sometimes backers stretch it a bit too far, y’know?

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"or it could be Lydian mode.
I’m not trying to pin it down. But I always thought of Irish music as using 4 modes; Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, & Aeolian. Maybe I should include Lydian."

No, it’s definitely not Lydian. Even if it had a couple of blatant F#s in that wouldn’t necessarily make it Lydian. For a tune to be a true Lydian tune, it would have to have a strongly implied chord of D in there somewhere. You could make it Lydian but you’d have to rewrite it completely. A lot of major tunes contain a sharped 4th, especially flute tunes in G which contain C#s. These are simply passing notes, and do not make the tune Lydian. I can’t think of any backer in Irish trad music today who would regularly use A major chords instead of C major to back these G tunes, just because there are a couple of C# passing notes in the melody.

Of course there are exceptions. Off the top of my head, the B-part of Ed Reavy’s Letterkenny Blacksmith, where an A major chord is outlined so strongly in the melody of the basically G major tune, that it *has* to make it G Lydian, even if it’s only temporarily.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I meant for *this* tune to be a true lydian tune

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Link to Letterkenny Blacksmith is here: https://thesession.org/tunes/4743

There are also a few examples in the Scottish tradition. Again, off the top of my head, the Bob Of Fettercairn https://thesession.org/tunes/5873 which I posted a while ago. Again, those C#s aren’t just passing notes, they’re actually outlining an A major chord really strongly, so you have to play a lydian progression if you’re backing it.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Another example I came across a while back whilst browsing was an interesting tune posted by david a, the Old Cameronian https://thesession.org/tunes/1896, which is in F lydian, which sounds a bit scary but, as david a says in the comments section, it’s just the same as playing "back-to-front" Gmix, or you could also think of it like playing in Ddor but with F chords instead of D minor. David also comments that the tune was a favourite of Ed Reavy’s, which is interesting considering my previous comment on the Letterkenny Blacksmith. Clearly Reavy liked the unusual sound of the lydian mode.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Hey, Dow, don’t forget the "B" part of the North Umbrian tune, Peacock Follow the Hen. Lydian as all hell.
("Lydian, oh, Lydian, Have you seen my Lydian? Lydian the Tattoo’ed Lady")

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Yeah, the version I play is like that in the B-part, but some settings don’t have that #. Much better tune with the # though πŸ™‚

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"Risto, are we looking at the same tune? Emaj sounds horrible to my ears"

I was merely referring to the V -> I release. The Emaj has a quick place only on the last beat just before returning to the A root (the tonic) to emphasize the release. Not anywhere else.

For chords, this being in Am you can again use the I-IV-V (Am-Dm-Em) 3 chord trick with C substitution for the I st degree on places. Little more color for the subdominant with Fmaj7 (which is the same as Dm9/F) and G6 (same as Em/G) for the V chord.

Definitively A root for this tune in most parts.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I’m sorry, you’re wrong to say that it’s "definitively" A. Just because it sounds good to your ear doesn’t mean it sounds good to everyone else’s. To say that your way is definitively the right way is incredibly arrogant.

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Many of the disputes over the tonal center(s) comes from the fact that we are assumed to give tunes a one and only tonal center while the tune in fact has several, changing in parts or places.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Now we’re getting somewhere.

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And you for one should understand how ambigious the word "definitively" is.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

"Now we’re getting somewhere"

Already in my first post I stressed not to categorize a tune to a specific mode if it in fact has several.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Besides, you seem to need this leeway to get over this showing here as a trad guru and pro. I’m done with this thread.

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Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Risto, "definitively" means "conclusively" or "authoritatively".

And re: trad guru and pro - you’re the one who’s trying to be authoritative here, not me. I’ve just been pointing out the ambiguity of the tune all along. If you remember, I said, and I quote:

"I would personally choose C, but (and it’s important to me that I’m not misunderstood on this) I acknowledge that there are other possibilities."

In true thesession.org style, you have misunderstood me, and are trying to paint me as a wannabe trad guru. I’ve come to expect nothing more on this website these days. There’s only a handful of people left on this website who you can have a reasonable dicussion with, without accusations flying around and people stomping off in a huff. Oh well…

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

Thank god people like david a, namechanges and cuchulain54 are still around, otherwise I’d have lost faith in the place completely. (Thanks for the interesting discussion lads)

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

I rest my case

Re: Key signatures for modal tunes

what a great thread, i thoroughly enjoyed that. laugh a Minuit.