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Thread: smoke on the water in dorian mode??

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  1. #1
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    Smile smoke on the water in dorian mode??

    hello,
    i've read that "smoke on the water" (deep purple) is a song written in the dorian mode. however, when i listen to it, it sounds more like it's in a major mode. is it only that some of the riffs are in dorian? or is the whole song actually in dorian mode? i appreciate any input as i'm fairly new to modes.
    thanks!
    margot

  2. #2
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by margot View Post
    hello,
    i've read that "smoke on the water" (deep purple) is a song written in the dorian mode. however, when i listen to it, it sounds more like it's in a major mode. is it only that some of the riffs are in dorian? or is the whole song actually in dorian mode? i appreciate any input as i'm fairly new to modes.
    thanks!
    margot
    Well, it's tonic is G minor, so it can't be major . The initial chord progression is Gm - F - Gm, and that could be G dorian, but also G aeolian. The tonic is definitely Gm... imho. The next chord is C indicating dorian, but the Ab that follows is not dorian and not aeolian

    I don' have the sheet music here so I cant check the melody, but from memory I would say dorian with an added Ab chord for dissonance.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Smoke on the Water is a mixture of minor modes.
    The main riff has phrygian and even locrian elements:
    Code:
    --------------------------------
    -----------------------------
    0---3---5-----0---3---6--5------
    0---3---5-----0---3---6--5------
    -------------------------------
    ----------------------------
    R   b3  4     R   b3  b5 4
    5   b7  R     5   b7  b2 R
    There's a phrygian b2, but both kinds of 5th (perfect, and the locrian or blues b5).

    But the chorus starts with a C major chord, which is a IV chord in G dorian. (The vocal melody is a strong E natural over the C, the dorian 6th of G.)
    But then they follow the C with Ab, which is a bII back in G phrygian (and resolves back to Gm).

    So the best you can say (IMO) is it's "in G minor", but with plenty of parallel modal borrowing.

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    thanks for the input!
    could you recommend a song that IS predominantly in one mode? any mode except for ionian or aeolian

  5. #5
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    So what! Miles Davis... all dorian mode (16 bars of D dorian, 8 bars of Eb dorian, 8 bars of D dorian)
    Oye Como Va - Santana ... mostly dorian, maybe all dorian
    Jeff Beck, Brush with the blues ... very dorian

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gersdal View Post
    So what! Miles Davis... all dorian mode (16 bars of D dorian, 8 bars of Eb dorian, 8 bars of D dorian)
    Oye Como Va - Santana ... mostly dorian, maybe all dorian
    All dorian (A dorian) except for the little chromatic line at one point (A-G#-G-F#).
    That's a Cuban tune of course (by Tito Puente) and that kind of dorian vamp is standard in Cuban "Son".

    Other dorian tunes (in part):

    Van Morrison "Moondance" - the vamp and verse sequence, and chorus (A dorian). The prechorus, however ("every time I___ touch you...") is A minor key (Dm-Am-Dm-E7).

    Doors "Light My Fire" - solo section only, A dorian (alternating Am7-Bm7 vamp).

    Santana "Evil Ways" - same dorian vamp as Oye Como Va, until it gets to "this can't go on", which is a minor key V chord.

    Zombies "She's Not There" - A dorian mostly (Am-D7), but merging with some A minor key chords (F, Dm, E).

    Michael Jackson "Billie Jean" - intro and main verse vamp

    Two traditional English folk songs that are entirely dorian: "Scarborough Fair", and "Drunken Sailor".

    Pink Floyd have a few: "Another Brick in the Wall" (rare example of tune entirely in dorian mode, D dorian)
    "Breathe" - first part of intro and verse are E dorian (Em-A7 vamp)
    "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" - second part of the intro, with the 4-note riff (Gm-C = G dorian)
    "Great Gig in the Sky" - final section (G dorian)

    Floyd also have a good example of phrygian: "Set the Controls for the Heart of Sun" - mostly E phrygian, but goes to A phrygian and back.


    Mixolydian is extremely common in rock, because it's essentially a major key with a b7 step and/or bVII chord, and those occur all the time in rock songs. Songs entirely in mixolydian are rare tho. Here's a few:

    Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows" (C mixolydian), "She Said She Said" (Bb mixolydian), "Within You Without You" (C# mixolydian, standard sitar key)
    David Bowie "Heroes" (D mixolydian)
    Rolling Stones: "The Last Time" (E mixolydian - taken from a Staples Singers song) *
    Them (and others): "Gloria" (E mix)
    Who "My Generation" (begins in G mix and works its way steadily up to C mix by the end.)

    As with dorian, mixolydian makes a great vamp or groove sound, so is often used for verses, while the chorus is in the parallel major key. Here's some examples of that combination:

    Martha and the Vandellas "Dancing in the Street"
    Stones "Sympathy for the Devil"
    G'n'R "Sweet Child o' Mine"
    Beatles "Day Tripper", "Hard Days Night", "Taxman", "Dear Prudence"
    Who "Can't Explain"

    Other mixed mode tunes:

    Beatles "Norwegian Wood" - mixolydian verse and sitar riff, moving to parallel dorian ("I asked her to stay...")
    Boston "More than a Feeling" - mixolydian verse, moving to relative major key (D mix to G major).
    Miles Davis "All Blues" - mixolydian vamp, moving to parallel dorian and back (and ending in minor key V7-bVI7 chords).

    There are literally 1000s of rock songs with mixolydian sections, or an overall or partial mixolydian mood. Rock musicians, however, are never too concerned with theoretical matters, and happily combine parallel modes (known as "modal interchange" or "borrowing").
    So you might typically see a song in "key of E" which contains the usual chords from that major key (E, A, B, C#m, etc) combined with chords from other E-based modes, such as D, G, C, Am. (These chords can all be found in the key of E minor, so it's often known as "borrowing from the parallel minor", even if you only get a D chord, which could be considered mixolydian.) E will remain the tonal centre throughout.


    * This is arguably an example of an ambiguous tonality. It could be an E mixolydian tune, moving to the IV and bVII chords (A, D) in the chorus. Or it could be an A major key tune, where the verse is a dominant vamp, or chord cycle (E-D-A-E) over a dominant pedal. It all depends how you hear it.
    "Sweet Home Alabama" is similarly controversial (even within the band themselves, apparently), with some hearing it as D mixolydian (I-bVII-IV), others hearing it as G major (V-IV-I). (The latter dispute has aroused surprisingly strong feelings...)
    Last edited by JonR; 04-20-2010 at 09:49 AM.

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