Confusion: Modal Chord Progressions

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Magmas
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Alright, alright, so I've finally got the modes down pretty well, but I am still a little confused about writing modal chord progressions. In Frank Gambale's "Modes: No More Mystery" all he says about it is to use the root tone of the key you are in as the pedal tone and just play the IV and V chords of the mode you are playing. For instance, for a phrygian progression in C, play the C pedal tone or add a C note to the chords of C# and D# because C phrygian's ionian is E. However, that leaves quite a bit out. For instance, must I keep a C in every chord I play, or pedal tone it? I assume so. But what about all the other chords? Frank only really brings up the IV and V of the mode you want to play. So where do you throw in chords from the C major? Could someone go over this subject and fill in what Frank has left out? Thank you much!!
markelia
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C phrgygian is the third mode of Ab Major (Ionian).

The Ab Major modes are:
Ab (Ionian)
Bb (Dorian)
C (Phrygian)
Db (Lydian)
Eb (Mixo)
F (Aeolian)
G (Locrian)

To make modal progressions, you want to establish the modal root as the place of rest and resolution. This isn't always easy, however it is possible, as shown by the following common ones:

Bb Dorian (latin funk feel)
||: Bbm / / / | Eb / / / :||

Eb Mixo (rock feel)
||: Eb / Db / | Ab Absus4 Ab / :||

Just mess around, and don't frustrated if you can't make Locrian sound like a song; nobody really can. :D
brainpolice
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Well thats the whole thing. THERE ARE NO CHORD PROGRESSIONS IN MODAL MUSIC. There are no chord functions like V to I. There are often vamps though, switching between 2 chords.
Some common examples would be:
D dorian: D minor7, G 7
E phrygian: E minor 7, F major 7
F lydian: F maj7, B minor7b5
G mixo: G 7, F maj7
When doing modal music, the most important thing would be to emphasize the special note that makes each mode what it is! Natural 6 for dorian, b2 for phrygian, #4 for lydian, b7 for mixolydian. Some say b6 is the special note for writing in aeolian (NOT MINOR!). The whole idea is: Forget about the major scale its related to, that just makes you forget/lose the modality that you are going for. Dont think in terms of major and minor. Get the sound of the mode as its own scale. Say you are making something up in D dorian: Always come back to D. I don't think Gambale is saying to have a D in every chord, but always come back to that D. Why? Its Tonic! If you dont come back to that D at some point, you're not lingering in D dorian.
Also, why just think chords? Theres lots of modal counterpoint out there, Modal music made just out of melodies against eachother. There is no real chord functions. You might see a bunch of stuff that looks like a chord, but it really is just a bunch of melodies in counterpoint that created it. You dont really need any chords at all in modal music. Get the sound of the mode engrained in you, and let it fly.
Magmas
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Awesome, that really helps clear things up. Also, what is the real difference between minor and aeolian? They are basically the same thing, right?
theox
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I'd say Aeolian is a mode of a major key while Minor IS a key.
Magmas
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Alright, well I have a song which is in E minor, so in if i want to play the dorian of that, or e minor dorian, would I want to play G dorian? Because e minor dorian wouldn't sound like a dorian of a major, would it?
Paul Secondino
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Magmas wrote:Alright, well I have a song which is in E minor, so in if i want to play the dorian of that, or e minor dorian, would I want to play G dorian? Because e minor dorian wouldn't sound like a dorian of a major, would it?
Hi.First, I wnted to mention that you already got some good advice in this thread and it will tke a little time to get the sense of this stuff.

TO answer your last question, I need to first say that there isn't really a dorian mode to your e minor progression.Or rahter, there isn't a dorian mode built off of your E aoelean mode.

If you are looking for a dorian sound, know that you can do it in any key.And typically, musicians relate whatever mode they are playing to a root key signature.For example, I relate E aolean right back to the key it comes from which is G major.

THe chords that usually give the Dorian mode its identity are the ii and iii chords of whichever key you are playing in. So if you are interested in staying around an E minor progression , you should probably think about the G major key as a whole.

Applying the Roman Numeral system to the chords of the key of G major will give you this:

I. G major
ii a minor
iii b minor
IV C major
V D major
vi e minor
vii f# diiiminished

So targeting or going from a minor to b minor will instantly give the character of the Dorian mode. It 's not the only way but it is a good starting place for you. I hope that helps you.
TonyO
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First off, you'll want to check out this thread:

http://vai.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=8125&start=15
brainpolice wrote:Well thats the whole thing. THERE ARE NO CHORD PROGRESSIONS IN MODAL MUSIC. There are no chord functions like V to I. There are often vamps though, switching between 2 chords.
Some common examples would be:
D dorian: D minor7, G 7
E phrygian: E minor 7, F major 7
F lydian: F maj7, B minor7b5
G mixo: G 7, F maj7
When doing modal music, the most important thing would be to emphasize the special note that makes each mode what it is! Natural 6 for dorian, b2 for phrygian, #4 for lydian, b7 for mixolydian. Some say b6 is the special note for writing in aeolian (NOT MINOR!). The whole idea is: Forget about the major scale its related to, that just makes you forget/lose the modality that you are going for. Dont think in terms of major and minor. Get the sound of the mode as its own scale. Say you are making something up in D dorian: Always come back to D. I don't think Gambale is saying to have a D in every chord, but always come back to that D. Why? Its Tonic! If you dont come back to that D at some point, you're not lingering in D dorian.
Also, why just think chords? Theres lots of modal counterpoint out there, Modal music made just out of melodies against eachother. There is no real chord functions. You might see a bunch of stuff that looks like a chord, but it really is just a bunch of melodies in counterpoint that created it. You dont really need any chords at all in modal music. Get the sound of the mode engrained in you, and let it fly.
BrainPolice, even though you mean well, and have some good points, your notion of modal theory is not quite sound. You're telling us to "Forget about the major scale..." and "Don't think in terms of major and minor". By suggesting we resolve to "D" even though we may be using diatonically modal progressions, structures and melodies etc, the problem is that by resolving to "D", as you suggest, you are actually following the guidelines of major / minor scalar theory and such cadences...and not modality in practice. Thus, I offer this quote so that everyone understands the concept I am getting at:
Big Bad Bill wrote:Sorry for not answering your question, Magmas, but my theory tutor said something the other day that really opened my eyes about the modes and it was something I've never heard anybody else say.

I had just finished presenting and analysis of 'Midnight' by Satch which I had suggested was in aeolian mode and he said it was a straight minor piece. I was puzzled as I thought they were the same thing. Then we finished hearing the analysis of Clair de Lune by Debussy which he suggested was a modal piece of music! I asked for some clarity and I think what he said was that in modal playing, every chord has equal gravitas-the ear isn't particularly pulled one way or another and it tends to give the music a dreamy (in the case of Clair de Lune), meandering-type sound, whereas straight major/minor pieces pull the ear from the I, IV and V and back to the tonic etc! You're waiting for the next chord to sound, whereas in modal playing there isn't that 'pull'. He demonstrated by playing something in D dorian on the piano and then something in D minor and the contrast was marked! It kind of brought fusion playing to mind where it just sounds like notes played 'in tune' but not very satisfyingly so!

The whole lesson just really opened my mind (ears) to what it was all about. It's amazing how just a few words from somebody who knows his stuff can really hit home. I've read everything written on this site about modes and I've still never really got it and just a few minutes from my tutor and 'WHAM'!

Anyway, we haven't studied modes in my class yet. If anything interesting comes up in the course of that, I'll let you know.

Now for this one:
Magmas wrote:Alright, well I have a song which is in E minor, so in if i want to play the dorian of that, or e minor dorian, would I want to play G dorian? Because e minor dorian wouldn't sound like a dorian of a major, would it?
Magmus, first, you don't need to say preclude a mode with the use of "minor or major" as in your "e minor dorian" to describe the mode "e dorian", since when we become familiar with modal theory, we instinctively know that dorian is "minor" due to the interval at which the "3rd" occurs... Secondly, you really need to understand the notion of "major scale" theory in order to fully grasp the concepts of modal theory, which is another reason that brainpolice's advice was not too sound. So...with that being said, Paul Secondino is somewhat correct regarding
that there isn't really a dorian mode to your e minor progression.
That is, if we understand that even though the 2nd scalar degree of minor scales, as occuring in a major scales, may be a dorian degree due to both its major second interval, moreover, we should recognize that , as you seem to understand, that what you have considered the dorian degree of E minor is actually the 5th degree and F mixolidian mode of G major.

And this sentimient is not quite correct:
THERE ARE NO CHORD PROGRESSIONS IN MODAL MUSIC
More accurate is so say more so that there tend to be less Tonic and Dominant resolutions.

So...for now...I'll llet this cunfusion diminish...hopefully!
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Ricardo
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Magmus, dude I don't think you get the modes yet.
because C phrygian's ionian is E
Actually E phrygian's Ionian is C, relativally speaking. But that is beside the point. Learn your relative key's and key signature first, and then try finding the "relative modes". Can you quickly fill in the blanks:

_ phrygian has 2 flats, Bb and Eb.
_ dorian has 2 sharps F# and C#
_ lydian has 5 sharps F#,C#,G#,_, and _
Bb locrian has _ flats, Bb, _________ and Cb.

Assuming you can, then yes you get it. To say there are no modal progressions is silly. True, to play modally you don't need chords at all, but there are progressions that help set the stage for nice modal melodies. You see, the guys studying classical music like to separate modes form major or minor keys. That is fine but not necessary. Ionian only differs from the other modes because it has a chord that resolves it nicely, the V chord. There are other forms of music that are not major or minor in the western sense that use chords too.

Flamenco music for example uses chord progressions to reslove to the phrygian major. It is related to phrygian dominant but not functioning to resolve to minor. So in E phrygian, a progression can move F major9, C, F7, E7b9. The finality is the E chord, but you need the other chords to get there. It ain't a V in A minor, but that is the same scale you can use. Similarly there are greek and turkish songs that move to resolve to phrygian minor (Am, G, F, Em). Rhythmic phrasing helps to accomplish this "finality", but to western ears it might never sound resolved. You can switch a dorian progression around rhythmically to get a mixo prog. (Am7-D7, switch to D7-Am7). The down beat helps bring the ear home.

The difference between A minor and A aeolian, is the scale you use. A tune thought to be "in the key of A minor" will at some point use a G# note as a leading tone (over the E major chord or V chord), which just can't be found in the A aeolian mode. A lot of rock tunes don't use the leading tone (Am, F, G, Am) and can be thought of as using the A Aeolian mode. A song in the key of A minor, may use different minor scales.

So remember Greensleeves in A minor? You may have seen some versions use an F# at some point, and others an F natural. Yes it is in the key of Aminor, or tonal, but that F# takes directly from the key sig. of G, forcing a "dorian" quality to the A minor chord and a "lydian" quality to the C major chord when they occur. You don't have to call Greensleeves a modal piece, but one must recognize how the modes come into play to colorize music that has chords. You don't need to vamp one chord all day to hear a particular modal quality.

Ricardo
TonyO
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Ricardo makes some extremely valid points. On the other hand, in order to fill in the blanks, everyone will need a firm understanding of major scale theory and the circle of fifths -- both forward and backward. I have to admit that I was briefly thrown off by the Lydian with 5 sharps...but that's just me being rusty! (LOL)

When we have a firm understanding of key signatures, however, this is only a matter of getting back on the proverbial bicycle. It won't surprise me, therefore, if Magmas figures out from which major keys these modes occur and thusly names them correctly, even if he uses a source to find the key signatures. It seems that most of the people relate to which degrees the modes occur in major scales.

However, this doesn't mean they understand the proper usages even if they can find them by either knowing or finding (even in a book) a key signature, as evident by some of the unsound advice and concepts. Just because we recognize that this or that major key signature consists of so many sharps or flats...and thus deduce that the lydian mode will always occur on the 4th scalar degree doesn't mean that we are able to utilize the lydian mode properly.
Magmas
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O...k... so I think I get it more now... this is why the discussion of modes is so hopeless on these boards; because two people who seem to be very versed in the subject can tell you completely opposite or at the least conflicting things. I am still slightly confused about the whole dorian of e minor thing, but I think I have figured out to use G dorian (as a mode over the whole fretboard) on the e. That it to say, I will go from e aeolian (because it is really not a minor i guess, since it has no G#) to a section in G dorian (what is that, F major? but since the 3rd and 7th are flatted, shouldn't it be F flat which is E? More confusion here.). Basically I just need to flat every 3rd and 7th no matter what I am in and I'll get the dorian sound out of it as long as I play the root a lot, eh?
brainpolice
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"BrainPolice, even though you mean well, and have some good points, your notion of modal theory is not quite sound. You're telling us to "Forget about the major scale..." and "Don't think in terms of major and minor". By suggesting we resolve to "D" even though we may be using diatonically modal progressions, structures and melodies etc, the problem is that by resolving to "D", as you suggest, you are actually following the guidelines of major / minor scalar theory and such cadences...and not modality in practice. "
What are you talking about? In modal music, the root of the mode is tonic. There is no cadences! There is no TONAL chord functions. Thats what modal music IS. Yes, dont think in terms of major minor. If you're making something in D dorian, C major shouldn't even be a though in one's brain. Yes its directly related - but you're supposed to be hearing D dorian on its own - D is tonic. Modality in practise? Modality in practise means just a big mantra of the sound of the mode. There is no movement at all really. The entire point is that you're NOT in a major or minor key, you're in a mode! The mode's tonic is the point of rest, not iots related major scale. As for the Big Bad Bill quote, what his tutor said is pretty much what I said, except i expanded upon it when i posted. "You're waiting for the next chord to sound, whereas in modal playing there isn't that 'pull'." Thats because there is no chord functions. Its static. Its supposed to be. "More accurate is so say more so that there tend to be less Tonic and Dominant resolutions. " There is no dominant function. Thats the whole thing. You're in D dorian. D is tonic. G7 going to C, would mean you weren't in D dorian to begin with, you're in C major. Modal music has nothing to do with major and minor keys. It is a completely separate thing. The thing that some people tend to think of as modal, is actually chord scales in tonal music. When i write a melody in Eb lydian, yes I use a Bb key signature, but am I in Bb? No. Im in Eb Lydian. The relative key signature is just used so i can use the notes of the mode without worrying about accidentals. If i we're to resolve to Bb, it'snot modal. "There are other forms of music that are not major or minor in the western sense that use chords too." You're right. The difference though in modal music however, is there are no FUNCTIONS of those chords. NO V I. no II V I. no IV V I. The sound of the mode is whats important. And if you look into alot of that eastern music, not only is it modal, but there is no chords. Its just a drone of the tonic, with melodies over it. Thats modal music! Look at the Hindu Sitar music, Middle Eastern Music, The Music of the West Indies, and even Gregorian Chant. Its all modal music, and theres not a single chord function anywhere. Its a big drone.
Last edited by brainpolice on Tue Nov 16, 2004 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mr_Guitarman
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I dislike modal music for many reasons. First modal music was created withou the intetion of harmony. that alown means chord progressions don't really function. Second there is so much confusion about them. Al I can say is when playing an E dorian mode Im just lower the 6th scale degree and play it over a two chord vamp. It gets really boring I don't understand why anyone would want to play like this. I instead of limiting my self to things that were used by midevil composers I Like to play tonal music. Say I playing an eminor progression. i-iv-V The only notes that matter over each chord are the chord tones everything else can be thought of as an extension of that. Say over E minor you decied to lower your 6th scale degree c to c sharp why not know you have a dorian feel for that moment then the next chord comes you can resole that note bac down and alter another note to inflect a new mode or not. What i am talking about isn't playing modes it's playing over changes and is a great thing used by the jazzers. One thing i have learned from listening to guys like Pat Martino is that anything can go to anything if resolved correctly. Don't worry so much trust your ear play modes synthetic sacles and random shapes over chords and see who the sound music that fits to nice can be boring. Creat tension and Release it eventrally. don't do a Richar Wagner and write a piece of music that keeps tension going for 4 hours becuase when you go to release it your audence has no idea where 1 is so it will cause you problems.
markelia
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Eheh, look, it's really not that complicated.

If you have a song in E minor, the harmony of the song probably uses the E minor triad (E, G, B). The E minor triad occurs in three different Major scales:

G Major: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
C Major: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
D Major: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#

If you play these different major scales over the E minor chord in your song, you are going to have different resulting sounds. Try it.

An E minor triad is built on the second note of the D major scale, so playing the notes of D major from E to E (E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D, E) would be called E Dorian. If you play your D major scale over any E bass note or E minor triad, you will have a resulting E Dorian sound. If your E minor song uses the F# and C# notes, this might be the best sounding mode to use.

An E minor triad is built on the third note of the C major scale, so playing the notes of C major from E to E (E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E) would be called E Phrygian. If you play your C major scale over any E bass note or E minor triad, you will have a resulting E Phrygian sound. If your E minor song uses C or F notes, this might be the best sounding mode to use.

An E minor triad is built on the sixth note of the G major scale, so playing the notes of G major from E to E (E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E) would be called E Aeolian. If you play your G major scale over any E bass note or E minor triad, you will have a resulting E Aeolian sound. If your E minor song uses the F# note and C natural, this might be the best sounding mode to use.

The G, C, and D major scales are the only tonal scales using the E minor triad, and they give us the three E minor modes: (E Aeolian, E Phrygian, and E Dorian).

Please post the chord progression of your E minor song, so that we can discuss any problems you may encounter while using any of these three modes.

DISCLAIMER: Brainpolice, I'm aware some of the contents of this post don't gel with the pre-tonal concepts of modal composition. This post is for information only, and is not intended as a stylistic guide for creation of modal contrapuntal music. :roll:
Last edited by markelia on Tue Nov 16, 2004 9:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
brainpolice
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"I dislike modal music for many reasons. First modal music was created withou the intetion of harmony. that alown means chord progressions don't really function." Exactly! Personally though I love modal music and the fact that there is no chord functions. Thats what makes it great! Zone out on that sound! So far guitarman is the only one to realize the true separation between modal music and playing over changes with chord scales in tonal music.
But here, since you find playing modal music so boring let me show you how I do it: Poly-Modal music. Example: Drone of E. Say i start with E lydian. Lower 7th, I now got E lydian dominant. Lower 4th, I now got E mixolydian. Lower 6th, I now got E mixolydian b6. Lower 2nd, I now got E phrygian dominant. Lower 3rd, note i got E phrygian. Raise 2nd, I now got E aeolian. Raise 6th, I now got E dorian. On and on and on. You can use a whole slew of scales over the same root note. I hear vai doing it all the time over his live mantra-like jams. And it is a hell of a lot cooler then just playing one mode the entire time, i agree.
But there here's another way i do modal music: with modulation. Example: E lydian. Why not take it then to F# lydian (only changes 2 notes). Why not then take it to B lydian (only changes 1 note). Why not then take it to A lydian (only changes 2 notes). Who says you have to drone the same root the whole time. Move the mode parallel to a bunch of closely related places, and it starts to get interesting.
But theres another way to look at modes: chromaticism. Who says you can't use chromaticism with modes? Sure ya can. E lydian chromatic approach cliches: G to G# (b3 to 3), D to D# (b7 to 7), F to F# (b9 to 9), A to A# (11 to #11), C to C# (b13 to 13). Thats right, you can use chromatic approach to upper structure/color tones.
So with all those options, is Modal music really that boring? Sure, have someone drone an E for me. I'll hit every note possible over it over time, then tell you "It was just a big E".
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