The Seven Diatonic Modes: an established system for comparison
The seven diatonic modes are have their roots in early music of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. These modes survived and thrived through the centuries in folk music and can be found today in popular music, rock, country, blue grass and jazz. Although the original modes of early times have been expanded upon (even Ionian and Locrian modes are later additions), we can use the 7 diatonic modes as basis for “weighing in” regarding the G-L Factor of other scales and elements of music.
- Ionian mode –
- identical to the major scale
- “c” to “c” using white notes on the piano
- Dorian mode –
- a minor scale with a raised 6th scale degree
- “d” to “d” using white notes on the piano
- Phrygian mode –
- a minor scale with a lowered 2nd scale degree
- “e” to “e” using white notes on the piano
- Lydian mode –
- a major scale with a raised 4th scale degree
- “f to “f” using white notes on the piano
- Mixolydian mode –
- a major scale with a lowered 7th scale degree
- “g” to “g” using white notes on the piano
- Aeolian mode –
- identical to the “natural” minor scale
- “a” to “a” using white notes on the piano
- Locrian mode –
- a minor scale (or better termed “diminished scale”) with a lowered 2nd and a lowered 5th scale degree
- “b” to “b” using white notes on the piano
How would these modes relate to each other in terms of the G-L factor? Let us compare these to each other, built upon the same tonic pitch level. If an example has more raised scale degrees, it would have more levity. Likewise, more lowered scale degrees indicates more gravity. Here are the modes listed in order with the most levity at the top, the most gravity at the bottom:
- Major Modes (3rd degree raised)
- Lydian (raised 4th)
- Mixolydian (lowered 7th)
- Minor Modes (3rd degree lowered)
- Dorian (raised 6th)
- Phrygian (lowered 2nd)
- Diminished Mode
- Locrian (lowered 2nd & 5th)
Using this arrangement of the diatonic modes as a scale, we can apply the GL factor to musical elements in a way similar to the methods of measuring temperature. Fahrenheit and Centigrade each establish their own “zero” point. We could do much the same by selecting a point on this modal G-L spectrum and move up or down the spectrum from that point using positive or negative numbers.
Lets select “dorian” as a zero point and call our G-L factor, G-L-Dorian. What G-L value would this give to the other modes? Mixolydian would have a value of 1 G-L-Dorian while Aeolian would equal -1 G-L-Dorian and other modes would compare respectively.
If we used “locrian” as the base, we would have only positive integers to measure these modes but it may be valuable to investigate the possibility of a mode or some other element of music, an interval, tone-cluster, chord, scale….. that could serve as “absolute zero” for the purpose of comparing all elements of music… a valuable consideration for another time.
One interesting thing to point out with this modal spectrum is that altered pitches at the extreme ends, the very elements that render the most gravity or the most levity, are one in the same. The sharp 4 of the Lydian mode is the same pitch as the flat 5 of the Locrian mode. When presented in context of these modes or scales, it is clear and easy to see the difference between the sharp 4 and flat 5. However, in jazz or other styles of music that are more complex or free in nature, it may not be as easy to discern. Flat 5 chords might function more as sharp 11 (sharp 4) chords. Usually, the ear picks up on this so all rules and ideas put aside, the ear is the ultimate judge of how music sounds.