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Modes: I'm losing my mind and need kind help!

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321Barf
(@321barf)
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Check out Frank Gambale's "Modes No More Mystery" video.

He demonstrates all of the modes, including Locrian.


   
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Scrybe
(@scrybe)
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hbriem wrote:
As far as I understand, and I may be wrong but I've heard it said many times, Locrian cannot, even in principle be used as a basis for a tune because there is no way to make the tonic sound like a tonic.

The basis for a tonal centre is to make one note sound like "home", to "resolve" to it. Go from more tension to less tension. No note has more tension than the 1 of Locrian, no chord has more tension than the diminished. So how can you resolve to it?

Cheers for posting that hbriem. Y'know the whole "lights going on" thing? Well, reading that made me realise something I probably should have seen/heard previously, but it took that to make it really sink in and click. Props.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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spides
(@spides)
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think melodically...

Even melodically, the 7 is the most difficult note to resolve to.

Classical and jazz theorists have universally declared the Locrian to be unusable for composition. Because the 7 (vii) is the most unstable note and the least supported by other notes (it has no strong support like the 5th or major 3rd) it will always sound like restless, i.e. not like a tonic.

As I've said before, I have yet to hear a melody or chord progression in Locrian.

That's really interesting, I'd never thought about it like that but i guess it makes sense. I always knew that it was generally used as a filler over a min7flat5 dealio but as you said, the point of a key centre is resolution.

That said you have inspired me, like ignar, to write a tune in locrian to prove academia wrong. I will possibly fail miserably, but I'll die trying. This idea has absolutely fascinated me. I was reading one of noteboats articles last night on exotic scales, like the Zangula, all of these things are why i joined GN, I'm lovin all the theory stuff im learning!!!

Don't sweat it dude, just play!


   
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Ignar Hillström
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I guess I still don't agree with 'all the classical and jazz theorists', mostly because I cannot find any definition of 'tonic' that specifically requires it to allow melodies to resolve into it. I could compose with the whole-tone scale and by default it could have neither a tonal centre nor a sense of resolution as all interval distances are equal. Does this mean you cannot compose with that scale too? And what about atonal music, one could easily argue that in many, many atonal melodies there is no resolvement and practically no tonal centre either. That doesn't mean that atonal music isn't music, let alone that it doesnt exist.

As far as I can see you can compose with any set of notes, and any set of notes ordered within time is music. So there can never be a set of notes that cannot be used to compose a song. It might not have the properties of the songs you like, it can go in against anything that feels natural and logic but that doesn't, or atleast shouldn't, mean anything.


   
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hbriem
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So there can never be a set of notes that cannot be used to compose a song. It might not have the properties of the songs you like,

Perhaps, but if you use the notes of Locrian, they are also the notes of the other modes and the stronger ones will take over, usually Ionian, the strongest. Only by de-emphasising the Ionian tonal centre (C) can you make the others shine through.

The 7, B, is the "weakest", so any note played with it will overshine it and take over as the tonal centre. A Locrian tune would have to be one note?

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


   
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Fretsource
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Ignar, yes, I agree you can use any set of notes to write music, but if you want to write TONAL music, then you need a set of notes that allows you to establish one of them as the note of resolution, i.e., the TONIC. Hbriem's point is that the Locrian mode doesn't allow it for the reasons he gave and also because its supposed "TONIC CHORD" chord contains a tritone above the root and you can't resolve to a tritone. Your piece using the notes of the locrian mode is certainly music, but not tonal music.


   
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Ignar Hillström
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I'm mostly talking about this quote:
Classical and jazz theorists have universally declared the Locrian to be unusable for composition.

I have no problem accepting that 'The Locrian mode cannot be used to compose a piece that resolves to the mb5 triad', but 'unusable for composition' really goes way too far. It's like saying you can't make a blue painting with just red paint so red paint is unusable for painting. The locrian mode definitely has it's own flavour and is very well suited for compositions. If you don't want that flavour and you would like to write a song that resolves then yeah, it's best to stay away from it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that just because modes are part of tonal music theory doesn't mean that those concepts cannot be used outside the limits of it's own system.


   
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Fretsource
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The thing is.... The Locrian mode is a contradiction. All 7 modes are supposed to contain a note of resolution. The Locrian mode's note/chord of resolution is unresolved, hence the contradiction.
If you write a piece using the notes of B Locrian (BCDEFGA) however much you stress the B, and end on it, it still won't fulfill the requirements of the Locrian mode, because by definition "all 7 modes are supposed to contain a note of resolution" . You can stress that note all you like but it will never sound resolved.
You could write a brilliant piece of music using those notes but that doesn't make it the Locrian mode. To really write a Locrian mode piece you would have to arrange those notes in such a way that the B sounds resolved - but that's impossible given the notes available. That's why it's considered a theoretical mode only.


   
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Ignar Hillström
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If we know that:

1) All modes contain one note of resolution, and;
2) The Locrian mode doesn't contain a note of resolution, then logically follows either one of two possibilies:

a) The Locrian mode isn't a mode, or;
b) The definition of mode is wrong and should not include the presence of a note of resolution.

There really is no third option. And since we already all agreed that the Locrian mode is a mode the only possible conclusion should be that modes should be defined in a manner other then having to need for a note of resolution. For example: "every division of an octave into seven notes while only using intervals of minor and major 2nds while keeping atleast one note between each minor second interval."

That includes all seven modes that we agreed are modes and excludes every other scale (I think, and if not let me think again :P ). That six of the seven modes also happen to contain a note of resolution is fortunate but not a defining aspect of modes, as the Locrian mode proves. I'm just thinking aloud, I know plenty of very wise people have concluded what you wise two say centuries ago but I'd like to get it instead of accept it.


   
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hbriem
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1) All modes contain one note of resolution, and;
2) The Locrian mode doesn't contain a note of resolution, then logically follows either one of two possibilies:

a) The Locrian mode isn't a mode, or;
b) The definition of mode is wrong and should not include the presence of a note of resolution.

Well yes, as the consensus says, the Locrian is only a "theoretical mode", not an actual one. Every book on music theory says that in approximately so many words.

You can enumerate it as an exercise, but you can't "use" it. Try to play its notes and whatever you do, no matter how many "Bs" you play, one of the other notes will sound more like a "tonal centre" and that mode will take over.

You may "think Locrian", but it's impossible to "hear Locrian". I can't anyway and "a few" others have agreed with me.

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


   
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Fretsource
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I can suggest a 3rd option:

C) The Locrian mode's note of resolution is unsuitable for conveying the feeling of resolution which is a requirement of Tonal/modal music. Therefore this is a flawed mode and has theoretical value only.


   
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Ignar Hillström
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I'm slow. Really slow. So if I get this right this time:

1) 'mode' is a concept that only applies within tonal music
2) A mode is named after it's tonic
3) 'tonic' is a concept that only applies within and is essential for tonal music
4) The tonic is the note of resolution of a mode or scale
5) B-Locrian is a mode, named after it's tonic 'B'
6) In B-Locrian it's tonic, B, is not the note of resolution
7) The tonic of B-Locrian doesn't have the function a tonic should have

So as tonal music cannot be without tonic the locrian mode cannot be used within tonal music. And as modes only apply within tonal music the mode cannot really exist as a mode outside tonal music is merely a collection of notes that would have been called 'mode' had it function within tonal music. So if I write a piece using the notes of the B-Locrian scale, while keeping the B-note the most prominent note without ever using any note of resolution it will be a piece of atonal (or tonal-less?) music that merely uses the note of the Locrian mode instead of the mode itself?

On a side-thought: does this mean that atonal music is defined by not having the essential part of tonal music, the tonic? So could atonal music be also called tonicless music?


   
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NoteBoat
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I think a couple of concepts are getting confused here... we seem to be conflating scales with compositional resolution.

I respect Fretsource's knowlege, but nothing that I'm aware of says a scale is "supposed" to contain a note of resolution. They're simply tones arranged in an ascending/descending sequence, like the steps of a ladder... in fact, the Latin word for "ladder" is scala, which is where "scale" comes from. Since modes are nothing more than scales, the Locrian mode can't be simply tossed out - or we'd have to get rid of all the other scales which also lack a perfect fifth above the tonic. That includes scales like the whole tone, diminished, and many others.

What's really being discussed here isn't whether Locrian is a mode - it's how comparatively useful it is in composition. The easier something is to use, the more practical it is... the harder something is to use, the less frequently people will use it, and the harder it will be to pull out examples of its use.

The difficulty in using the Locrian scale lies in its structure: 1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7. Our ears are used to hearing cadences, and the most common cadence is V-I. With no fifth, that's out. So is the whole category of deceptive cadences, V-something other than I (usually VI). And the leading tone cadences, since we don't have a major 7th.

But as the saying goes, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because there are few examples doesn't mean it can't be done.

So I just spent about an hour messing around with it, and I'm finding that cultural factors are huge here... I started out with the assumption that the only cadence readily available is the plagal, since there's a perfect fourth in the scale. But when I move from F major (in the key of B Locrian) to a simple triad (B-D) my ear is filling in a missing G note - making it sound something like a half cadence, and weakening the B tonic in favor of E - with the melody ending on the fifth.

Since modes don't change with chord progressions, what this is telling me is that my harmony is way too strong... what I've really got going on is a bimodality, with a B Locrian melody and an E Phrygian harmony, and the harmony is overpowering - since I've heard half cadences many times.

Over the upcoming weekend I'll mess around with this more, and see if I can't structure some weaker resolution. It may be possible, but it's definately not easy - and that's why classical and jazz theorists call it useless: since the "tonic" diminished triad is identical to the upper three notes of a V7 chord, so it's extremely difficult to avoid a psychoacoustic shift in tonality. And ultimately, what "feels" like the tonal center is - at least for all practical purposes. So at this point, I can write a Locrian melody, but I can't harmonize it successfully and keep the whole piece in Locrian.

Just saw Ignar posted while I was messing around with this... the goal of atonal music is to avoid a tonic. That usually means giving each note an equal role through the use of tone rows or other strategies - so your ear doesn't hear one note as being the most important. If you write with B as the most important note, it's the tonic - and that's clearly possible. It's just not satisfying...

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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kingpatzer
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Note -- here's my idea:

try simply using a long string of the same chord. 8 measures of "C," for example. Now, use chord substitutions and re-harmonization to make the harmonic backdrop vary, but avoid cadence all together. Push ol' Miles' idea of modal jazz to the wall!

I don't know that it would work, but it would push your harmony as far to the back as you can go without losing it completely. At the end, you can have the melody drop out and add a harmonic resolution after the end of the melody. Giving you a melodic composition in your chosen mode, with a cadence at the end after a melodic fade, providing resolution in the harmony.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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Fretsource
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NoteBoat, I didn't say that ALL scales contain a note of resolution, or tonic. Clearly, they don't. I made a point of saying that "all 7 modes" do, or are "supposed" to. This conforms with many posts we've written pointing out that, despite having the same set of notes, a mode such as D Dorian differs fundamentally from C major in that it resolves to D rather than C. The note of resolution is a defining feature, otherwise there would be no difference among the 7 modes.
Also, as you know, the Locrian mode came about by default in the 16th century as the one remaining mode/scale that could be constructed from the diatonic 'scale', all others already having been discovered and used by musicians for centuries. Its very conception was theoretical rather than practical, and the inability of its "tonic" to function as a note of resolution ensured it remained that way.
I think my point is that the diatonic modes belong first and foremost to diatonic modal or tonal music, in which certain features are expected or even demanded. Using them outside of those contexts is perfectly valid, but robs them of some of their defining features, in which case I'd prefer to see them called by different, less misleading, names.

Edit: Ignar, I agree with all those points you made in your last post (apart from the one about atonal music, which NoteBoat corrected anyway)


   
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