Modes Handout/Worksheet

Modes Handout/Worksheet

I am posting a link to a one-page handout I made for workshops I have taught. The participants have said they find it useful. It uses staff notation.

Noticing the different discussions that arise regarding modes/keys/key signatures/ambiguities, I’ll offer this in case it will be of use.

Is this helpful? Do you have questions? Suggestions? Complaints? Anything to add about the tunes that use more than one shade of a particular pitch? Observations about "language barrier" between trad and other idioms?

Rose Marie

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Is Hector the Hero typical of a tune in the major mode ? It is almost a gapped scale and Skinner’s manuscript (in 3 sharps) has the note "Suitable for pipes, piano violin" which, given the range, suggests that he thought it would work OK without the G#.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Good page, Rosie. Just one thing - I think you’d need to make ‘Flowers of Edinburgh’ in G instead of D, mainly because its highest note is B5 (and would be F#6 if in the key of D), so too high for most instruments.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

If ‘most instruments’ means most instruments playing the repertoire normally within the scope of this forum then I think there is an argument for preferring the approach normally taken in, say, tin whistle tutors. That is, keeping in the same diatonic scale but starting in different places - non-trad resources often do it with the ‘white notes’.

However, that may not be the context for that sheet and it certainly helped me to have it presented with the other approach when, say, thinking about song. (so I chose something else to play the awkward student over 😉)

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

"…I think there is an argument for preferring the approach normally taken in, say, tin whistle tutors. That is, keeping in the same diatonic scale but starting in different places…"

Actually, I think the story is only really complete with *both* approaches. It is important to understand the relationship between modes within a key signature, but also the relationship between different modes with the same tonal centre. Both types of change can happen when moving from tune to tune in a set, and also within tunes.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Orange (and green) Alert! yes, changes needed. I’ll remove file for now and remount a bit later.

• yes, right on hector! I play it in D and had a transposition in D in my class, but not here!
• About the gapped scale, indeed on all counts. I would call this (almost) pentatonic (omitting scale degrees 4 and 7, which in A would be D and G#). And there are many tunes like this,"Loch Lomond" being another ex. I notice that such tunes vary, of course, in whether different players fill in those tones at some point, whether they pop up in the chords (usually, always?)—and how much.
• The way I theorize the gapped/pentatonic is that it would be a subset of major.
• I will look around for more on the details you mention, but if you have any leads on the gapped idea or it being distinct from the major I am also happy to hear.
• Ditto on the tin whistle tutor point. Is that why I hear people saying a tune is in, say, G major, when it is in A dorian? (I know some of the taxonomy in the software here may affect that too.) I should check that out too. In the end I would probably leave mine but maybe specify a bit more. (FWIW, some people I have worked with found that put off a lightbulb, and honestly, I think I would have a fir trying to say something is in G when the center is A. In any But it is good to know there is another rubric.)
• May I quote you on my next version?

• Indeed, again. Just a silly overweight (*bless you autocorrect) on my part. I always play.hear it in G.

@CreadurMawnOrganig: Indeed, that may be helpful to "translate" the transpositions." (I have seen great moments where a fiddler tells guitarist to chord for her in G but she’s in A dorian. Maybe this explains it.)

Would either/any of you be kind enough to point me to a page that has that approach? I;’ll look around on my own too.

Many thanks.

I guess I can no longer berate myself for being anal, with all these murks.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

I agree with Creadur. By the way, when I first heard about the seven modes (a long time ago…) I just played the scales up and down a couple of times (C, Ddor, Ephryg and so on) to get the "sound" of each one and that was it. It gave me enough tools to identify the mode on the spot, the most likely chords (should I ever back the tune) and so on.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

@ Rose Marie - this is the guy you might wan’t to quote Lots to read about gapped scales.

Jack Campin used to post here but he seems to have given up on us.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Great—I found some other stuff on gapped scales too.

What I have not found is the tin whistle method that @Creadur and @Jeff refer to. But I think I can give it a go, if I have the basic notion right, that this identifies the scale/mode by the corresponding major scale with the same pitches rather than by the tonic/home pitch. That is useful info anyway, because I find that throws many.

Also @jeff—I like to mess with how the center of gravity of each mode establishes itself—like, if you play through the modes that way, there has to be something encouraging the ear to hear the center—whether in the music or in the mind. Woooooo.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

I said tin whistle *tutors* (meaning books not people) because they don’t normally throw a table like that at the student. They are typically written for students who may not be interested in ‘theory’ and have a whistle (notionally or actually in D) hand.

They are primarily interested in a repertoire normally has a range of an octave and a sixth in one or two sharps. They are introduced to the Dorian and Mixolidian and Aolian modes within a chapter or two - not when the get to composition workshop.

The snag is that there are only a couple of direct comparisons of scales starting at the same home note and the huge repertoire using that small compass tends to use the different modes and keys in different ways - the home note is usually in different places within the range used by the tune. It also tends to readily use gapped scales producing changes that to some ears are just as marked as between the modes.

Add to that the Irish part of the repertoire where, as mentioned by gam on another thread, there may be a drone on something other than the home note. (gam - it’s OK, I know about my last post 😉)

So it’s a simple start but the repertoire takes it along a path that isn’t the one that Rose Marie’s page was aimed at - and where using Hector the Hero and Banish Misfortune as examples will raise eyebrows.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

David, yes, I got that you meant a written tutor. The bit I have seen *does* actually identify a few modes, as you say. CreadurMawnOrganig’s link is the only one I have seen that does it that rather technicolor way—but the info is helpful in terms of how some may go more by the pitch content than the order.

I’m not sure I follow the rest of what you said, David—but I will, like I said, revise and repost. If you feel like saying more, I will be delighted to hear.

The thing about moving toward a different center in part of a tune, as above: doesn’t mean there is no overall center. Is there something I am missing here? Or even if we were to disagree about that—thing is, hearing the center (at whatever moment) is the goal (in what I am offering, I mean). So that might be something for me to mention. Thing is, I’ve met many who have trouble with that and want input. Even though there are going to be counterexamples and caveats—which make it interesting.

I am not sure I follow about the raised eyebrows and if you want to fill me in a bit more I’ll be happy to hear. I;m not sure I get why these tunes would be controversial—unless you mean the alternate choices in the 7th scale degree and/or the absent notes in the gapped scale. Anyway, that can be pointed out.

Since I made this for a different circumstance, but then noticed frequent questions about modes, I will make one more pass and see if useful. In the process I realized using some of the more familiar tunes from here (not that those aren’t)—which already have keys indicated, might be more useful.

For example—I have found with some I have spoken to and questions here too that useful things to think about are these:
What is the difference between the D of Saint Anne’s Reel and the D of The Bay of Fundy? And then, what is the difference between the "G" of the Bay of Fundy and the G of The Banshee? That’d be sort of a first step. Maybe dulplicating some effort, but hey.)

In re: changing center within a tune: I wonder if you have ex. in mind you would like to mention? Ones I can think of are The Banshee, which moves from its very clear DM to an emphasis on something else (am, I would think) in second section, but returns home; and The Musical Priest, which goes from bm to DM but still lives on DM street. Are these the sorts of things you mean? Am I missing something?

And then the transgressive exx. — a special X-rated annex for the daring only. 🙂

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

I wasn’t meaning the centre changing within a tune, but suggesting that where a genre uses a limited set of notes the location of the ‘home’ note becomes very important to the character of the tune. To my ear G major and D major are very different because in one the melody can go a fourth below the home note and any drone is usually D . E dorian and E aeolian are often similar because the C or C# is often used little or not at all. A mixolydian rather than D mixolydian allows the flat seventh of tunes from many types of bagpipe.

With the voice or chromatic instrument, or an instrument with a range as long as your arm (both arms !) other things become important and so those comparatively less so.

The raised eyebrows was related to taking atypical tunes as examples. I think a tune that still ‘works’ when played using a pentatonic scale is an odd example of a major tune and one that ‘plays around’ with the C and C# is an odd example of anything other than that.

I like Jack Campin’s page because the examples allow me to get a feel for the way the modes and gapped scales sound.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

@David50: "To my ear G major and D major are very different because in one the melody can go a fourth below the home note and any drone is usually D ."

Yes, indeed—one of the most compelling parts of various trad musics (as opposed to more transposable chromatic idioms)

Ok, got it on the eyebrows.

Have you written a book on this? I would read it. 🙂

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

You’ve taken it down so I cant see the original. I understand why, from your posts above. However, why re-invent the wheel? I find the Wikipedia page fairly good, tbh. You could always just print out the little bit at the bottom that is to do with "Modern Modes":

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Indeed, Ben, good point.
Your link lacked the paren, so here is another go:

Actually, I was seeing a correspondence between the questions players ask of me (sometimes they were wanting to learn notation and found key signatures vexing, understandably), and some of the questions here—so if the Campin site is sufficient, that is great. As above, Earl’s page seems informative too. (I think either is more helpful than Wiki.)

There’ll be an app soon enough, if not already.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Oh! I’m sorry about the link, Rosmarie. It does that every now and then, but I usually notice. Thanks for fixing it. 🙂

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Here is a potentially useful page that I couldn’t find earlier At least I *think* it’s the descendant of one that used to be linked to frequently on this board.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Actually no, it goes on a bit, I think it was just the source of the section credited to the "Denver slow session folks" that was linked.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

I’ve just looked at Jack Campin’s site again. Haven’t looked at it for years. Horses for courses, I suppose. I used to really rate it. Then I found that it seemed to me to be too detailed, and to go into things in a way which I think was an attempt to be definitive. I now believe that it’s not possible to be definitive about many of these things, and that’s the reason I think that his site gets a bit too detailed for my taste.

But, there’s a lot of work in it, and it contains plenty, but PLENTY, of food for thought.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

I don’t know why it doesn’t work … ???

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

It’s something to do with the way the site recognises URLs. If there is a trick to get trailing brackets I can’t remember it. I had several goes and gave up.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Rosie, I licked your chart (but now it’s gone). Some of the ones on the web are quite good too, I reckon.

I have the big Mel Bay "Theory and Harmony Wall Chart" stuck up on a mount on the wall of the room when I play, and I think it’s pretty good. At-a-glance, little graphics of circle-of-fifths, scales, diatonic chords, inversions, and modes.

I liked this little bit of text which described what modes actually meant, and I found it quite useful :

The Ionian mode is nothing else but the major scale.

You obtain the Dorian mode by “starting a major scale from its second degree”. For example:

D Dorian D E F G A B C D is D Dorian and is a C major scale started from D (second degree of the C major scale)
E Dorian E F# G A B C# D is E Dorian and is a D major scale started from E (second degree of the D major scale)

Similarly, the scale:

A B C D E F# G A is A Dorian, and is a G major scale “started from the A”.
B C# D E F# G# A is B Dorian, and is a A major scale “started from the B”.

• The Ionian mode is the same as the major scale itself
• The Dorian mode is a major scale started from the second degree
• The Phrygian mode is a major scale started from the third degree
• The Lydian mode is a major scale started from the fourth degree
• The Mixolydian mode is a major scale started from the fifth degree
• The Aeolian mode is a major scale started from the sixth degree
• Finally, the Locrian mode is a major scale started from the seventh degree

Looking at the modes, you will notice that three of them are major (Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian) since their third is major, and four of them are minor (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian, Locrian) since their third is minor.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Haha, the elusive parenthesis!

@Jim: "Rosie, I licked your chart."
Now, really, young man! I just hope it tasted good. Or, I hope you won, depending on the connotation.

This is all really interesting. I come from the classical world and teach theory at university (including graduate) level. In re: all the ruffled feathers on *other* pages by *other* ducks—I don’t think that way of doing things is better by any stretch—*but* trad players I meet in my little niche often want this info. I think you all have given some good resources, and I’ll keep them on hand; that and your comments may help me to know a bit better where my comrades in rad trad are coming from. I;m sure these pages will be of use, and I’ll plan to adapt my own stuff as needed. Of course we are meeting together, so I bring my stuff. (My oft-mentioned duo-partner, who doesn’t really have any need for words or paper: it fascinates me how he will know when a even a new tune is, say, D man vs. D mix, and will play either an A chord or a C chord etc., even though he calls both D.)

You may know the wiki page quotes a famous (to academics) article on mode in the new grove/oxford online. For fun, here is an arcane bit. I apologize for the non-PC language—it’s from 1792.

**The earliest full-scale attempt to deal with a modal system in a living non-European musical culture was Sir
Jones observed further that ‘the Persians and the Hindoos (at least in their most popular system) have exactly eighty-four modes, though distinguished by different appellations and arranged in different classes’. As the last words imply, however, the number 84 is not necessarily obtained by multiplying the seven diatonic octave species by the 12 semitonal degrees of the total chromatic. That process may be seen as the theoretical basis of a Chinese system of 84 diao (see §5(i) below). The Iranian theoretical 84 was merely one of a number of Iranian and Arabic schemes, this one comprising the sum of ‘twelve makams or perdahs, [plus] twenty-four shobahs, and forty-eight gushas’, a scheme partly related to older Iranian and Arabic theories, and dimly reflected in present Iranian practice. The South Asian ‘most popular system’ is arrived at through the ‘families of the six rāgas … each of whom is … wedded to five rāginīs … and father of eight … sons’ (p.146), so that the South Asian 84 arises from six groups of 14 ‘modes’ each, each group of 14 comprising one rāga plus five rāginīs plus eight sons. But this too was only one of many such symmetrical classification schemes, by no means the most widespread, and it is the only one that adds up to 84.

Ok, that’s one for our next episode, and Jim;s next concerto?

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

@Rosie - sorry. Licking and liking. I always get those two mixed up 🙂 Can’t even blame auto-correct!

My next concerto will be fun. I promise. An Irish trad fiddle concerto.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Yep, for real. Not an easy task, but I’m up for the challenge.

Re: Modes Handout/Worksheet

Nice! Just sent you note about your earlier opus.