Modes. Part 1 - History And Use

This gives respect to the wonderful world of modes.

Ultimate Guitar
The modes are sectors or excerpts (with the span of an octave) from a diatonic 2-octave scale starting with A (a). There are always two modes that fit together. they are related via the "Finalis"(finishing note). The halftones are always between e and f and between b and c. the modes are not scales in the strict sense of the word. they are just fragments of scales that encapsualte the note-material of melodies used as model. There are Authentic (original) and Plagal (derrived) modes. The authentic modes are formed over the finalis. the plagal modes do have the finalis in the middle of the "scale". as I mentioned above, there is for every authentic mode an according plagal mode. You can easily find it by taking the finalis of an authentic mode and go 4 notes down - thats the first tone of the relative plagal mode. The authentic modes are called Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian. The plagal modes have an added sylable "Hypo" infront (eg: hypodorian). Furthermore there are the modes Aeolean and Ionian. these two modes correspond to todays A-minor and C-major. When you build a mode on B it is called lokrian. The modes have already been used (without him knowing it) in the 4th century by Ambrosius of Milano. Pope Gregor the great was the first to sysematically sort the different forms of choral music which made it more easy and standardized. this was in the 6th century and thats when famous choral-schools developed like Paris, Metz, Aachen and Mainz. Aurelianius Reomensis was the first to give he modes their old names (9th century) - Protus authentus and Protus plagalis. In the 10th century the names of the single modes where added and in 1547 H. Glarean added the above mentioned aeolean and ionian modes. The modes where the musical and theoretical basis fr medieval music. they lost their importance at the end of the 16th century because major and minor got more and more dominating. in the 19th and 20th century the modes have made a revival in art-music and especially in jazz. The modes have been developed in the gregorian chant. It is not the half-steps that characterise the modes but melodical phrases. The modes are (as a novelity) linked to the finalis. Modes are - because of their simplicity - very good to accompany vocal music melodically. The melody was not the imortant part - the important part was the lyrics. The melody was only making the text easier to learn and it was easier to transport the meaning and feeling when it was sung. A good example where the minnesingers. It was basically vocals that where used to attract women - and that was easier when accompanied by music (mostly only a simple melody with one instrument). And thats where the modes where used too. And a short list:
Dorian (d' - d'') Hypodorian (a - a') 
Phrygian (e' - e'') Hypophrygian (h - h') 
Lydian (f' - f'') Hypolydian (c' - c'') 
Mixolydian (g' - g'') Hypomixolydian (d' - d'') 
Ionian (c' - c'') Hypoionian ( g - g') 
Aeolian (a' - a'') Hypoaeolian (e' - e'') 
Lokrian (h - h`)

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Four Wheels
    Interesting. However, it would be very useful to have tab for the modes and a bit of information on their characteristics.
    The history lesson was very good. Learned quite a few new things. However, the whole plagal mode thing... I've never heard of that. But just to make sure I'm getting this straight, wouldn't the A hypodorian mode/scale (relative to the D dorian mode/scale) be the same as the A Aeolian mode/scale? Just trying to make sure I understood it right. Good lesson though. Thanks.
    Darken Rahl
    This is why I have a hard time learningthis new shit... its so god damn confuzing.
    This stuff is gold, really interesting, but please explain more about what it all means to a musician in a practical sense. Is it mainly a consideration for writing songs, accompanying, or is it just that these notes sound good together and that's why they tend to go together in compositions? Why do jazz players like or use the modes- because the notes sound jazzy or cool (and what does this mean anyway?) The more of all this the better... thanks a lot!
    I feel like this ended way too abruptly...I understand the major sale and its modes to a fair degree, but I have never heard of the plagal and authentic labels...also I dont understand what you mean about the finalis...maybe expand upon this a little?
    Darken Rahl wrote: This is why I have a hard time learningthis new shit... its so god damn confuzing.
    i effing agree. nowhere in that rambling incoherent enigma was anything resembling an answer, all of us are now dumber for reading, may god have mercy on your soul
    lol i dnt like learning modes i understand it i just think its pointless instead of learning all this stuff just learn the major scale and all its degrees if you wanna know all that stuff bout which modes are disonant and which ones harmonious and all that stuff then learn to use your ears lol
    Good lesson, if not a little confusing. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the "Locrian mode", not the "Lokrian mode"?
    So let me get this straight, modes are just learning to play a scale but not starting on the root note? (in an oversimplified general version) if i was in the key of G a Dorian Mode would be the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, F#, G, A?