Frequently Asked Question:
How Are the Modes Defined Here?
"Mode" tells you the tonic note of the tune, such as "D" and then its melodic mode, such as "Mixolydian." When more than one mode can be identified in a melody, then take the pattern of "chord" changes (as defined by the melody alone) into consideration. For example, on the time scale of bars and groups, Irish Dorian tunes typically alternate between i and VII, and Mixolydian tunes between I, IV, and ii. When a tune moves through multiple tonalities, I only consider the beginning of the tune as I identify the mode. This is compatible with the generally accepted use of melodic incipits (beginnings) to identify tunes.
Keep in mind that mode or "key" identification is rather artificial for traditional Irish music, because of its melodic rather than harmonic identity and structure. This is especially the case for the many pentatonic tunes in the tradition, which sometimes don't even have a clear tonic.
The two main benefits to you from knowing the mode of a tune are:
- The melodic scale used in the tune: what instrumental techniques (such as fingering patterns) to expect to use in the tune.
- What typical mode-specific patterns of harmonization will likely work with this tune.