#1
I've just checked in the sticky and I didn't really find anything like this, basically I'm finally getting my head round theory but I'm trying to see the big picture here as opposed to details then it occured to me...

...which came first, the major scale or modes?

I know this information is out there somewhere but I'm hoping someone will just know, if not it might spark some interesting discussion.

Here's how I currently understand things - and I'm aware that this may be wrong

Modes are an ancient and relatively simple compositional tool, choosing a mode is like an artist choosing a pallette of colours. The different modes all have a different feel to them, however they work best when reinforced with a pedal tone of the root note. This makes me realise that they were vital for musicians who wanted to add variety to single note melody-based music...you can play the notes of a scale in a different order but it won't necessarily change the "feel" of the music if the interval pattern remains constant.

However, were the modes originally derived from the major scale, was the major scale created as a way to tie all the modes together or is it just a happy accident that the 7 modes can all be found by starting the major scale pattern of intervals from different notes?

AFAIK modal music predates the more complex idea of harmony, which led to the widespread use of chords and intervals to dictate the feel and mood of a piece, which meant that melody lines were freed from the chore of defining a piece and could instead be used more for embellishment and accent. That development would have left modes somewhat redundant as a compositional tool as they weren't designed to cope with complex chord patterns (because they didn't exist!), hence the expansion of the major scale to full chords...but was the major scale "the major scale" before it was expanded to chords, or was it just that the notes of the plain old ionian mode happened to work best when music convention wished to choose a reference point?

Given that modern music tends to follow the more recent convention of using chords it becomes very tricky to apply modes , and from a musical point of view you can't simply "transplant" modes into any old piece because unless everything else around it fits then musical convention will dictate that you're actually playing something else even if the notes are the same. If you listen to Satriani, for example, he writes some complex rhythms, but quite often for solos things will simplify right down to emphasise the "modality" of that particular snippet.

Like I said, I *think* this is finally all falling into place, but I'm curious as to where it all came from
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#2
Modes came first. They were originally Church modes used in hymns and such where Dorian starts on D and goes to the next D with no key signature. Phrygian on E with no key, etc. The major scales then derived from that.

I hope I answered your question. Not sure.
#4
Quote by USCpunk88
Modes came first. They were originally Church modes used in hymns and such where Dorian starts on D and goes to the next D with no key signature. Phrygian on E with no key, etc. The major scales then derived from that.

I hope I answered your question. Not sure.

That's what I thought - it seemd logical that they did but I wasn't 100% sure...I'm hoping some people will read this and it'll help them understand modes a bit more. I think there's far too much emphasis on them in the guitar community, they're like this magic word that people bandy around when they want to sound clever. They're still useful for analyzing music, but as far as I can tell from a compositional point of view a lot of what they were used for can be accomplished with a good knowledge of the major scale and chord construction.
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#5
Yeah, I'm majoring in Music and I'm taking a class now, The History of Western music up to the Baroque period and we're learning about all the modes that were used as a basis for the songs used in the Mass and other Church services.
#6
Seeing as how modes and the major scale are the exact same thing, neither was invented before the other. Each mode is just the major scale of a specific key starting on a different note.
Ionian starts on the 1st note of the major scale.
Dorian starts on the 2nd note of the major scale.
Phrygian starts on the 3rd note of the major scale.
Lydian starts on the 4th note of the major scale.
Mixolydian starts on the 5th note of the major scale.
Aeolian starts on the 6th note of the major scale.
Locrian starts on the 7th note of the major scale.

In essence, when you start playing the Dorian mode for example, you are really just playing the major scale but starting on the second note instead of on the first note.
#7
Quote by USCpunk88
Yeah, I'm majoring in Music and I'm taking a class now, The History of Western music up to the Baroque period and we're learning about all the modes that were used as a basis for the songs used in the Mass and other Church services.

Good stuff, wish I'd been interested in all this a lot earlier!

Have you seen the British TV programme "How Music Works"? It's the best (and possibly only!) documentary on music i've seen.

Quote by psychoticmonkey
Seeing as how modes and the major scale are the exact same thing, neither was invented before the other. Each mode is just the major scale of a specific key starting on a different note.
Ionian starts on the 1st note of the major scale.
Dorian starts on the 2nd note of the major scale.
Phrygian starts on the 3rd note of the major scale.
Lydian starts on the 4th note of the major scale.
Mixolydian starts on the 5th note of the major scale.
Aeolian starts on the 6th note of the major scale.
Locrian starts on the 7th note of the major scale.

In essence, when you start playing the Dorian mode for example, you are really just playing the major scale but starting on the second note instead of on the first note.

That's just it, they WERE invented, and at different times...I already knew that, I just wasn't sure of the order. If you read my first post you'll see a pretty detailed explanation as to why modes are their own separate musical convention.
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Last edited by steven seagull at Feb 29, 2008,
#8
Modes came first? Really? Based on what I know (which isn't an extensive history
of music), I'd have thought the major scale would have really been the first use
and modes would have been derived afterwards.

The major scale originates from an even earlier 4 note scale called the major
tetrachord which has the formula W W H. 4 notes = 4 fingers to cover holes on
early wind instruments. As music developed, two of these tertachords were
"glued" together separated by a whole step to give W W H W W W H which is
the major scale formula. I'd think this would predate anything wrt modes.
#9
I think some people aren't quite understanding your question. Yes, all modes can be derived from the major scale, but historically, the major scale as we know it DID NOT come first. Music like Gregorian chants and early church hymns were written in modes other than the major scale; Dorian, for example, was one of the most commonly used scales (and I'm calling a scale because it certainly wasn't being thought of as "a mode" of the major scale - there was no "major scale").

As far as edg's comment about the "gluing" of two half-scales together, I must admit that I've never heard of it, but it makes sense. I'll have to check that out.
#10
I know that modal music dates back to the Greeks even, and that modern Western music theory has been around for 500 years or so...I just wasn't sure how much of it existed already and simply hadn't been formalised.
Actually called Mark!

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#11
Quote by Philbigtime

As far as edg's comment about the "gluing" of two half-scales together, I must admit that I've never heard of it, but it makes sense. I'll have to check that out.


yeah, he's right about tetrachords. A major scale consists of a lower and upper tetrachord(a perfect 4th) - So it goes W, W, H. And then a "link" and another W, W, H.
So in the key of C, Lower tetra=C, D, E, F. Upper Tetra=G, A, B, C. So from there we get our good old, W, W, H, (W), W, W, H, scale formula.

But to stay on topic: It's also nice to remember that modes are named after ancient Greek peoples. Like the Ionians and Phyrigians and stuff. We're talking Homeric times here. Theoretically modes were whatever notes sounded good going up and down...until that bastard Pythagoras went and complicated everything! (obviously modes were "corrected" to fit modern tunings when they were came about around 1750 and modulation was made possible/feasible.)
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