Monday, June 29, 2009

Golly, modes aren't so scary after all... Part Two, mixolydian mode

This is the SECOND of several posts devoted to a VERY SIMPLE beginner level review of how to play in the most common modes.

I suspect most of you are already familiar with playing in DAD mixolydian mode, so we will start from there.
So...tune your dulcimer to DAD and play any simple tune. If you hadn't realized it before, you are already tuning and playing in a mode!- the Mixolydian mode.
This is going to be EASY. I'll take things step by step, starting with mixolydian mode. I'll keep things very simple, and I'll explain each thing very clearly...

I am going to review each mode, one at a time, using the key of D as our key because most people these days are familiar with playing their dulcimer in the key of D.
Notice in the chart that your dulcimer is tuned DAD and the melody string(s) are tuned to the note of D. This D is a whole octave higher than the D your fat low bass string is tuned to, by the way. Now let's just discuss the melody strings...
In mixolydian mode, in the key of D, your melody strings play the note D when you strum them open, without fretting them.

Read the next paragraph slowly and carefully. It appears complicated but it isn't if you read it carefully:
Think of a scale as being Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do- like the song in The Sound of Music movie. The first Do is the first note of the scale, Re is second note of the scale, Sol is the fifth note of the scale, etc. The last "Do" is the eighth note of the scale, which is a whole octave higher than the first Do.
In the key of D, D is the first note of the scale. The first note of the scale is called the tonic note, also sometimes called the "1" note (1st note) of the scale. Thus, if we are in the key of D, your "Do" (tonic) note is a D, your "Re" note would be an E, and your "Sol" note would be an A note above that, going up the scale as in D,E,F#,G,A,B,C,D. Think of going up the scale like a little staircase, and the tonic note is the bottom first step.

The Mixolydian mode, practically speaking, simply means that your tonic note (the 1st note of your scale, "Do") is going to be found on your OPEN melody string(s). The open string can also be called the zero fret because it's one whole step lower than your 1st fret. The nut of your dulcimer is sometimes called the zero fret, in fact.
If you are playing in the key of D, your open (zero fret) melody string note will be a D note. (Incidentally, if you are playing in the key of G instead of D and wish to be in Mixolydian mode, then you'd tune your open melody strings to a lower G note instead. But... let's stick to the key of D for now!)

So in the mixolydian mode, key of D, your Do-Re-Mi scale starts with the D tonic "1" note on the OPEN (zero fret) of the melody strings.

If you now have your dulcimer tuned in DAD mixolydian mode, to play in the key of D, try playing Mary Had a Little Lamb, just on your melody string(s).
You'll be playing the notes on the frets like this:
2 - 1 - 0 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 2
Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb

1 - 1 - 1
lit-tle lamb

2 - 4 - 4
lit-tle lamb

2 - 1 - 0 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 2
Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb who's

1 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 0
fleece was white as snow.

If you can play Mary Had a Little Lamb ok, then try this other simple old-time tune from a previous post, Liza Jane:

Now I want you to notice that both these tunes end on the tonic note, the note of D, the first note of the scale. Most folk songs and most traditional songs end on the tonic note, which is usually the same note as the name of the key you are playing in. There are exceptions, of course, but 'usually' if a song ends on a G note then it's safe to bet it's in the key of G. If it ends in a D, then it's usually in the key of D, such as these two songs you've just played.

If you look at the tab for Liza Jane, it'll also tell you the song ends on the zero fret (open string). Knowing already that most folk songs end on the tonic note, we can conclude that Liza jane here has it's tonic note on the open string/zero fret. Remember, in mixolydian mode the tonic note is found on the open string/zero you can plainly see in the tab that Liza Jane must be tabbed here in the mixolydian mode. Furthermore, since the tab tells you to tune the open melody strings to D in this case, one also can safely conclude that this song is tabbed in the key of D, in mixolydian mode.

If the song ends on the zero fret (open string), it's a clue that it is in mixolydian mode.
If the song ends on a D note, it's a clue that the song is in the key of D.

My next post will take us into Aeolian mode, which is a simple one step change from mixolydian mode. Don't get nervous! In fact, by trying out the very simple aeolian tuning, it will probably help everything to become clearer, and you'll understand mixolydian mode as well more than you do now.

For now, reread this post so you understand the very simple points I'm explaining, and just relax and enjoy playing in mixolydian mode. Try playing Go Tell Aunt Rhody by starting on the 2nd fret for the word "Go..." Notice the song will end on the open string/zero fret... so again, you are playing it in mixolydian mode!

Next...the beautiful aeolian mode...

continue reading the rest of this post here...