Musical modes

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This article is about modes as used in music. For other uses, see mode.

Definition[edit | edit source]

Mode (from Latin modus, "measure, standard, manner, way") is a term from Western music theory having three senses :

(1) the rhythmic relationship between long and short values in the late medieval period;

(2) in early medieval theory, interval; and,

(3) most commonly, a concept involving scale and melody type (Powers 2001).

Beginning at the end of the eighteenth century, the term began to be used in ethnomusicological contexts to describe pitch structures in non-European musical cultures, sometimes with doubtful compatibility (Powers 2001 §V,1).

Explanations[edit | edit source]

Mode and scale[edit | edit source]

In music, a "scale" is an ordered series of intervals, which, along with the key or tonic, define the pitches. However, "mode" is usually used in the sense of "scale" applied only to the specific diatonic scales found below.[citation needed]

Modality[edit | edit source]

"Modality" refers to the pitch relationships found in music using modes and contrasted with later tonality. The use of more than one mode makes music polymodal, such as with polymodal chromaticism. While all tonal music may technically be described as modal, music that is called modal often has less diatonic functionality and changes key less often than other music.[citation needed]