Two mode/tuning/notation questions.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one week ago
1,628 posts

Dissonance is what Locrian Mode is all about!!  Stick with D-Ab-Bb!!

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
2 weeks ago
92 posts

I'm bringing back this old thread, because I have a similar question regarding the bass and middle drone strings and the D Locrian mode.  The fifth note of the D Locrian mode is "Ab", which is a diminished fifth.  It is dissonant when used as a drone in D-Ab-Bb tuning.  However, if we leave the middle drone as "A" as in the other modal tunings, in this case D-A-Bb tuning, we have a note that is not part of the D Locrian mode.  It, too, is dissonant to the ear.

When I have read about the Locrian mode elsewhere, the consensus (if there is one) is that the D Locrian mode sounds best when only the root drone "D" is used along with the melody.  So my question is this "Shouldn't the tuning for the Locrian mode omit the fifth and perhaps be something like D-d-Bb, instead of D-A-Bb or D-Ab-Bb?"  By omitting the fifth, the dissonance can be minimized.  And since you don't want to remove the middle string to play a single Locrian mode tune, the solution seems to be to tune the middle string drone to an octave of the bass string drone, which results in a D-d-Bb tuning.

Any thoughts on this?

Flint Hill
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
10 years ago
63 posts
Timothy and Folkfan, thanks much. You have both been very helpful.I've been picking out a tune in each of the church modes as a learning exercise. The Locrian mode is fascinating -- though useless perhaps -- because it seems such a pathological case.Frank Singer says, "Modal harmony is exclusive, meaning only scale tones are used to construct the chords of the harmonic progressions."However, he goes on to say, "Lydian and Locrian do not produce harmonic progression, as the I chords in these modes don't produce a feeling of resolution using secondary chords containing unique notes from the mode". (Emphasis mine.)(There's a sharpened 4th in the Lydian and of course the flatted fifth in the Locrian mode.)Finally, the one near-Locrian example I could come up with (the Berceuse theme from Stravinsky's Firebird) does in fact use both natural and flatted fifths. It still sounds pretty evil. ;)Thanks again for your thoughtful answers.Ken
folkfan
@folkfan
10 years ago
378 posts
The use of 1-5-5, 1-5-8, 1-5-7 etc to denote the scale patterns for the modes was because the bass and middle string were always tuned to the drone while the melody string was tuned to put the starting note of the scale at the correct fret. So DAA# or Bb would be the standard way to write the notation for the Locrian mode when you only use the 6th fret. It puts the starting note of the scale at the 2nd fret. No matter what key you are using.However is you do have a 6+ fret and use it and try DAE for Locrian with scale starting at the 6+fret. That's a modern twist on things.As to the A drone, remember that the Locrian mode is considered the most discordant of the modes. It is considered more of an experimental or theoretical mode than a true playing mode which is why there is so little music written for it. In other words it's the Devil's Mode and it sounds awful which is how it is suppose to sound ;-) Again, however, if there are certain strums for drones like the DAA# just don't hit the DA drones but just the A#.Personally Locrian is so discordant and disagreeable to my ear that I never use it. But I don't enjoy badly tuned bagpipes either, ;-) 8-)
Flint Hill
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
10 years ago
63 posts
Questions in bold face.I ran into this question looking at the Locrian mode, which may be the only place that it arises with fifths tuning (e.g. 151, 155), but it revealed a general misunderstanding on my part of the notation used to describe dulcimer tunings and modes.The table below contains the Locrian scale in D for a dulcimer tuned DABb with Bb as the melody string. The first column is the note, the second is the melody string fret required to obtain that note, and the third is number (scale degree) of the note in the D Locrian scale.D 2 1Eb 3 2F 4 3G 5 4Ab 6 5Bb 7 6C 8 7Recall that we're tuned DABb. Let's assume that The D and A strings are unfretted drones.The first misunderstanding I have is that the 5th degree of the Locrian scale in D appears to be Ab rather than A. Yet each time we strum the three strings we sound an A drone, and the A note is not found in the D Locrian scale.So my question is "why is there an A drone in a tuning intended for the Locrian mode in the key of D?"The second (and related) thing I don't understand is the notation. I have seen DABb referred to as a 1-5-6b tuning. It appears that the scale degrees in this notation are always given in terms of Ionian degrees.Example: Looking at all three strings, 1-5-6b corresponds to DABb in the D Ionian scale, whereas it corresponds to DAbA in the D Locrian scale.)Do we always give scale degrees in terms of Ionian degrees when using this notation? Not a problem either way of course. I'm just trying to understand the notation.Thanks for taking a look at this!!Ken
updated by @flint-hill: 02/20/19 01:57:50PM