Alright kids. I was gonna wait, but Wednesday is the beginning of my weekend, and I should probably do this while JRF's excellent thread is fresh in our minds.

This thread is going to (attempt to, I'll edit as things get asked) explain EVERYTHING relevant to modes in their contemporary context. But to do that, we need to start at the beginning. And to do THAT, I need to throw down some prior knowledge and definitions.

Some of these statements may seem somewhat different than what you may be used to, but we are discussing contemporary music (the stuff most of you play) and will be using the most accurate descriptors for the time being. Let's begin.

Things To Know

A Key for our purposes, refers to two things:

1. What pitch is the root note?

2. Is the root's diatonic tertian triad major or minor?

Now (and this is IMPORTANT) a Key also implies something. A Key implies that we are currently in a tonal system. When I say tonal, I mean in the sense that there is a concept of "functional harmony".

Functional Harmony has to do with the concept of chord progressions and diatonic function, where chords tend to behave in a certain way and have direction.

Obviously modal music is tonal in the sense that there is a root (and tertian triad built off it), but modal music does not use functional harmony, at least not in the traditional sense, where chords all play a role on an elaborate journey to the ultimate V-I.

As we will see, modal music also has function, albeit a different system that can easily cause confusion.

This information leads us to two inexorable conclusions:

1. Music is incapable of being in a tonal and modal frame at the same time. The presence of functional harmony destroys modality, just as true modality cannot co-exist with diatonic function.

2. It is misleading to use this terminology (X represents pitch name):

"The key of X (modal name)"

If music is tonal, we are going to say, "The key of X (major/minor)

If music is modal, we are going to say, "In X (modal name)"

You can just name the pitch, as in "We are in G." This less accurate descriptor will suffice for both modal and tonal contexts. But keep the word Key where it belongs.

Now before everyone loses their minds telling me that modal and tonal music are not mutually exclusive and I am a loser, I need to introduce a little known term. A "Modal Framework."

A modal framework is a device where we can frame portions of a tune in modal music, whilst relating it to a larger context. Music cannot (for our purposes) be tonal and modal at the same time, but it can contain tonal and modal sections together. I'll go more into detail later, bear with me.

Now in order to understand what the hell is going on, we need to look at what the deal with modal music even is. Now granted, this will be a brief and by no means exhaustive history lesson, but it should provide some insight.

History Time!

The contemporary state of modal music and its use is a result of the convergence of 4 different phenomena:

1. Pre-Tonal Music, predating the concept of Harmony itself.
2. The "re-discovery" of modal music (actually early frameworks) by Late Romantic and Impressionist composers
3. Modal Folk Music that does not use our Western tonal system
4. The developments and later codification of "modal frameworks" by Miles Davis and company in the 1950s.

I'm not going to touch #1. My better half JRF has written a fantastic thread, which you can read here. https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1660589

So let's start right on #2.

Wagner And The "Rediscovery" (not really) Of Modes

We can debate the specifics all day, but after the development of Tonal Harmony, it dominates the theory and practice of Western Music for the next two centuries. Starting around the period of Wagner's greatest influence (think 1865), there begins to emerge what the musical community feared was a "crisis of tonality." They became concerned that Tonal Harmony had been pushed to its limit and we were going to run out of ways to develop music.

This crisis caused composers to begin to search for new ways to develop the sound and is DIRECTLY responsible for not only the resurgence of modal music, but atonal/pantonal music, serialism, and electronic music. Anyone reading this who likes the wubs owes Wagner one, whether they like it or not.

Now the composers of this time did not "re-discover" modes, they had known about them and studied their characteristics. But the modes did not begin to be launched back into the concert music mainstream until the French Impressionists, who sought to escape the functions of tonality, picked up the "modern" musical modes and began to use them. The lack of "true" leading tones and functional harmony allowed them to reach this ideal.

This practice did not originate with the Impressionists. Slightly earlier composers such as Mahler and Holst were using modes, and there predecessors had been experimenting as well. How Ironic that this "new" music was just a reinterpretation of the past!

In an attempt to make an educational point, here's some modal music of this style. Note the lack of functional V-I shenanigans.

Its even more important to know that in this style, chords are not thought of as vertical entities, but products of voice leading and melodic movement. It still is this way. Your ears actually hear harmony as lines, not boxes.


1:16 is in Ionian, NOT Major. There is no functional harmony! No cadential movement. The harmonies are just shades of a major scale, resting points in between melodic convergence.

This next one starts off in Aeolian before going to a lot of different places. There are virtually no leading tones, no typical chord progressions.


To REALLY hammer this point home, The first thirteen minutes of this are modal.


In fact each melody is set in its own mode, but all the voices are a P5 apart. This creates a massive Aeolian harmonic texture. Freeze framing the music an attempting to name or analyze any of the chords created by the canon would be a pointless exercise.

This new modal resurgence was one of the main forces behind the modern embracing of modal frameworks. But where did these composers (who did not use the Gregorian church modes) get this information? Maybe they got it from here:
Last edited by Jet Penguin at Nov 6, 2014,
Modal Folk Music: Another Influence

Perhaps the composers were influenced by the folk music of Europe. Without going in too deep (we have to get to 2014 eventually ), some of the folk music of the time did not follow the tonal/major/minor system.

Much of the music was melodically based and did not follow functional harmony. In fact, the musicians probably did not think of chords as vertical units either, nor did they seek to fulfill some cadential action.

Check out this melody. Play it if you can read.


Notice the C Naturals everywhere. Now notice that unlike a Bach prelude, simply playing the melody tells you nothing about any functional harmonic action except that we appear to revolve around a D major triad. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are modal.

Now notice that even though we are using all the notes of a G major scale, why are we notated in D major? How can we tell (key signature aside) that this is actually in D Mixolydian and not G Major?

Play the melody and tell me where the root sounds. Even though we have ZERO harmonic information, the structure of the melody both rhythmically and melodically places D as the tonic pitch and A as the dominant pitch. It is this P5 interval and structure that establishes us as being in D Mixolydian.

Lets do one more before we move on.


For the same reasons, this is not in C major, but in D Dorian. The melody establishes D, there is no functional harmony, and the melody contains the character pitch of the mode!

Note: You may have seen these folk tunes set to more "traditional" chords before. Those are just harmonizations. The melodies themselves are modal, but we can remove this modal status by harmonizing it with a functional progression. We could also harmonize it modally.

But I'll bet money the sailors weren't playing rhythm guitar, and just singing that melody.

So, we can draw the conclusion that in order for a melody to be modal, it actually needs the character pitch in the melody. The character pitch is the note that differentiates that mode from a Major scale, like the b7 in Mixolydian. you need this pitch to create a modal framework.

To write a strictly minor pentatonic melody and claim it is in Dorian would be erroneous. Unless your ears have contrary information, they will not usually assume the music is "different." Let's move on.

Kind Of Blue And The Modal Revolution

Fast forward to the 1950s. Jazz has become the most popular form of entertainment music on the planet, and concert and folk music have fallen by the wayside. The big band era is in total decline (thanks to WWII) and bebop has begun to reach its high point. This music had complex and completely insane TONAL chord progressions that looked to the chromatic harmony of the late Romantic periods and demanded technically mastery to play over.

We now are thinking about harmony vertically, where chords are units we create melodies over. It used to be vice-versa.

During this time, a circle of important jazz luminaries such as Miles Davis and the die-hard Ravel fan Gil (not Bill) Evans began to grow dissatisfied with bebop. They saw in the challenging harmonies not a path to improvisational freedom, but a prison where they needed to follow the chord changes and could not develop their ideas adequately.

Gil (and later Bill) Evans (no relation) were part of Davis' circle at this point. All three musicians were classically trained (The two Evans' the most so) and began to experiment in a similar vein to that of the Impressionist composers.

Gil Evans would work with Davis to create bold orchestrations that did away with bop harmony, as seen here:


Bill Evans would join the group after Gil Evans' departure, playing piano and bringing new compositional and improvisational insight to the next sessions.

The product of those sessions was the album Kind of Blue, the best selling jazz album EVER. This was true modal music:


These are actual examples of modal frameworks. Note how the piece seems to be in 5 sections, each in a different mode. Within each section, there is still movement form chord to chord. But the voicing (only Bill Evans is playing chords) are constantly changing. How is he building tension without progression?

The short answer is that a modal framework (the ONLY use of modes in contemporary music, where we think vertically about harmony) is a built in tension-release system that allows for use to create movement and propulsive interest without pulling a blatant cadential stunt.

Again, note the lack of functional harmonic progression and slow harmonic movement. For those who didn't follow the last mode thread, this piece is a collection of 5 modal frameworks. You can hear the modulations from one to another very easily.

Notice that there is still movement from harmony to harmony, but no function. No progression. The chords are simply suggestive of a tonality.

This music, (since jazz WAS pop music then) brought modal frameworks into the mainstream, where they were adopted wholesale by musicians of other genres and incorporated into the music once again. And now, here we are 55 years after Kind Of Blue, still attempting to understand information that was codified (at least in a pop context) over half a century ago. Hence the absurdity of the mode war.

History Lesson Over. Let's actually work with this stuff.
Last edited by Jet Penguin at Nov 6, 2014,
Modes And Character Pitches

To get everyone up to speed here's a list of modes from bright to dark, with each mode's character pitch listed.

Lydian = #4

Ionian (Major) = Nat. 4 AND/OR Maj7 (part of the reason Ionian w/out Major is so hard)

Mixolydian = b7

Dorian = Maj 6

Aeolian = m6 with a Nat. 2 (Same deal as Ionian)

Phrygian = b2

Locrian = Technically the Dim 5th, but you will NEVER SEE A LOCRIAN FRAMEWORK. This is because the lack of P5 makes establishing the mode next to impossible.

Don't believe me? Without any chords, Improvise melodically in Locrian and try to make it sound not-Phrygian. Good Luck.

Now as I have stated before, we need to use that character pitch melodically when writing a modal melody to confirm the modality. We can't skip it or it'll sound major/minor.

On the subject of melody, chromatic embellishment and its principle still apply to modal melodies and change nothing. Here's a good intro to chromatics:


Unfortunately, I can't get into the intricacies of modal melody writing right now. Instead, we are going to learn how to identify and create a modal framework.

Modal Frameworks

A modal framework is a sequence of chords that "frame" a mode to prepare it for improvised and written melodies. The term "modal chord progression" for reasons I am hoping are now apparent, its both oxymoronic and misleading. But how can we create tension and movement without this?

Instead, a modal framework creates tension and movement all due to one thing and one thing only: The character pitch. A modal framework looks like this.

Dm - Em - x Infinity.

This is a classic Dorian modal framework. We don't hear Dm7 and Em7 as two different tonics, as they are not distantly related (by pitch class or by length of time between changes), but instead as D Dorian.

Look at the first chord. We have the pitches (D F A). There is no character pitch (B nat, the M6) to be found.

This is the tonic chord, the most stable of all chords in a framework. The tonic chord ALWAYS has scale degree 1 as the root.

Check the second chord. We have (E G B). I spy a character pitch. This chord is called a "Cadence Chord!"

A Cadence Chord is any harmonic unit that contains the character pitch of the mode as a chord tone. These chords are extremely important as they are the ONLY way to create tension WITHOUT progression.

Now what if we did this:

Dm - Em - Fmaj7 - Em x Infinity.

What's the deal with Fmaj7? We have (F A C E). There is no character pitch, but it is certainly not the tonic. This chord is a "stable chord"

A stable chord does not create tension, nor does it resolve the tension. It simply has one job. To connect cadence chords. It exists in a framework solely for this reason.

Now I know you guys have counterexamples. What if we do this?

Fmaj7 - Em x Infinity.

This CANNOT be D Dorian. In this scenario, Fmaj7 is the tonic chord, and Em is the cadence chord. We are in F Lydian.

In the absence of Dm, The Fmaj7 becomes our tonic chord. Just as you cannot have a melody without a character pitch claim to be modal, you cannot have the tonic chord be one that is not actually there. The Fmaj7 fills the sonic vacuum and makes this a Lydian progression. So:

You can have a framework without a stable chord, but NEVER without a tonic chord.

Before I continue, you may not have anything BUT tonic chords in a modal framework.


That's two modal frameworks. D Dorian, and Eb Dorian. How do I know it is in Dorian without cadence chords? Look at the melody. Look at those character pitches.

So we can now draw a final conclusion and define a modal framework thusly:

A Modal Framework consists of the alternation between a tonic chord and a cadence chord. Occasionally the tonic chord is swapped for a stable chord but only when it does not confuse our sense of returning to (I).

Modal or Not?

So let's do another one.

G - F - C - G x Infinity. Is this modal?

Is that your final answer?

If you said NO, good job!

Why not? It's G - F?

This is the most common defense of Mixolydian I see, lets break it apart.

G is the tonic chord and F (b7 in the root) is the cadence chord. Sounds good so far.

But what about C (C E G)??? No character pitch, stable chord, right?

Nope. Look at what it is doing. IV to I?


Had that gone G - F forever, We would be in Mixolydian. But the presence of the C major chord creates both:

1. A plagal cadence (IV I)

2. Two non cadence chords in a row. We done goofed.

The music now ceases to be modal, and would be better analyzed as a tonal progression using mode mixture to derive the bVII chord.

Which brings us to another conclusion:

In a Modal Framework, the chords almost always move stepwise.

There are very few exceptions to that, and most of them are due to the framework only being one chord.

So, a modal framework is created when we alternate between chords that do not (tonic) and do (cadence) contain the character pitch. We must avoid functional harmony.

We must avoid functional harmony.


Okay, how about this one?

F - G7 x infinity

If you said F Lydian you are right!

F - G7 - C - F

But now you are wrong.

We need to be extremely careful when dealing with dominant 7ths. We cannot allow them to resolve as expected, or even sound like they are going to. It pulls us into functional tonality and ruins the mode. We can avoid this entirely by dropping the 7 and thus avoiding the tritone.

Another common solution is to do this, in a Mixolydian Context:

Gmaj7 - Fmaj7

As long as function is avoided, chromatic embellishment doesn't affect modality. Despite the F# in the tonic chord, we still hear the modal framework a being in G Mixolydian, whilst avoiding any expectation of a C chord.

The required elements are still there: Alternation between a tonic (I) chord and modal cadence chord.


We need to be super careful with Dom7ths (you can make it work with a little finesse), and avoid m7b5 and dim7ths ENTIRELY

So, Let me end with one final example to test everyone:

Fmaj7 - G7 - Am7 - G7 - Fmaj7 x Infinity

Is it modal? Think carefully.


The G7 resolving to the Am7 is a deceptive cadence (V VI) in C major. We need to avoid the cadential patterns of the relative Ionian (major) lest we destroy the modality.

So this is a case where the stable chord is the problem, not the Dom7. Even if that was a G triad, we would still hear the cadence.
Last edited by Jet Penguin at Nov 6, 2014,
Final Points/Tying It All Together

-A Modal Framework consists of the alternation between a tonic chord and a cadence chord. Occasionally the tonic chord is swapped for a stable chord but only when it does not confuse our sense of returning to (I).

-Modal Frameworks are more or less the ONLY method of using modal music in a contemporary rock/pop/jazz/chords are vertical context.

-Modal Frameworks of Harmonic Minor exist. They follow the same rules, but they have two character pitches. Because of this, the only one really used is Phrygian Dominant.

-Modal Frameworks of Melodic Minor do NOT exist. MM is shading device, using to embellish harmonies derived from major/minor. MM sonorites have no meaning out of this context.

-To create a Modal Framework, use the chords diatonic to the mode, in the pattern mentioned before. Do not use m7b5 chords, and be careful with dominant 7ths.

-You can chromatically alter a modal melody without destroying modality.

-Chromatically altering modal harmony WILL destroy modality UNLESS you can avoid creating Functional Harmony. The most common use of harmonic alteration is to prevent a chord from sounding like V7 in the relative Ionian.

-Due to the lack of harmonic function in modal contexts, you have the freedom to experiment more with melodic development and worry less about "making the changes," as there is no longer a chord progression.

-This also applies to playing chords. If you see 16 bars of a Dm vamp, you don't have to play one chord. You can play as many as you want provided you avoid functional harmony and create a long-term modal framework.

-On Improv and Melody, that last point was the ONLY, the ONLY ramification of the musics status of tonal or modal as far as "what scale (ugh) do I play?" is concerned.

-Scale/Mode choice when Improvising or creating melody is just that, a choice. It does not change the harmonic analysis of the page. I cannot stress this enough. Those decisions are akin to doing paint by numbers with your own colors. The boxes are still there.

-I really can't stress that enough. So many times are we met with "well I think of everything modally, G-C-F is Mixolydian blah blah." BUT:

The scales you play over a progression are personal choice and do NOT affect the modality or tonality of the music.


Modal music is old. It predates harmony by ages. Even the current use of modal music is old. We can sit here all day and discuss which way everyone "likes" to think about it and that's fine. But the point is this. If you have a system that works for you in terms of modal thinking and making the right decisions improvisatorially, then use it. That being said:

This information was standardized and codified in the pop music community over 55 years ago, and in the concert music community HUNDREDS of years ago. There is a generally accepted analysis and answer to this stuff. If your system works, keep it. But if you want to get on the same page as the pro/academic community, read these two goddamn threads!

Obviously not all the possible scenarios in music have been covered in this thread; I am now officially drinking scotch & fielding questions. Provided the radiation poisoning hasn't gotten you, ask away.
Last edited by Jet Penguin at Nov 6, 2014,
Great read, and lot of effort there. Well done. Which theory books are you getting this from (especially modal framework)? I'm not going back into the whole key discussion :-)

I know see where you're coming from drawing the distinction between major and ionian.

cheers, Jerry

The term "modal framework" has been thrown around a bit by the Berklee people, but it was really coined by the pianist Bert Ligon, who has a fantastic series of books on Improvisation.

He used the term in order to reconcile both the fact that modal music in a "chords are vertical" context is used differently from concert music modal-ness, and the fact that many tunes only contain modal sections, juxtaposed with more tonal areas.


It all has to do with context. A Major scale is the pitch collection of the Ionian mode used in a tonal context. I can harmonize a major melody tonally or modally. This harmonization is what will often determine the status as tonal or modal.

I could harmonize a simple melody like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star tonally, or modally. Harmonizing it tonally puts us in a major key and a tonal system. Harmonizing it modally (sucessfully, Ionian melodies can be difficult) puts us in the Ionian mode.

Unless, the melody implies functional harmony. You can't (not without SERIOUS trickery anyway) re-harmonize a Bach invention or Charlie Parker solo modally because the nature of the melody's voice leading monophonically implies a tonal chord progression.

It's much easier to harmonize a modal melody tonally than vice-versa. Let me know if that makes any sense.


Thanks man, I could have gone completely off the deep end and wrote three or four more mega posts but I figured it best to let people discuss and go from there. Also I was totally fried mentally after this week
Quote by Jet Penguin

Thanks man, I could have gone completely off the deep end and wrote three or four more mega posts but I figured it best to let people discuss and go from there. Also I was totally fried mentally after this week

I know that feel.
Yeah, good ol' exam week ruining my life. That's the downside of class all day 3 days a week, I guess.
I am now officially drinking scotch & fielding questions

wolf does hope your drinking a single malt..(glenfiddich suggested)

tip of the hat for your hard work on this thread...and effort to unravel the confusion on the "M" word..now its the application part that will be the most difficult to explain..while dom7 chords ruin a modal feel..altered doms / majors or any part thereof really throw a wrench in the gears..MA7b5/dom 13 .. but guys like holdsworth/scofield/mclaughlin float over such chords as sounds not harmonic hitch posts .. yes they use MM & co a lot and melodic patterns as chromatic gateways to surprise the listener..(and the players who want to burn their guitars after seeing them)

while I appreciate your work..and JazzRockFeel..thank you also..(did I read you right?? you are NOT a guitar player!!) and your breakdown of the difference between the two approaches-tonal/modal..i feel most of the folks on this site have their eyes rolling and heads spinning at the amount of concentrated info contained..it takes ALOT of time and dedicated practice to apply the principles into a coherent musical application with knowledge and authority -- ie- I DO know what I'm doing..!

Yeah I've never played guitar lol. I was a bass player which is what brought me here, but I haven't played in years.

I found a definition if key in the Oxford Music Dictionary, and it agrees with your definition.

cheers, Jerry
Wooooooo! I feel so validated

Thanks for the update Jerry, Now I don't have to feel like I'm a crazy person when talking about keys!
Quote by Jet Penguin
Wooooooo! I feel so validated

Thanks for the update Jerry, Now I don't have to feel like I'm a crazy person when talking about keys!

I have to take note of this, as some point the definition got narrowed down, but that's fine.
I'm off to my padded cell :-)

cheers, Jerry
Quote by Jet Penguin
Wooooooo! I feel so validated

Thanks for the update Jerry, Now I don't have to feel like I'm a crazy person when talking about keys!

Actually, the Oxford defn states the term is used with major and minor scales (HM, NM, MM). So it's more restrictive than where you state the tonic is a major or minor triad.
BTW: Did you mean to use the word "root" in the following?

1. What pitch is the root note?

2. Is the root's diatonic tertian triad major or minor?

That should be tonal centre instead of root, unless you were talking about the root of the scale.

cheers, Jerry
Jet, you explained Modal chord progressions very well and I appreciate that. However I don't understand the concept of "stable chords" and I'm having trouble getting more information on them. Could you explain it a little? Let's use C Lydian (it's a good scale/mode) as an example.

Thanks for all your help ... again.
Yeah Ronald, I'll break down C Lydian as an example.

Here are the diatonic 7th chords in C Lydian. Character pitch in bold:

Cmaj7 -> C E G B -> Imaj7

D7 -> D F# A C -> II7

Em7 -> E G B D -> IIIm7

F#m7b5 -> F# A C E -> #IVm7b5

Gmaj7 -> G B D F# -> Vmaj7

Am7 -> A C E G -> VIm7

Bm7 -> B D F# A -> VIIm7

Now we have three types of chords. Tonic, Cadence and Stable.

Tonic Chord

There is only one, the chord with scale degree 1 as the root:


Cadence Chords

These chords have the character pitch (F#) as a major (1 3 5 7) chord tone.




We are throwing out F#m7b5 because m7b5 chords destroy modality. We can keep the dominant 7 chord in this case because it functions as a II7, a non-functioning dominant. As long as we don't follow it with a G or Db harmony we are okay.

We also need to be careful with the Gmaj7 and make sure we don't make Cmaj7-Gmaj7 sound like a IVmaj7-Imaj7 in G, instead of a Imaj7-Vmaj7 in C.

Stable Chords

The remaining chords that do not contain the character pitch are stable chords:



Creating A Modal Framework

We need to start with the tonic chord and move to a cadence chord.

However after we get to the cadence chord, we can go back to tonic, or use a stable chord in between two cadence chords.

Tonic -> Cadence -> Tonic OR Stable -> Cadence ->Tonic OR Stable -> Cadence ->etc.

A Quick Few Examples:

|Cmaj7 -> Bm7 -> Am7 (stable) -> Gmaj7| (xInf).

|Cmaj7 -> D7| (xInf)

|Cmaj7 -> Bm7 -> Em7 -> D7| (xInf.)

|Cmaj7 -> D7 -> Cmaj7 -> Bm7 -> Am7| (x4) ->F#m7b5

(We have now escaped modality by playing a #IVm7b5, an unstable sub for Imaj7 in the KEY of C.)

Eventually we want to return to the tonic chord periodically, preferably at the ends of phrases or sections. Modal frameworks usually only have two or three different chords used. Don't spam stable chords forever, go back to (I)!

Note the alteration between tonic/stable and cadence chords. This cycle continues forever until we either return to tonic and begin again, or escape the modal framework, perhaps by creating a cadence with the Dom7 or m7b5 chord. Endless possibility.

Lemme know if that makes sense, and feel free to ask questions.
Thanks but I have 2 more questions (and stupid questions at that). With modes considered, which do you like better F Major or G Major? Both have some great sounding modes and are very nice sounding. G Major has the E Minor scale (a scale that rules Metal in general and is a great key) as its minor scale and contains C Lydian. On the other hand, F major has both the "E, F, A#/Bf" and "C and E" notes along with D Minor (which is gloomy). I love both but was curious about your opinion.

Second, how would one make an E Locrian chord progression. I've started to grow fond of its sound but can't seem to wrap my head around any vamps/progressions that would work. The E minor chord has a B note in it but E Locrian doesn't. I'd like some help.
Not stupid questions at all.

#1. I see you are one of those musicians who believes that not all keys sound the same. All keys sound the same to me, I don't believe that keys have different moods or feelings. So I can't really comment.

The other thing too is that you can't have keys and modes at the same time. Just because they share notes doesn't mean they coexist. You can't be in G major and C Lydian at the same time, it doesn't make logical sense. So I dunno. I don't have an opinion. I always write my melodies first and then harmonize them.

#2. The short answer is that you can't. Without a P5, we cannot melodically establish E as a tonal center. In addition, m7b5 chords destroy modality. Anything you play in "E Locrian" is going to sound like "A Phrygian" due to the structure of pitches and intervals in the collection.

There's no way to even force it. Attempting to use Em7b5 as the tonic chord will make it sound like a IIm7b5 in D or #IVm7b5 in Bb.

So yeah, they aren't dumb questions at all, don't worry. They just don't really have answers

Disclaimer: With some trickery, Locrian melodies are possible. It's just that harmonizing them with traditional structures can be quite difficult. Often the best analysis on a seemingly Locrian passage is that there are no chords, just a huge "Locrian moment."
Last edited by Jet Penguin at Nov 13, 2014,
I was going to defend this thread and say it's much better than the old thread, but then I looked at the old one and see that AlanHB edited it so that this this thread, JRF's thread, and AlanHB's blog post are all linked right at the top and all of them together cover everything, so with that in mind I agree it's a little redundant to have this one stickied as well when it's linked to in another sticky.