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Irish Uke Tom
09-27-2015, 02:46 AM
Hi guys,

Here to bug y'all for some advice again.


I've been working my way through the keys/scales and their chords/ inversions. I've been going slowly at it to make sure I can make it all stick - probably not slowly enough though but it has been SOOO helpful to me!

So far I know C/Am and G/Em, and I plan on starting F sometime soon. I have the Titanic Theme as my learner instrumental in C and I was hoping you could give me good instrumental recommendations in the key of G and any other key.

Also I wonder if someone who understands music theory could explain the difference between a mode and a key? As I understand it, playing in a key is basically only(/primarily) using notes from the relative scale and the chords that 'fit' into this scale. Really would like someone to confirm my understanding of key/ build upon it?

I know I ask you guys for a lot but I REALLY appreciate the help I've found on here. Without it there's no way I'd learn because the uke is a rarity in Ireland. Thanks!

Tom :cool:

k0k0peli
09-27-2015, 08:08 AM
That is pretty damn comprehensive! My simplified take is: A mode is a specialized scale, which is the set of notes found in a piece (plus maybe ornaments and transitions). The original Church modes (Aeolian, Dorian, et al) are like playing only the (diatonic) white keys of a clavier. (Church modes also have special rules we can disregard here.) Each mode is based on a specific note:

C - Ionian (modern major)
D - Dorian
E - Phrygian
F - Lydian
G - Mixolydian
A - Aeolian (modern minor)
B - Locrian (rare)

These are all octave modes; we also use pentatonic modes which omit some diatonic intervals, and blues modes which may add intervals (like playing both full and flatted 3rds, 5ths, and/or 7ths). What distinguishes modes from scales? I'll say a MODE is the pattern of intervals used, and a SCALE is such a pattern as applied to specific notes. Thus the F-major scale uses the Ionian (major) mode pattern but starts at F.

Still, when we speak of modal music, we usually mean using scales with patterns other than the standard major (Ionian) and minor (Aeolian), giving such music a more non-Western (or Western classical) feel. D-modal-minor sounds more raw than straight D-minor.

Keys are something else. A key is the tonal center or "main note" of a piece. As long as a piece feels like it's mostly A-major, that's its key, even if passages are in C-major or E-minor, and an E-minor piece may have passages not in the E-minor scale and may modulate to other keys, etc. Keys are Western (classical) concepts, not modal, and are either major or minor. There is no key of A-modal-major AFAIK. Confused? Me too.

Think of a key as a sonic envelope containing one or more modes. We can push that envelope in various directions but it remains the key. If we tear the envelope open, we're in 12-tone land. Yikes.

Irish Uke Tom
09-27-2015, 09:28 AM
ubulele - Thanks, I have copied that into my uke file for the future!
k0k0peli - Thanks, I always enjoy your explanations, always seem to make sense to me. I actually think I know (mostly) how to take it from here.