Modes

Dorian Tune is an example of a piece that has a tonic chord which doesn’t match the implied key.  Here the key signature appears to be A minor (no sharps/no flats) but added F#s in the music suggest G major or E minor.  When this type of mismatch happens, the piece is often modal.

In early times, before major and minor tonality had become standard, many melodies were composed based on modes, scales of different patterns of whole- and half-steps.   There are seven types of modes in all, each corresponding to a different start/end note in a scale.  To understand, let’s begin by looking at the key of C major, remembering that half-steps occur between E-F and B-C (scale degrees III-IV and VII-I).

In earlier times, C-major was referred to by its modal name, Ionian.

Shifting the tonic to the second degree, D- D, the scale becomes D Dorian .  Notice that in D Dorian, the half steps are still between E-F and B-C, but that those occur at II-III and VI-VII.  Dorian sounds minor, but the whole step between V and VI renders a distinctly different quality.

Continue the process of shifting the tonic in a C major scale and you arrive at all of the following Modes.

Thus, modes may be summed as follows:

  • Dorian is built on degree II of the major scale.
  • Phrygian is built on degree III of the major scale.
  • Lydian is built on degree IV of the major scale.
  • Mixolydian is built on degree V of the major scale.
  • Aeolian (natural minor) is built on degree VI of the major scale.
  • Locrian is built on degree VII of the major scale.

Dorian Tune

As mentioned above, the key signature of Dorian Tune appears to be A minor–but there are added F#s in the music.  This creates a Dorian scale (the key of 1# is G major, the scale starts and ends on degree II).  Since “A” is the tonic, the scale is “A” Dorian.   To watch a support video of Dorian Tune, check out the Book II Media support page (password required).

 Serenity and Bar Waltz

Later in the book you’ll encounter modes in Serenity and Bar Waltz (pp. 120-22).   For both selections, the key is two sharps with a tonic of A (degree V of the D-major scale).  Thus the mode is A Mixolydian.