Some music theory help

Some music theory help

I’m soon to do a written music exam which includes a question on Irish traditional music. I keep coming across two terms that I’m afraid i don’t really understand, and googling is just confusing me more! Maybe someone here could help me with an explanation.
1. Flattened 7th - i keep seeing it as a characteristic of the music but how do i recognise it if listening to a tune??
2. Modal music - maybe exposing myself as hopelessly ignorant but please define!!

Thanks in advance…

Re: Some music theory help

1. Flattened 7th is a term I don’t care for but it refers to a Dominant 7th as apposed to a Major 7th (step of the the scale). If you know your major scales you lower the seventh step one semitone. I prefer to use ‘flatted’ for fifths (5th step) and ninths.
2. Modal music confuses me as well. The flavor is just a little different in trad music than what I’m used to. Modal music as a general term refers to the scale you use for the notes in the song. The system of theory goes back to Greek music theory from which the mode names are derived. There are seven modes for each note of the diatonic scale (basically the major scale). If this is what you want to understand I suggest you find a better source than what I wish to try to explain. It’s a pretty broad subject. Trad music is generally in one of four modes: Major (Ionian), Minor (Aeolian (lowered 3,6,7), Dorian (lowered 3,7), or Mixolodian (lowered 7). By lowered I mean relative to the major scale.
The thing that confuses me is that a lot of trad musicians refer to playing in G modal or D modal. I believe this is another term for Mixolodian. I always forget because I never use it.

Re: Some music theory help

You should find a better explanation of modes in a classical music text book and it might provide a more academic context. It’s not exclusively a traditional music thing.
I must admit I’ve never heard any melody player talk about G or D modal scales. It doesnt come into it. Daft guitarists think a modal chord doesn’t gave a third in it, like a power chord. Not modal.

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I agree with allan21. I find the term D modal intensely irritating when used to describe a "chord" lacking the third of the scale.

Re: Some music theory help

Further to the above … The way I understand Modes (possibly an amateurish way of approaching the subject) is to take the notes of a scale - say, C major - and play them up and down in sequence, but starting on different note each time. I.e., the first will be a common-or-garden C major. Next, it will start and end on D, then on E … and so on. Each iteration of the same notes gives a different flavour as the whole tone/semitone intervals will fall at different points each time. Each is a mode with its own name (I forget which is which, but someone here will know). Some of them will sound very strange, but a couple of them will be familiar if you’ve listened to a bit of traditional Irish (or English, or Scottish) music. Other cultures construct their scales differently so I guess that, world wide, there is a huge number of different modes - not just the ones we usually come across.

The ‘flattened 7th’ thing can be related to a mode, in that the scale described above starting on D, for instance, will include a C natural as the 7th note (not a C# as in a D major scale). Of course, if you stick to the straight C major scale and flatten the 7th note, you get the distinctive bit of the C7 chord (C, E, G, Bb) - generally used as a passing chord to lead on to an F major. The name is a bit confusing as a ‘true’ 7th is B natural, but if you use this you get ‘C Major 7th’ (C,E,G,B) - much used by jazz players.

Hope useful, as far as it goes.

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Re: Some music theory help

JWiseman: Assuming we are talking scales, modes, intervals, it’s simpler and more accurate to pair/oppose major 7th and minor 7th. ("Dominant" muddies the waters, since it comes from a *chord* typically built on the dominant which does indeed have a minor 7th span total, but in that case the 7th is the 4th of the scale. Probably not the scenario here.)

Beatles: that’s interesting about the "flattened 7th." I agree with JWiseman on the term; to me, it sounds like sonic roadkill. :-) Anyway, the question would be: flatted compared to what? So as Alpinerabbit notes, a tune like Banish Misfortune (like many others) is in D Mixolydian and uses C natural. If we compare this to D major, the C is "flatted" or lowered, but Mixolydian need not be compared to anything else. I would rather say D major has the major 7th, C#, and D Mixolydian has a minor 7th, or C natural. That’s letting each be itself. Perhaps the materials you have are referring to this though: a tune, scale, mode based on D where you "flat" or lower the C# to C natural.

As far as the term "mode" goes, it’s used in different ways, like so many other terms. It *can* be used to mean almost any collection of ordered notes, moving stepwise but sometimes skipping some of the steps, that forms the building blocks of music.

***Trigger Warning: mention of "classical music" is imminent.***

The terms "scale" and "mode" are often used as mutually exclusive, which comes more from the classical music tradition, where major and minor "won" and colonized most of the repertoire. But they needn’t be opposed. There are various modes, of which minor and major are two. So in that realm, the real-life use of "modal" tends to mean something that (1) is not major or minor (some caveats apply here in terms of different ways "minor" is used) and (2) is reminiscent of older music (say, 1610!).

There is no reason we can’t say a tune in major is in a mode. That would be the Ionian mode. But because major is so common we tend to say major.

JWiseman mentioned some of the modes, and Sally’s link has even more.

Have you tried some playing/listening exercises? that could make this more enjoyable and enlightening.

—An easy one would be simply playing through the scales/modes.
—Or playing tunes in two modes, but the same center, next to each other: like one in D major and then one in D Mixolydian. Then you can get the feel of the different patterns, in addition to just memorizing the names.
—If you have access to a piano (or an app or something): if you start on any white note and stick to the white notes, you will have a mode (some more commonly used than others). There are some interesting nuances to how to make a mode "sound like itself." But in any case it gives an idea.

Re: Some music theory help

allan21 and Donald K: I feel your pain. Guitarist at my session calls a chord w/o a 3rd "A ambiguous." Two extra syllables, but paradoxically more precise. :-)

Re: Some music theory help

An addendum … Listen to the tune to ‘The Little Beggarman’: it’s usually played in A, but has a very distinctive recurring G note in the melody, esp. at the start of the second part. That’s because of the mode. If you’re playing a chordal accomp. you’d use a G major chord there, rather than an A7.

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Re: Some music theory help

I second the suggestion to look at Jack Campin’s page linked above. It is practical, rather than (just) academic.

Re: Some music theory help

In terms of trad music, I find it easiest to think of Ionian (true major) and Mixolydian (with minor 7th) as being "major", since they both contain the major 3rd of the scale, and Aeolian (true natural minor) and Dorian (with major 6th) as being "minor", since they both contain the minor 3rd of the scale.
That covers 99% of tunes.

Re: Some music theory help

The points you raise are found mainly in jazz and blues.
Play the notes of the key of C major which has no sharps or flats. When you arrive at B, the seventh note, instead of playing B natural, play B flat(Bb) It should sound bluesy.

As was mentioned earlier there are seven modes. Play the same C major scale starting on the first note of the scale, C. Then play the same notes starting on the second note of the scale, i.e. D. If you were to play D major you would play F# and C# but play them as natural rather than sharp. This is the second mode.
Similarly,the third mode starts on E.
If you don’t play jazz, you’ll probably only ever play mode 1 and 5 (the flattened 7th)

Re: Some music theory help

A previous discussions that may have more insights:
https://thesession.org/discussions/8117

On Bazza’s point:
"… take the notes of a scale - say, C major - and play them up and down in sequence, but starting on different note each time. I.e., the first will be a common-or-garden C major. Next, it will start and end on D, then on E … and so on. Each iteration of the same notes gives a different flavour as the whole tone/semitone intervals will fall at different points each time."

I’ve chatted a bit with one of my friends about this. He who knows a lot of music theory, works in the music industry (composing arrangements and the such), but is mostly unfamiliar with Irish traditional music. When I tried to distinguish "dorion" with him, he pretty much viewed it through Bazza’s interpretation. For Adorion (1 harp), he said something to the effect of "I’d call that Gmaj starting and ending on "A", wouldn’t think of it as dorion".

Each of Ionian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Dorian have their own feel to it, not sure how to describe it exactly.

Most Irish session tunes fall within the Dmaj & Gmaj scale. Quite a few in the Amaj scale. Some with the Cmaj scale, and probably fewer with the Emaj & Fmaj scales.

Adorion and Edorion jig examples:
https://thesession.org/tunes/12 (Cliffs of Moher)
https://thesession.org/tunes/29 (Dusty Windowsills)
https://thesession.org/tunes/84 (Rakes of Kildare)
https://thesession.org/tunes/335 (Sliabh Russell)
https://thesession.org/tunes/160 (Gallagher’s Frolics)
https://thesession.org/tunes/273 (The Castle)
https://thesession.org/tunes/6 (This Is My Love, Do You Like Her?)
https://thesession.org/tunes/830 (Brian O’Lynn)
https://thesession.org/tunes/1244 (Condon’s Frolics)
https://thesession.org/tunes/71 (Morrison’s)
https://thesession.org/tunes/2576 (Sheep In The Boat)
https://thesession.org/tunes/1511 (Meelick Team / Eddie Kelly’s)
https://thesession.org/tunes/106 (The Swallowtail)

Eminor, Bminor, Aminor examples:
https://thesession.org/tunes/17 (The Coleraine)
https://thesession.org/tunes/775 (Banks of Lough Gowna)
https://thesession.org/tunes/2266 (Aaron’s Key)
https://thesession.org/tunes/5114 (Across the Black River)
https://thesession.org/tunes/4450 (Devlin’s)
https://thesession.org/tunes/264 (Lannigan’s Ball)
https://thesession.org/tunes/397 (The Trip To Sligo)
https://thesession.org/tunes/217 (The Orphan)
https://thesession.org/tunes/1395 (The Frog In The Well)

Amix examples:
https://thesession.org/tunes/61 (Langstrom’s Pony)
https://thesession.org/tunes/816 (Tom Billy’s)

Dmaj, Gmaj, and Cmaj jig examples:
https://thesession.org/tunes/1077 (Munster Buttermilk)
https://thesession.org/tunes/448 (The Frost Is All Over)
https://thesession.org/tunes/88 (The Rolling Waves)
https://thesession.org/tunes/108 (Out On The Ocean)
https://thesession.org/tunes/55 (The Kesh)
https://thesession.org/tunes/755 (Hole In The Hedge)
https://thesession.org/tunes/111 (Tripping Up The Stairs)
https://thesession.org/tunes/76 (My Darling Asleep)
https://thesession.org/tunes/447 (The Rose In The Heather)
https://thesession.org/tunes/667 (The Killavil)
https://thesession.org/tunes/476 (Willie Coleman’s)
https://thesession.org/tunes/101 (Smash The Windows)
https://thesession.org/tunes/56 (The Old Favourite)
https://thesession.org/tunes/4070 (The Green Fields of Woodford)

There are some tunes that have ambiguous modes. See:
https://thesession.org/discussions/15791

And some that switch between modes/keys part way through the tune. For some discussions on the later, see here (and links within):
https://thesession.org/discussions/43407 (not all of these will be Irish … but cousins of Irish at the least)

Re: Some music theory help

Not directly at the core of the OP topic, but I found a decent description of modes and took a few lines from it.

If you were really geeky you could do a chart for them, using a piano keyboard template.

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

**So, Dorian :**

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)
…and so on

Hope that helps!

Jim Dorian

Re: Some music theory help

@Beatles: I assume you like The Beatles. Listen to the following (the highlighted syllables are on a flattened 7th)
A Hard Day’s Night - "I’ve been work-*ING* like a dog"
Ticket to Ride - "The *GIRL* that’s driving me mad"
Norwegian Wood - "*NOR*-wegian wood"
Tomorrow Never Knows - "It is not *DY*-ing, It is not *DY*-ing
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely HCB - "We’re Sergeant Pepper’s Loney *HEARTS* club band"
Polythene Pam - "Well you should *SEE* Polythene Pam"

Actually, probably due to the Rhythm and Blues (and possibly some Irish) influence, Beatles melodies with a major (unflattened) 7th are hard to find. The only two examples I can think of off the top of my head are:
Till There Was You (actually not their own composition) - "*TILL* there was you"
Something (which nicely contrasts the major 7th with the flattened 7th) - "Something in the way she *MOVES* [maj 7] *ATTRACTS ME LIKE*[flat 7]) no other lover"
(Perhaps someone can think of more examples from The Beatles’ catalogue.)

It is worth mentioning that the 7th step of a major scale is also known, in music theory nomenclature, as the ‘leading note’. This is because it seems to lead the melody to resolution on the tonic - the refrain of Till There Was You is a good example of this, since the 7th comes just before the melody resolves onto the tonic. Flatten the 7th and it no longer has this quality - it seems to pull *away* from the tonic towards the 4th (subdominant).

It goes without saying, you need to listen to traditional tunes to understand how this fits in with traditional music , but others have already addressed that. I though I would come at it from a slightly different angle.

Re: Some music theory help

@Beatles, I will add my personal favorite to CMO’s excellent Lennon/McCartney list -

Here I stand , HEAD in hand, turn my face to the wall - starts in Gmajor, goes to an F chord on ‘HEAD’

Re: Some music theory help

@Christy Taylor: Yes, I thought of that one but did not include it because the melody itself does not have a flattened 7th in it. It does, however, have the major 7th in it, at the end of the 2nd verse, leading into the chorus - "And I hear them sa-a-*AY*".

Also, credit where it’s due, ‘Something’ was written by Harrison, neither Lennon nor McCartney.

Re: Some music theory help

I always thought of Modal to be a reference to the key, not the chord, and that it was associated with the 5th mode of the scale (Mixolydian). This is description tells you what the root note is and what chords to play over the tune. This helpful because these tunes are in a major key but they usually have a lot of I and VII major chords (which does not line up with the Ionian (Major) scale).

C Ionian -> C Dm Em F G Am Bdim -> root is C
C Mixolydian -> G Am Bdim C Dm Em F -> root is G -> G Modal key
or
G Ionian -> G Am Bm C D Em F#dim
G Modal -> G Am Bdim C Dm Em F

Pete

Re: Some music theory help

This discussion is sounding very theoretical and academic for a so called aural tradition

Re: Some music theory help

Scottsirish, it may seem confusing to you. In reality there are a number of ways to consider and address the OPs question. I think the replies are covering an array of approaches. Which can be helpful though perhaps alot to take in all together.

Ben

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Re: Some music theory help

Scottirish, Beatles is "soon to do a written music exam which includes a question on Irish traditional music" and has asked for some help with music theory.
Just because traditional music has a "so called aural tradition" does not mean that it is free of theory. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, because of its function as dance music, it has more theory (i.e., rules) than a lot of other forms of music. It’s not necessary to use technical names for the aspects of theory relevant to trad but it is useful to have some knowledge of those relevant aspects, whether consciously or unconsciously.

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Scottirish, people are here to be helpful.

Re: Some music theory help

Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply to my question. I have read some of the replies briefly and I’m delighted that I’m going to learn so much when I have time to study them and follow all the links etc. Great to have these questions answered when they’ve been vaguely rattling around your head for years!!
Thanks again, I’ll come on again and comment when I have read all the replies properly,
Beatles

Edited to add: Love the Beatles tips, that is a really good way of remembering the sound

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A little theory isn’t inconsistent with an "aural tradition." I know guitar players who don’t read sheet music, but they’re familiar enough with how modes work in Irish trad that I can yell out "This one’s in D mix" and they’ll know there are C chords in the tune. It’s more efficient and less potentially confusing than saying "It’s in D but there are C chords."

I spent years playing guitar in Blues bands, and it was always major or minor when we talked about tunes. Never heard about the Mixolydian or Dorian modes before discovering Irish trad, although I would have learned them if I got deeper into Jazz. It’s useful to know a little about this, even if you’re not taking a deep dive into Western music theory, a lot of which isn’t applicable to trad anyway.

Re: Some music theory help

Hey Beatles
Hope you do well in the exam!

All the best

Brian x

Re: Some music theory help

I would echo what Conical Bore said. I play guitar and I had the joy of playing in a session with a fine fiddle player called Dan Foster who is in the States now some years back and as he played a load of tunes (many of which I didn’t know) he would announce what mode they were in which helped me to have an idea of which chord set I might be playing. Very very helpful.

There is a some good information from Michael Eskin and others on this Session post - https://thesession.org/discussions/31598

Re: Some music theory help

Modal theory is *interesting*. The one person I associate with talking about it in an alternative way to textbook music theory, or jazz theory or even theory as it is discussed here is Ken Perlman. I met him and appreciate his teaching ability. I don’t know if this link will help as much as learning directly from him but, what the hell, ~ https://banjonews.com/2011-05/understanding_modal_tunes.html

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Re: Some music theory help

And, I screwed up above. The example I gave should read:

C Ionian(C Major) -> notes: C D E F G A B -> chords: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim -> root is C
G Mixolydian(5th mode of C) -> notes: G A B C D E F -> chords:G Am Bdim C Dm Em F -> root is G -> G Modal
or
G Ionian -> G Am Bm C D Em F#dim
G Modal -> G Am Bdim C Dm Em F

Re: Some music theory help

Beatles, forget everything I said.
I thought you were writing the exam. But you’re not, you’re taking it.
It’s very unlikely my sources will help you pass the test. You need to check your professor’s sources & references.
I take zero responsibility for that information because it is course dependent.
So very sorry,
Ben

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Re: Some music theory help

> This discussion is sounding very theoretical and academic for a so called aural tradition

One can choose to be able to talk about the music you play, or not. That’s up to you. But telling other people that they should not wish to is, I think, somewhat odd.

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Re: Some music theory help

Calum, it’s not real. The member is a known, consistent troller.
Ben

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Re: Some music theory help

@braccio
"G Modal -> G Am Bdim C Dm Em F"

What you have there is Mixolydian. Major and minor aren’t less "modal". In ITM, Mix happens to stand out compared to plain major and minor, which I think is why quite many believe that one (and only that) to be modal.

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CMO, yes you are right about ‘Hide your Love Away’, hadnt spotted that - but i’m pretty sure John Lennon’s harmonica riff in ‘Love Me Do’ qualifies - f-e-d-GGGG

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@jeff_lindqvist
"What you have there is Mixolydian. Major and minor aren’t less "modal". In ITM, Mix happens to stand out compared to plain major and minor, which I think is why quite many believe that one (and only that) to be modal."

Yes, I stated that that was GMix. However, what I was saying was that when someone calls a key as G Modal, they are most likely calling out G Mix and those are the chords that you play.

To take it one step further, I doubt that there are many GMix Trad tunes that use a Bdim chord (the third). So, if you throw away the third of the scale that makes it major/minor indeterminate. Which is another way "modal" is used in Trad.

Or, maybe that’s just how it’s done on the west coast of the US. That’s all I have experience with.

Pete

Re: Some music theory help

another Beatles tune -
Dear sir or madam will you read my book,
took me YEARS to write will you take a look…………………
another G to F - I hadnt realized before how many Beatles songs had this tonality. As far as I know Lennon and McCartney never made much of their Irish ancestry so maybe it came from the blues.

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@Christy Taylor: Yes, spot on with the Love Me Do riff and Paperback Writer. The list goes on… But you’ll find the same thing in just about any R&B or R&B-influenced melody.

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> Calum, it’s not real.

Oh, I know. But lots more people read than write, and some of them might benefit from a clear statement of why it’s nonsense.

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Re: Some music theory help

Modes can be easier to navigate with solfege, i.e. learning your basic major scale notes as:
"do re mi fa so la ti do" (as in The Sound Of Music’s "do, a deer…")
In a c major scale, do is c, re is d, mi is e, etc.

In a D major scale, "do" is D, in a G major scale "do" is G and so on.

Then you have the names of the modes:
Ionian (DO re mi fa so la ti do)
Dorian (RE mi fa so la ti do re)
Phrygian (MI fa so la ti do re mi
Lydian (FA so la ti do re mi fa)
Mixolydian (SO la ti do re mi fa so)
Aeolian (LA ti do re mi fa so la)
Locrian (TI do re mi fa so la ti)

If it sounds kind of like it’s in G for example, but it sounds like it’s going "so la ti do re mi fa so" (which sounds like a G major scale but with a flattened 7th, Fnatural instead of F-sharp), you’ve got the scale starting from so, which would be the mixolydian mode. So you’d call it G mixolydian.

If you’ve got a scale that sounds minor, but again has a flattened 7th, plus a 6th that’s only a semitone below that 7th, you’ve got either:
"la ti do re mi fa so la", which gives you Aeolian mode, or:
"re mi fa so la ti do re", which gives you Dorian mode. How to decide:

If it’s switching been a major sound and a and minor sound where the major sound is only one tone below the minor sound, it’s probably Dorian. For example, The Cup Of Tea reel switches between an E minor-sounding mode and a very solid D major sound, so we can take D to be "do" and E to be "re", and so the tune begins in E Dorian and moves to D Ionian.

But in the Coleraine jig, which starts off sounding like A minor with a flattened 7th (G-natural instead of G-sharp), the start of the B section sounds like it’s based around C major, a 3rd above A, and I think we can hear that C is "do", and that would make A "la". So the scale used in that tune is going "la ti do re mi fa so la", giving us A Aeolian mode.

I hope this makes some scrap of sense… It’s a lot easier to show you this on a piano or something than to explain it by words.

Re: Some music theory help

"I doubt that there are many GMix Trad tunes that use a Bdim chord (the third). So, if you throw away the third of the scale that makes it major/minor indeterminate."

I don’t know a whole lot of tunes in any mode which (really) use the full arsenal of chords, especially dims. F#dim isn’t that common in Gmaj tunes either. Anyway, I think most of these posts are confusing the h*ll out of anyone who’s not already used to ITM repertoire and able to hear when something is major/Dorian/Mixolydian/minor, and why.

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"I don’t know a whole lot of tunes in any mode which (really) use the full arsenal of chords, especially dims."

The thing is, tunes don’t *use* chords - backers use chords to accompany tunes. There are plenty of instances where diminished triad would not be dissonant with the notes of a tune, and it is not unusual for a tune to contain diminished arpeggios (e.g. https://thesession.org/tunes/630#setting13653 ). But the sound of a diminished triad simply does not fit into our common notion of harmonic progression (Even in classical music, when it is used, it is more to create the effect of dramatic tension than for the ‘propulsion’ of the harmony). When a backer wishes to build a chord off the 7th in a major key, it would most often be the 1st inversion of the dominant (e.g. D with F# bass if in the key of G). It is also worth noting that the VII diminished triad with the dominant note added gives the dominant 7th chord.

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I know what you mean, and maybe you knew that I meant the tune "suggested" the chords. Anyway, take any topic about modes, and there’s always someone who mentions the whole array of chords, including the dim, although, as experience tells us - they’re rarely used.

Surely there must be an easier way to explain modes in ITM.

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Interesting responses. I hope some of it is at least helpful! One thing you might take away from the discussion is that people use the term "modal" differently. I do know people that will refer to mixolydian as "modal". But for me, if a tune is mixolydian, I call it mixolydian. But if it *switches* modes during the course of the tune (most commonly between ionian and mixolydian, but sometimes other switches), that’s when I call it "modal". Meaning that I’m telling a backer to pay attention because the tune may do some unexpected things. There are also tunes that switch keys. In which case, I will often call both keys out (like "D and B Minor"), instead of calling it modal.

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More responses! Thanks again, I’m still trawling through all this new information.

Ben: I am writing the exam, that’s what I meant by "taking". It’s 50% practical which I’ve already done and 2 written papers, one listening, one composing. One of the questions on the listening paper is based on Irish traditional music, but it wouldn’t require anything like the detail you’ve all gone into here. It would require something like: listen to 3 pieces of music and answer questions based on them, for example, type of dance tune, time signature, write out a bar in the rhythm of the tune, what instruments are playing, traditional features you hear in the music, non-traditional features, form of the tune, type of accompaniment etc. Also an essay question about, for example, Irish harping/piping tradition, collectors of Irish music, céilí band tradition, contribution made by Irish music to the music of North America. All of which I have no problem with.
It’s just that in a couple of textbooks I’ve seen as the features of Irish music: Flattened 7th and modal. So I tried to find out more!! Safe to say I’ve enough here to chew on for a month!
Thanks again

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1. Flat 7: you play eg Bflat in a C scale instead of a B. This converts the mode to mixolydian.

2. Modal music: ALL music is modal. Lots of Irish music is in mixolydian and dorian mode. What we call major is Ionian mode. What we call minor is Aeolian. The rest are not typically used in Irish music.

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I don’t know of a single C Mixolydian tune in thesession.org tunes collection. There may be a few, of course, but I have not seen one yet.
;)

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Re: Some music theory help

I’m not sure if this helps or hinders.

I belong to a mixing forum and someone put their new CD up for comment.

Ambient jazz. Something in a lift as Brian Eno said

The question was what order should I place my tracks?

I listened and agreed with the person before me that after track 3 we stopped listening.

So I listened to all of them. One was different.

Everything had the same tonal centre (in this case C) and so everything sounded the same. They had different chords and tunes (not a lot of tunes but I’m a tune led person) but ultimately it all sounded the same because of that.

Everything you could play a major pentatonic scale over and ‘get away with it’

And to me that is what modes are about to me guitar-wise

Modes are about harmony. A mode has little sense without harmony.

Willing to be shot down in flames for my lack of understanding.

Re: Some music theory help

The only time you’ll know you don’t modes if when you play that F- G - Am thing and everybody in the session looks daggers at you because it was wrong even if your friend does play it

That shouldn’t be there you don’t understand the tune

So next time time you play a Dmaj7 and it gets bad

And then it gets worse

On a practical note that is modes for me

Re: Some music theory help

There’s a great guy in Seattle who tried to explain it to me. Jazz player. I was trying to understand the b13ths and the sharp 11ths

And he said - they are just guides to know what key and tonal centre you are in.

It was probably the clearest explanation. I’ll try and find it.

If the link doesn’t work and it helps

In essence he always said that a melody is a melody
It has implied harmony
How you harmonise things is your choice
If - the notes of your tune is in a diatonic key (ie you can define the tune and find a key that those notes sit in) then start there.
Say - for the sake of argument you have the following notes G F D C A
or if you had D F G C A

The first suggest one thing - me as a guitarist plays one thing

The second one I play differently

Same notes just where the tonal centre sits. And you know that

You spot it in a second when people get it wrong :)

Re: Some music theory help

No idea what you are trying to say ‘NickBlair’.
Or perhaps you are being humourous? Still don’t get it.

Re: Some music theory help

As an engineer, I appreciate the math and theory of music. CMO’s list of Beatles songs was a great way to illustrate the OP’s question about flatted 7th. I also liked the comment that any melody has an implied harmony.

In omage to CMO’s reference, here are some notes I made for myself to help me recognize the modes:

Dorian:
Drunken Sailor
Scarborough Fair
So What (Miles Davis)

Myxolidian:
Norwegian Wood
She Moved through the Fair
Royals (Lorde)
Chelsea Morning

One thing you’ll find in Jack Campin’s treatise, but not mentioned so far in this discussion, is that many tunes are hexatonic or pentatonic, in which case the mode is not necessarily one, specific mode.

I really like hexatonic dorian tunes, but I don’t like it when the accompanist plays a note or chord that removes the ambiguity. For example: E-dorian/minor hexatonic. If the guitarist plays a C-note, then the tune is forced into E-minor.

Re: Some music theory help

From Chris Stolz’s comment: “What we call major is Ionian mode. What we call minor is Aeolian. The rest are not typically used in Irish music.”

Is that correct or a typo? I thought that Dorian was a lot more common than Aeolian in Irish music. If that’s not a typo then I’ve been telling people the wrong thing.

For everyone else, as someone that tends to split time between melody and accompaniment, I’ve been wanting to learn more theory beyond what I’ve picked up on my own. Not specifically as it relates to ITM, but more something that touches on multiple genres. Looking at the various book options on Amazon is daunting (and expensive). Does anyone have a recommendation?
Books that I’ve considered are The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis, The Complete Musician, and The Jazz Theory Book (which is apparently more than just jazz despite the name).

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Did you read the sentence before your quote?
"Lots of Irish music is in mixolydian and dorian mode." :-)

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"… many tunes are hexatonic or pentatonic, in which case the mode is not necessarily one, specific mode …"

Very important point. There are many tunes - in Irish music (and many other forms of music) that are missing the 3rd or 6th step (or both) of the scale. For the backer, this can offer an extra bit of leeway, as they can choose whether to play certain chords as major or minor (although often the most effective approach is to accompany with open 5ths).

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Ah, thanks Jeff. I went back and realized I read it wrong the first time. :)

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On the gapped scales. Versions of tunes (or other melody players variations) that ‘fill in the gaps’ often sound odd to me though I usually only realise why when/if I analyse it.

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@Scottsirish: FWIW, I understand where you’re coming from but I don’t think it is helps anyone to make your point in such a confrontational way. Admittedly, there is probably more information in this thread than the OP needs for their purposes - and yes, we all post because we enjoy posting - but I disagree that any of it is irrelevant to the original questions. There is not, as far as I am aware, any *misinformation* nor any direct contradictions in the posts so far, only different perspectives, so it is safe for Beatles to pick and choose what he/she needs.

As for what a troller is (consistent or otherwise), *that* is irrelevant to the original questions.

RIP Doris.

Re: Some music theory help

i have found this book useful, i am pretty much self taught - Edly’s Music Theory for Practical People - check it out on amazon. I also used the ABSRM music theory books that my kids had.

Re: Some music theory help

Yhaal House I wasn’t trying to be humorous. And I wasn’t trying to be right either. I was trying to explain how I - rightly or wrongly try to understand modes in my head.

I can play tunes on guitar and mandolin but mostly I accompany. Never really been a solo player as I know too many people who are so much better than I could ever be.

I’m a decent accompanist with reasonable ears. When people define a tune in the mode it is it is so much easier than having to work it out.

My reference to jazz was that you give people signposts - like people doing chord sheets for people - to help. So when you are playing and someone new is playing and they are coming to the end of tune one and they say Gmix then it helps me play along on the fly. I think I play an G and a F and C mostly rather than G and D. In my simple world. I play Dm not D majors. ie my chord set is defined by the tonal centre of the music which is C - C D E F G A B C. So in Gmix I am going to play G Am (let’s leave B out for a sec) C Dm Em F G. B is an interesting choice.

In my simple world, modes signpost me to the key signature of the song while suggesting what harmony is there

Whether I should be playing or not to a tune I have never heard before is a different discussion. And I have learned when not to play. I blame my grandma. She was an accompanist and explained what your job was :)

As I said I have no idea whether this is right or wrong

My discussion about the person who wanted a critique of their CD they were releasing was related. I listened but didn’t know why ‘everything sounded the same’. They were differently modally but all had the same set of notes C D E F G A B C. Even modally you can’t (well you can) release a CD that holds interest when all your notes have the same tonal centre which is the C

Re: Some music theory help

If nothing else, this discussion proves that traditional/folk music is very complex. I’m sure that this is no surprise to those of us who play it. I think that it would shock a lot of classical and jazz player though.

To recap, ITM uses multiple modes, truncated scales (not sure what to call pentatonic, etc), lots of time signatures, different rhythms (polka, hornpipes, etc), and more. This is what makes this music interesting to listen to and to play.

Re: Some music theory help

NickBlair, your description seems to be using some of the terms a bit loosely. i.e. ~ ‘tonal centre’ … basically the tonic, first note (degree) of a given scale & tonal centre are synonymous. Part of it depends on how you are using the terms, which style or genre of music, and if the tune modulates, etc.

Here is a discussion I just searched for which goes in to a fairly long description. However the basic question
is at the top of the page and the first paragraph is a good, clear starting point. Hope it is clear for others.
https://www.pgmusic.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=280842#Post280842

ps ~ as soon as I posted the above reply it jogged my memory about Kimberley Fraser’s paper on
Cape Breton piano accompaniment. It’s very thourough for anyone interested in Cape Breton music.

http://sessions.kimberleyfraser.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/companion-to-cb-piano-course1.pdf

Posted by .

Re: Some music theory help

I should clarify:

1. Most Irish music is in Mixolydian ("major-feeling") and Dorian ("minor feeling") mode. Some classic Mix tunes: Banish Misfortune, Trip to Nenagh, The Hollybush. Some classic Dorian tunes: Scatter the Mud, Sligo Maid.

2. Somewhat fewer Irish tunes are in major (Ionian) and minor (Aeolian) mode.

3. Don’t confuse mode with key: you can play in D major (Ionian), D Mix, D Dorian, etc. Key is where the tune "sits" or starts or resolves to. Mode is which notes you use.

4. A fair # of good Irish tunes use more than one mode. EG: Farewell to Erin (1st 3 parts A Dorian, last part A Mix), House of Hamill (A and B part E Dorian, C part E mix).

5. Lots and lots of tunes on thesession.org are have mislabeled keys and/or modes. it is common for Mix tunes to be mislabeled as major, and Dorian tunes to be mislabeled as minor.

6. A fair # of Irish tunes also mix modes *within* parts. Ed Reavy and Paddy Fahy are masters of this. A Fahy tune often switches from Mix to Dorian and back within one bar! Indeed Fahy’s eerie and etherial tune feels come from knowing key (eg D) but the modes are so mixed that the tune often feels "suspended."

6.

Re: Some music theory help

Chris, I don’t necessarily believe your generalizations ("most Irish music" and "Somewhat fewer") to be correct. I just analyzed a dump (maybe a year old) of the tune database from this site, and then counted the amount of Major, Minor/Dorian, and Mixolydian tunes. The data is a bit skewed, because there are lots of tunes that aren’t transcribed in the proper key/mode, and the list also includes all the settings of each tune, so a tune that has 20 settings will skew the data a bit, but in the big picture of the number of tunes, considering that most of them only have one setting, the data looks something like this:

Major: 67%
Minor/Dorian: 28%
Mixolydian: 5%

That’s about what I would have figured. I would have guessed Mixolydian held a higher percentage than that, but it doesn’t surprise me that about 2/3 of the trad tunes are Major.

Re: Some music theory help

Henrik Norbeck’s collection has 2568 tunes, with accurate keys/modes.

http://www.norbeck.nu/abc/

My hunch says that most tunes are major, followed by Dorian, then Mixolydian and finally minor.

Re: Some music theory help

FWIW, I just analyzed Norbeck’s Reels (1548 of them), and the numbers aren’t too much off of my analysis of the archive here. As my intuition would have suggested, the Mixolydian is a higher percentage. But it looks like this:

A 84 — 5.43%
Ador 161 — 10.40%
Am 5 — 0.32%
Amix 60 — 3.88%
Bdor 12 — 0.78%
Bm 27 — 1.74%
C 25 — 1.61%
D 425 — 27.45%
Ddor 39 — 2.52%
Dm 8 — 0.52%
Dmix 106 — 6.85%
E 9 — 0.58%
Edor 141 — 9.11%
Em 30 — 1.94%
Emix 2 — 0.13%
F 12 — 0.78%
F#dor 2 — 0.13%
G 359 — 23.19%
Gdor 21 — 1.36%
Gm 2 — 0.13%
Gmix 18 — 1.16%

Major 914 — 59.04%
Minor/Dorian 448 — 28.94%
Mixolydian 186 — 12.02%

This is just the reels, of course. But still, nearly 60% of the tunes are Major. I also found it interesting that nearly half the tunes are either in D Major or G Major. And A Dorian was the only double digit "minor(ish)" percentage…

Re: Some music theory help

That’s really interesting, Pete! A few small surprises — I would have expected E dorian tunes to be more prevalent overall, and even more prevalent than A dorian. Also, I’m sort of surprised that D mixolydian tunes aren’t a little more represented. And I would have thought D dorian would be higher, too. But maybe that’s just reflective of my personal repertoire.

Re: Some music theory help

I think one reason D Mixolydian tunes are under-represented is that the mode shares the same key signature as A Dorian (one F#). So they’re easily confused when people list a mode in the ABC key field.

Take the reel "Rakish Paddy" for example: There are 13 settings of Rakish Paddy in the tune database here. Two are in different tonal centers than the session norm. The rest of the settings are variations of the usual session tune, and should be in D Mixolydian.

However, 7 of the settings have it as A Dorian, including the first three. Probably a confusion with the key signature F#. Only 4 settings out of 11 get it right as Dmix. So, roughly 2/3 of the settings for this tune in the Mustard database have it in the wrong mode, if we’re going to be picky about it.

Of course, the sheet music doesn’t care because the mode isn’t listed in the notation print-out. You have to figure out by ear that D is the tonal center. But I think it demonstrates how unreliable the "K:" field in ABC submissions is, for an analysis of this type.

Re: Some music theory help

Yeah, Joe, I agree. I think my repertoire is heavier in those areas too, because they’re often really cool tunes. And I bet that is the same for chris stolz, who kinda started me down this thread hijack in the first place. (Sorry Beatles :-/)

And I agree, Conical Bore. That’s why I pointed out that the data from this site is skewed a bit, and it was suggested to look at Norbeck, who should have a much higher accuracy in the keys/modes. Comparing the raw data between the two, it looks like a significant portion of Dmix tunes on thesession were maybe transcribes as D and then just adjusted the C’s as accidentals, maybe. But it could just be skewed because of other factors (since I wasn’t exactly comparing apples to apples).

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wow I stand corrected.

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Now that I had a closer look, some entries are based on multiple titles, e.g. F#dor where Ash Plant + Ashplant make two entries. This being said, still a lot more accurate than a random entry here. I notice strange things every day.

I remember an old discussion on IRTRAD-L about keys and percentages.