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Old 11-18-2012, 11:22 PM   #1
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Strong points of Keys and Modes

*Stealthy vs. thread...*

I haven't been in MT too long, but I have seen many many threads talking about modes, and many people saying they are outdated.

What I am wondering is what strengths do each have, and what does one allow that the other doesn't allow as easily? I understand keys fairly well, but modes to me seem to be overly complex, and inefficient at getting the same point across.

If someone said to me to playing in C Lydian, I'd probably go, "WTF". However, if someone told me we were playing in the key of C but with a #4, I'd go, "Okay, so play in C, but play an F# instead of an F".

So what are the pros and cons of each?

Sorry if this has been done before.
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:33 PM   #2
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There aren't really pros and cons. This is like asking what are the pros and cons of serialism vs. Hindemith-style tonality. They're two totally different things.

The reason people say they're outdated is because a) they heard someone else here say it and they're parroting it back and b) for the most part people don't even know what modal means when they ask about it and it's not at all what they're looking for. Modes are a different concept of harmony altogether from the major/minor tonal system. In reality modes are extremely simple, the complexity arises when someone tries to explain modal concepts with tonal understanding.

Also, Manitoba brothers.
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:51 PM   #3
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Also, Manitoba brothers.

I one upped him... Winnipeg brothers
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:49 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by jazz_rock_feel
Modes are a different concept of harmony altogether from the major/minor tonal system. In reality modes are extremely simple, the complexity arises when someone tries to explain modal concepts with tonal understanding.


</thread>, because there is no point here that is incorrect.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by AWACS
What I am wondering is what strengths do each have, and what does one allow that the other doesn't allow as easily? I understand keys fairly well, but modes to me seem to be overly complex, and inefficient at getting the same point across.


So what are the pros and cons of each?


There are very few "pros" of modes.

I suppose the pros of modes are as an ease of understanding chord-scale-theory, which is an advanced improvisatory concept in jazz. The only other pro is that you'll hear people use the terms and you should understand what they mean by them - in most settings it's inappropriate to respond to somebody's comment that they're playing in G Mixolydian by saying "It's not mixolydian, you mean G major with a flat 7th." Despite what you might think from listening to people in this forum, these are terms that are used with some frequency by musicians and you should understand what they mean whether or not you agree that they're using the term correctly.

Beyond that, uh ... I can't think of any.

Keys, on the other hand, are the basis of 99.9% of contemporary music. It's impossible to understand music if you don't understand how they work.

If it's a "vs" thread, it's a rout. Keys. There's no meaningful debate.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:31 AM   #6
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Keys, on the other hand, are the basis of 99.9% of contemporary music. It's impossible to understand music if you don't understand how they work.

That has got to be a made up statistic.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:00 AM   #7
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I one upped him... Winnipeg brothers


I used to live in Winnipeg... Now I'm in Flin Flon


So, another question, in what situations would you want to use keys as opposed to modes? I'm sure there is no be-all-end-all answer, but would classical music for example, be more mode-centric (or modal?) whereas modern music would mostly be with keys? Or would modes be more for analyzing and keys more for playing? where with keys you could throw and accidental in when needed?
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:51 AM   #8
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That has got to be a made up statistic.


Well they have been the basis of contemporary music for the last 200 years or so. I'm confident that if somebody actually sought to prove the statistic it would be largely correct.
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:48 AM   #9
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I used to live in Winnipeg... Now I'm in Flin Flon

I'm so, so sorry.

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Originally Posted by AWACS
So, another question, in what situations would you want to use keys as opposed to modes? I'm sure there is no be-all-end-all answer, but would classical music for example, be more mode-centric (or modal?) whereas modern music would mostly be with keys? Or would modes be more for analyzing and keys more for playing? where with keys you could throw and accidental in when needed?

Modes just flat out aren't really necessary. Classical music dabbled with them a bit in the earlier part of the 20th century, and then again with the god damn minimalists, but by and large there hasn't been a ton of modal music, outside of (real, not Bob Dylan) folk traditions, since the Renaissance (which is not to say there's been none, just that there hasn't been a lot).

Hotspur actually had a good point in that there's some benefit to learning how Guitarists/Jazzists think of modes because some people do use those weird terminologies to communicate. Outside of that, I'm not sure I see the benefit. I will say that CST is everywhere, so if you go to school for jazz you'll probably learn it.

You need to understand that modes and keys are two different things. You can't effectively analyze keys with modes or vice versa (this may get some argument).
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:12 AM   #10
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That has got to be a made up statistic.

It's a good ballpark. Given the sheer amount of songs that are created and released these days, even saying that one out of a hundred are modal is too much.
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Old 11-19-2012, 06:27 PM   #11
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You will rarely see modes used outside of very early baroque music (like palestrina), and some avant-garde 20th century stuff. They just don't make sense in other contexts.

That said I do use the modes as a way to easily comp a jazz bassline when I only have the chords in front of me. If the chord is Bb9(b3) then I just use a Bb dorian poisition becuase the notes will fit. I am only using it as a hand shape, not as a way of analyzing, or anything like that.
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Old 11-19-2012, 06:31 PM   #12
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jazz_rock_feel: Yeah...

Will42: Thanks for answering.

i'm just trying to understand the place that keys and modes have, without having to go to school for it And try and make sense of all of these modes threads that pop up often.
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Old 11-19-2012, 06:47 PM   #13
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jazz_rock_feel: Yeah...

Will42: Thanks for answering.

i'm just trying to understand the place that keys and modes have, without having to go to school for it And try and make sense of all of these modes threads that pop up often.

You need to read in to the history of music, and how it's evolved. It's the best way.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:29 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by will42
You will rarely see modes used outside of very early baroque music (like palestrina), and some avant-garde 20th century stuff. They just don't make sense in other contexts.

That said I do use the modes as a way to easily comp a jazz bassline when I only have the chords in front of me. If the chord is Bb9(b3) then I just use a Bb dorian poisition becuase the notes will fit. I am only using it as a hand shape, not as a way of analyzing, or anything like that.


This is not a true statement... modes are used in contemporary music all the time. They are constantly used in Jazz and fusion, as well as progressive rock. They are also used more than you think in Pop music.... one of the most overplayed Pop songs in the last 10 years, Coldplay's Clocks, is in Eb Mixolydian. They are extremely useful if you understand them and know how to use them. Most people do not fully understand them... any "Major" and "minor" key is itself a Mode (Ionian and Aeolian).
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:33 PM   #15
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This is not a true statement... modes are used in contemporary music all the time. They are constantly used in Jazz and fusion, as well as progressive rock. They are also used more than you think in Pop music.... one of the most overplayed Pop songs in the last 10 years, Coldplay's Clocks, is in Eb Mixolydian. They are extremely useful if you understand them and know how to use them. Most people do not fully understand them... any "Major" and "minor" key is itself a Mode (Ionian and Aeolian).

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Old 11-19-2012, 10:36 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by HamrockGuitar
This is not a true statement... modes are used in contemporary music all the time. They are constantly used in Jazz and fusion, as well as progressive rock. They are also used more than you think in Pop music.... one of the most overplayed Pop songs in the last 10 years, Coldplay's Clocks, is in Eb Mixolydian. They are extremely useful if you understand them and know how to use them. Most people do not fully understand them... any "Major" and "minor" key is itself a Mode (Ionian and Aeolian).


really? interesting. i guess, being a theory instructor, i must not know jack shit.

want to explain to me how coldplay is not just in Eb major? and you want to explain to me how a major key is related to the ionian mode (without making a reference to the majo scale, unless your music is just you playing scales)?
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:18 PM   #17
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really? interesting. i guess, being a theory instructor, i must not know jack shit.

want to explain to me how coldplay is not just in Eb major? and you want to explain to me how a major key is related to the ionian mode (without making a reference to the majo scale, unless your music is just you playing scales)?


Here's a fun exercise for you... pour yourself a nice glass of white zinfadel and cue up Clocks. Play the Eb Major scale with emphasis on the D natural. Really hit it and listen to how it sounds over that Bb minor and Db Major chords. No amount of academic study is going to make up for playing a wrong note, my friend. As far as your other question, I'll answer it with a question to you since you are a Music Theory Teacher... what are the notes in the C Major Scale? What are the notes in the C Ionian Mode?
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:21 PM   #18
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I'm so, so sorry.


Modes just flat out aren't really necessary. Classical music dabbled with them a bit in the earlier part of the 20th century, and then again with the god damn minimalists, but by and large there hasn't been a ton of modal music, outside of (real, not Bob Dylan) folk traditions, since the Renaissance (which is not to say there's been none, just that there hasn't been a lot).

Hotspur actually had a good point in that there's some benefit to learning how Guitarists/Jazzists think of modes because some people do use those weird terminologies to communicate. Outside of that, I'm not sure I see the benefit. I will say that CST is everywhere, so if you go to school for jazz you'll probably learn it.

You need to understand that modes and keys are two different things. You can't effectively analyze keys with modes or vice versa (this may get some argument).


Lol... your screen name is "Jazz Rock Feel" and you said that. Keep using those Pentatonics!
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:30 PM   #19
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Here's a fun exercise for you... pour yourself a nice glass of white zinfadel and cue up Clocks. Play the Eb Major scale with emphasis on the D natural. Really hit it and listen to how it sounds over that Bb minor and Db Major chords. No amount of academic study is going to make up for playing a wrong note, my friend. As far as your other question, I'll answer it with a question to you since you are a Music Theory Teacher... what are the notes in the C Major Scale? What are the notes in the C Ionian Mode?


haha, that's cute. so you're saying that because it doesn't have a D natural, it can't be in Eb major, and must be modal? if you're telling me you can't have a Db in the key of Eb, you don't even know what a key is, and you don't know what a mode is, either. and so you haven't given a satisfactory counterargument to my first question.

C major scale: C D E F G A B C
C ionian: C D E F G A B C

i expressly told you not to use the C major scale in your answer, unless you're going to tell me that a key and a scale are the same thing (which i highly advise against, because your arguments would then be completely invalid). so try again - we're talking about KEYS and modes, not scales and modes. again, you haven't given a satisfactory counterargument -- 0 for 2, my friend.

you may try again if you like, but be sure to use valid arguments. i don't like wasting my time.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:32 PM   #20
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If my screen name was a person it would be halfway through grade 1 right now.

Also, what the hell does that mean?
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