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zaiga: Question about scales10 Oct 2005 16:45
Hey guys, I only recently discovered this forum. I think it's great. It combines two great passions of mine: Queen and Music Theory. I'm mainly self taught on the whole Music Theory thing, so I sometimes can barely hold on to what you guys are saying, but it's great fun learning.

Anyways, I hope you can answer a question I've been having for a long time, concerning scales.

Ok, here's the question...

The Ionian (Major) scale of C has no flats or sharps in it. The Mixolydian scale of C has one flat seventh note. The Lydian scale of C has one sharp fourth note. So far, so good.

Now, of course, the Mixolydian scale of C has the same notes as the Ionian scale of F. Same goes for Lydian C and Ionian G. Now, when analyzing a song, how do you tell the difference between, for example, Mixolydian C and Ionian F? Is it just a matter of on which note a certain melody starts and or ends? Or is there something else at work as well?

Also, for analyzing purposes, does it really matter whether a scale is Mixolydian C or Ionian F? Is it not just a way of complicating things?
1.Sebastian 10 Oct 2005 18:48
I'm not sure, but I think scales are equivalent, for instance the piano run in the intro of Guide Me Home can be interpreted as F Dorian or Eb Ionian starting in the second degree.

When it comes to keys it's a different matter. For example, the bridge of Don't Try So Hard has the pitch set of A B C# D E F# G#, which can correspond to E Mixolydian, A Ionian or D Lydian. All the three chords are used, then it's just a matter of how you interpret each of them. E is the first to appear, therefore it's a natural suggestion as the tonic; D is used strongly as passing chord, thus it's overlooked in that sense. A is where the harmony seems to be resolved in both phrases, then it's a natural choice as well. Neither E Mix nor A Ionian are an absolute answer since the harmony of that part can be interpreted both ways. In my opinion, it's A due to the V>IV>I cadence, but somebody else's opinion can be otherwise and he/she would definitely have strong reasons to believe so (in this case, the fact that the section starts in E Major).
2.Bohardy 12 Oct 2005 16:17
Hi Zaiga, and welcome to the board.

All of what you say is true (regarding the notes of the various scales being the same) but you're missing the one crucial point: What key/tonal centre does a song/section/piece of music have?

Without a tonal centre or key signature, all harmonic or functional analysis is irrelevant. The analysis and function of a chord is directly linked to its environment; the preceding and following chord.

The reason why a certain scale would be analysed as mixolydian C rather than ionian F, is because the tonal centre of that scale, and/or the harmony underneath it, would sound in C.

Are you familiar with 'So What?' by Miles Davis? If not, it's from probably the most famous jazz album of all time 'Kind Of Blue', and features a set of songs which are very modal. 'So What?' essentially just uses 2 modes throughout, alternating: D dorian, and Eb dorian. 24 bars of D dorian and 8 bars of Eb dorian, repeated over and over.

Now the notes of D dorian, as you say, are simply all the white notes. So you could say that So What really has 24 bars or G mixolydian, or F lydian, A aeolian, or B locrian. But you can hear that the piece is in D-minor; D is the anchor note of the whole piece, so to say that Miles Davis is soloing in B locrian in So What would not make sense.

(Although, it would be possible to solo over it in B locrian. Indeed, I've heard that a method used by the band to keep the solos interesting was to think in terms of G mixolydian rather than D Dorian...The above is the simplified explanation).

3.PD 12 Oct 2005 19:11
In some Queen songs there seem to be more possible tonal centres:
The intro of Coming Soon, the bridge of Teo Torriate, and lots of places in Mustapha.
4.Sebastian 13 Oct 2005 05:15
Yes, not only Queen, in many prog pieces the tonal centre is - perhaps deliberately - ambiguous
5.zaiga 13 Oct 2005 15:23
Thanks for all your informative answers. It all makes sense. The different names of the scales makes it all a bit muddy for me sometimes, because I don't immediately recognize what D Dorian is, for example. I'd rather see that one would say: it's in the scale of C Major, with a tonal centre of D. Then again, I can see why this wouldn't work when trying to establish the key of a song (or would it?)

Another related question pops into my mind. When a song is written in D Dorian, is D-minor the 'i' chord? Or is C-major the 'I' chord, and D-minor the 'ii' chord?
6.Sebastian 13 Oct 2005 15:38
d minor is "i", but some of the other degrees change since the scale is different. Since D Dorian is D E F G A B C (instead of F# and C#), the F chord would be III and C'd be VII as opposed of bVII. "v" is no longer chromatic.
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