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#1256041 - 08/25/09 06:06 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
thinkingMusic Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 16
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: noSkillz
In the first 2 or so bars of Debussy's Clair De Lune (which is in Db Major or C# Major I think), it goes from I to iv, and the chords imply the phrygian b4 or the lydian minor scales, since he goes from Db and F to a C and Eb in the right hand. The C implies the lydian mode and the Gbmin6(iv) implies the minor, so if you put those together, you get a lydian minor.


Hi again, noSkillz;

While I'm glad if this approach works for you, I can't help thinking that you may be creating far more complexity than is either warranted or helpful for you, in those bars. I'll give you my take on them in a moment, but first, here are a couple of things to consider.

First, in order to have a 'scale' or 'mode', one has to hear one of its notes as a 'tonic' -- ie, a note that acts as a kind of centre of gravity, to which all the other notes in the scale relate in various ways. (I live in a rural area, and, with my neighbours' kids, I use a barnyard analogy: "if the notes of the scale are the animals and things on a farm, the 'tonic' is the barn to which they all return at the end of the day".) Debussy's piece is audibly centred around the note "Db"; for that reason, it's important that, when assembling the notes that he uses in the piece, we begin with the Db -- the piece's tonic. We therefore lay out the notes, in alphabetically ascending order, as Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db. This allows us to identify the scale as being "Db major"; had we laid them out from, say, Eb to Eb, we would be implying that the tonic is Eb, not Db, which would produce not the Db major scale, but the Eb dorian mode. So, yes, while C-Db-Eb-F sure looks and sounds like the beginning of C phrygian, it isn't applicable -- because C isn't our tonic, Db is. Make sense?

Also, for hundreds of years, western composers and musicians have introduced notes and chords that do not belong to the prevailing key; there are various specific reasons for this -- eg, chromatic melodic embellishments, 'secondary dominants' (ie, treating a diatonic chord as though it were temporarily its own key, and applying the dominant chord of that key to it), etc., etc. These 'foreign' notes are usually taken as being embellishments of the diatonic notes to which they relate; for example, in this progression (in the key of C major):

C -- A/C# ------- Dm -- G7
I -- V6 of ii ------- ii --- V7

. . . the second chord is temporarily 'borrowed' from the key of D minor (it's the V of that key), and its function is to emphasize the Dm chord -- play the progression, and you'll easily hear how the A/C# almost 'leans into' the Dm chord, thereby temporarily highlighting it. Now here's the relevant part -- the C# is NOT part of the key, nor would it be considered a scale note of its own: there is only one "C" in the key, and the C# isn't regarded as being a new scale degree, but rather the same scale degree, that has been chromatically altered -- raised, in this case -- on its path toward the second degree of the scale (D). Of course, one can conceive of the passage as consisting of a scale that has the notes C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived.

I don't mean to demean your observations, noSkillz, but if I'm incorrect in this particular assessment, I think it's time for me to give up teaching.

To me, the beginning of Claire de Lune is clearly in the key of Db major, and the harmony, per bar, is:

I6 (Db/F) | vii07 (Cdim7) | Iadd6, in first inversion (Db6/F -- an added 6th chord)| V4/3 (Ab7/Eb) |

The vii07 chord is borrowed from the 'parallel minor' -- ie, it is temporarily borrowed from the scale of Ab minor (that is, the scale has temporarily changed from Ab major to Ab minor -- the notes of both scales are not combined to form one super-mode). All the notes that do not 'fit' those chords are known as (surprise!) 'non-harmonic tones', and have specific names and functions; for example, neither the Db nor F in bar two belong to the chord (Cdim7, with notes C-Eb-Gb-Bbb), but first appear as "suspensions" -- they are held over from bar one, where they were chord tones -- and then re-appear as "neighbour notes" (non-harmonic tones that are approached from chord notes that are a step away, and that immediately return to those same chord notes). There are quite a few different types of non-harmonic tones, and learning what they are, and how they behave, can make harmonic analysis much easier.

While jazz musicians use modes to remember note-combinations that are available for certain chords, they (hopefully) are also fully aware of the harmony and the underlying key. However, I've met many beginning jazz musicians who've had unfortunately little previous theoretical background, who fall in love with one theoretical principle or another ('modes' is very popular), and consequently end up thoroughly disoriented. While the ear is really important in jazz, it's pretty hard to get by without strong rudiments, followed by at least some basic harmony.

I'm sorry if I've misunderstood your post, noSkillz -- if I have, please accept my apology! One thing is for sure, noSkillz -- your knowledge of modes is very impressive!


All the best,
Michael
www.thinkingmusic.ca

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#1256101 - 08/25/09 08:08 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
Originally Posted By: thinkingMusic



C -- A/C# ------- Dm -- G7
I -- V6 of ii ------- ii --- V7

. . . the second chord is temporarily 'borrowed' from the key of D minor (it's the V of that key), and its function is to emphasize the Dm chord -- play the progression, and you'll easily hear how the A/C# almost 'leans into' the Dm chord, thereby temporarily highlighting it. Now here's the relevant part -- the C# is NOT part of the key, nor would it be considered a scale note of its own: there is only one "C" in the key, and the C# isn't regarded as being a new scale degree, but rather the same scale degree, that has been chromatically altered -- raised, in this case -- on its path toward the second degree of the scale (D). Of course, one can conceive of the passage as consisting of a scale that has the notes C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived.


Well think of it this way: The AMaj chord comes directly from the 5th mode of D harmonic minor. Also, like you said it can be thought of as a secondary dominant to the D minor chord, which is the 2nd diatonic chord in the key of C Major. You're not "incorrect" at all, its just that there are many ways of thinking about it. You can think of the A Major(A7) as a secondary dominant or you can think of it as the 5th mode of D harmonic minor.

Originally Posted By: thinkingMusic

I don't mean to demean your observations, noSkillz, but if I'm incorrect in this particular assessment, I think it's time for me to give up teaching.


No as I said before, you are not incorrect at all. Keep teaching! smile

Don't forget that I'm still learning too. A lot of harmony can be uncovered by reading websites that devote their entire time to harmony.

I'm still learning my modes, and there are some websites that devote time to modes:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode

It tells a lot about major modes, melodic minor modes, harmonic scale modes, and double harmonic modes. You don't need to know the DOUBLE harmonic minor modes, since they are most likely not used in western music. You do need to learn the double harmonic scale though, but NOT the modes! You need to only learn major, natural minor(relative major), harmonic minor, melodic minor, and harmonic major.

And you need to learn the Harmonic Major modes too, cause they are used in western music too:

http://docs.solfege.org:81/3.14/C/scales/ham.html





So, for the last 3 weeks, I've been trying to memorize all these scales seperately, and I'm still not done. It's well worth it, but when I get done, my harmonic understanding will improve.


Originally Posted By: thinkingMusic

While the ear is really important in jazz, it's pretty hard to get by without strong rudiments, followed by at least some basic harmony.


Yeah, that's the way I started out playing jazz. All I knew were my diatonic major chords in all 12 keys. Everything came from that basic knowledge.

Now I know some of the nondiatonic stuff, such as modal mixture and secondary dominants and chromatic mediants. I love these, especially the secondary dominants. I am still a little bit confused on some of the harmonies of the Romantic stuff that Chopin and Liszt wrote. When you look at the music of Chopin and Liszt, you don't know where all these chords are coming from, yet they still have some musical function.




Don't forget that too much information overload will tend to make you forget old stuff smile

And, I'm in the same boat as you... smile I look this stuff up sometimes and a week later, I'll react like I had never seen it before.

Same happens with modes and scales, you just got to use mental repetition(playing scales over and over again and being acutely aware of what notes are in a scale and what fingerings do you use to play this scale) to master modes, and practice them everyday in all keys or else you'll forget them.


Edited by noSkillz (08/25/09 08:12 PM)

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#1256112 - 08/25/09 08:36 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
"C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived. "

-quote by thinkingMusic




This is the beginning of the A mixolydian b6 scale which is just A B C# D E F G A, and mixolydian b6 is on the wikipedia article I posted. So check that out! Yeah, I've memorized mixolydian b6 in every key already. I know all my major modes and melodic minor modes, and I'm still working on harmonic minor modes cause I'm a bit iffy on that, and I've just begun learning the harmonic major modes today.

At first I didn't even know what this scale was! (Remember this is the one I told you about in Debussy's Claire De Lune) :

F Gb Ab A C Db Eb F

My friend and I were trying to figure out what scale this was, and finally a few minutes later, he discovered it was a phrygian b4. He's the one that brought up harmonic major modes, and now I'm trying to learn them because of him. Actually, I didn't even know that harmonic major even existed until he brought it up!

I asked him, "Isn't phrygian b4 a mode of the harmonic major scale?".

He said yes, so that's why I know phrygian b4 in F. I know it really well now.

As far as Debussy's Clair De Lune, I'm pretty sure the second bar is iv (Gbminor6), because I thought I heard an A in there.

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#1256125 - 08/25/09 09:06 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
I made a list of all the modes of the harmonic minor, harmonic major, major, melodic minor scales, and for the last 3 weeks, I have been going right down through this list since that day. About 4 weeks ago, I had to learn the chords involved with the melodic and harmonic minor keys. I was already fluent with major and natural minor. I was semifluent in harmonic minor(I knew the ii V i's in all harmonic minor keys, but I didn't know the 3rd chord, 6th chord, and the 7th chord.

So if you are interested, go write down a list on a sheet of paper of all the modes of the 4 scales that I've mentioned. If you do things right, you can learn about 3 types of modes in all keys per day. Start with learning locrian, dorian, and phrygian today in all keys. Then tomorrow, go through them and see if you know them, and if you don't at least you'll recognize them, and so fix the ones that you don't know. And then later on in the day, learn 3 more.

But learning modes is not going to help you in improv(pulling out stuff that you have played in past and varying it so that you can make these things into music), it will only help you in composing music(the writing down of music coming from your current harmonic knowledge, but isn't reflexivly like improvisation. Stuff like this comes from your theory of chords and modes, and you have all the time in the world to think up a good sounding piece of music)...


Edited by noSkillz (08/25/09 09:09 PM)

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#1256342 - 08/26/09 08:44 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
thinkingMusic Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 16
Loc: Canada
That's quite a quest you're on, noSkillz.


Originally Posted By: noSkillz
"C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived. "

This is the beginning of the A mixolydian b6 scale which is just A B C# D E F G A . . .

(A.K.A. the 5th mode of the melodic minor, as I'm sure you know.) The inclusion of BOTH 'C' and 'C#' invalidate that possibility.

Quote:
As far as Debussy's Clair De Lune, I'm pretty sure the second bar is iv (Gbminor6), because I thought I heard an A in there.

Yes, there is an "A" there, but the notes, as they appear in the score, are Gb-"A"-C-Eb. Gbminor6 would require the notes Gb-Bbb(="A")-Db-Eb. The score's "C" turns it into a C diminished 7 chord, in 2nd inversion (root position = C-Eb-Gb-Bbb -- the score's "A" is an enharmonic equivalent of the Bbb).

Good luck on your quest!
- Michael

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#1256358 - 08/26/09 09:21 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
Originally Posted By: thinkingMusic
That's quite a quest you're on, noSkillz.


You should too if you haven't already... This would be good to know for all of us here in the composer's lounge.

Stuff like this helps with scale recognization.

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#1258847 - 08/30/09 03:11 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
romedas Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/30/09
Posts: 10
nice information all u have about composser

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#1259499 - 08/31/09 08:56 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
Speaking of Debussy's Clair De Lune, how did Debussy get away with just playing chords in the left hand?

Most piano stuff has a rhythm in the left hand, but Debussy's Clair De Lune doesn't.

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#1259847 - 08/31/09 05:54 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
I think you need to look at more piano music smile .
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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