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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. – Modern Apostles Apr 8 '17 at 17:54
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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.

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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.

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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! – Michael Curtis Apr 9 '17 at 16:34
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    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 Payne Apr 9 '17 at 18:28

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