Robert Rawlins in his Jazzology: The Encyclopedia of Jazz Theory for All Musicians shows this chart, in his discussion about the modes of the major scale: enter image description here

Rawlins doesn't seem to offer a clear explanation for the terms Tonal Tone and Modal Tone, at least at that point.

I understand that Lydian lacks a P4th and Locrian lacks a P5th, so they are 'less useful for composition in the Traditional Western System', to paraphrase an old saw, but exactly what do these two terms mean?

  • The concept looks confusing to me. Why has both Lydian and Locrian neither tonal nor modal tones, but all the others have exactly the same? To me, and most other musicians, those columns would be of no help.
    – user43681
    Nov 19, 2017 at 8:53
  • @YeDawg - Apparently, Lydian and Locrian are excluded because Lydian lacks a P4th and Locrian a P5th. Be that as it may, those columns are certainly no help to me right now.
    – Stinkfoot
    Nov 19, 2017 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


Wow, those two columns seem pretty pointless, seeing as they are completely the same everywhere except when they’re blank. It seems like it must be referring to the fact that it’s the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th scale degrees that provide the different colors of the modes, while the 1st, 4th and 5th are more stable, foundational tones.

For example, the major and minor modes of classical common-practice music are the same when it comes to their 1st, 4th and 5th (and second!) scale degrees, leaving only the 3rd, 6th and seventh to determine their distinctive colors.

However, it’s not clear to me why the tonal tones for Lydian don’t still have 1 and 5, or why there aren’t a 1 and 4 listed as tonal tones for Locrian. Further, it seems a little iffy to refer to 2 as a tonal tone equal in significance to 3 and 6, when it’s only implicated in the Phrygian and Locrian cases. Further, it seems pointless to have both tonal and modal tones be completely blank in Lydian and Locrian just because of their unusual 4th and 5th degrees respectively.

  • 1
    those two columns seem pretty pointless, seeing as they are completely the same everywhere except when they’re blank - My thoughts exactly. In general it does seem to be a good book but I've only used it for reference - now I'm doing a complete read-through...
    – Stinkfoot
    Nov 18, 2017 at 17:27
  • 1
    @Stinkfoot I agree, it seems like there would be a more particular meaning. Then again, if there were, then I don’t think it would amount to exactly the same thing for five modes and nothing at all for two. It’s a very good question. Oh, and to be clear, it only has that common-practice wording now because I’ve edited it to remove the confusion. Nov 18, 2017 at 20:05
  • 1
    I found Rawlins, the author, on linkedIn and sent him a message with the question. Maybe he will answer... If not, I'm going to accept your answer Wow, those two columns seem pretty pointless... LOL
    – Stinkfoot
    Nov 19, 2017 at 21:50
  • 1
    @Stinkfoot Great, I bet there’s just something we’re missing, I look forward to his thoughts. Nov 20, 2017 at 0:43
  • 1
    Alternative theory: Technical stuff like this is often subject to misprints, i so often see duplicate rows or columns in tables instead of the ones that should be there, at least in magazines. The author could have meant for it to say something different, but somewhere along the path to the printing it got inadvertently changed.
    – user43681
    Nov 20, 2017 at 5:12

This reply finally arrived from the author of the book today (12/3/2017):

Sorry for the delay. I had a look at Jazzology today. First, let me explain how we wrote this book. Nor [my co-author] provided the outline and charts, and I wrote the text. So this chart was conceived by him, and I just signed off on it.

To me, it seems that he's saying that Lydian and Locrian cannot result in functional harmony, since they don't carry the P4th and P5th degrees of the scale. If there are no tonal tones, there is no contrast to be made with modal tones.

I think you guys have read into it all that can be derived from it, and I don't see anything significant in those to right-hand columns either. If you want I can ask Nor, or you might contact him yourself if you want.

This being said, I will not retract my acceptance of @PatMuchmore 's answer.

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.