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Understanding minor key harmony

This is an excellent and important question. In a minor key, all 4 possible combinations of 6th and 7th scale degree are used, and each combination corresponds to a scale: b6, b7: natural minor (...
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29 votes

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

Sorry, but I have to chime in after all this time. The answers given here, while accurate, convey none of the most critical distinctions, nor of how modes sound to the ear in a way different from ...
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29 votes
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Is F Lydian mode in the "key" of C Major?

No. A key* is not just a set of notes, it tells you the tonal center** of a piece and the expected harmony and melody of the piece. If that was the case we wouldn't even distinguish between major and ...
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29 votes
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What are the interval patterns for the modes?

Modes are what we call rotations of the major scale. This means that we can start off with the major-scale interval pattern and just rotate it to begin at different places to create the other modes. ...
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25 votes
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When were the terms "Major" and "Minor" applied to keys?

I hope no one minds that I got curious, and did a bit of digging into this on my own. I discovered what appears to be an excellent resource answering this very question. The book is entitled Between ...
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21 votes
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What is a parallel mode?

Two modes are parallel if they share the same tonic. That is, D Major, D Minor, D Dorian, and D Mixolydian are all parallel modes. Using a parallel mode will cause a chromatic alteration to your usual ...
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20 votes
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What does it mean to play in a mode?

The difference is all about what is the tonic and how a tone become perceived as the tonic. In C major C is the tonic. In E Phrygian E is the tonic. Unless you're talking about Gregorian chant (no ...
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19 votes

Harmony in Phrygian : What chords are tonic, subdominant, and dominant?

You can't really apply these functional terms to modes. A mode refers to a specific scale and its characteristic melodic phrases. The problem with Phrygian, when you try to build classical harmony on ...
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Why are there just 7 modes?

By very definition, the modes are created by taking the Ionian scale/mode and starting at a different point, not by rearranging those intervals at will. According to wikipedia: Modern Western modes ...
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17 votes
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Why do modes sound so different, although they are basically the same as a mode of another scale?

mode = set of notes + tonic Modes sound different, because each scale degree's distance to the tonic i.e. home note is different. The home note is in a different location relative to the other notes ...
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16 votes

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

I think some confusion here could be alleviated with a historical perspective. Many of the explanations above talk about present-day relations between the pair of major/minor "scales" and some altered ...
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16 votes

Jazz greats knew nothing of modes. Why are they used to improvise on standards?

My understanding is before 1970, no Jazz players thought about modes. This is incorrect, see this question: How does modal jazz use chord progressions? A: Modes became of interest over time as a way ...
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15 votes
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Different modes of pentatonic scale

Theoretically, yes there are five modes that can be derived from the major pentatonic scale and they would be named the same way the other modes contained in the major scale. Let's look at the ...
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15 votes

Is D minor also F Aeolian?

Key and mode are not the same thing. In a mode (in the modern/current meaning of the word), your tonic (home note, center pitch) and the intervals around it are fixed in rigid positions, and if you ...
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13 votes

Using the Dorian Mode

Sure, that kind of modal shifting using the same root relationships is generally quite effective. In your particular example, you might want to raise the 7th scale degree (C to C#) for V and vii ...
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13 votes

Why do we need modes?

It's important to understand that mode doesn't have to be, and often isn't, an explicit choice. You wrote: The notes we play and the order is based on sound and emotion. and that's true enough, ...
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13 votes

Is the tritone (A4 / d5 / DA3 / Dd6) still banned in Roman Catholic music?

Tritones have been used since Gregorian Chant days. There are several common patterns that outline a tritone and a few instances where a direct tritone is used. The term "Devil's Interval" seems to ...
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13 votes

What are modes in the real world?

Try this - play D E F G A and back again. Then play a C major chord (CEG). Does the chord sound like it would fit under the tune? Possibly not. But you've used 5 of the 7 notes that constitute the C ...
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12 votes

Different modes of pentatonic scale

Dom's answer correctly explains what the modes of the pentatonic scale are and how they are (not) used. Since this might give the impression that the pentatonic scale is almost exclusively useful if ...
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12 votes
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What interval do all the modes have in common?

To answer this, we can arrange the modes in order from those that have the highest-pitched notes (largest intervals relative to tonic), to those that have the lowest-pitched notes (smallest intervals ...
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12 votes
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Why does the minor scale have modes?

The harmonic minor and melodic minor scales are not modes of the natural minor scale. A mode is a very specific idea in music where you start building a scale on another note of the scale. For ...
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12 votes
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Arabic Maqam Keyboard?

First of all, let's get this fact out of the way: 24 pitches in an octave is a rather simplistic notational convention. It doesn't reflect the actual state of affairs at all. Actual number of notes ...
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12 votes

Why don’t we use the term “scale signature”, rather than “key signature”?

Let's take a step back and look at what a key is first. A key is a very specific concept in music theory. The key tells you what the tonic of a pieces is and the general type of Harmony to expect. A ...
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12 votes

What is the origin and original meaning of "tonic", "supertonic", "mediant", etc.?

This is a little complex to answer, because "dominant" has been used to mean different things over time. In the (late) Middle Ages, "dominant" actually just meant "reciting ...
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12 votes

Music and Maths - Is there a way to prove that there are only 7 Modes of Limited Transposition?

Well, to give a boring answer to how it can be proved – since there are only finitely many subsets of the 12 tones (namely, 4096), you can just list them all and check exhaustively. But we can be a ...
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What comes after Locrian?

The diatonic modes — ionian, dorian, ..., locrian — don't apply to octatonic scales. So for any given octatonic scale, the first mode, for example, is not "ionian" (unless you develop your ...
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