Page 1 of 3
#1
Intro: Am, G, Em, C, D

Verses: Am, G, Am, C, G,D


The key is in E minor but I would like to know what scales I can use over it. Thank you so much for reading! 
#2
You are approaching it all wrong. You just play E minor over it. It's not like you play E minor over the E minor chord and D mixolydian over the D chord. It's just all E minor. No modes involved. You can play literally any other scales over it if they sound alright to you (but many scales would naturally sound bad though), but that is a stylistic choice and really doesn’t relate to modes anyway.
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#3
You sure that is in E minor?  I mean, the verse progression doesn't even have an E minor chord. Nor does it contain the dominant chord of E minor, which is B major. The chords can be found in E minor, yeah, but they can also be found in G major. Can you tell the difference between the two? Do you know if this progression is in either?

So maybe start with thinking about the key a bit more. After that, you need to realize that when you derive modes from a major scale, if the song is in major, no matter which mode you play you're still playing the major scale, just in a different position. The notes are the same, their order and quantity don't really matter. E minor and G major are relative scales, so if your song is in G major and you play E minor, it still sounds like G major. Just the way functional harmony and tonality works.

That being said, being familiar with the modes can help you reach new areas of the fretboard more easily. Can you derive modes from a parent scale? They're basically scales with the same notes but a different starting position. Since they have the same notes, they fit the same things pretty well.
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#4
I'd say that's in A dorain (AKA gmaj/e min)
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#5
Quote by Guitar137335
I'd say that's in A dorain (AKA gmaj/e min)


A dorian is not a key so it can't be "in A dorian" and it is also erroneous to say the A dorian is G maj/E min since that really is not accurate at all even if they are the same note.

I think that it might be fair to say that it is in A minor though, just with some natural 6ths. It is very common to have an IV or V in a minor key rather than the expected iv or v.
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#6
thepresentense 
The progression is in Am but you think it is Em, so that is a big red flag that you should forget about modes and learn keys.
You might mistakenly think Em because that shares G major's notes, but then G would need to be the key (but it's not).
And you never want to be thinking one thing when it is really another... A minor and C major share the same notes but you never want to be playing in Am and thinking C major, or vice versa.
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#7
Quote by thepresentense
Intro: Am, G, Em, C, D

Verses: Am, G, Am, C, G,D


The key is in E minor but I would like to know what scales I can use over it. Thank you so much for reading! 
The "scale" is simply the notes that the chords spell out between them, which - as you seem to know - is E minor, aka G major. Same scale all the way.

The "key", OTOH - and this is what the other posts are arguing about - is whichever chord "sounds like home": the chord you'd most likely end the song on.

If the Em chord sounds like the key chord, then the key is E minor (E natural minor, or E aeolian).
If the Am chord sounds like the key chord, then it's in A dorian mode.

But you don't have to care about that, it doesn't affect the scale, the pool of notes you use. Solo with the notes in the chords - using the notes in the other chords as passing notes.
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jul 2, 2017,
#8
Quote by jonriley64
If the Am chord sounds like the key chord, then it's in A dorian mode.


There is no A dorian here. A dorian is not a key. This music is not modal. It is in Am with an "outside" chord, D, which is commonly used in Am.
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#9
I would have to actually hear how the chords are used in context before saying "its in X key"..consider that three fairly astute players have assigned three different keys to this progression..I would like to see an roman numeral analysis of how the key was determined
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#10
Here we go again.  

A key is defined by a tonal centre and a scale (that can support a tonal centre).  This is not restricted to scales in the major / minor system (which is the vast majority of music).  Nonetheless, yes there is a key of A Dorian, or A Phrygian and so on.  It is not always correct to try and recast everything back to the major/minor system.  Check out Frank Russo, or Bert Ligon, or Walter Piston.  

There is plenty of music out there that proves this.

Same way it is entirely possible to write chord progressions based on modes, as well as modal grooves.

Who suddenly decided that only the major/minor system can have keys?  Seriously ... I'm interested ... this seems to be a folk lore that has expanded here on UG.
#11
Quote by jerrykramskoy

Who suddenly decided that only the major/minor system can have keys?

Well, who suddenly decided that instead of of a completely sensible analysis, that the progression is in A minor with a borrowed IV chord from the parallel major, that the song is in A dorian? Do we really need to serialize music so far that for every single borrowed chord, borrowed note and new combination of tones we use, we need to come up with a new name? I do not understand the need to complicate such a simple compositional trick like a common borrowed chord so far as to call it a new key in itself. 

Tonal and modal also mean very different things. As you very well know, tonal music is based around a tonic, a home note and home chord that defines the rest of the notes we use and gives them function. You can write a songs that uses only the notes found in G major, that resolves to an A minor chord, sure. I don't even care what you call this, if you want to call it a key of A dorian, go ahead. Just don't say that it's in the mode of A dorian, because the music is clearly tonal because of the functional harmony and resolutions, and therefore it's in a key. I call it A minor because if the tonic chord is minor, I like thinking about it as a minor key. That way, the harmony of the song relates to a tonic, a perfect fifth and a minor third. You can use whatever notes you like around that chord, as long as you resolve it back to Am. And that's enough for me to just call it A minor.
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#12
That was a genuine question ... who changed the theory around keys to not admit that some modes are usable scales that can define a tonal centre, and hence be keys?  When I learned harmony (80's), this was recognised and taught as such, and written about in theory books.  So, when did pedagogy decided this was no longer the case? This is something that a few of you guys here on UG insist on, and hence must have been learned it from some resource.  I sincerely hope the answer isn't Wikipedia.

Specifically, there is a very different feel and sound to playing the above progression as A minor with a borrowed chord, versus as A Dorian.  Very different.  Both approaches are valid.  But for a newbie asking questions, it does no harm to acknowledge this.

Do you accept the principles of minorisation based around the Dorian scale that's used all over the place in Jazz?  Or is, say, Joe Diorio a player that doesn't know what he's doing musically? Or ... (insert long long list of names).  This gets used very commonly as a device in tonal music.

But to me, stating there are only major and minor (as in maj/min system) keys is like telling someone learning maths that 2+2 = 5, and sticking to it.  It's misleading.
#13
Quote by jerrykramskoy
 That was a genuine question ... who changed the theory around keys to not admit that some modes are usable scales that can define a tonal centre, and hence be keys?

I don't define tonal centers by scales. I don't think that a C major key has anything in particular to do with the C major scale. The notes of the C major scale are diatonic to the key of C, sure, but that doesn't really mean that much since you can use any note anyway. The fact that it's in a key just means that the C major chord is the tonic, the point of resolution, and the rest of the chords and notes just propel the composition towards that C major resolution.
Quote by jerrykramskoy
But to me, stating there are only major and minor (as in maj/min system) keys is like telling someone learning maths that 2+2 = 5, and sticking to it.  It's misleading.

I'm not even trying to start an argument with you, as I don't really care what names you assign to different phenomena, so I'm sorry if I sound rude here. But this is a horribly misguided statement. Sticking to a maj/min system is a completely valid way of viewing music theory and composition. It's not at all like saying that 2+2=5, which is a blatantly wrong and illogical statement. I have no trouble understanding your point of view and seeing things like dorian, lydian and phrygian as tonalities. I also, obviously understand my own point of view, which is less about scale shapes and more about how tension and resolution is created in a composition and how a composition moves forward through functional harmony. As someone who sees both sides of the argument, I still stick to my point of view because it just makes more sense to me. Less semantics, more freedom.
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#14
Quote by theogonia777
There is no A dorian here. A dorian is not a key. This music is not modal. It is in Am with an "outside" chord, D, which is commonly used in Am.
OK, you're being strict about the definition of "key" - restricting it to the "major-minor key system". That's OK.

But if the tonal centre of this sequence is A (that's not really clear), then what would be wrong with saying it's "in A dorian mode"? We don't have to call that a "key", although I see no problem with saying A is the "keynote". (Personally I wouldn't use the word "tonic".)

If we do hear A as the centre, we could, of course, call it the "key of A minor". Except there is a D and no Dm, and an Em and no E. That's what makes it a "modal A minor", and dorian rather than aeolian.

As I say, the tonal centre is by no means clear from what we're given. My main point was to say that - for the OP - this doesn't matter. The tonal centre is irrelevant in choosing a scale to improvise with. We can determine that by taking the notes in the chords. In this case, that gives us the pitch collection (t spell it alphabetically) A B C D E F# G. You can use that scale on all the chords, because that's the scale the chords all come from. You would work from the chord tones, ideally, but which one is keynote (if any) is not important. (Spelling out all the notes in all the chords of a piece doesn't always work, because of the possibility of modulation or borrowed chords, but it works fine here.)

The most common names for that pitch collection are "G major scale" and "E minor scale" - because of its traditional use for those two "keys". Personally I'd say G major is quite a likely tonal centre for this sequence (Em certainly isn't). But it all depends on how long each chord lasts, and we don't know that. It would be quite possible for another chord to sound more like a tonal centre than G. But like I say - it doesn't matter.
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jul 3, 2017,
#15
Quote by jonriley64
OK, you're being strict about the definition of "key" - restricting it to the "major-minor key system". That's OK.



Because there is a strict definition of what a key is. It is based entirely on resolution. You can't resolve to a dorian chord.


But if the tonal centre of this sequence is A (that's not really clear), then what would be wrong with saying it's "in A dorian mode"?


Because that is not how modes work.

That's what makes it a "modal A minor",


There's no modal keys. You don't really have a good grasp on the concept of modes.

But like I say - it doesn't matter.


It absolutely matters that you are confusing someone with irrelevant and incorrect nomenclature.
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#16
lol MT never changes
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#18
The hierarchy goes like this in modern music:

1) Tonal center
2) Major/minor
3) Modality

You can harmonize a mode, but you can't tonicize it. You can only tonicize an individual pitch. Building chords around a set of notes is not the same as establishing one of those notes as the arrival point of the harmony/melody.

The only really prominent gray area is when you run into a non-resolving chord sequence, which is what we have in the OP here. Tends to happen when you throw together chords from the same scale without regard for harmonic resolution. You get harmonic motion, but without the tension and resolution that characterizes tonal music, therefore no clear tonic has been established. You're basically just changing harmonies for no reason. The set of notes is easy to identify, but there's little indication as to where the harmony is meant to start and stop. 
Last edited by cdgraves at Jul 3, 2017,
#19
kevatuhri:  I think we are agreeing.  I said I saw both sides of this.  You say you see both side of this.  That's cool. I was arguing that stating one with out recognising the other is misleading to others.  And yes, tonality is achievable when there's a major or minor triad at the tonic.  And you're not sounding rude at all.  This is just a discussion and exchange of views.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 3, 2017,
#20
theogonia777 Kirsten,  where does this strict definition come from (for key)?  For sure, that definition has changed somewhere in the last 30 or so years.

Don't forget  a key can be established by melody alone, and there are an awful lot of melodies that use Dorian etc.  If there's a perfect 5th in the melody, relative to the tonal centre, this can strongly define that centre.
#21
Quote by jerrykramskoy
Don't forget  a key can be established by melody alone, and there are an awful lot of melodies that use Dorian etc.  If there's a perfect 5th in the melody, relative to the tonal centre, this can strongly define that centre.


If the melody is minor with a natural 6th, it's minor.
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#22
the modal wars..never resolve...

I like what Wes Montgomery said ..."..I just open the guitar case and throw some meat in it.."
play well

wolf
#23
Quote by wolflen
the modal wars..never resolve...

I like what Wes Montgomery said ..."..I just open the guitar case and throw some meat in it.."


To beef up his tone?
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#24
Quote by wolflen
the modal wars..never resolve...

I like what Wes Montgomery said ..."..I just open the guitar case and throw some meat in it.."

I tried to google modal wars for a snappy reaction image and what I found out was that the cantina band in star wars is actually called...

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#25
i thought everyone knew that tho

mad about you
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#26
Quote by jerrykramskoy
theogonia777 Kirsten,  where does this strict definition come from (for key)?  For sure, that definition has changed somewhere in the last 30 or so years.

just because a bunch of bad guitarists failed to read past the first chapter of their theory textbook doesn't make it right

Don't forget  a key can be established by melody alone,

if you don't have a harmony lol

and there are an awful lot of melodies that use Dorian etc.  If there's a perfect 5th in the melody, relative to the tonal centre, this can strongly define that centre.


just because a song highlights something outside of standard diatonicism doesn't mean it changes the tonal center. almost no music works in standard diatonicism - that does not separate it from the chord of resolution

keys supersede modes, because the minor and major mode are related to a higher pull towards resolution. the only way to make music actually modal (or atonal), given our modern understanding of how western music is "supposed" to sound and resolve, is to actively remove or modify most of the fundamentally satisfying parts of music (cadence and resolution). it's possible to make interesting modal music, i guess, but this is not that

i really wish people could just forget modes. it's a rabbithole of half-truths and wasted time
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#27
 Hail   What are you ... a kid just at or out of university?  You can't handle a proper discussion?

The people I learned with were/are some of the best musicians in the UK in jazz, rock etc.  And you're insulting them? ... they opened up the world oif music education to the UK.(they started the guitar institute and all that came from it since).  

And you're insulting some of your own (American) great teachers in Jazz, like Bert Ligon, and William Russo.  

Again, no-one has answered my question.  Back up your own statements (and Kirsten).  Don't just make glib statements.   Who is teaching this stuff (and I don't mean you kid to kid).  Which harmony books? What credentials?  Put up, or shut up.  And defiinitely grow up.

But I do agree that modes are not the magic that new players think they are.

As for your statement about melody ... we'll have to disagree, along with a lot of musical evidence that's out there.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 4, 2017,
#28
Quote by jerrykramskoy
You, and Kirsten, are you incapable of backing up your own statements?


lol you're not even capable of spelling my name
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#29
Quote by jerrykramskoy
Again, no-one has answered my question.  Back up your own statements (and Kirsten).  Don't just make glib statements.   Who is teaching this stuff (and I don't mean you kid to kid).  Which harmony books? What credentials? 

Just a thought... maybe, back in the 80's when we didn't have stuff like the internet and such, the fact was that people just weren't aware of different points of views? I think it's completely possible that the music school in the next city over would teach theory in a completely different way than yours. Now that we have the internet, we have the ability to study all different schools of thought when it comes to theory. You need to remember that all theory, in the end, is artificial and it's just names we've given to different phenomena. It's completely possible that different teachers have taught theory in a different way, because it's not set in stone, and it's not a set of rules.

I don't think that there has been any shift in music pedagogy. It's just that back when you studied, you didn't have access to all of the information we have now. Your school and teachers taught their way, other schools probably taught theirs. To answer your question, I've learned music theory in a local musical academy, and now I study in a university, among other things my studies include research in popular and classical music and musical analysis. I've also learned a lot through the internet and theory books, and while you might look down on that, I can assure you that I'm critical of my sources and that I can validate whether or not information is trustworthy.

That being said, I still think the problem is not that the definition has changed, it's just that back in your day, people kind of made up their own definitions and different teachers rolled with what they were taught.

Also - Kristen and Hail are definitely not helping productive discussion here, nor is Jerry by calling us a bunch of kids. I think it would be extremely unfair to the TS to close this thread  but if this devolves to you three insulting each other I'll have to do that. It's not like we didn't already botch this thread with loads of unnecessary information and bickering.
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#30
Thanks Kev.  I wasn't including you in the statement about kids. I have studied music for many many years, and will be a student of it for life.   I'm not knocking the Internet or theory books. I have seen great information and absolute garbage on the Internet for music theory.   I have a load of theory books, including recent ones (Ligon, 2010).  These books absolutely recognise the major/minor system, and also define keys as I have said, beyond that system.  Go back many years, and the same in quoted in earlier theory books.  Check out Walter Piston.  That was a standard text book for classical music theory.

Now I very very rarely rise to the bait, but I'm not the one slagging off a lot of excellent musicians and theorists.  I'm just pointing there is more than one view on this topic.

Surely someone can state what text books are being taught from that reduces key to only the major/minor system (especially jazz theory), as I want to read these for myself?

I totally agree with the major/minor system, where applicable, and use it.
#31
Quote by theogonia777
Because there is a strict definition of what a key is. It is based entirely on resolution. You can't resolve to a dorian chord.
Well,that might depend on what you mean by "resolve". There are such things as "modal cadences". Modal music is still "centric".

I'm talking of modern modal music, of course, not the medieval kind - although if your position is that only the medieval kind can be truly called "modal", that's OK. It seems to me, in that case, we need some other term for modern music that is not based on traditional major and minor keys. The kind of music that a lot of other people call (loosely) "modal".
Quote by theogonia777

Because that is not how modes work.
So how would you define a piece of music centred on an Am chord, that used the scale A B C D E F# G?

Some kind of A minor key?

Quote by theogonia777

There's no modal keys. You don't really have a good grasp on the concept of modes.
I understand very well that keys and modes are different things, they work differently, and I think I have a very good grasp of modes.

But perhaps you do know more than me, and could explain what A dorian mode is, and give some examples?
Quote by theogonia777

It absolutely matters that you are confusing someone with irrelevant and incorrect nomenclature.
I meant that the name of the scale, or the position of the tonal centre didn't matter in terms of the OP's question.

I totally agree that correct definition of terms is crucial. As I say, perhaps you could clarify things with the correct nomenclature? With musical examples - ideally links to audio so that we all know what you mean?
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jul 4, 2017,
#32
Quote by theogonia777
If the melody is minor with a natural 6th, it's minor.
What does "natural" mean? If you mean "major 6th", perhaps you should use the correct nomenclature, to avoid confusion.
#33
Quote by jonriley64
What does "natural" mean? If you mean "major 6th", perhaps you should use the correct nomenclature, to avoid confusion.


It is a natural 6th (or just a 6th when written out) because it is not a flat 6th. The natural minor scale, as I would hope you know, goes root, 2nd, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, flat 6th, flat 7th, and repeat from step 1. The dorian scale would be written as root, 2nd, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, flat 7th, and repeat. The 6th is raised from a flat 6th, it is a 6th rather than a flat 6th. All intervals are assumed to be major (or perfect in the case of the 4th and 5th) unless otherwise specified as sharp or flat and so to call the 6th a major 6th is unnecessary in the same way that calling a 7 chord a major/minor7th or major/flat7 or the same thing with any 7th other than perhaps the minor/major7 or most extended chords is unnecessary. Although I do find it strange that jazz musicians referred to the half diminished chord as a 7b5, though perhaps it makes sense for notation purposes.
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#34
i don't even understand why we're having a modal discussion in a thread for a guy who doesn't even understand that "what scale do i play over this" isn't a valid way to think about music. the thread should've been over at "play your chord tones and listen"
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#35
Play what sounds good?
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#36
I see no problem with calling the tonality of a tune that is centered around Am but uses the F# all the time, "A Dorian". If it's entirely based on the A Dorian scale (like TS's progression), why not call it "A Dorian"?

A dorian is not a key so it can't be "in A dorian"

So a song can't be "in Dorian" because Dorian is not a key? What about the songs that use the Dorian mode? For example, would you say that "Scarborough Fair" is in "E Dorian"?

You can't resolve to a dorian chord.

So what? It's not like pieces in the Dorian mode have no resolutions in them. It's just that in modal music chords are not the "driving force" behind the music. But if we look at TS's progression, functionally speaking it's really not very strong. As cdgraves said, TS's progressions seems kind of "random" in a way - it just uses chords from a scale, but there is no clear "direction" in the progression (and there's nothing wrong with that).

So again, what would be the problem with calling the tonality of TS's progression "A Dorian"?
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#37
Silly music theory nerds making everything more complicated than it really is, No wonder many people hate learning theory.
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#38
Quote by MaggaraMarine
So a song can't be "in Dorian" because Dorian is not a key? What about the songs that use the Dorian mode? For example, would you say that "Scarborough Fair" is in "E Dorian"?


It can't be "in" a scale though. It could use a scale, sure. I would just say it's in the key of Em. Here's a question though. If the piece is in E minor with a consistent C# throughout, how would you notate the key signature?
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#39
Quote by theogonia777
It is a natural 6th (or just a 6th when written out) because it is not a flat 6th. The natural minor scale, as I would hope you know, goes root, 2nd, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, flat 6th, flat 7th, and repeat from step 1.
I hate to argue, but you did pick me up on incorrect terminology, so I feel it's only fair to point out that "minor" is more correct than "flat" in those cases.
I understand what you mean by "flat" and "natural", of course, but those terms (as I'm sure you know ) already have other distinct meanings in music notation.
Quote by theogonia777

The dorian scale would be written as root, 2nd, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, flat 7th, and repeat.
In your terms, yes.
Quote by theogonia777

The 6th is raised from a flat 6th, it is a 6th rather than a flat 6th. All intervals are assumed to be major (or perfect in the case of the 4th and 5th) unless otherwise specified as sharp or flat
Now you're being confusing, because of your use of "flat" to mean "minor".
Quote by theogonia777

and so to call the 6th a major 6th is unnecessary
Not unnecessary, just correct. Unambiguous.
Quote by theogonia777
in the same way that calling a 7 chord a major/minor7th or major/flat7 or the same thing with any 7th other than perhaps the minor/major7 or most extended chords is unnecessary.
I think I know what you mean, but your grammar is a little odd...
Quote by theogonia777

Although I do find it strange that jazz musicians referred to the half diminished chord as a 7b5, though perhaps it makes sense for notation purposes.
You mean m7b5, not 7b5, but I'll allow that may have been a typo.
IME in jazz,the terms half-diminished and m7b5 are used fairly equally, and the symbol Ø is about as common as m7b5 in chord charts.
#40
Quote by theogonia777
It can't be "in" a scale though. It could use a scale, sure. I would just say it's in the key of Em. Here's a question though. If the piece is in E minor with a consistent C# throughout, how would you notate the key signature?

OK, I understand, though I somewhat disagree. I would say a piece can be "in a mode" . I do think it makes sense to say a piece is in E Dorian if it actually is in E Dorian and doesn't use typical minor key harmonies. "Scarborough Fair" would be a good example of this. "House of the Rising Sun" would be a good example of a song that uses one "Dorian" sounding chord but otherwise uses typical minor key harmonies, and in that case I would say it's in a minor key but uses modal mixture.

When it comes to the key signature, I guess it depends. I'm used to using an E minor key signature for songs that have an Em tonic triad, regardless of the mode. But I understand both ways (2 sharps or 1 sharp). Then again, the key signature doesn't really need to match the key of the song. Even if a song was actually in the key of E minor (I mean, it would use typical minor key functional harmony) but just used C# really frequently, I think it would be justifiable to add C# to the key signature. But I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with modes. It's more about making the music as easy to read as possible. And which way (2 sharps or 1 sharp) makes the music easier to read is debatable.

Quote by Guitar137335
Silly music theory nerds making everything more complicated than it really is, No wonder many people hate learning theory.

If you use incorrect terminology, you will be (and should be) corrected. Spreading misinformation doesn't help anybody and it can actually make things more complicated than they are. But sure, the things that people are talking about here right now is just stupid nitpicking and that is making things seem more complicated than they really are.

I guess we can all at least agree that A Dorian is not the same thing as E minor or G major (and also that E minor and G major are two different things).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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