Posted on

Modal chords!


Now this is a term that crops up quite often on internet forums and even printed publications. I’ve even seen tables constructed in Microsoft Excel correlating chords to modes. Modes are cool and their use as a basis for melodies will provide exciting possibilities particularly if the desire is to evoke a “folky” or archaic flavour.

But modal chords? Bah! Gimme a break. I’d like to know what difference there is between chords which are diatonic to the scale of the Dorian mode on D with those diatonic to the C Major scale. Etcetera. Many of my songs are modal in character ““ but in each case that’s because the scale upon which the melody is based has a root and intervals which coincide with a particular mode. It has nothing to do with the harmony or chords used apart from their being diatonic to the scale.

One caveat:; I’ve read about the use of certain modes being used by jazz players as a basis for improvising over certain chords, but this is in context of the chromatic tensions inherent in this music ““ it’s not an attempt to claim that certain chords are modal per se.

Triads are built upon major scales. Again – and in contrast – modes are melodic; their names corresponding to the roots around which melodies gravitate.

“Modal chords”? Oxymoron.