I've been told that the mode (by mode I mean what note of the scale the song is based off of) is determined by (1)the first chord, (2)the last chord, (3)the last note of the melody, or (4)whatever note it seems to resolve on. However, these different rules have many conflicts.

Hold My Heart by tenth avenue north starts on Am, the last note of the melody is D, the last chord is C and it seems to resolve on C.

City On Our Knees by tobyMac starts on C, the last note of the melody is A, the last chord is Fmaj9, (that is, F A C E G), the last note is A, it seems to resolve on A, (yet it still sounds more like C major than A minor).

Love Broke Thru by tobyMac starts on an A minor chord, the last note is E, the last chord is C, and it seems to resolve on C.

Eyes Of A Believer by The Afters starts on E, the last note is G♯ (okay then), and it resolves on a G♯. (Not sure if this one is in A or E.)

Battles by The Afters starts on C♯, the melody ends on A♯ (also F♯), and still, it sounds like it is in C♯ major.

Me Without You by tobyMac starts on G minor, ends on N.C., the melody ends on B♭, and it resolves on B♭.

Healing Begins by tenth avenue north starts on D, ends on D, resolves on D, but the melody ends on an E.

Light Up The Sky by The Afters starts on B minor, ends on A, the melody ends on E(?), and resolves on E.

I'm not saying any of these rules are wrong. There are many agreements, Live On Forever starts on Cm, resolves on C, and the melody ends on C, (2 flats, so it's in C Dorian), Higher by Unspoken starts on Am, resolves on A, and ends on A, I am Yours by The Afters starts on A, ends on A and resolves on A, etc.

  • What are calling a mode - do you mean the key? Please clarify. From your question, so it appears. – Stinkfoot Aug 21 '17 at 22:31
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    Unfortunately, you've been told something that is a false premise. Your four rules are not really rules at all. They're general guidelines for the easiest musical examples, but real music will break these rules all the time. Your intuition is on the right track: keep using this intuition to determine the modes, and discard the rigid rules with which you're starting. – Richard Aug 22 '17 at 2:01

Your answer is in your question: while some pieces are clearly in a particular mode, others are not. There are no hard and fast lines here.

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