Close
Skip to content

Forum

Notifications
Clear all

Discerning the mode


(@minotaur)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1092
Topic starter  

I'm not sure if this is a beginner's question or a little more advanced, but I still consider myself a beginner. Just as my family still considers me the "baby" at 52 years old. But I digress...

I'm sure this is a no-brainer and I'm just exhibiting no-brain, but how do you determine if you're in a particular mode? Specific example... I read that The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is in D Dorian. My assumption was that it's in D capoed (@ the 2nd fret, GL is capo happy), uncapoed it must be C.

Anyway, the chords are Asus2 Em D G. The song does have a minor sound (does the D chord in D Dorian have a minor 3rd? D F A?), and I further read that Dorian is the same as Aeolian except Dorian's 6th is raised a half step (I think I got that right... no?). OK, I'm digressing again.

After all that flotsam and jetsom, I'm pretty confident with finding the key a song is in, but how do I know if it's in a different mode?

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


Quote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

After all that flotsam and jetsom, I'm pretty confident with finding the key a song is in, but how do I know if it's in a different mode?

By looking at the notes of the melody (and, if necessary, the chords too) in relation to the tonal centre and matching those notes to a known key and mode.

The tonal centre chord can easily be heard as D minor by the way it keeps coming back to it and feels like coming home. In major/minor key terms the song is in D minor. But looking at the notes you can see that it has a B natural melody note (harmonised with a G major chord) instead of the expected Bb that belongs to the key of D minor. D minor can have B natural coming from the melodic minor form of the scale, but in that case we would also expect to see the raised 7th, C# too.

So if any song feels MINOR and it has a raised 6th but not a raised 7th, then the mode is probably Dorian as it is in this case.


ReplyQuote
(@minotaur)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1092
Topic starter  

Wow, this will cause some thinking and studying on my part. :D I've never delved that far into scales and modes. I think I read that D Dorian is pretty common. Eleanor Rigby for one, among a bunch of others. Eleanor Rigby does have a sort of minor feel.

On of the things that threw me is this:
D Ionian D E F# G A B C#
D Dorian D E F G A B C

The song plays a Dmaj shape, but we're saying that in D Dorian it's actually a Dm. You are absolutely right about the melody. I just looked at the melody and sure enough there is a B in the melody with a Gmaj chord. There is one Bb at the beginning of the measure. So I see the difference...

D E F# G A B C#
D E F G A Bb C

Thanks mucho for answering it. Now I have homework.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


ReplyQuote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

Wait!! Before you start that homework.
While what I said is true in general, it's not true for this song. I should have made the effort to go and actually listen to it.

I've just done that now - It's not D Dorian at all. The tonal centre is B, not D. The key chord is B, which with the other chords and melody notes makes the mode B Mixolydian B C# D# E F# G# A. The 3rd of the B chord (D#) isn't actually present in the melody but it's implied ( at least to me) by the harmony. If D was implied instead then the mode would be B Dorian B C# D E F# G# A
Try improvising over this song with both B Mixo then B Dorian - The only difference is that D or D#. See if you agree that D# fits better than D.

Using a capo on fret 2 makes it look like A Mixo going by the chord shapes - but what actually goes into your ear is B Mixolydian.

Strictly speaking, this melody is from the hexatonic scale B C# E F# G# A sometimes called (for want of a better name) the Dorian - Mixolydian hexatonic scale which is not uncommon in folk melodies. The missingD or D# means it can't be uniquely defined as Dorian or Mixolydian. If you add D it's B Dorian, if you add D# it's B Mixolydian.


ReplyQuote
(@minotaur)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1092
Topic starter  

Wait!! Before you start that homework.
While what I said is true in general, it's not true for this song. I should have made the effort to go and actually listen to it.

I've just done that now - It's not D Dorian at all. The tonal centre is B, not D. The key chord is B - making the mode B Mixolydian B C# D# E F# G# A

Using a capo on fret 2 makes it look like A mixo going by the chord shapes - but what actually goes into your ear is B Mixolydian.

Well, what I meant by homework was "in general". I never paid much attention to modes until this piqued my curiosity and interest. It seems like it's not a bad thing to learn. Sorry if I'm being dense.

So what I read is wrong. Of course it came from Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wreck_of_the_Edmund_Fitzgerald
One unusual aspect of the song is that it is written in Dorian mode.[3]

Here is the first page of the score courtesy of musicnotes.com http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0041562 If you print the page it is easier to read.

B Mixolydian B C# D# E F# G# A B
A Mixolydian A B C# D E F# G A

So capoed @ 2 I am playing a Dmaj (D F# A) in A Mixo.

Needless to say I love the song and have gotten through it twice. It's easy; I just need to practice.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


ReplyQuote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

I edited my previous post - I don't know if you noticed it. Basically, the fact that the 3rd of the scale is missing from both melody and chords means the mode can only be inferred. Try it yourself by improvising along with it, using D and D#. Which one do you think complements the feel of the song? D# (which makes B Mixolydian) or D (which makes B Dorian)?

Alternatively, instead of playing the sus2 chord, play B major (or A major with capo) for Mixolydian mode and then B minor (or A minor with capo) for Dorian mode and see which fits better.

Personally - I prefer the Mixolydian option. I disagree with the Wiki statement, especially the part about Dorian mode being unusual - both Dorian and Mixolydian melodies aren't uncommon at all in this type of 'folk-inspired' song.


ReplyQuote
(@minotaur)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1092
Topic starter  

I typed a whole response and something happened.

I think we're in B Dorian, only because in a concert video I clearly see him play a Dmaj shape after the Gmaj. B Mixo has a minor 3rd making Dm. B Dorian has D F# A. But this is just me working it out, or trying to. And I see there's only 1/2 step difference between Asus2 (Bsus2 capoed) and Am (Bm capoed). I'll try both sus2 and minor. I can't really see what he's playing there, and my ear is not good enough yet.

It's no surprise Wiki is wrong. Most of it is good, but there is a lot of misinformation.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


ReplyQuote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

I typed a whole response and something happened.

I think we're in B Dorian, only because in a concert video I clearly see him play a Dmaj shape after the Gmaj. B Mixo has a minor 3rd making Dm. B Dorian has D F# A. But this is just me working it out, or trying to. And I see there's only 1/2 step difference between Asus2 (Bsus2 capoed) and Am (Bm capoed). I'll try both sus2 and minor. I can't really see what he's playing there, and my ear is not good enough yet.

It's no surprise Wiki is wrong. Most of it is good, but there is a lot of misinformation.

No, B Mixo has a major 3rd (D#) not a minor 3rd. It's a major mode.

Is he playing that D major shape with the capo on 2? If so, it's really E major he's playing. E major belongs to both B Mixolydian AND B Dorian.


ReplyQuote
(@minotaur)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1092
Topic starter  

No, B Mixo has a major 3rd (D#) not a minor 3rd. It's a major mode.

Yes, I see it's B Mixo with the major 3rd. I was looking at the wrong line on my chart and . My bad.

............... W H W W W H W
B Dorian..... B C# D E F# G# A

............... W W H W W H W
B Mixolydian B C# D# E F# G# A
Is he playing that D major shape with the capo on 2? If so, it's really E major he's playing. E major belongs to both B Mixolydian AND B Dorian.

Yes, D major shape capoed @ fret 2.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


ReplyQuote