[Smt-talk] Examples of Modes

Fiona McAlpine fe.mcalpine at auckland.ac.nz
Mon Aug 26 01:49:24 PDT 2013

Coming back to Nicolas' earlier point about the 'church' modes being not just scales but collections of melodic formulae: in the absence of any harmonic underpinning, these melodic formulae also had to define the tonal centre in a world where the tonal centre was of vital importance because most of your  musical activity consisted of joining discrete bits of music to each other (I'm talking abut monks joining antiphons to psalm tones, which Nicolas touched on). Those modes were there, and organised thus in relation to tonal centre, from perhaps mid-ninth century (Aurelian), long before they got turned into scales (let's say before the point of reference for most of the readers of these pages, Guido in the early eleventh century). There is a technique by which medieval musicians achieved this tonal-centredness, given that all medieval modes used the same diatonic collection: leaps upwards from the final in an essentially stepwise melodic world. Forgive the self-puffery, but for further collaboration see my book Tonal Consciousness & the Medieval West.

(Dr) Fiona McAlpine
Honorary Research Fellow
School of Music
University of Auckland

Le Béguinage
42 Horns Rd
RD 1
Oxford 7495
North Canterbury
From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on behalf of JAY RAHN [jayrahn at rogers.com]
Sent: Saturday, 24 August 2013 03:26
To: Serge Lacasse; Nicolas Meeùs; Guerin, William Brian
Cc: Luke Schwartz; smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Examples of Modes

One way in which 'mode' has been employed in jazz theory is as a collection relative to a chord: e.g., Dorian relative to a particular minor seventh chord (D Dorian relative to Dm7, G Dorian relative to Gm7, etc.). As such, it can summarize melodic resources and their connection to an interpretation of harmony.

Jay Rahn, York University

From: Serge Lacasse <Serge.Lacasse at mus.ulaval.ca>
To: Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be>; "Guerin, William Brian" <wguerin at indiana.edu>
Cc: Luke Schwartz <lschwartzmusic at gmail.com>; "smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>
Sent: Friday, August 23, 2013 8:34:46 AM
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Examples of Modes


I can confirm that we don't talk of "church modes" in jazz, but simply about modes and scales. Furthermore, modes are derived from more than just the major scale: there are thus modes of the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales, as well as other "synthetic" modes, etc.

Have a nice day,

[cid:image001.gif at 01C8D064.EC5D8CC0]
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Serge Lacasse
Professeur titulaire de musicologie
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De : Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be<mailto:nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be>>
Date : vendredi 23 août 2013 04:30
À : "Guerin, William Brian" <wguerin at indiana.edu<mailto:wguerin at indiana.edu>>
Cc : Luke Schwartz <lschwartzmusic at gmail.com<mailto:lschwartzmusic at gmail.com>>, "smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>" <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>>
Objet : Re: [Smt-talk] Examples of Modes

It seems to me that CHURCH modes are historical by nature and that the modes in jazz cannot be termed 'church modes'. If this usage exists (I am not knowledgeable enough in jazz theory), it should be changed! The jazz modes considered here are DIATONIC modes, i.e. all based on the diatonic scale and differing from each other by the reference tone. There are seven diatonic modes (as there are seven notes in the diatonic scale) and eight church modes (making use of only four reference tones).

Church modes traditionally are identified by their final (which is their reference tone) and its position within the overall range. But they also are based on a limited number of melodic formulas, probably originating in the formulas of psalm tones. This is highly characteristic of an oral tradition, where one rearranges known formulas in various combinations. One may argue that the formulas have a pentatonic origin – the background scale, in the conventions of traditional notation, being D F G A C or its permutations. Church modes cannot be reduced to mere scales: they also are sets of formulas.

Jazz modes probably are much more difficult to define because they originate in harmonic colours. For instance, playing the chord of II as a major chord in major may result in an apparent Lydian mode; playing the chord of V as minor may result in a Mixolydian mode; etc. The number of combinations is endless, contrarily to the situation in the case of church modes, especially if one does not feel constrained to strictly keep to one single mode. Jazz 'modes' should probably better be described as scales (as many of the modern 'modes', e.g. Messiaen's 'modes' of limited transposition). One may define each of the seven diatonic scales by the specific set of chords that they form. It would soon appear that the set actually is determined by the diatonic scale itself, forming a succession, say, of triads that may be described as
... M  m  m  M  M  m  dim  M  m  m  M  M  m  dim  M ...
and within which the various 'modes' would again differ by the choice of the reference tone or chord, taken as tonic. A similar succession of sevenths would again produce an unique result (I mean, one is which no two different reference tones would result in the same arrangement): this indicates the remarkable dissymetry of the diatonic scale. Different modes of the same tonic result from transpositions of the background diatonic scale, while different tonics within the same diatonic scale result in 'modes' sharing the same notes.

A nice topic to end the summer...

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 22/08/2013 21:09, Guerin, William Brian a écrit :
Dear Luke,

Excellent question!  There are probably two ways to answer it, depending on whether you're more concerned with the historical Church modes, or with the modes as thought of by jazz musicians (that is, as rotations of the major scale without concern for things like range, typical intervallic gestures, etc.)

In the latter, case, I don't know of any single source — a lot of elementary jazz theory books  diagram the modes, but they don't seem to give examples from the literature.  However, looking up each individual mode on Wikipedia gives some examples, which should probably be verified of course! :-)

As far as the historical Church modes go, yes, you could pick up one of the Catholic chant books and hunt at random according to the mode numbers, but p. 141 of Willi Apel's "Gregorian Chant" (Indiana University Press, 1958) gives some examples of each of the modes that he claims to be typical and to meet all the theoretical requirements. They seem to!  Page numbers are for the 1961 "Liber Usualis", which any decent-sized music library will have, but since it's in the public domain you can also access the massive 115+ megabyte download here:


This is in traditional chant notation, but if a 5-line staff and modern noteheads are more appropriate for your students you can hunt around for the 1923 version of the Liber Usualis and consult the index for the page numbers.

Anyway, here are the examples.

Dorian: Viderunt omnes, p. 410
Hypodorian: Ego sum pastor, p. 439
Phrygian: Gustate, p. 1015
Hypophyrigian: Quod dico, p. 1173
Lydian: Dico vobis, p. 984
Hypolydian: Exsultavit, p. 352
Mixolydian: Dicite, p. 337
Hypomixolydian: Modicum, p. 824

Hope this helps (if not you then someone else!)


William Guerin
Ph.D. Candidate, Music Theory, Indiana University
Software Developer, Web Systems
Music Information Technology Services
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
wguerin at indiana.edu<mailto:wguerin at indiana.edu>

From: Luke Schwartz <lschwartzmusic at gmail.com<mailto:lschwartzmusic at gmail.com>>
Date: Saturday, August 17, 2013 11:12 PM
To: <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>>
Subject: [Smt-talk] Examples of Modes

Dear Colleagues,

I am in search of examples of all church modes. I'm sure this has come up before, but it seems as though there is not an easy-to-find solid source or textbook with examples from literature for all the modes. Any suggestions out there for sources or individual examples? Thanks for your time!

Kind Regards,

Luke P. Schwartz, Composer/Guitarist
Music Faculty - Kaufman Center - New York, NY<UrlBlockedError.aspx>
LSchwartzMusic at gmail.com<mailto:LSchwartzMusic at gmail.com>

Luke P. Schwartz, Composer/Guitarist
Music Faculty - Kaufman Center - New York, NY
LSchwartzMusic at gmail.com<mailto:LSchwartzMusic at gmail.com>

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