Modal music is a type of music that uses a different scale system than the traditional Western major and minor scales. It is often associated with folk music, world music, and religious music. In this article, we will explore what modal music is and how it differs from the more commonly known major and minor scales.

What Is a Scale?

Before we dive into modal music, let’s first define what a scale is. A musical scale is simply a series of notes arranged in ascending or descending order. The most common musical scales used in Western music are the major and minor scales.

Major Scale

The major scale consists of seven notes arranged in a specific pattern of whole steps (W) and half steps (H). The pattern for the major scale is W-W-H-W-W-W-H. For example, if we start on the note C and follow this pattern, we get the C major scale: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

Minor Scale

The minor scale also consists of seven notes but has a different pattern of whole steps and half steps. The pattern for the natural minor scale is W-H-W-W-H-W-W. For example, if we start on A and follow this pattern, we get the A natural minor scale: A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

What Is Modal Music?

Modal music uses different scales than the major and minor scales. Instead of using these familiar patterns, modal music uses ancient musical modes that have been used for centuries in various cultures around the world.

Musical Modes

A mode is simply a type of musical scale that has its own unique set of intervals between its notes. There are several modes used in modal music, including:

Each mode has a distinct sound and feel, and they are often associated with different emotions or moods.

Dorian Mode

The Dorian mode is a minor mode that has a raised sixth scale degree. The pattern for the Dorian mode is W-H-W-W-W-H-W. For example, if we start on the note D and follow this pattern, we get the D Dorian mode: D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D.

Phrygian Mode

The Phrygian mode is another minor mode that has a lowered second scale degree. The pattern for the Phrygian mode is H-W-W-W-H-W-W. For example, if we start on the note E and follow this pattern, we get the E Phrygian mode: E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E.

Lydian Mode

The Lydian mode is a major mode that has a raised fourth scale degree. The pattern for the Lydian mode is W-W-W-H-W-W-H. For example, if we start on the note F and follow this pattern, we get the F Lydian mode: F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F.

Mixolydian Mode

The Mixolydian mode is another major mode that has a lowered seventh scale degree. The pattern for the Mixolydian mode is W-W-H-W-W-H-W. For example, if we start on the note G and follow this pattern, we get the G Mixolydian mode: G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G.

Conclusion

Modal music provides an alternative to traditional major and minor scales by using ancient musical modes. Each mode has its own unique sound and feel, and they are often associated with different emotions or moods. By incorporating modal music into your compositions, you can add a new dimension to your music and explore different musical possibilities.