5

Let's say I'm playing Dorian D mode. Is my tonic:

C, because Dorian mode is derived from the diatonic scale of C?

Or D, because my tonal center is in D?

7

The tonic of Dorian D is D.

In fact this is more or less what makes the difference between the modes. Altough they can have exactly the same notes, the function of those notes, how they are used, is different.

In dorian D, D is used as the tonic: i.e. the piece ends with D, the main phrases end in D, the D minor chord is the most important chord...

  • 3
    This is mixing up the original definition of the mode with the modern terminology of tonal harmony. Modes don't have a "tonic". The do have a "final" (which is approximately the same as the "tonic") and a "dominant", but the final is not necessarily the "lowest note" of the mode, and the dominant is not necessarily a 5th higher than the final! – user19146 Jul 15 '16 at 16:29
6

A tonic is a tonal concept, so it doesn't transfer 100% when you talk about modes as they are not tonal ideas.

The simple answer is yes to be in D Dorian you need to make it sound like you have D as your "tonic" or else you are not in D Dorian. If your tonic is C then you are in C major, not D Dorian.

  • that's nicely worded. I suppose the answer was in my question 'tonal center'. However, i was a little confused the way people talk about thi. Thanks @Dom – JohnandLyn Henry Jul 15 '16 at 14:02
  • -1 "Modes ... are not tonal ideas." Yes, they are. They give structure to how we interpret different pitches. – Kevin Jul 15 '16 at 19:55
  • 1
    @Kevin nope. Modes don't imply functional harmony which is a big part of tonality. Structure alone does not equal tonal. There's a reason we use major and minor to denote keys and key signatures rather than Ionian and Aeolian. This has been discussed a lot on the site already. – Dom Jul 15 '16 at 20:03
3

The tonic is D (d-minor as a chord). The cadence in d-dorian would be

X: 1
M: C
K: Cmaj
L: 1/2
[Gdgb] [A^cea] | [Ddfa]2

Though I daresay you'll find rather more often the relative dominant C-major used, rather than the actual dominant A-major.

X: 1
M: C
K: Cmaj
L: 1/2
[Gdgb] [Cegc'] | [Ddfa]2
  • Would it HAVE to have a C#, as it's not in the key. – Tim Jul 15 '16 at 13:59
  • i haven't seen 'cadence' before. how is the cadence derived or is it a loose idea? – JohnandLyn Henry Jul 15 '16 at 13:59
  • @Tim classically, if the A-chord is supposed to be a dominant, it has to have the C♯, yes. But pieces in Dorian will quite often not use that dominant. – leftaroundabout Jul 15 '16 at 14:00
  • 1
    @JohnandLynHenry you can ask that as a separate question as it will be more beneficial to everyone then posting an answer here in the comments. – Dom Jul 15 '16 at 14:01
  • @JohnandLynHenry: in a nutshell, the cadence is a sequence of harmonies that necessarily leads up to the tonic, thereby clearly defining it. – leftaroundabout Jul 15 '16 at 14:02
1

A good question! I'd say technically in D Dorian, D is the tonic, as that's the 'key' it's in, and the start point. However, musically, it could feel like it wants to 'come home', and depending on how it's sounding, it could come to rest, sounding good, back at C. So then, one could say the tonic is C.

  • 2
    If it sounds/feels like C is the resting point then the piece would not really be in Dorian mode, IMO. – leftaroundabout Jul 15 '16 at 14:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.