Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

What if a player plays a note more or less exactly between C sharp and C natural? Seamus Creagh did just this on The Eel in the Sink (A part) on the 2nd CD of his Tunes for Practice album. When I measured it with RTTATuner, it had his note 44 cents above C natural and 44 cents below C sharp. Here is the A part he plays:
|: e2AB cdec | d2BG DGBd | e2AB cdeg | dBGB BAA2 :|. Some musicians play this part with C naturals (e.g. June McCormack) and others are said to play it with C#s (Henry Norbeck’s transcription of Matt Molloy has C#s). In the discussion of the tune on thesession, it is said that the version with C naturals is called The Blackthorn Stick, but June McCormack calls her version The Eel in the Sink. is this ‘in-between’ mode found often played by pipers? Other fiddlers?

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Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

A Mixadorian sounds about right

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

"Is this in-between mode often played by pipers?"

Yes! I think it’s more a sharp note than an actual mode, and not just on pipes. I’ve often heard it called the "Piper’s C," or "C Supernatural." On some diatonic instruments like pipes, whistles, and flutes without keys, a cross-fingered Cnat is a bit sharper than it should be in 12TET intonation. It’s just a mechanical artifact, but it’s sometimes so ingrained in the music that fiddlers will follow along and instinctively raise the Cnat a bit.

I first noticed this when playing mandolin in sessions, on tunes like something in Dmix where I would normally use a partial C chord within the melody line when that note appeared. It sounded fine when practicing at home, but that chord always sounded sour in the session.

I eventually realized that the session leader on fiddle was following the intonation of a piper and whistle player in the session. Their Cnats were drifting slightly sharp, but not all the way to a C#. In that context, my mandolin was playing the "wrong" pitch for a Cnat because it’s locked into 12TET with the frets. Not much you can do about it on a fretted instrument.

On flute, I actually go for it intentionally, usually cross-fingering the Cnat instead of using the Cnat key that would be much closer to 12TET. It just sounds better to me, now that my ear has been trained to hear it. The only time I use the Cnat key on flute is for something like a slow air, because the note is less veiled, a bit stronger with the keyed version.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

In Blues it would be called a blue note.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

Without getting too heavy on the theory, I usually just call this a flexible third and point out to students that there are often places in a tune where messing around with the pitch of the third of the scale - usually B, C(#), or F#, can be very effective. My instinct is that it seems to work better in gapped/pentatonic type tunes, or tunes that "sound" gapped.

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Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

"A-awkward"

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Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

There is probably a name for this scale in e.g. Arabic, Turkish or Persian music, but I don’t know it. They have scales with "inbetween" notes.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

Thanks to all for the comments, both the humorous ones and the informative ones. Chet

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Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

Re: the piper’s C, I think that in order to blend with the drones (in D) the Cnat should be a bit flat, actually. While the "normal" cross-fingered Cnat may or may not be sharp depending on the reed and chanter, when playing a Cnat off the knee, pipers will "shade" or partially cover the C finger to get the pitch where they want it.

Sometimes it’s nice to bend into a C# from a C# off the knee, which becomes C# as you put the chanter down. That note would probably be in between Cnat and C#.

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Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

There’s a book by Theodor Podnos called Bagpipes And Tunings, in his section on Scotland he measures the scales from two vintage Highland pipe chanters which have a neutral 3rd if "A" is reckoned as the tonic.

What’s interesting is that many old Highland pipe tunes use G for the tonic, which in a modern-tuned chanter puts these tunes in a Lydian mode. However if the chanter has a neutral 3rd, the mode you get using G as the tonic would be halfway between Lydian and Major.

Personally I doubt the results obtained by sticking modern reeds in old chanters. If we go by the earliest recordings of good Highland pipers the 3rd is an ordinary Just Major 3rd. However the 7th is indeed neutral.

The 7th on the Highland pipes is the equivalent note to C on the uilleann pipes, so it wouldn’t surprise me to hear uilleann pipers playing that note down the middle. However my own uilleann chanter plays C natural and C sharp both quite in tune. There might be a way to finger a neutral C but I’ve never felt a need for that note.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

First, I was told many years ago in my youth you never use a tuner for Celtic music; the instrument must be tuned to itself without a tuner. With a fiddle, pipes, flute, voice etc. your ear naturally drifts to the “Just [Pure] intonation” scale. This being so in the tradition of Celtic music you will find your ear will adjust to the Just intonation and not equal temperament. 44 cents here and there makes a major difference between “Just” and “Equal temperament” scales. To me the Equal temperament scale is hard on the ear i.e. a perfect 5th and 3rd etc have dissonance. My Take.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

I know nothing about this subject, but recently was working on a guitar arrangement of "The Butterfly" by the Bothy Band, and there was one point where I was absolutely sure they were playing a major third (outside the minor key of the song). But when I slowed it down it sounded more like a minor third, and then I couldn’t tell one way or the other and concluded that maybe one of them was out of tune. Could that have been an "in between" note played on the Uilleann pipes?

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

The statements "you never use a tuner for Celtic music" and "in the tradition of Celtic music" are completely meaningless. Say what specific traditions you refer to instead, because they’re all very different.
"a perfect 5th and 3rd etc have dissonance" is patently wrong. If they have dissonance they’re not perfect, but probably equal temperament.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

"First, I was told many years ago in my youth you never use a tuner for Celtic music; the instrument must be tuned to itself without a tuner."

The box and concertina players are all sad reading this… 🙂 The vast majority of free-reed instruments, unless it is a custom build and just intonation is requested by the owner, are generally tuned in equal temperament.

A fiddler playing along with a Uilleann piper or a box player may adjust their intonation on the fly to better blend as required if they are aware of the inherent temperament differences.

Re: Is there a name for a mode between A mixolydian and A dorian?

Richard Cook used the terminology that I have heard when he called it a "neutral" tone. Fiddlers in ITM use it more often, and not only at the third. This causes some of the classically trained to erroneously think the fiddle has poor intonation. Fretted instruments can approximate it by bending the strings, but that doesn’t work so well for double course instruments like OM or mandolin. In session practice, playing the sharp while everyone else plays the natural is great fun and very annoying, but advantageously placed quarter-tone frets is a better idea.