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Werewoof

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I think this is an appropriate place to put these.

This is intended for those who are trying to understand music theory, but because I already understood it before I made these, they're also for those who like visual aids and generally get excited with theory discussions.

-First, I am a music theory obsessozoid. It takes a hard reset for me to stop once I start talking about it.
-Second, I love finding ways to explain music theory to people and to help make stronger logical connections between musical concepts. Because I am lonely. :r
-Third, I think I might actually be able to help people with these!


The way I would explain scales to [the precious few] people [that I could corner] were to have them make a ring with their finger and thumb, then imagine there were 7 non-bloody notches in that ring. Not evenly-spaced notches.

There are 12 possible rings, obviously because there are 12 notes in the chromatic scale.

If you trace any one of the 12 rings around and around, starting and ending on a specific notch, you have the spaces ("intervals") for one of 7 possible scales!

Despite the fact that I now realize this could also have been explained way more intuitively by drawing comparisons to clocks, I therefore made the THEORY RINGS.

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All of these rings follow standard theories of Western music. They do not cover harmonic minor and its equivalent scales, even though those scales are equally wonderful in their own right. (The Acoustic scale being a guilty pleasure. :P)

Because there are 12 notes, and because Western music typically groups 7 notes into a scale, there are 84 (12 ∙ 7) possible scales in all of these rings.

Say you love C Major: why not try F Lydian?



You will be able to find all of the rings on my public Facebook album. (I don't care or mind if you want to friend me, lol)


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The system is fairly simple:

Pick a ring.
Start on a notch, then trace.

Whatever is not deeply notched does not belong in any of the 7 scales on your ring.

Clockwise ascends (gets higher pitched); anticlockwise descends (gets lower pitched).

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All 7 scales and their "brightness" are listed at the bottom right, in color-coded order.

You will notice that these do not appear in the order of the rings' notches. But they DO appear in the order of the circle of fifths!


circle-of-fifths-simple.gif





Start with G Lydian: Its major equivalent is JUST clockwise. :)
A Major's Lydian equivalent is JUST anticlockwise!

This works at ANY note you decide to start on. Pick a note, then a scale, then find the rest with utter ease. But you have to remember the order of the scales.
Below, I explain the order.


There are 3 major scales: Lydian (1), Major / Ionian (2), and Mixolydian (3).
To remember this, Major / Ionian is sandwiched between the other two major scales.

There are 3 minor scales: Dorian (4), Minor / Aeolian (5), and Phrygian (6).
To remember this, Minor / Aeolian is sandwiched between the other two minor scales.

There is 1 diminished scale at the bottom. Locrian (7) is the hadeopelagic scale where no man ought venture. Go back to the surface. :eek:


All of this has an interesting correlation with finding chords in a scale:
If you want to find the 7 basic chords (with no extra notes) of any scale, look at the notes on the bottom right. 1, 2, and 3 are major chords, 4, 5 and 6 are minor chords, and 7 is the diminished chord in the scale! All of them belong in the same ring, whichever ring you choose.

Pure chords of 4 sharps ring:

A Major - Lydian scale
E Major - Major / Ionian scale
B Major - Mixolydian scale
F# Minor - Dorian scale
C# Minor - Minor / Aeolian scale
G# Minor - Phrygian scale
D# Diminished - Don't scale


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I think the bottom left section is pretty self-explanatory. :)


I hope these amuse you, or at best actually help you with music theory if you didn't already have this knowledge. Either way, I figure I'd share with a community that would get more use out of than most anyone I've ever trapped.

So, next time someone tells you they're writing a song in C Dorian, you can blow their minds with an Eb Lydian harmony. ;)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Cheers,

-Jon
 
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agarner32

Active Member
Wow, I think you are making a fairly straight-forward system way more complicated than it needs to be. I'm not sure what the point of all this is.
 
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Werewoof

Werewoof

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Wow, I think you are making a fairly straight-forward system way more complicated than it needs to be. I'm not sure what the point of all this is.

Pardon me for saying such, but I feel your comment lacks some merit. Since there are numerous ways to approach music theory, I am not exactly sure how you might go about de-complicating things here, as you don't really say. :confused: I may have learned it before but have since forgotten? Hey, if you have another method, please make it worth your while for commenting and share it! The more knowledge to go around, the better. :thumbsup:

The reason I made them is because, well, they were stuck in my head for the longest time. More accurately, they were designed to reinforce existing concepts within my head, in a visual language (that could have been clocks, but oh well) that helped me find even more fun connections, which I myself find thrilling, provided that no trigonometry or calculus get involved. I figured that I could somehow translate that geekiness into a visual guide and give others an / another understanding of the same concepts. To be fair, I kinda did say I was an obsessozoid, though that might also mean eccentric, so you might be the unwitting victim of accidental musical esotericism. Sorry, lol. :geek:

The purpose of making them was both for my own edification and and to maybe introduce people who typically rely on just the Ionian and Aeolian scales--which I find is far too often--to the other possible scales within each of the 12 keys. This in turn could get them excited about new musical possibilities, and therefore expand their creative output, or at least, to be able to put names to scales they've unknowingly written in, or the songs they hear. For instance: Tim Hecker's Virginal I and Virginal II are both in F# Phrygian. This has 2 sharps: I find this fascinating to know. It's from little things like this that I realized I could devise a system to find the other 6 scales with the same notes, in what to me was an intuitive and visual manner. So I did. :) After months of not showing them to anyone, I figured this could help people out with whom this idea might resound.

There are certainly other ways to teach these concepts, perhaps more straight-forward ways, depending on who you ask. I can't say this is the method. The unavoidable truth is that some people learn differently, and my methods might click more so with some, and not so much with others. I understand if they did not click with you, and thank you for letting me know, but perhaps they will be of some interest and/or benefit to others. I am however still interested in how you might teach this system, because it may end up making more sense to others than my method!

I don't think I ought to market these as being inclusive to absolutely musically bare-bones beginners, but I would suppose budding musicians who already have some knowledge and might like to expand their knowledge base and / or strengthen certain musical connections in their mind. If this would so help them, or indeed beginners, it is of no cost to anyone, and certainly no disinformation as to the same concepts. :2thumbs:

All the best,

-Jon
 
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trumpoz

Senior Member
Whilst i see where you are coming from in trying to assist people - having taught diatonic harmony for the last 10 years to students who start out struggling to read music I look at this and think why?

My main issue is where you start looking at tge circle of 5ths and talking in terms of 123 being major scales/modes/chords 456 etc. Whilst I understand the premis of what you are saying you are at direct odds with how diatonic harmony is generally looked at and taught - with the use of scale degrees.
In a major key:
1 - major
2 - dorian
3 - phrygian
And so on.

Whilst your system of using rings works fine for diatonic harmony in a major key it cannot be applied to a minor key. If it work for you then great but as a previous poster has said - it over complicates a reasonable simple concept. If you want to look for alternative scale options, look at the key center and remember order of modes

Ionian
Dorian
Phrygian
Lydian
Mixolydian
Aeolian
Phrygian

Calling a diminished-based scale a 'dont go there' scale........ not something I would share with others. It is an incredibly useful sound as a substitute for a dominant 7th sound or even as a pivot to anoth key.

Again it is great that this works for you.
 

agarner32

Active Member
Good post trumpoz. I don't think this makes me special or some sort of a theory genius, but like trumpoz, I've been teaching undergraduates the typical 4-semester theory sequence for decades actually - from fundamentals through set theory. You are correct Werewoof, there are many different styles of learning - I see it every day I teach. I really love your enthusiasm and it's obvious that you are smart and have put in a lot of effort into this.

I still think that what you've written for most people is going to be unnecessarily too complicated. Modes and how they can be used in composition is pretty simple. My first semester students come in with little background and they understand this stuff quite easily and quickly in about the 8th week. Maybe some will latch on to your theory and it will become meaningful which I think is great. As trumpoz said, just memorize the modes and their relationship to a major or minor scale (ascending), Dorian on 2nd degree, Phrygian on 3rd etc. It is worth noting the relative brightness to darkness as you pointed out. The scales with half steps furthest to the right are the brightest and as they shift left become darker - but brightness and darkness are relative terms. Also explore the characteristic note for each mode - ex. raised 4th for Lydian.

I also cover some of the typical chord structures that each mode implies or can be used for, but this is in my later classes - to complex for my first year students. But do explore all the different chordal structures including slash chords and polychords. Example: G/Eb or Ebmaj7(#5) is Lydian Augmented - 3rd mode of ascending C melodica minor. There is a lot to study.

I'm not suggesting this is you, but every once in awhile I get a student who comes up with some complex but really clever method to explain some theory topic. Most of the time they are so obsessed with being clever that they never compose any music or they can't use any of it. Again, I'm not suggesting this is you, but it's just what I've seen over a couple of decades. I also see some of my colleagues who have PhDs and are super smart, but they can't play a blues.

Regarding the modes, I say experiment with all of them - explore all of the different harmonies they can produce. Experiment with modal interchange or borrowing and all that good stuff, but use it. Compose a piece in Lydian or Phrygian.
 
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Werewoof

Werewoof

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Ohohoho, these are both wonderful posts. :2thumbs:I love them. Thank you both a ton!

@trumpoz
Thanks for the perspective: I am definitely no teacher by trade. :roflmao:

I actually first learned the order of scales that way: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and then Locrian. I went ahead and put them in clockwise order around the rings and in the bottom-left. I do concede that this way--had I still been a beginner--would have confused me less. I think the bottom-right side is more advanced in a sense, but both orders have their benefits in certain situations, I think. :)

I have, from my experiences, been able to get people to remember and get interested in the Locrian / Don't scale by giving them a usefully attracting fear of it. :) I'd be amazed if they actually DID avoid it because I said so, rather than be the first scale they try. My cousin once asked, to paraphrase, "hey, what was that one really evil scale called again?" After that, he remembered it was called "Locrian".

(Obviously, Locrian is way more than just evil; Lydian is way more than just pure elation, sometimes it's outright bone-chilling! But in some cases it helps to assign these characteristic traits like brightness or darkness to scales to help others remember which are major, minor, and the one that doesn't even major and doesn't even minor.)

By preying on emotional response, we can get others to remember things more easily. The same way you teach kids to remember the staff lines in music (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (5 lines, treble clef) in his FACE (4 spaces, treble clef)).
I know it's just a little quirk, but it makes systems seem less systematic. :P The more connections / mnemonics / etc. that you make for things, the easier for some to remember. I still thank Parachute Expert My Dear Aunt Sally for getting me through Algebra.



@agarner32
Awesome, thanks for the kind and informative reply :D

Yeah, the typically-set order of ascending scales (or descending) is around the rings and at the bottom-left. I think the bottom-right side is for more advanced purposes, perhaps.

I generally assigned brightness for memory's sake: I can only trust that after that, people would explore different tonal possibilities for certain scales. Some of my absolute favorite songs are in Dorian and Lydian, which to me ought to be the standard for major and minor scales. But there are some Dorian songs which have an air of utter beauty, and Lydian songs that you could play at a funeral. And I absolutely love that aspect, because I find that "brighter" scales carry some of the darkest qualities possible! They have a dark nature, but they don't relieve the listener by sounding dark. It mirrors the subtle difference between terror and horror, terror often called the finer of the two.
(That may be a lackluster comparison, actually. But it makes sense to me. :laugh:) If you prefer, between pain and release.
But certainly in no way can scales be truly boxed-in by figurative terms of luminescence.

Also, I love polychords! E major over D major is great. I do believe this is called an E11, or something along those lines. Either way, they can break the doldrums of basic triadic chords, and make transitioning between scales a lot easier, but they're good for other purposes as well.

And unfortunately, I compose too often in C and D Lydian, so please don't encourage my addiction to this scale :P


Thanks again, guys,

-Jon
 
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trumpoz

Senior Member
Werewolf - hell i get my students to remember the order of diatonic triads through a rap - it works.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
Re: your charts plus the comments from @trumpoz and @agarner32, although I respect that teaching is an incredibly difficult profession!!, I feel like the current music theory curriculum perpetuates an unhelpful way of teaching the modes, specifically the part where you talk about "C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian" aka "scale order" of the modes. I got taught this way too and it took me a while to "unlearn" that and actually understand that the modes are colors. You don't have to play Lydian over every single IV in a song. You pick the modes based on what color you want to paint with. I think it is better to teach modes by their color order or what some other teachers call brightness order.

Lydian is Major with #4
Ionian is Major
Mixolydian is Major with ♭7
Dorian is Natural Minor with ♮6
Aeolian is Natural Minor
Phrygian is Natural Minor with ♭2
Locrian is Natural Minor with ♭2, ♭5

This method is better for a bunch of reasons:

1. It's about as easy to remember, and it gets you thinking about how to recreate the modes in any tonal center.
2. The color order is naturally related to the circle of fifths / order of sharps and flats. That's why your chart can be used as a way of seeing the modes in color order. But you don't need to make it as complicated as you're doing.
3. It explains why Lydian feels bright and Phrygian feels dark, etc which the scale order doesn't do.
4. It reminds you what the characteristic note of the mode is, aka the note you should be stressing in melodies and harmonies. You can play Lydian all day long but if you don't play the #4, or barely touch on it, how does your listener know you're in Lydian and not major?
 
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agarner32

Active Member
The scales with half steps furthest to the right are the brightest and as they shift left become darker - but brightness and darkness are relative terms. Also explore the characteristic note for each mode - ex. raised 4th for Lydian.
NoamL, thank you for the well thought out post. I agree with everything you said and I actually cover all of what you wrote and then some - I just didn't take the time to write it all out. And I also agree that just teaching modes as a displaced scale is not helpful if that's all that is covered. I do think teaching them as the 2nd, 3rd, etc mode is valid - it's just another way to quickly identify them. It also helps when you are dealing with a chord functioning as say a ii-7 or a vi-7, etc. You might not want to use a Dorian over a iii chord, but then again you might. It's important to know and hear the differences. I'm off for Christmas Eve stuff at the moment, but I'd be happy to post more details as to why knowing the scale degrees for each mode is crucial.

Cheers and Happy Holidays,
Aaron
 
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Werewoof

Werewoof

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Re: your charts plus the comments from @trumpoz and @agarner32, although I respect that teaching is an incredibly difficult profession!!, I feel like the current music theory curriculum perpetuates an unhelpful way of teaching the modes, specifically the part where you talk about "C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian" aka "scale order" of the modes. I got taught this way too and it took me a while to "unlearn" that and actually understand that the modes are colors. You don't have to play Lydian over every single IV in a song. You pick the modes based on what color you want to paint with. I think it is better to teach modes by their color order or what some other teachers call brightness order.

Lydian is Major with #4
Ionian is Major
Mixolydian is Major with ♭7
Dorian is Natural Minor with ♮6
Aeolian is Natural Minor
Phrygian is Natural Minor with ♭2
Locrian is Natural Minor with ♭2, ♭5

This method is better for a bunch of reasons:

1. It's about as easy to remember, and it gets you thinking about how to recreate the modes in any tonal center.
2. The color order is naturally related to the circle of fifths / order of sharps and flats. That's why your chart can be used as a way of seeing the modes in color order. But you don't need to make it as complicated as you're doing.
3. It explains why Lydian feels bright and Phrygian feels dark, etc which the scale order doesn't do.
4. It reminds you what the characteristic note of the mode is, aka the note you should be stressing in melodies and harmonies. You can play Lydian all day long but if you don't play the #4, or barely touch on it, how does your listener know you're in Lydian and not major?

Thanks for this awesome post, @NoamL! :)

I like your passage about painting with scales. I never thought of it like that, but it's not a bad passage at all. The way you put Lydian - Locrian is a good way, too, and more detailed than what I wrote. And it's all totally true!


4. It reminds you what the characteristic note of the mode is, aka the note you should be stressing in melodies and harmonies. You can play Lydian all day long but if you don't play the #4, or barely touch on it, how does your listener know you're in Lydian and not major?

And that's why I love not playing the notes that define a scale. It skates on a beautiful edge of ambiguity. :) For lack of a better title for this method, it is a wonderful thing. Not only does it suspend surety, but it serves as a crazily-helpful device for scale switching.

For instance, the ambiguous edge between 1 and 2 sharps: G, A, B, D, E, F#, back to G. this would be a Gmaj9 chord, I believe, and the scale will remain unknown until a 4th is chosen, C or C#. It's either G Ionian or G Lydian. To me, this is one of the most glorious tools in writing music, where you don't really want to decide on either scale. Heck, if you left out the major 7th note off, the F#, it could also end up being G Mixolydian! Based on a listeners' previous musical experiences and preferences, they may subconsciously gravitate to one scale more so than the others and begin filling in the void with their imagination, unless otherwise defined. (If you left the 4th or and 7th notes off, I guess it would just be G Pentatonic Major. Lol)
 

trumpoz

Senior Member
@NoamL - it is not about chord/scale relationships. I would personally contend that the way you were taught is the issue and not the content.

Yes a lydian mode is suggested when improvising over the IV in a major key but if that is the only application you understood of it then something is amiss with the curriculum. All of the modes are colours - and although in theory they are, in practice they are not tied to any specific context unless there is a specific sound you are looking for. It is actually a great thing to start with a lydian mode over a major chord because every note of the mode sounds 'safe' as opposed to a major scale where the 4th notes needs to essentislly be treated with care to sound great.

I know in my uni education and subsequently with my students each scale/mode is treated as something with a particular sound as well as a relationship to traditional harmony. It is taught with the caveat that if it sounds good then who cares if it follows theoretical rules or not. Theory is used to explain that which sounds good - not how to vreate somethibg that sounds good. Ultimate guide is our ears - hell ive heard plenty of music that is theoretically 'correct' but sounds like dogs balls. Learn as much theory as you can - understand how it works and then disregard all of it an just bloody play/write.
 

KEnK

Senior Member
Just wanna point out that the Locrian mode is used all the time in Jazz and Latin music-
It's used for the IIø7 chord- in Minor tonalities.
Of course there are other choices for the IIø7, but Locrian is one of the most used.

k
 
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Werewoof

Werewoof

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Just wanna point out that the Locrian mode is used all the time in Jazz and Latin music-
It's used for the IIø7 chord- in Minor tonalities.
Of course there are other choices for the IIø7, but Locrian is one of the most used.

k
I can believe it would be used more often in Jazz, but Latin kinda surprises me! Although... I think that would make sense. The sound would be fitting.

In pop contexts, or much I don't find there is much use for Locrian. I confess, I haven't experimented with it extensively, but I'm sure there is a winning combination of Locrian and wide appeal.
 
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Werewoof

Werewoof

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Besame Mucho, Theme from Black Orpheus, often seen in Jobim tunes-
It's a pretty standard chord movement

I'll have to consider checking those out. Thanks, mate!
 
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