A Mode To New Scales


Welcome back! Let’s dive in by readdressing the image I put up before:
As is shown, two tetrachords are used to make a major scale. What is a tetrachord you say? Let’s flash back to Greece around 330 B.C.E. and meet one of the earliest theorists, Aristoxenus. Back in his time, there were 3 types of tetrachords: Diatonic, Chromatic, and Enharmonic.
          Another theorist of the time, Cleonides, had used these to make his Species of Consonances, which state that the fourth, fifth, and octave are the most consonant sounding notes in a diatonic type of tetrachord. He had created our first full octave scales, and named them after different ethnic regions in Greece. Now flash-forward to the tenth century, which is where the current names for a handful of the modes we are going to discuss came from; all because some one messed up! Yeah, someone was translating Boethius, another Greek theorist, and just botched the labeling of the scales.
The modes that have kept their tenth century name are Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian. The remaining names, Ionian, Aeolian, and Locrian, are used in lieu of the Greek and Church mode names to eliminate confusion. Which if you really want me to post about those, just ask. So, onto putting some sense behind these names.
          Ionian is the name of the first mode, and this scale we all probably know pretty well considering it is a major scale. You probably caught this one early in your lessons, and now you have a new fancy name for it! Of course, if you take the intervallic pattern of the notes W-W-H-W-W-W-H (W=Whole step H=Half-step) and start them on any note, you will have a(n) major/Ionian scale based on that note. Below is C-Ionian:
but if you wanted F-Ionian, you would start on F, and flat the fourth note of the scale (Bb). I feel like this is cut and dry, but please comment or e-mail if you would like to delve into this further.
          Next is Dorian, which if you are familiar with the natural minor scale, it is like that, but you raise the sixth note of the scale. Using the same notes from the C-major scale, we are going to start D. Check how we haven’t added any accidentals.
We have a new scale, simply by maintaining the key signature of C-major and changing starting note. Each mode has it’s own characteristic sound to it, offering a variety of ways to change the tone of a song. A popular jazz tune written in Dorian is “So What”, written by Miles Davis.
          Next is the Phrygian Mode, which offers a significantly different color to the scale. Again, this mode also leans toward the natural minor scale, but with a flatted second.
This is a very Eastern, or gypsy, sounding mode, which has been used in many compositions. One you might be familiar with is Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” I’m always looking for good examples of this in recent music, so if you know of any, please send them my way.
          As to not go on ad nauseam about a concept you might have grasped at this point, I will put the remaining modes at the bottom for you to look over. If you want to hear these, click here so that you can listen to the sound clips on the Wikipedia page for each mode. Specifically note that the Aeolian mode, is simply natural minor. So one major take away is that Ionian = major scale, and Aeolian = natural minor scale. But how will you use it? Certainly there are chords that these modes work over, right? Well, that is the exact case! In fact, the next installment is going to be about chords. We are going to look at how we can use these modes over chord changes in a key. We will also look at how chords are created, and what harmonic function they serve, specifically in a tonal sense. In the mean time, please comment/e-mail any questions you might have. I am glad to discuss this, and other topics you may be interested in, so please send any questions you have, and I will message back as soon as I am able.

Thanks turning on my corner!