Mode (music) - Modes and Scales

Modes and Scales

A "scale" is an ordered series of intervals that, with the key or tonic (first tone), defines that scale's intervals, or steps. The concept of "mode" in Western music theory has three successive stages: in Gregorian chant theory, in Renaissance polyphonic theory, and in tonal harmonic music of the common practice period. In all three contexts, "mode" incorporates the idea of the diatonic scale, but differs from it by also involving an element of melody type. This concerns particular repertories of short musical figures or groups of tones within a certain scale so that, depending on the point of view, mode takes on the meaning of either a "particularized scale" or a "generalized tune". Modern musicological practice has extended the concept of mode to earlier musical systems, such as those of Ancient Greek music, Jewish cantillation, and the Byzantine system of octoechos, as well as to non-Western musics (Powers 2001, §I, 3; Winnington-Ingram 1936, 2–3). The use of more than one mode makes music polymodal, as with polymodal chromaticism.

By the early 19th century, the word "mode" had taken on an additional meaning, in reference to the difference between major and minor keys, specified as "major mode" and "minor mode". At the same time, composers were beginning to conceive of "modality" as something outside of the major/minor system that could be used to evoke religious feelings or to suggest folk-music idioms (Porter 2001).

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