Can a pop song be written using a specific mode for the vocal melody, and another for the chord progression, when both of the modes share the same key signature? (Please note that I am not referring to the practice of "modal mixing" or "chord borrowing", consisting in borrowing chords from a parallel mode.)

I am a newbie in the study of modes, and I was trying to figure out the music theory beneath "Paris" By the Chainsmokers: both harmony and melody here share the same key signature (two sharps), but the chord progression is G Bm A F#m (with a clear sense of resolution to the chord of G, which is also the start of the loop), while the vocal melody is strongly resolving on D during the whole song. Does it make sense to see it as a Dmaj (Ionian) melody over a G lydian chord progression?

If yes, does this imply that i can layer a vocal melody written in any mode on a chord progression written in any other mode, as long as they share the same key signature (eg a D phrygian melody over a G mixolydian chord progression)? Or am I getting this all wrong, and "Paris" should be seen as a tonal song in the key of D, simply having a chord progression starting on the IV chord?

  • Simply considering the base triads, looks like Dmaj. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 17:54

3 Answers 3


The melody doesn't matter as much as the harmony does. In pop music these days, it's very modal! Since the G major chord brings a sense of resolution when the key signature has two sharps, this would indicate that the song is Lydian.

Ignore the melody's note that it resolves on. D is also in the G major chord, which is why it resolves nicely. D as the melody note is not indicating a D major chord here at all.

Many of the songs from EDM are either Lydian or Aeolian. It works so well for pop music.


You'd get away with a similar sort of thing, if I've understood you right, with either the major modes swapping (Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian), or the minor modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian). Using Mixolydian gives a sort of blues, dominant 7 feel compared with Ionian, and there are lots of songs using Lydian - it could almost be argued that the #4 can be used like a b5 - almost, but not technically!

Just because a song starts on a particular chord doesn't necessarily mean that's the key of the song, and I guess that even given a key sig. doesn't have to mean that root chord appears in the song. Usually, but not necessarily.


Two modes that share the same key signature are merely the same set of notes with a different perceived tonic. That perception can be (and often is) very fluid. Are we in C major or A natural minor? Who can tell? Who cares?

Also, remember the final note of a tune is not necessarily the tonal centre.

Theory describes, it does not command. Yes, G may be the 'tonic', the melody may heavily feature the note D. This isn't a conflict of interests.

  • "theory describes, it does not command." Well said! Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 16:34
  • 1
    It's one of my favourite quotes. Another is from Piston's 'Harmony': 'Notes outside the scale do not necessarily affect the tonality'. Half the questions here from bewildered guitarists could be answered with that.
    – Laurence
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 18:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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