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Intermediate What gives modes their unique sound?

Intermediate Theory

Autumn

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    I am aware of the differences of the modes relative to their major (eg. Lydian = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7, etc), but how do I make something sound uniquely like a certain mode?

    For example, how to I make D Dorian sound like D Dorian and not like a higher version of C major?

    Or if I’m in the key of D Dorian, what chords are available for me to use? Are they the exact same chords as C major?
     
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    Jak Angelescu

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    I am aware of the differences of the modes relative to their major (eg. Lydian = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7, etc), but how do I make something sound uniquely like a certain mode?

    For example, how to I make D Dorian sound like D Dorian and not like a higher version of C major?

    Or if I’m in the key of D Dorian, what chords are available for me to use? Are they the exact same chords as C major?
    Hi there! Essentially modes aren't exactly scales although most people think of them like that. They CAN be called that, but there's so much more to it. They're actually inversions of the scale. What gives modes their characteristic sounds are the INTERVALS that make up the mode. What makes them sound unique is how we hear each note in each scale back to the tonal center.

    To make, for example, D Dorian sound like D Dorian depends on what chords you play it over. Play it over on minor chords (the ii of a ii V I progression) and it'll sound like D Dorian. Play it over a C Major chord and it will sound more like C Ionian. Your biggest concern is emphasizing on utilizing the key intervals and the tonal center.

    Short answer to the last question, yes. They're the same chords. But utilizing certain chords will give it more of its unique sound.

    Hope that all made sense!
     

    Ids Schiere

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    Sounding like D Dorian has everything to do with the chords underneath it. If you're chord progression uses the chords of C major but Dm feels like home your chord progression is in D Dorian and it will sound like D Dorian. Now over each respective chord you can also utilize certain notes to utilize the sound of the mode (b2 in phrygian for example) but generally it's all determined by the chords underneath it. D-G7 is in D Dorian for example

    Edit:wanted to add something to it. A mode is not a key. A key only tells you something about the tone center, a piece of music in Dm could be in any of the minor modes. For completeness you would say the piece of music is in the key of Dm and the the mode is Dorian for example.

    Let's take the minor modes of D(so we're in the key of Dm) and do a I-V-VI-IV chord progression.

    We have:
    Dorian
    Dm-Am-Bm7b5-G7
    Phrygian
    Dm-Am7b5-Bb-Gm
    Aeolian
    Dm-Am-Bb-Gm
    Locrian
    Dm7b5-Ab-Bb-Gm

    The difference between these chord progressions is the difference between those modes. An important thing to note is that typically it's communicated as the key of D Dorian because musicians are lazy 🤪

    I wanted to make a video on this a while ago when somebody asked about it so I think I'll make one of those tonight 😅
     
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    chris_is_cool

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    The way I think about it, when you play in D Dorian (write a chord progression in D Dorian, improvise a solo over that), you need to think that your Key is D minor, NOT C Major!!! You are in D Minor, Dm is your home chord... BUT you are using the collection of notes, that makes up C major.
    So you really need to avoid all the mechanisms, that could establish C as your key center, like a G -> C progression ("perfect cadence" I think?), and try to highlight everything that points towards Dm as home, and the specific color tones of D Dorian, that distinguish it from the normal D minor.

    Take all this with a grain of salt, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this as well.

    Having a D as a pedal note or drone in the bass can definitely help you establish D as the tonal center, and thus hep you with being in D Dorian.
     

    Christian Schulze

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    All the replies have been awesome!

    I just wanted to add my little experience with the modes. What made Modes really click for me is of course the notes you play have a different feel due to the chords that play underneath.

    But what has immensely helped me with the modes is to think of them as separate scales.

    Yes D Dorian and A Aeolian use the same notes. (Of a C major scale)

    But..their scale formula is different.

    Dorian scale is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
    Aeolian scale is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7.

    What makes dorian sound like dorian and not Aeolian (minor) the major 6 interval.

    So when I choose to play one scale I normally emphasize the things that make the scale unique. In the D dorian case a B.

    When the backing track is for F Lydian....then you only think F lydian. You focus on what makes the F lydian scale unique. #4 interval (B again) of course the root and major 3rd is also a place where I focus on.

    Hope this helped 🙂
     
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    Aileé Guerra Aréizaga

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    Loved all these responses! I've been so excited about studying the modes lately, I'm literally making a video about the modes as we speak.
    😂
    It's a little more focused towards the perspective of a singer, but I'll share it here when it's done. I think it could really aid some students who want to start learning this.
     
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    Ids Schiere

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    Thank you for taking the time to make a video on this, it really cleared up the differences between modes and how to use them. As a side note, you accent is beautiful and I hope you make more videos in the future ;) :pink-heart:
    Haha, thank you! The accent probably isn't going to go anywhere and yes I do plan to make more videos in the future.

    I'm glad it's helpful, it only touches on the concept of being in a mode tho(this means that the music you're playing is in D Dorian for example). You have to other avenue when you treat the modes as a scale where you can use them over a chord, like for example Dorian, phrygian and Aeolian over a minor chord but that doesn't mean you are in that respective mode. I can make a video on that too if you want
     

    Ids Schiere

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    Here's an example/explanation of using the modes as separate scales and show the difference in sound that creates over a chord. I used the minor modes in the video but it works the same with the major modes but over major chords
     

    Aileé Guerra Aréizaga

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    Hi! I finally finished my video on the modes! This is more focused on a singer's perspective, since I consider my voice to be my primary instrument. But the method I use can also be very useful for instrumentalists and especially for people who compose their own music.

    I show how to sing the modes using Solfege in order to memorize their scale formulas, understand their structure better and how they relate to one another. ⁠
    😁

    I hope this is useful for somebody, especially for beginners. I think this would be a good primer.
    Enjoy fam! :)

     
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    Radu-Cristian Perde

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    Hi! I finally finished my video on the modes! This is more focused on a singer's perspective, since I consider my voice to be my primary instrument. But the method I use can also be very useful for instrumentalists and especially for people who compose their own music.

    I show how to sing the modes using Solfege in order to memorize their scale formulas, understand their structure better and how they relate to one another. ⁠
    😁

    I hope this is useful for somebody, especially for beginners. I think this would be a good primer.
    Enjoy fam! :)

    I think in general to know how to sing or at least to recognize and be able to give a pitch with your voice is a great skill to have for any musician!

    All said and done, great video! Amazing job!!
     

    Brian Haner Sr.

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    Nov 11, 2019
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    I am aware of the differences of the modes relative to their major (eg. Lydian = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7, etc), but how do I make something sound uniquely like a certain mode?

    For example, how to I make D Dorian sound like D Dorian and not like a higher version of C major?

    Or if I’m in the key of D Dorian, what chords are available for me to use? Are they the exact same chords as C major?
    Yes, they are the same chords, but just as in the Dorian scale, they are used differently - with Dm as the "home" chord. Some good Dorian sounding changes to play over are:
    Dm to G7 (or Dm9 to G13 - if you want to get more jazzy) - 4 (or 8) beats per chord.
    Dm to Em (or Dm7 to Em7) - 2 (or 4) beats per chord



    These chord changes will put you firmly in the D Dorian vibe. There is no way to mistake them for C Major.

    Have fun!
    pg