how to use modal chords
However, two chords can get boring (who would have thought?). As I mentioned before, a note by itself does not really give us a feeling. And so care must be taken to repeatedly remind the listener that we are indeed playing modally. It contains the characteristic tone of D Dorian (B); it doesn’t have a tritone interval, and it’s based on stepwise motion. Just as a note, it's very common to try to reinforce the vamp by including the "characteristic pitch" in as many chords as possible. As we move toward home, we build up some tension. This tritone interval contains a tension that wants to resolve inward or outward by half steps. The riff emphasizes the root, ♭2 and ♭3 and since power chords are used, the 5, ♭6 and ♭7 are also emphasized. It also doesn’t tend to lead us anywhere, tonally speaking, making it a great cadential chord to go back and forth with the modal centre of D Dorian! It’s also a great example of two concepts we’ve discussed earlier: Scarborough Fair is another well-known example of the Dorian mode. We should consciously relate each scale degree of a mode as an interval to its mode’s root. But in Phrygian, we may be able to get away with a modal v*-i. And so this chord doesn’t really add much tension, and is rather heard/felt as a “change of colour.” Even though the modal root is not in this cadential chord. For example, the iii-vi-ii-V-I chord progression in C Major would be: Those chords’ roots move circularly, counter-clockwise, through the circle of fifths: In Tonal Harmony (otherwise known as functional harmony), we think of chords as having functions: tonic, dominant, and predominant. Lateral cadences (or stepwise cadences) happen when the pre-tonic chord is based on a root note on either side of the modal tonic. The V-I progression in Lydian is simply a backward IV-I in major tonal harmony. However, in tonal harmony it’s common to alter the v chord, turning it into a V7 chord in order to have a stronger V7-i resolution. The tertian seventh chord built on F is Fmaj7 (F A C E). The ii(min7) would also be a good choice. Notice how the quality changes to minor? Of course, you could force this to work, but it would be a tough go. I’d just like to make a note of this! But just for fun let’s analyze its chords and build some chord progressions based on it. As always, thanks for reading and for your support. Typically (in tonal harmony) the half-diminished chord wants to resolve up a half-step to the tonic chord (vii*-I). C is our tonal centre here. However, we must be careful, since we’re moving circularly here. Try building melodies out of these quartal or secundal intervals. Not as commonly used as quartal harmony, secundal harmony can be used to good effect when really striving for interesting chords. The name of the game in tonal harmony is to have a tonic or “key” and to move toward this key centre with each passing chord. Here are some Locrian chord progression (I don’t know if these have ever been used by anyone): The above chords are built using tertian harmony (the stacking of thirds). We’ll see how they stack up and what chord progressions we can get for each of the modes: It’s difficult to distinguish between major key tonal harmony and Ionian modal harmony. Another aside that bears mentioning is that stacking sixths is considered tertian harmony (although it will naturally sound more open) since the sixth is the inversion of the third! Let’s look into the circular movement in Aeolian and see how we can use the chords in modal context. Note that the ♭VII 7 chord does contain Aeolian’s most characteristic tone, but it has a strong tendency of bringing us into tonal harmony, as the now dominant7 chord wants to resolve to its Major tonic, creating a vi-V-I tonal progression. And when building melodies over these Dorian chord progressions, pay special attention to the root and the major sixth (Dorian’s characteristic tone). There are always exceptions to the rule though, and a common choice, although perhaps a bit tonal, is the IV7 (which would be the tonal dominant chord). It naturally wants to resolve to its lateral chords, which are based in Aeolian and Ionian (Natural Minor and Major keys, respectively). And an example of quartal harmony on a cadential chord could be: E A D G (stacking fourths on the ii of D Dorian), E B F C (stacking fifths on the ii of D Dorian). The tertian seventh chord built on G is G7 (G B D F). This tonal sound will, oftentimes, effectively nullify our efforts to write and play “modally.”. Satriani is great at implementing the modes tastefully into his music. We even refer to the scale degrees of any given scale as their intervals to the root. I listed the modes of my 4 favourite heptatonic scales more so to illustrate characteristic tones and the importance of distinguishing between modes. i-iv gives us two stable minor chords a perfect fourth away from one another. This was a lot of information to go through. Modal harmony was once described to me as being “ambiguous and lacking direction.” My mentor’s reasoning was that there’s no strong movement toward a tonic and a lack of dominant chords (and other functional chords for that matter). Phrygian’s characteristic tone is its ♭2 and so the ♭II is a very strong cadential chord. One characteristic tone will come from the base diatonic mode (Ionian, Dorian, Phyrgian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian), and the perhaps more important characteristic tone will come from the alteration(s). We can refer to all these voicing as “modal chords,” but there will be some interest and movement above the root! Joe makes good use of the ♯4 in the melody line, which is Lydian’s characteristic note! This pitch is the note that makes the mode sound different from a major scale in the case of modes with a major third, or … Modal Tonic Chords: The chords built on the mode’s root. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Why is this useful? Special attention must be given to the root (the modal centre) and some extra emphasis should be put on the characteristic tone(s) of the mode. This is the Ionian mode and it sounds “very major.”. (♭5), Augmented means there’s an augmented fifth alt. The tertian seventh chord based on C is Cmaj7 (C E G B). (3 or ♭7). It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between minor key tonal harmony and Aeolian modal harmony. Lateral cadential movement: The modal centre is the D Dorian chord and the cadential chord is the E Phrygian chord. It’s as if we’re resolving out of Locrian modality and heading toward Lydian. Once again, this is to instill the mode into the listener’s ear. There’s an argument to be made for the♯iv*-I Lydian progression. And it contains the characteristic tone (♭7) as its root! A more common mode is Phrygian Dominant (having a major third rather than a minor third). Now play the same notes, but have an A as your pedal point. In this way, tension and release are what drive tonal harmony. This is something to be aware of when trying to “write in Aeolian” rather than “write in minor.”. Let’s discuss them a bit more: First, let’s forget the naming convention for functional chords. This makes it a great candidate for a modal cadential chord to D Dorian! Cadential Chords: Chords that temporarily leave the tonic, but send us right back. It is either a sustained note or a regularly played note. So in this regard, it’s heard almost as an extension. Phrygian is interesting since its v* chord is quite unstable and wants to resolve. I love this example of the Aeolian mode (D Aeolian to be precise). In between the changes, the bass guitar keeps playing the root. Let’s apply these tertian chords to each of the diatonic modes. A note by itself is like a single point in one dimension. This tension is released when we return to our tonal centre or tonic chord. What if we replaced the root of these chords with the root of the mode as a pedal point? The intro riff up until the power chord riff of G5-E5-F♯5-E5-F♯5-G5-F5♯-E5) is essentially Locrian (there’s a perfect fifth in the E5 power chord, which isn’t in Locrian, but other than that..) Locrian modality it tough to pull off and I could argue against myself that the riff is chromatic in nature versus Locrian (but I won’t go there). But we can tap into a mode’s true sound by playing modally or playing within modal harmony. Of course, this is all just for your information and not set in stone, if it sounds good, play it! In a heptatonic mode, these roots would be the seventh degree (below) and the second degree (above). I like to think of it as walking home from the bar. Just in case you might want to try this, the two modal cadential chords for Locrian would be: 1.♭vii(min7) but this would have a strong sense of being the tonic in a Minor Key.