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Thread: Q about chords in modes.

  1. #1
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    Q about chords in modes.

    Something I've been puzzled with lately...
    Tonic-Subdominant-Dominant i.e. I-IV-V, examples of how this works are always given in Ionian mode.
    What about in other modes?
    Is the relationship of these chords based solely on the root of the chords or do the accompanying notes also matter?
    So in Dorian mode for example, is I-IV-V still considered a Tonic-Subdominant-Dominant?
    I'm trying to figure out what it is about the I-IV-V-I that makes it the most fundamental progression and if applies to all modes.

  2. #2
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    Something I've been puzzled with lately...
    Tonic-Subdominant-Dominant i.e. I-IV-V, examples of how this works are always given in Ionian mode.
    What about in other modes?
    Is the relationship of these chords based solely on the root of the chords or do the accompanying notes also matter?
    So in Dorian mode for example, is I-IV-V still considered a Tonic-Subdominant-Dominant?
    I'm trying to figure out what it is about the I-IV-V-I that makes it the most fundamental progression and if applies to all modes.
    Great question!

    The functions are dependent on the notes of the chords which define the chord types. More accurately the chord functions are dependent on the scale degrees of the key. (note that the function is heard relative to the key not relative to the chord of the moment)

    For example the tonic function is defined by the 1 and 3 degrees of the key. In C major this is C & E. Those chords that have C & E as part of their basic triad are tonic in function. (Imaj (C major) and VImin (A minor) chords)

    The Subdominant function is (in part) defined by the 4 & 6 degrees of the key. In C major this is F & A. Those chords that have F & A as part of their basic triad are subdominant in function. (IVmaj (F major) and IImin (D minor) chords)

    The dominant function is (in part) defined by the leading tone of the key. But the leading tone doesn't exist in most of the modes so the V chord will have a a different flavor in modes other than Ionian.

    Check it out. Look as the parent keys scale degrees to see how and why these common chord progressions are so powerful.

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    So it all depends on the leading tone? So then in the minor modes, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian, it's as simple as raising the 7th to make v a major?

    So if 4 and 7 are the "unstable" notes in Ionian, then wouldn't the all the half-steps be the unstable notes in each mode?

    So in Dorian mode, the "unstable" notes would be 4 and 6?

    This would therefore change the relationships of the Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant, correct?

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    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    So it all depends on the leading tone? So then in the minor modes, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian, it's as simple as raising the 7th to make v a major?

    So if 4 and 7 are the "unstable" notes in Ionian, then wouldn't the all the half-steps be the unstable notes in each mode?

    So in Dorian mode, the "unstable" notes would be 4 and 6?

    This would therefore change the relationships of the Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant, correct?
    Mixolydian is not a minor mode. The 4th interval in Dorian is not a semitone away from any other note.

    More importantly though: a mode is not a key. A key is functional (hence requiring a Major V chord). Terms like tonic, subdom & dom are purely functional. There are only 2 types of key (major & minor) as opposed to 7 modes. Ionian's equvallence to the major key is best regarded as pure coincidence. The minor key takes the aeolian mode and raises the 7th degree exactly as you observed is possible. This creates the harmonic minor scale which is a much closer to a minor key than aeolian mode is. Keep modes well out of the way when talking about functional music. Otherwise you miss their purpose. Modal chord progressions do exist, but not in any way you can call a 'key'.
    "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar"

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    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    So it all depends on the leading tone? So then in the minor modes, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian, it's as simple as raising the 7th to make v a major?
    Spell those changes out and you'll find some familiar scales, bluesking gave you one answer already. Generally speaking, modes are weak harmonically.

    The functions are dependent on the notes of the chords which define the chord types. More accurately the chord functions are dependent on the scale degrees of the key. (note that the function is heard relative to the key not relative to the chord of the moment)

    For example the tonic function is defined by the 1 and 3 degrees of the key. In C major this is C & E. Those chords that have C & E as part of their basic triad are tonic in function. (Imaj (C major) and VImin (A minor) chords)

    The Subdominant function is (in part) defined by the 4 & 6 degrees of the key. In C major this is F & A. Those chords that have F & A as part of their basic triad are subdominant in function. (IVmaj (F major) and IImin (D minor) chords)

    The dominant function is (in part) defined by the leading tone of the key. But the leading tone doesn't exist in most of the modes so the V chord will have a a different flavor in modes other than Ionian.

    Check it out. Look as the parent keys scale degrees to see how and why these common chord progressions are so powerful.
    Great answer !
    Spelling out the chords in key and charting the semi-tone movement is something I've done, but I think I'm still missing something. I'd be interested in any info / exercises you have on functional harmony. You can e-mail,or pm any files you may have on hand,.....or you can post a thesis right here
    I'm mainly looking for some logic / quantification that goes beyond "dominant likes to go to tonic"......

    Thanks!

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    Oops, misread my mode sheet...I meant to put 2 and 6...

    So I guess what I'm interested in is more modal chord progressions?
    Really what you're saying is then is that progressions are either Major or Minor and all non-diatonic chords are borrowed?

    If modes aren't keys as you put it, then how are songs written in a specific mode?

    Taking the classic example - Sweet Child...

    Progression of D-C-G-D. This is song is considered D Mixolydian.
    So would you analyze this as I-bVII-IV-I?

    I've seen before in guitar mags scores that read "key signature denotes E Mixolydian" or "key signature denotes D Dorian."
    If modes aren't keys, then why bother with this and just add in accidentals at the appropriate places?

  7. #7
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    If modes aren't keys, then why bother with this and just add in accidentals at the appropriate places?
    Good question. Want Dorian's mood. Dorian is minor - use the natural minor scale and sharp the 6th. Want Lydian mood. Lydian is major - use the major scale and sharp the 4th. Explained below.

    Taking another tack ---- I IV V. Some songs are major. Some songs are minor. A key is made up of three major chords, the I IV V, three minor chords, vi, ii, iii and then one diminished chord, viidim.

    If you were to compose a song and you wanted a major attractive sound you would probably decide to use a major key and as the I IV V are the three major chords in what ever major key you decided to use you would probably use the I IV V progression for your chords. Chords made from the I IV V contain every note in the tonic I's scale. So that I IV V progression will harmonize any melody made from the I's scale. That's kinda important and is the one rule that holds all our music together.

    Chord progressions are great for tonal music, suck with modal music. Modal music needs the chords to stay static (sustain) long enough so the modal mood can develop. Thus modal music works best over a modal vamp. Google "modal vamp" for more detail. You mentioned the I IV V seems to work with Ionian --- that's because Ionian (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) is the major scale. Aeolian (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) is the natural minor scale.

    If you want to go modal. Grab a vamp and try this:
    Want something Major, happy, attractive, up-beat - well the major scale will give you that - really no need for think Ionian (1, 2, 3 ,4 ,5, 6, 7) just think major scale (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) and here a basic I IV V progression will work great.

    Want something Major pretty close to what Ionian will give, but, just a little more dreamy then use the Major scale and sharp the 4th. Sharping the 4th gives you the Lydian mode (i, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7). Use a vamp to sustain Lydian's mood.

    Want something Major, with a Latin, Mexican feel use your Major scale and flat the 7th and you have Mixolydian (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7). Use a vamp. Now Mixolydian works well over all dominant seventh chords as you find in the blues. Use the Blues scale or Mixolydian - your choice - the blues have a different set of "rules".

    Now we get into the minor stuff. Aeolian (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) is the natural minor scale and gives a sad feel. Chord progression or modal vamp - depending if you want the tonal center or modal mood.

    Want a minor, attractive jazz feel. Dorian (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7) will give that. Use the natural minor scale and sharp the flatted 6th to get the Dorian mood. Yes use a vamp.

    Want an exotic, Latin feel. Phrygian (1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) will give that. Use the natural minor scale and flat the 2. Yes a vamp will work best here.

    Want a dark and tense feel. Lucian (1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7) will give that. Use the natural minor scale and flat the 2nd and 5th. Again use a vamp.

    Use a modal vamp to obtain (sustain) the modes' mood. Use a chord progression to draw attention to the tonal center (tonic chord). Only reason to be thinking modal is for the modal mood. If you don't need that stick with your major or minor scales. Yes major or minor pentatonic plus the blues scale is always a good choice. One other thing - how many moods do you want in your song? Probably one. Pick the mode or scale that will give you that and stick with it.

    Now go read this again -- probably a different approach than you have run across. Have fun.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 06-28-2010 at 10:49 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    ....
    Really what you're saying is then is that progressions are either Major or Minor and all non-diatonic chords are borrowed?
    Songs are written in major or minor keys and non diatonic chords are borrowed: generally speaking, that's true.

    If modes aren't keys as you put it, then how are songs written in a specific mode?
    Malcolm points out one way. Your example: Sweet Child... is another, although it may be more accurate to say this tune is based on mixolydian.

    Progression of D-C-G-D. This is song is considered D Mixolydian.
    So would you analyze this as I-bVII-IV-I?
    This tune is based around the V chord in G major = mixolydian. The key sig will be G major. The functional analysis you used is something I've seen before and it works, it gets the point across, although for a functional analysis I'm more comfortable coming at it from the key sig. , (V-IV-I-V). That tells me everything I need to know.

    I've seen before in guitar mags scores that read "key signature denotes E Mixolydian" or "key signature denotes D Dorian."
    If modes aren't keys, then why bother with this and just add in accidentals at the appropriate places?
    Labeling a tune as being "based around the V. or mixolydian" is useful info, though possibly not necessary. There would be no need for accidentals as the mixolydian is relative to the key sig, ( G major is the same as D mix is the same as E minor, etc.)

    -best,
    Mike

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    Thanks. This helps.
    I think I got too focused in memorizing modes and starting applying it to everything.

  10. #10
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    I think I got too focused in memorizing modes and starting applying it to everything.
    Modes are the single most over-hyped concept in music. You could literally ignore the concept of modes for years and years and never adversely affect your learning progress. Concentrate instead on songs in major and minor keys to learn nearly everything you'll ever need to know about music.

    cheers,

  11. #11
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo View Post
    Spelling out the chords in key and charting the semi-tone movement is something I've done, but I think I'm still missing something. I'd be interested in any info / exercises you have on functional harmony. You can e-mail,or pm any files you may have on hand,.....or you can post a thesis right here
    I'm mainly looking for some logic / quantification that goes beyond "dominant likes to go to tonic"......
    Mike,

    In a nutshell: The idea is to look past the various functional groups (tonic, subdominant, dominant), look past individual chord functions (Imaj, IIm, IIIm, IVmaj, Vmaj, VImin, VIIdim) and concentrate on the functions of the notes, individually, that make up these chords.

    Each note or degree of a scale has a unique and specific function. Each scale degree wants to move in a particular way. When we combine notes together into diads, triads and chords - the scale degree functions combine to create and project chord functions that are reflective of the function and tendencies for movement and resolution of the individual notes involved.

    The reason the V chord sounds like it wants to "move" to the I chord is because each note of the V chord "wants" to move to a note in the I chord. Take a look at each note involved:

    The V chord is made up of the 5th, 7th and 2nd degrees of the major scale. Sing the major scale and stop on the 5th degree. If the 5th degree had to move somewhere step-wise to resolve the V>I cadence, where would it move? Both the 4th and the 6th are less stable than the 5th. So the tendency for the 5th is to not move unless it can resolve to the tonic.

    What does the 7th degree sound like it wants to do? If the 7th degree had to move step-wise to resolve the V>I cadence, where would it move? To my ear it wants to move up the half-step to the tonic. But I also listen to enough jazz to like the sound of the 7th unresolved. The fact that I like the sound of the unresolved 7th doesn't change it's function, but it may affect how I voice the chords / handle the voice-leading when I play a V>I cadence.

    What does the 2nd degree sound like it wants to do? If the 2nd degree had to move step-wise to resolve the V>I cadence, where would it move? This time we have a choice since down to the tonic or up to the 3rd both sound good, compeltely different from each other but each valid and useful in it's own right.

    The reason the V "wants" to move to I, is because each note in the V chord finds a more stable place to be in the I chord. A similar but different thing happens with the notes of each chord function moving to every other chord function. The ramifications of these simple movements / tendencies "drives" the thing we call functional harmony.

    Take any single voicing for a V chord and look to resolve each note step-wise where possible to a note in the I chord. Now repeat this process for every voicing you know for the V chord. Then repeat with the V7 chord voicings (there are at least 30 different voicings possible).

    I didn't come to music from the guitar, but rather came to the guitar after I already knew a thing or two about music. I've been hearing horn lines in my head all my life. When I play the guitar and I try to make it sound like a horn section. Each note and each note movement matters.

    cheers,

  12. #12
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    Taking the classic example - Sweet Child...

    Progression of D-C-G-D. This is song is considered D Mixolydian.
    So would you analyze this as I-bVII-IV-I?
    I'm going to disagree with mjo, and agree with that analysis.
    The key centre of Sweet Child is clearly D. To speak of "G major" makes no sense (except as the "relative major key"). You might as well say it was "in E minor".
    If it was entirely a D mixolydian tune, I'd agree with a 1-sharp key sig. (That's not just a "G major" sig, of course, it also stands for E minor, and therefore any relative mode of those 7 notes).

    However, Sweet Child (as with many "rock mixolydian" songs) also features a major V chord (A) in the chorus. This makes it much more clearly - IMO - a "D major key" song, but with an added bVII chord in the verse. It's D major key, but with a variable 7th step.
    This is standard in rock music, of course (more common than not): a major key (major I-IV-V chords, maybe with minor vi, even minor ii and/or iii) with an extra bVII chord. You could even say that's how rock musicians understand the "major key" - as something that normally contains a bVII chord, as well as a major V.

    As such, IMO it makes sense to give it the usual "D major key" signature, and use accidentals whenever the bVII (or rather b7 note) appears.
    (A more fussy alternative would be to use a 1-sharp sig for the verse, and switch to a 2-sharp sig for the chorus - and back.)
    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    I've seen before in guitar mags scores that read "key signature denotes E Mixolydian" or "key signature denotes D Dorian."
    Key signatures - despite their name - don't "denote" modes any more than they denote keys. They only denote a set of 7 notes - indicating which ones are altered from the natural ABCDEFG set. Any one sig may denote any mode of that set of notes. Eg, a 3-sharp sig may mean A major, F# minor, E mixolydian or B dorian (the 4 most likely options, in that order). The only way to determine which it is is to look at the chord sequence and the melody: where is the tonal centre; where does it resolve?
    Quote Originally Posted by vrieling View Post
    If modes aren't keys, then why bother with this and just add in accidentals at the appropriate places?
    The issue (as with all notation conventions) is what does the reader expect to see? What's the clearest, most immediate way to indicate what he/she is supposed to play?
    Because most people (despite the above) associate a key sig with a specific major key or its relative minor, it will often make sense to denote, eg, D dorian with a D minor key sig (1 flat), and use accidentals for the B naturals. This is because a 1-flat key sig (with a clear Dm focus) will put the reader into a useful "D minor" frame of mind, while a blank key sig may make them think "C major or A minor" - which will then cause confusion when they look at the chord sequence.
    I don't agree with this myself, but that's because I appreciate what a key sig indicates (and what it doesn't). A key is only supposed to show the basic collection of notes used in the piece, accidentals only being used for the less common notes. The "key" is something different, dependent on how those notes are used.
    But (I guess) for many people, who understand a key sig as denoting a key, it's better to make them think of "D dorian" as a kind of alteration of D minor, not as something derived from C major.

  13. #13
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    Modes are the single most over-hyped concept in music. You could literally ignore the concept of modes for years and years and never adversely affect your learning progress. Concentrate instead on songs in major and minor keys to learn nearly everything you'll ever need to know about music.

    cheers,
    Just to add my $0.02 here - I fully agree with this.

    Modal terms are useful to describe certain effects which are common in modern rock and jazz. But key-based sounds and concepts still rule most popular forms of music. You MUST understand keys (major and minor) first - then, you may find modal terms are a useful add-on, to help deal with the ubiquitous ways in which rock seems to "break the rules". (And if you appreciate that the "rules of key" are pretty flexible anyway, then you may not need modal terms at all.)

    Even in jazz, where they tend to understand modes correctly, keys still provide the fundamental ground rules, because that's where jazz began.

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