#1
Say I have a piece of music that consists of 16 bars of Bm7 followed by 16 bars of Dmaj7. I would treat this as a piece of modal music; for the Bm7 I would probably play B dorian, and for the Dmaj7 I would probably play D lydian, though there are other scale choices for both chords. If the piece was 8 bars of Bm7 followed by 8 bars of Dmaj7, I could treat the piece the same way. If I have 4 bars of Bm7 and 4 bars of Dmaj7, I might do the same thing. My question is this: at what point would this passage cease to be modal and become tonal? Is the question in any way relevant or am I just being pedantic?

To me, it seems like the distinction would be governed by the ear and the expectations of the listener, but I was wondering if there was perhaps a theoretical explanation. I would think that at some point the ear would perceive the progression as a vi-I or perhaps a i-bIII, but I don't know what that point is. I think the real issue is this: when does a G(the b6) become preferable to a G#(the 6) over the Bm7 in the ears of the listener?

I think that the placement (the when) of the color notes would be critical in this situation. If you were alternating Bm7-Dmaj7 every other measure (playing in 4/4 time), to lay on a G# on a downbeat would be difficult to pull off well, but playing it on the & of 2 or the & of 4 would be much less jarring if you resolve it on the next downbeat.

Any thoughts? Questions? Insults?
#2
My question is this: at what point would this passage cease to be modal and become tonal?
I don't see a line, I see a ****-off big grey area. Basically I see a key as a way of changing the mode fluidly, or not, depending on what you want to do.

I would think that at some point the ear would perceive the progression as a vi-I or perhaps a i-bIII, but I don't know what that point is
As opposed to what? Not hearing a chord change at all?
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#3
Quote by Ænimus Prime
As opposed to what? Not hearing a chord change at all?


As opposed to hearing those chords as two completely separate tonalities, instead of a harmonic movement within a key.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#4
Quote by titopuente
Is the question in any way relevant or am I just being pedantic?
I don't see how it's relevant. B Dorian and D Lydian do contain the same notes, so if you use them correctly, it doesn't matter what you consider them.


I suppose you could consider it a static Bm7 chord yielding B Dorian and a static Dmaj7 chord yielding D Lydian, but this makes it more complex that I think it needs to be.
#5
B Dorian and D Lydian do contain the same notes, so if you use them correctly, it doesn't matter what you consider them.


But at some point, that progression is going to establish a tonal center (as opposed to hearing the tonal center shift from B to D), and it's going to be either one or the other. He's asking where that point it.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#6
I'm pretty sure that Prime answered my question; it IS a ****-off big grey area. I also think that it's pretty much irrelevant; I can never see myself playing or writing a tune where I would need to know. Thanks for the responses. If you want to continue the discussion, be my guest, but don't continue it just for my benefit.
#7
Quote by titopuente
I'm pretty sure that Prime answered my question; it IS a ****-off big grey area. I also think that it's pretty much irrelevant; I can never see myself playing or writing a tune where I would need to know. Thanks for the responses. If you want to continue the discussion, be my guest, but don't continue it just for my benefit.


We'll continue it, and you're going to sit your ass down and benefit from it.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#8
Out of curiosity, where in the piece does this Bm7/Dmaj7 area sit? Certainly the aural perception of the listener will contribute to whether or not it sounds modal or tonal, but the perception will be affected by what has preceded it. It's an interesting question, though.
#9
hearing those chords as two completely separate tonalities, instead of a harmonic movement within a key.
Well it is harmonic movement, though it may not define a key. No matter what, they will be heard in relation to each other to some degree and not completely seperately.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#10
Quote by Ænimus Prime
Well it is harmonic movement, though it may not define a key. No matter what, they will be heard in relation to each other to some degree and not completely seperately.


But after some length of time, that Dmaj7 is going to establish itself as a new tonic (if it wasn't already) You can only sit on the III chord for so long before the ear starts to interpret it as a new tonal center altogether.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
Last edited by Archeo Avis at May 9, 2008,
#11
this stuff is what frustrates the hell out of me, any books out there I can buy that talk about this. What's so frustrating is one guy says one thing, another person something else, I have trouble understanding what each one said, let alone discerning which one I should listen to.
#12
To Arch:
Yep I completely agree.

But I would add that the tonal centres are also heard in relation to each other as you move between them.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#13
You don't want to look at modality this way at all... frankly, if you have 16 bars of the same harmony, what you have is 16 bars of boring (obligatory '**** minimalism'). Where this becomes too much of the same thing depends on the listener and the music -- generally you can assume that more than two measures of the same harmony is going to drone (but there are exceptions).

Seriously though, modal tonalities are contrapuntal systems, and it's the specific counterpoint that makes them modal, regardless of the scale of the modal structure (I use scale here in terms of 'size', not musical scale). It's impossible to build these systems with static tonalities... in fact, you won't even hear them as being modal after some point.

If you're looking to build a modal system, then it's the system that's modal, and not the static harmonies.
Quote by les_kris
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#14
Cor, once again I have no idea what you just said
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#15
Quote by Corwinoid
It's impossible to build these systems with static tonalities... in fact, you won't even hear them as being modal after some point.

Is this because the ear will simply hear the static chord as becoming the tonal center after a while, thus turning it into the new "key"?
#16
Quote by :-D
Is this because the ear will simply hear the static chord as becoming the tonal center after a while, thus turning it into the new "key"?

No, it's because the ear will stop hearing the chord after a while, altogether... it starts acting as a pedal group, and you just kind of stop listening to it. For the same reason you don't look at pedal tones as being part of the harmony, you don't hear them, if you have a group of tones that are just sitting in the same place, after a while you don't hear them as being part of the tonality at all. This is in spite of any exchange or displacement that occurs within the pedal system. The effect on a trained ear -- someone actually trying to hear what's going on, and not just listening to the music -- is similar. After a while you recognize that it's all just one chord, and you get really bored with it.

That's not to say that you can't stay on a single tonality for an incredibly long time though, this is in fact the basis of minimalism... I'm half minimalist, and I've got pieces of music that stay on the same harmony for incredibly long periods of time, relatively speaking. It takes quite a bit of special treatment to manage that though... there has to be some type of development going on, even if it takes a while for the listener to figure out what it is.

--
The problem with the OP is the confusion between modal systems, and modal thinking. Thinking in modes is a useful convention, especially for soloists. It happens to be especially convenient on guitar, because it's a quick way to transfer your thinking into a different pitch set. Thus if I'm in the key of C, and I play C-Am-G, it's useful to think of each change as a modal shift -- generally if the mode matches the function for the most part, the 'modal' tones in the 'new mode' are just accessible tones in the new set. But they're just chromatic tones in the total tonality, which is still C.

I think I need to explain how this actually works... to save myself time I'm going to assume that you're quick enough with modes to just keep up.

A bit on psychoacoustics... if you hear a lone melody, the melody will naturally place itself in a major key; any resolution to a tone other than the tonic sounds weak -- NOT modal. Harmony dominates the melody, if I'm playing Am, and have a melody based on C, you're going to hear it in Am -- a resolution to a tone other than A or E is going to sound weak (and E weaker than A, obviously). Base rules everything: If I'm playing a melody in C, an Am chord under it, and a G in the bass, you're going to hear it as some tonality of G.

That assumes no motion, and strict vertical ordering (if the melody is in the bass, things change a bit).

Pitch tonicization is the concept that each new melodic pitch strives to become the new tonal center. Thus if I'm playing a C, and I move to E, E becomes the new tonic, in terms of melody. The tonality depends on the limitation of the freedom of tonicization. The subordination of non tonic pitches... Thus C - G - E - D - C, the ear hearing lone notes is going to go "C, G - new key, E - G was subordinant to E, D - E was subordinate to D, C - ah, ok, this is the tonal center." Note that this works forwards -- pitches are subordinate to the pitches after them, not the ones before them (acoustically... artistically, you know ahead of time. Starting that out, I knew C was the tonal center; but upon hearing it, the only cue the ear has is that it's the first pitch).

To answer the question of when you would hear the change from Bm7 to Dmaj7 'shift tonalities', it's almost immediate -- because of this effect.

Tying the two concepts together... if I'm playing C - Am - G, and functionally change modes over each chord, then over C I'll sound like I'm in C -- Am arrives and strives to become the new tonic, if I change modes to A Dorian, then the F# becomes chromatic in the total tonality, but will be subordinate to the pitches arriving after it (likely G, at some point). Now over G, I switch to a Lydian dominant tonality, the C# will likely be subordinant to a D coming after it (probably non-resolving), and the F reverts if present. On resolution, back to C, the C# leads into D (2), and you will have heard it as a persistent close neighbor, subordinant to (2), which will have a tendency to fall to the tonic (C). The total tonality is in C, the F#s and C#s found in the changes are chromatic over the tonality -- they're not actual mode changes, when heard in the total tonality.

I'll post on actual modal systems in a few minutes... this is already pretty long, and I need a break.
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Last edited by Corwinoid at May 9, 2008,
#18
Great thread. You can tell this is interesting because even Archeo acknowledged it for discussion!

It is an area i have thought a fair bit about. I have always said that It is down to the ear to decide how long a chord needs to be held for the tonal centre to 'centre' on it. Generally speaking, 4 bars it what i would have said (obviously very dependant).
This is why i have always argued that in a chord progression, the chord does not determine the mode, the tonal centre does.

This appears be be the same thinking as Mr Avis and Mr Prime, however Corwin has hit us with some detailed posts which are making it seem like it has gone full circle and now we are back to 'the chord determines the mode'. When i have more time i will read these posts more detailed, but for now........ Heres to the good discussion! Dont get too many of these any more....
#19
This is why i have always argued that in a chord progression, the chord does not determine the mode, the tonal centre does.

This appears be be the same thinking as Mr Avis and Mr Prime
Not quite. As I said above, I view a key/chord progression as way of fluidly changing the mode, or not. I've saved a big post of mine that explains what I think in more detail, if you want I could edit it and repost it.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#20
Quote by branny1982
However Corwin has hit us with some detailed posts which are making it seem like it has gone full circle and now we are back to 'the chord determines the mode'.
This is completely contrary to what I actually said :/

The tonal system is defined by its counterpoint, not a chord, and not certainly not how long a single tonality is held (excluding agogic emphasis). It might be easy to miss the actual point I was making about pitch tonicization... this is actually an atonal action; the tonal action is the limitation.

Let me try and make this really easy... the numbers that follow are scale degrees.

All music starts from 1. Tonality branches from there...
If I move to a new pitch, say 3, 3 tries to become its own 1 -- this is atonal in nature.
3 tries to steal the tonic function from the true tonic.
The tonal structure is defined by the composer -- by limiting the atonal action.

Tonality is LIMITING the tonicization of the new pitches. The writer of music defines the tonality by making the non-tonic pitches subordinate to the tonic pitch (and in smaller relations, subordinate to each other).

In addition to that, tonality is always heard as a major system without contrapuntal action. It is the counterpoint, and its resolutions, that strengthen the other pitches and tonicize them strongly enough to change the tonality.

If your only contrapuntal action is a pedal group (including exchanges), then there is not enough counterpoint.

Four measures, even more than two measures, is probably way the hell too much of a single chord.
Quote by les_kris
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#21
To Cor:
I have a question on what you were saying about psychoacoustics. You said that the ear is going to perceive an unaccompanied melody as belonging to a major key until it is given reason to assume otherwise. Is this the result of conditioning or does it have to do with the overtone series or the fact that the major scale is what we consider the most harmonically defined scale or something else entirely?

Also, you said that modal systems are defined by the counterpoint of the tune. Could you give a few examples of pieces of music that I could study that demonstrate this type of counterpoint?

I also want to clarify that I honestly wasn't thinking of writing a tune with the harmony I talked about in the OP. It was just an example for the sake of starting the discussion, and I understand why it was wrong to think of these systems like that.
#22
That little bit about how the static harmony becomes perceived as a pedal group and isn't then recognized as part of the harmony is particularly interesting, thanks to titopuente for sparking this.
Quote by Ænimus Prime
I've saved a big post of mine that explains what I think in more detail, if you want I could edit it and repost it.

Could you do that? I'd be interested to hear about it.
#23
Yeah righto, I couldn't be bothered to edit it so I'll just post it straight out. After reading it agian, it's not exactly how I think but it's as good as I could describe at the time. I think the first quote was GuitarMunky.

well if the progression is a C major progression. Your in C major period. Dorian wont work. If you play the D dorian scale pattern..... it will just sound like C Major.

Tonal center is the key here

True, the tonal centre is the key. As branny said in another thread "you need to be aware of where the ear is at any moment"

I'm going to try an analogy here

At the centre of the solar system is the Sun. The planets orbit around and are attracted to the sun. The moons orbit around and are attracted to the planets. However, the planets drag the moons around with them, so the moons also move around the sun. The moons have two centres that they move around.

In a song you have the key (the sun), in this case C. In a progression you have different chords (planets) that are related and attracted to the key centre. Then you have the melody (moons) above the chords.

The melody is a part of the overall system centred around the key. When you say that 'if you're in C major, Dorian won't work", you are saying that the melody is only related to the key centre. In the analogy, this is saying the moons only orbit around the sun.

But as the moons also move in relation to the planets they orbit - the melody is also related to the chord it is currently playing over. This is why minor chords in a major key still sound minor, this is why chord tones are strong notes for melodies, this is why a certain melody will sound different over a different chord progression.

Depending on how you play, the melody may be heard relating more strongly to the key than the chord, or it may be the othe way around. This is why key-based music so liberating and expressive, you can choose where the ear is relating the melody to. It's like being able to change gravity at will, an awesome power.

For example, playing over C Am G Dm C. As a musician, you can choose how the melody moves and what it moves around. Considering only diatonic notes, you can play a melody that centres around C. At all time the ear will relate all notes back to C, this creates an ionian melody. This is one extreme end of a spectrum, where the melody and chords are unrelated, have no effect on each other, but are both heard in relation to the key centre.

The planets have very little gravitational force on the moons. Some music is close to this extreme.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the a melody that at all times is heard in relation to the chord it is currently being played over. Over C you have C Ionian, over Am you have A Aeolian, G mixo, D dorian. Here the 'chords determine the mode' rigidly and completely. The chords are still related to the key centre though.

I guess this is like the earth being the centre of the universe, the moon only travels around the earth. Again some music is close to this extreme.

I don't think that any key based music completely reflects either of these two extremes, and it's probably not possible. Rather, all key-based music sits somewhere along the spectrum.

Note that I am not talking about modal music or vamps. I'm only describing my view of key-based music.

Modes are sets of intervals that create aural textures. Key-based music allows the composer to change the mode at will, with great freedom, changing the texture.

In completely diatonic music, the musician has 7 modes to choose from, one over each chord in the key (F lydian over F). By using accidentals, the musician can then play any mode of any scale over the chords in the key with the same quality (G phrygian dominant over G7) By borrowing chords from parallel keys, he can play any mode from any scale, over any chord, built off any note (Eb Ionian#5 over Eb).

But then also the key centre is free to move...

Apply all that to the analogy of astrological objects, and the universe becomes complete chaos. This give us complete freedom and power. This is how music can express what words cannot.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#24
Interesting post, thanks for that.

Just to clarify your C major/C Dorian argument (fourth full paragraph), I won't argue that you can play tones from the C Dorian scale over a C major chord/progression, but I would certainly say that you're not playing in the C Dorian mode. What's your take on this?
#25
Just to clarify your C major/C Dorian argument (fourth full paragraph), I won't argue that you can play tones from the C Dorian scale over a C major chord/progression, but I would certainly say that you're not playing in the C Dorian mode. What's your take on this?
It actually wasn't about Cmajor/Cdorian. It was about Cmajor/Ddorian.

But if you're playing the specific intervals of C dorian over a C major chord, I'd say you're using C dorian for the melody. I wouldn't do that though, because the thirds obviously clash, but I might use Eb as part of chromatic lick.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#26
Quote by Ænimus Prime
It actually wasn't about Cmajor/Cdorian. It was about Cmajor/Ddorian.

But if you're playing the specific intervals of C dorian over a C major chord, I'd say you're using C dorian for the melody. I wouldn't do that though, because the thirds obviously clash, but I might use Eb as part of chromatic lick.

Okay, got that first part.

Would you say you're using the C Dorian scale or the C Dorian mode? Certainly you're using the scale, but as far as I see it, the scale and correct harmony need to be present to suggest the mode.
#27
I don't differentiate between the dorian 'scale' and the dorian mode, because to me the word 'mode' doesn't mean 'stricly modal peice of music'. A mode is a set of intervals to me.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#28
Quote by Ænimus Prime
I don't differentiate between the dorian 'scale' and the dorian mode, because to me the word 'mode' doesn't mean 'stricly modal peice of music'. A mode is a set of intervals to me.

Okay, fair enough - I don't happen to share this exact view but I get where you're coming from.
#29
Quote by titopuente
To Cor:
I have a question on what you were saying about psychoacoustics. You said that the ear is going to perceive an unaccompanied melody as belonging to a major key until it is given reason to assume otherwise. Is this the result of conditioning or does it have to do with the overtone series or the fact that the major scale is what we consider the most harmonically defined scale or something else entirely?

Also, you said that modal systems are defined by the counterpoint of the tune. Could you give a few examples of pieces of music that I could study that demonstrate this type of counterpoint?

I also want to clarify that I honestly wasn't thinking of writing a tune with the harmony I talked about in the OP. It was just an example for the sake of starting the discussion, and I understand why it was wrong to think of these systems like that.
It's hard to say whether or not it's a result of conditioning. The overtone series is fairly universal, and even in pentatonic systems, you hear that orient towards major without counterpoint to suggest otherwise. But whether or not that's because of the overtone series, or just because you're conditioned to hear it that way even without tonal cues isn't something I can answer.

If you want to look at how counterpoint and structure influence modality, a good composer to look at is Bartok.
Quote by les_kris
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#31
^ I think it originally got lost in all the ordinary-flaming.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums