The Musicarta Modes Workbook

Modes Diary 08-07-14
'Now That I've Found You'

Most of the music you hear – classical, jazz or pop – is based on a harmonic driver known as the Circle of Fifths – a cadencing circuit with the roots falling a fifth. Modes on the other hand are great at providing harmonious strings of chords where the root falls a fourth (the ‘Circle of Fourths’*)

Modes Dairy 08-07-14 (the chorus of a song called ‘Now That I've Found You’) is a case in point, and showcases a five-chord ‘Circle of Fourths’ string of chords.

Cautionary note

*Caution advised! Some music authorities use ‘circle of fourths’ where circle of fifths has traditionally been used (the fourth being a fifth inverted). Musicarta uses ‘Circle of Fourths’ to mean a string of plagal cadences on the model of subdominant to dominant, IV–I, major or minor.

Here's a video of the full performance


Download the MIDI files for this page

Here’s the MS with the mp3 clip below.

NTIFY_01

 (* Note that the triangle inversion symbol in bar 4 refers only
to the inversion shape. The triad is not a G chord.)

Practice methodically to get to grips with this long string of chords.

  • Learn the right chords first, using the circle-square-triangle inversion symbols and the voice movement diagrams between the chords to help you.
  • Use the fingering given, or use your own – but don’t just keep running out and stopping!
  • Build up to the full five-chord string by practising three- and four-chord strings (next section).

Three-chord string

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If G really were the home chord, this would be Mixolydian, counted ëVII–IV–I.

Four-chord string

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If D minor were the home chord, this would be Dorian, counted ëIII–ëVII–IV–i. (See Modes Diary 24-06-14 for a riff using this four-chord string as a Dorian construction.)

Add the two together to make a practice riff.

NTIFY_04

You will notice that any of these riffs works on its own – and could be just the length for your latest song or composition!

Other bass line and RH triad options

Here are some other options around this chord sequence for you to play with.

The bass line in the examples above is shown continuously descending to demonstrate the falling-a-fourth character of the IV–I (plagal) cadence.

In performance, it could as well fold back on itself and fall from its own octave.

NTIFY_05

The bass could climb to the next root, but in that case it would have to skip a tone to get there on the beat.

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Here are some alternative right hand inversions. Take the opportunity to:

·         Develop your sense of logical triad fingering – “Next-door note, next-door finger”;

·         Read – and think in terms of – the voice movement diagrams between the triads; and

·         Reinforce your understanding of the circle/square/triangle system of notating the inversions

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So,

  • right-hand pairs of…
  • closest inversions, where the…
  • root falls a fourth…

            take one of three forms:

Look at these two same-two-chords examples. (Notice the new four-four time signature.)

NTIFY_09
NTIFY_10

Bring in your own sensible “Next-door note, next-door finger” fingering from the previous examples.

Knowing these plagal cadence patterns and seeing them in the keyboard will be invaluable in all your keyboard chord work.

So what mode is it?

This progression is Aeolian – most of the chords of the regular major but never cadencing into I (‘One’ – the home major), always returning to A minor.

The analysis is as follows.

  • The chord roots all fall a (perfect) fourth, and the final, lowest chord is played often enough for us to feel it is indeed the home chord.
  • The five chords in the string are major, major, major, minor, minor (in that order).

You should immediately spot the three major chords a fourth apart and think ‘Mixolydian!’. The only place on the keyboard (white keys only) where this can be found is F–C–G. You would orient from there, whether you know for a fact that the first three chords are F–C–G or not.

  • The last three chords are major–minor–minor, and the only place on the white-key keyboard where that happens in G–Dm–Am.

The construction is therefore Aeolian. This is more obvious when you have the music (or MIDI) and the actual performance is white-keys-only, but you should be able to work it out anyway!

Here is the chord sequence with the Aeolian RNS and inversion symbols. Play the sequence from the chart.

The riff transposed

Challenge yourself to get the very essence of this chord sequence by playing it in B Aeolian minor (key signature D major, Fí and Cí).

Your chord chart is now this.

Here are the audio/MIDI samples of 01 through 08 above in Aeolian B minor.

NTIFY_B01
NTIFY_B02
NTIFY_B03
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NTIFY_B05
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NTIFY_B07
NTIFY_B08

Further variations

Make a copy of either of these tables (original key and B Aeolian).

The inversion symbols have been removed. Find your own strings of right hand chord sequence triads and put the circle/square/triangle symbols in. Vary the bass line as you go, using the two patterns outlined earlier.

Here’s the symbol key again to help you.


That’s it for this members-only Modes Zone page. Watch your mailbox for Modes Zone newsletter bulletins with round-ups of new Musicarta Modes material.


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