Theory Thursday No. 7
Modes, Scale Degrees, and Ratios in Western Music
Pythagoras, an ancient greek philosopher and mathematician, discovered that music could be expressed in perfect numerical ratios. He believed music could unlock the unseen order and harmony existing in nature through the use of these perfect ratios. He is known as the Father of Mathematics, of Geometry, of Music, and of Philosophy. Important guy I think!
1.) Modes: In Western Music, a mode is a a type of scale with a certain set pattern. It is inspired by Pythagoras’ theory. For example: there are 5 major modes named after Ancient Greek subgroups: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian. I may explain these in more detail later, but for now, just know they are each a set pattern of 7 notes including 5 whole steps and 2 half steps, called diatonic scales. Each one is a different pattern. The Ionian mode is very familiar to us: it is the scale from The Sound of Music- Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do , a Major Scale.
2.) Scale degrees:To establish order and understand theory, names and numbers are given to each note in these diatonic scales.
7- leading tone (sometimes subtonic)
So continuing with The Sound of Music:
Do-tonic, Re-super tonic, Mi-mediant, Fa-sub dominant, Sol-dominant, La-sub mediant, Ti- leading tone (sometimes subtonic), and 8(1)-tonic again.
*Octave (Do to Do, 1-8) has a ratio of 2:1
*Perfect 5th (Do to Sol, 1-5) 3:2
*Perfect 4th (Do to Fa, 1-4) 4:3
Very thought provoking, isn't it? Math is everywhere, there is order amidst what may seem to be chaos, and music has the ability to unlock the harmony in this world.
Leave a Reply.
Follow my studio blog for tips, tricks, & performance updates.