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Thread: Modal progressions

  1. #1
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    Modal progressions

    Messing with modal progressions...

    According my interpretation, I'm thinking that all these chords can be used in a Lydian progression (F Lydian) because they all have the characteristic #4 of the Lydian mode (in this case, B):

    FMaj7, G/F, Bm7 (b5)/F, CMaj7/F, Em7/F

    or in triad form

    FMaj, G/F, Bm/F, Em/F

    Am I right?

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I would not use all those slash chords, but, that's just me.
    OK with your choices as they do have the B note, now which two will you use in a two chord vamp?

    http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html suggests the following:

    Fmaj7 | Cmaj7 or....
    F | G or....
    F | G/F or....
    Fmaj7 | Em7

    All of which have the tonic I chord and then one other chord which has a B note in it's makeup.

    So yes your choices are correct, I question the need for all the slash F's and also the Bm7b5. Why is a diminished chord needed with Lydian? I would use the diminished chord with Locrian, but not Lydian. With Locrian a droning m7b5, just by itself, seems to function well as a modal vamp.

    As F Lydian ends up being the notes of the C major scale I'd want to try Fmaj7 | Cmaj7 in a two chord vamp. Would not take all that much time to try all of them and pick the one I thought sounded the best.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 03-27-2012 at 03:56 AM.

  3. #3
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Keeping the mode root in the bass isn't a bad idea at all.

    The triad form of Bm7b5 is Bdim.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Messing with modal progressions...

    According my interpretation, I'm thinking that all these chords can be used in a Lydian progression (F Lydian) because they all have the characteristic #4 of the Lydian mode (in this case, B):

    FMaj7, G/F, Bm7 (b5)/F, CMaj7/F, Em7/F

    or in triad form

    FMaj, G/F, Bm/F, Em/F

    Am I right?
    Except for Bm/F, yes. Make sure that's Bm7b5 (as in your first list).

    You can think of all those chords as partial Fmaj13#11s (the complete F lydian chord):

    Fmaj13#11 = F A C E G B D
    G/F = F G B D
    Bm7b5/F = F B D (F) A (= Dm6/F)
    Cmaj7/F = F C E G B
    Em/F = F E G B

    (and btw, Fmaj7 = Am/F )

    Ie, you wouldn't normally want an entire Fmaj13#11 (every note of the scale!) and those triad/slash chords make useful "edits". Varying the chord on top obviously makes for some nice shifts in sound., without necessarily making a logical chord "progression" (which isn't necessary anyway).
    Even so, some kind of logic in the sequence can work well, eg moving the chords up or down by scale degrees:

    F(maj7) - G(7)/F - Am(7)/F - Bdim(m7b5)/F - C(maj7)/F - Dm7/F (F6) - Em(7)/F
    Triads or 7ths are optional for the upper structures.

    (don't use the whole sequence, but parts of it, in either direction, can work well.)

    Remember that this is for a typical "jazz modal" type tune (aka "impressionist" jazz), where you have the bass drone (pedal note), either always present or always implied; while the upper chord structures sound almost random, as if you're just idly choosing another other bunch of notes from the mode that you feel like. Typically (as I've said before) chords in that music would be voiced in 4ths or 2nds, trying to avoid the "too strong" sound of stacked 3rds.
    So superimposing triads (as you're doing) is not quite the same sound, but is an easy way to work, and will do as long as you maintain the F bass.

    In a more "traditional" lydian tune, you'd need to think about one main "tonic" chord and a contrasting chord that would have a similar role to a dominant in a major or minor key tune. You couldn't use the actual dominant (V) chord in F lydian because that would be C(maj7), which - to modern ears - might well sound like the I chord in its own right. Some kind of G or Em would probably be best, and you would keep the Fmaj7(#11) fairly strong in its own identity (eg always including the C and A in the chord, whatever else there might be).
    (BTW, I'm still not talking about ancient, pre-classical lydian mode - quite different and precise rules apply there, to get traditional cadences.)
    Last edited by JonR; 03-27-2012 at 11:29 AM.

  5. #5
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    OK with your choices as they do have the B note, now which two will you use in a two chord vamp?
    That's what I'm trying to find.
    I think any of these chords are ok. The ones you choose depends on the type of sound you want, that's how I'm see it.

    I think we must distinguish the sound of each chord alone and inside a "progression". While any of the G7/F, Bm7 (b5)/F or Em7/F sound dissonant in the same degree, when played alone, in the context of two vamp chords they all have different degrees of dissonance (or they result in different "effects").

    The pair FMaj7 - Em7/F sounds best "or seem to have a greater "resolution" than any of the others.

    The pair FMaj7 - G7/F has almost the same resolution "degree" but, in my oppinion, it's not so strong.

    Using the Bm7 (b5)/F, it seems the song wants to get out of that context into something out of the available chords.

    So superimposing triads (as you're doing) is not quite the same sound, but is an easy way to work, and will do as long as you maintain the F bass.
    This is like the sailors in the anciente times...always with land in sight.
    Instead of going deep into an unknown territory, I'm experimenting with what I know.

    In a more "traditional" lydian tune, you'd need to think about one main "tonic" chord and a contrasting chord that would have a similar role to a dominant in a major or minor key tune.
    As far as I understood I can't use diatonic chord substitution, but I'm not sure why. Is it because when using modes the Ionian structure Root - Major 2nd - Major 3rd - 4th - 5th - Major 6th - Major 7th is changed?

  6. #6
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Modal music normally takes on the sound (I like the word mood) of one mode - depending like you said on what sound (mood) you want. The tonic chord plus the chord having the characteristic note of the mode set this all up.

    • Ionian is the major scale and does work best with a chord progression. Ionian and Aeolian are after all the major and natural minor scale. IMO they do well if they are played as scales instead of modes.
    • Lydian is a major mode and sounds very close to the major scale, it's characteristic note is the #4. They say Lydian has an attractive day dreamy mood. I guess you could call it that, I really have not found a good name for the Lydian sound.
    • Mixolydian is major and it's characteristic note is the b7. Can be used over a chord progression of all dominant seventh chords as you find in the blues. So will the minor pentatonic or blues scale. Other than that I hear Latin (Mexican). As Phrygian is Middle Eastern Mixolydian is Mexican to my ears.
    • Aeolian is the natural minor scale. It's characteristic note is the b6. It's supposed to have a sad mood. I do not hear sad, you decide what mood you hear.
    • Dorian is minor and it's characteristic note is the natural 6. Has an up beat jazz sound. If I go minor mode Dorian is probably the one I will use.
    • Phrygian is minor and it's characteristic note is the b2. Exotic Middle Eastern is the mood I hear.
    • Locrian is the diminished mode. It's characteristic note is the b5 and the mood is dark and tense.


    So pick the mood you want. Find the mode that gives that mood then build your modal vamp based upon the tonic chord plus one more chord that has the characteristic note in it's makeup. I think Locrian works best over just a m7b5 chord droning in the background, i.e. one chord.

    Do not try putting modes over a three or four chord chord progressions, i.e. changing modes over each chord in the progression is not a smart thing to do. That is just using modes and fitting them into a progression, much like you would do with pentatonic scales. Once you go modal stay modal using modal harmony. I am now messing around with chord tones of the characteristic chord - that's four notes then pause - then play the first four notes of the mode, pause then play the last three notes plus the octave of the mode. That gives a long "lick" with enough breathing space to sound interesting.

    Mixolydian, Dorian, the major scale and the natural minor scale will pretty well do what I need. I love the sound of the Phrygian mode, but, have little use for it in what I play - in public.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 03-28-2012 at 05:58 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I think we must distinguish the sound of each chord alone and inside a "progression". While any of the G7/F, Bm7 (b5)/F or Em7/F sound dissonant in the same degree, when played alone, in the context of two vamp chords they all have different degrees of dissonance (or they result in different "effects").

    The pair FMaj7 - Em7/F sounds best "or seem to have a greater "resolution" than any of the others.

    The pair FMaj7 - G7/F has almost the same resolution "degree" but, in my oppinion, it's not so strong.
    With both of these, Fmaj7 is the stronger because of its traditional tertian structure: all the notes support the F root. (The E is a very slight dissonance, but of course we're used to maj7s in jazz tonics!)
    With the slash chords, the upper notes fight the bass to some extent, so sound more dissonant; so in that sense either would make a suitable contrasting chord to draw the ear back to F(maj7). At the same time, maintaining the F bass note means the chords have less danger of sounding like a pair in C major. Eg, if you were to use Fmaj7 and G7 (G root), we'd probably be expecting a C to turn up any minute to resolve the whole thing!
    (Goodbye F lydian mode...)
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Using the Bm7 (b5)/F, it seems the song wants to get out of that context into something out of the available chords.
    There's actually little difference between this and G7/F, IMO: Bm7b5/F has A instead of G (other notes being the same), which might seem to support the F root rather than fight it.
    But I suspect you're hearing it as a dominant function chord in C major. Or maybe even a subdominant in A minor (followed by E7)? (That's how Bm7b5 would be used in jazz.)
    Whatever, you should always trust your ears, and if it doesn't sound quite right, don't use it!
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    This is like the sailors in the anciente times...always with land in sight.
    Instead of going deep into an unknown territory, I'm experimenting with what I know.
    Good analogy!
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    As far as I understood I can't use diatonic chord substitution, but I'm not sure why. Is it because when using modes the Ionian structure Root - Major 2nd - Major 3rd - 4th - 5th - Major 6th - Major 7th is changed?
    Not quite sure what you're asking - or whether you're referring to relative or parallel Ionian.

    As I understand it, "diatonic chord substitution" in this context (F lydian) means any chord harmonized from that scale (ABCDEFG). As there are not really any chord functions, you can more or less use any chord you like. But then if you are looking at from a "key chord plus contrasting chord(s)" perspective, you will need to be careful how you choose chords.

    In a major key (perhaps this is what you mean), the I, vi and iii can more or less stand for each other (or rather vi and iii can stand for I, it doesn't really work vice versa); ii and IV are interchangeable; and so are V and vii.
    In lydian mode, this kind of thing (IMO) is not going to work, because the mode is tonally weak. Chord substitution in major keys works because the tonality is so strong.
    Ie, maybe better to forget that idea. If you want to pursue the idea of modal chord progression (rather than the static sound of "impressionist" modal jazz), stick with a tertian key chord (Fmaj7, Fmaj9, Fmaj7#11), and either Em7/F or G7/F - ie chords rooted a 2nd away - as the main contrasting chord. (IMO you wouldn't actually need the slash bass notes on those if they were brief and returned quickly to the F chord.)
    Chords whose roots are a 3rd away (Am7, Dm7) will sound too close to Fmaj7 to work as contrasts. C(maj7) likewise is too close (although a C-root chord could work as a very mild contrasting chord). And the remaining one - Bm7b5/F - may be problematic in other ways (its tension pulling elsewhere).

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    Not quite sure what you're asking - or whether you're referring to relative or parallel Ionian.
    To put things simple, considering CMaj scale (C Ionian) and the chords associated we know the V chord is the dominant.
    But what if we pick up the same scale starting on F (for ex), the dominant is still the V chord.
    I'm asking this because in Ionian mode the intervals between each degree and the tonic (and consequently, chord qualities) will change:

    Root - Major 2nd - Major 3rd - 4th - 5th - Major 6th - Major 7th

    into

    Root - Major 2nd - Major 3rd - Aug 4th - 5th - Major 6th - Major 7th

    Maybe this is not the best example because the interval between the 5th degree and the root is unchanged (but not the 4th).
    But, what if the interval from the root to the 5th degree was changed? Was it still a dominant?
    This makes me have some doubts because the term Dominant can be used as a name to a scale degree or as a function in the context of a chord progression (I am associating chord qualities with their function, which I don't if is a valid association).
    Last edited by rbarata; 03-28-2012 at 09:23 PM.

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    To put things simple, considering CMaj scale (C Ionian) and the chords associated we know the V chord is the dominant.
    But what if we pick up the same scale starting on F (for ex), the dominant is still the V chord.
    I'm asking this because in Ionian mode the intervals between each degree and the tonic (and consequently, chord qualities) will change:

    Root - Major 2nd - Major 3rd - 4th - 5th - Major 6th - Major 7th

    into

    Root - Major 2nd - Major 3rd - Aug 4th - 5th - Major 6th - Major 7th

    Maybe this is not the best example because the interval between the 5th degree and the root is unchanged (but not the 4th).
    But, what if the interval from the root to the 5th degree was changed? Was it still a dominant?
    This makes me have some doubts because the term Dominant can be used as a name to a scale degree or as a function in the context of a chord progression (I am associating chord qualities with their function, which I don't if is a valid association).
    Right!
    Basically, the "dominant" is the 5th scale degree, and the type of chord on that step will vary in type depending on the mode. In one sense, any chord built on the dominant scale step is a "dominant chord" (by definition), but of course you only get the familiar "dominant 7th"-type chord from 5th degree of Ionian. (Or of harmonic and melodic minor.)
    "Dominant" (V) chords in other modes will have different sounds, and may not (or may?) serve the same function.

    AFAIK, a scale with an altered 5th can have no tonal function. IOW, a chord built on its root won't be stable (a stable chord needs a perfect 5th). Therefore there can be no functional "dominant" meaning to a chord built on the altered 5th degree.
    Locrian is the only "church mode" with an altered 5th, and it was hardly ever used in practice. I don't know if the concept of a "dominant" applied to locrian, as it did to all the other modes (where it acted as a "reciting tone", aka "cofinalis") - personally I doubt it.

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    There's one thing I still don't understand very well...when we use different modes, the V chord has always a tendency to resolve to the tonic?

    According my ears, the functions of each chord change, i.e., theoretically a V chord is called dominant but they are not alway "real" dominants (like in F Lydia, where the V chord is a CMaj7 instead of a C7, basically because the intervals between scale tones are changing).

    This is just a theoretical thought. I already understood that when using modes the real important chords are those the contain the root and the characteristic notes of the mode (therefore, functions do not apply). But, as we've seen, from a group of chords containing the characteristic note of the lydian mode, they don't have the same "affinity" with the I chord. This means there's some differences, and probably, some theoretical explanations that explain them.
    It would be interesting to see how the different chord functions change between modes.

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    There's one thing I still don't understand very well...when we use different modes, the V chord has always a tendency to resolve to the tonic?
    Not necessarily, IMO.
    The 5th scale degree will always have a tendency to fall to the keynote. But in some modes, the V chord (especially if it has a 7th) may work against this.
    Eg in lydian mode, the V chord is a maj7. That comes with its own familiar functional baggage, if you like. Cmaj7 can move nicely to F(Maj7#11), but there's not really much sense of "resolution" about it, certainly no urgency.
    In fact, it may only be this mode where this confusion arises. V chords in other modes - apart from Ionian of course (and Locrian) - may have some tendency to go to their "tonic", although it will always be weaker than the V-I move in Ionian.
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    According my ears, the functions of each chord change, i.e., theoretically a V chord is called dominant but they are not alway "real" dominants (like in F Lydia, where the V chord is a CMaj7 instead of a C7, basically because the intervals between scale tones are changing).
    Exactly.

    IMO, the whole reason for the dominance (whoops!) of the major key, following the modal era, was that its V7 chord contained the tense interval of the tritone, which has an inbuilt tendency to resolve to the root and 3rd of the tonic.
    IOW, once you start harmonising the notes ABCDEFG in 3rds, you find that the tensest chords (Bdim, G7, Bm7b5, all containing B and F) "point" towards a resolution to C major. That's an inbuilt effect of that arrangement of pitches. (With G7>C, you get the additional 5>1 fall as well.)
    I don't think it's just a cultural thing; previous harmonic practice (in the modal era) didn't use 3rds in this way - and they tended to avoid the tritone altogether, altering notes if necessary - so the issue didn't arise.
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    This is just a theoretical thought. I already understood that when using modes the real important chords are those the contain the root and the characteristic notes of the mode (therefore, functions do not apply). But, as we've seen, from a group of chords containing the characteristic note of the lydian mode, they don't have the same "affinity" with the I chord. This means there's some differences, and probably, some theoretical explanations that explain them.
    It would be interesting to see how the different chord functions change between modes.
    Sure. You will need to bear in mind our habituation to the sound of the major key and its chord functions. It may need some ear retraining!

    Maybe google "modal cadence" too.

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    Eg in lydian mode, the V chord is a maj7. That comes with its own familiar functional baggage, if you like. Cmaj7 can move nicely to F(Maj7#11), but there's not really much sense of "resolution" about it, certainly no urgency.
    That's exactly what I felt when choosing the contrasting chord in F Lydian. All of them seemed to have the same tendency to move to the tonic (well, some more than the others but not so different).

    In fact, it may only be this mode where this confusion arises. V chords in other modes - apart from Ionian of course (and Locrian) - may have some tendency to go to their "tonic", although it will always be weaker than the V-I move in Ionian.
    That seems to be a good case study.

    IMO, the whole reason for the dominance (whoops!) of the major key, following the modal era, was that its V7 chord contained the tense interval of the tritone...
    I'm not following you on this one...a tritone is an interval spanning 3 whole tones but in a major key the V chord is always 1-3-5-b7, i.e., 2 whole tones + 3 half tones + another 3 half tones. Or are you talking about the interval between the 3rd and 7th of the chord?

    You will need to bear in mind our habituation to the sound of the major key and its chord functions. It may need some ear retraining!
    It seems so.

    Maybe google "modal cadence" too.
    Maybe that's the search key I was missing. This one seems to make some stright to the point explanations on page 18
    Last edited by rbarata; 03-29-2012 at 09:25 PM.

  13. #13
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I'm not following you on this one...a tritone is an interval spanning 3 whole tones but in a major key the V chord is always 1-3-5-b7, i.e., 2 whole tones + 3 half tones + another 3 half tones. Or are you talking about the interval between the 3rd and 7th of the chord?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Maybe that's the search key I was missing. This one seems to make some stright to the point explanations on page 18
    Yes, it looks good.

    On p.21, he makes an relevant point:

    "Unlike standard minor key harmony, modal harmony does mot use subdominant and dominant categories. The I chord is tonic and the others are non-tonic. Characteristic chords establish the modal flavour and a resolution from a characteristic chord to I is a modal cadence."

    IOW, he is saying that a modal "tonic" chord should not contain the characteristic note. That belongs in a "non-tonic" chord, which (I guess) could be any other chord.
    He goes on to provide several examples (of good and bad sequences), which I imagine will be very useful to you!

    This thread is also very informative, esp stevel's post(s) (he's a music professor):
    http://forum.emusictheory.com/read.php?5,1589,1597

    Also check out this site:
    http://www.jacmuse.com/harmonic%20re...newpage113.htm

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    "Unlike standard minor key harmony, modal harmony does mot use subdominant and dominant categories. The I chord is tonic and the others are non-tonic. Characteristic chords establish the modal flavour and a resolution from a characteristic chord to I is a modal cadence."
    Yes, that sentence caught my attention too. It's like the "essence" of everything in this subject.

    This thread is also very informative, esp stevel's post(s) (he's a music professor):
    http://forum.emusictheory.com/read.php?5,1589,1597
    Yes, I've found it. I've read it very fast but it requires need some more time to digest everything in there.

    I will. Thanks.

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